Overnight field trips worthwhile? Would you chaperone?

It’s noon on Wednesday, and I am currently packing to chaperone Rose’s second-grade class trip to Zoo Atlanta.  They spend the night at the zoo learning about the animals through the Night Crawlers program. Rose is so excited to go, and I am too! (Am I an idiot to be excited about sleeping on a concrete floor in sleeping bag with 80 second graders?)

I am normally an overpacker, and it makes it even tougher trying to anticipate odd things the kids might need during the night. So far I have bright yellow electric tape and a Sharpie to put their names on the garbage bags of their belongings, wipes, hand sanitizer, Band-Aids, sunscreen, pens, plastic bags in case clothes get wet somehow … I’m still thinking.

They have six chaperones going with the class so we’re only responsible for about three kids each but you still feel stress taking care of someone else’s child.

It seems like schools used to do a lot more overnight type field trips. When my brother was in school everyone went to Washington, D.C. in the fifth grade, but the time I was that age they stopped doing it.

Our babysitter took an extracurricular trip to Greece with a school group after the eighth grade. To me that seems young to travel that far without your parents.  That same sitter went with a huge group to Washington D.C. for the inauguration. Kind of mad house and a great place to lose a teenager, but also an experience they will always remember. (She returned from both trips unscathed! I’m just jealous of the Greece trip!)

I am glad that our school still thinks it’s important to allocate funds to take the kids on this type of overnight trip. They all feel like BIG stuff, and I know they will learn a lot.

What do you think: Would you let your child go on an overnight field trip? Would you want to be one of the chaperones? Would you only let them go if you were one of the chaperones? Give us chaperone advice please!

Would you want to chaperone an overseas trip? What age do you think is appropriate to allow an overseas trip with a class?

Are overnight field trips worthwhile for the kids? Is it worth our school’s time and money? (I think the parents paid for the program outright, but I would guess the school system had to pay for the buses.) Do you think the life experience and hands-on experience are valuable to the children?

33 comments Add your comment

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

April 30th, 2009
12:42 pm

I had this set to pop up at 7 a.m. this morning but it didn’t work! I am actually back from the Zoo now and the kids had a wonderful time! I think I’m writing about this weekend so I’ll give more detail then! I did find use for lots of the stuff in my mom bag.


April 30th, 2009
1:06 pm

When my older son was in the 5th grade his whole group got to take a 2 night overnight trip to the Okeefenokee Swamp (and several historical sites along the way); he and his peers also got to go to another 2 night overnight trip to the Chattanooga aquarium and to the Huntsville Space center. Then, in the 6th grade (middle school), they took a 3 night trip to Busch Gardens in Tampa (that was in approx. 12 years ago – boy, am I old!).

When my younger son (2 years younger than the other son), got to the 5th grade they would not allow his class to take the same trips (same school system – Forsyth County), nor in the 6th grade would they let them do the trip to Busch Gardens. He did, finally, get to go on some kind of overnight trip in the 7th grade, but that was it.

I think the cut back had to do with being both politically correct (not all kids could afford to go) AND the fear of what happens if someone gets hurt. But, it is a ashame that this has to be the way since these type activities are both educational and fun, and it was something the younger kids looked forward to when they say their older siblings getting to go! Plus, it was great fun for me since I chaperoned all 3 of the older son’s trips, but the younger son would not hear of me going with him!!!


April 30th, 2009
1:07 pm

I always carry a first aid kit everywhere we go. Even with an 18 year old, you just never know.

Sounds like fun, but those days are long gone for me…….



April 30th, 2009
1:21 pm

Lakerat, welcome back..

Yes, I would let the grandkids go on an overnight trip if I were a chaperone..They are only 6 and I would not feel comfortable not being there..As for overseas, in a hearbeat I would let them go and go with them..

I think it would a great experience for the kids to go places out of the classroom and learn..Kids are like adults, they like something different once in a while..


April 30th, 2009
1:25 pm

The only overnight trip my daughter took (with school)was to Tybee Island, back in the 5th grade.


April 30th, 2009
1:33 pm

Kudos to you Theresa! I am all for kids taking trips but am not the type of Mom who can chaperone. When we were in NYC at the beginning of the month, a band trip was at the Statue of Liberty ( from Alabama) and the director asked them to make a circle around the flag and they all said the pledge of allegiance together….it brought tears to my eyes! What an awesome experience.

I was in OKC a few weeks ago and my hotel room was next to some boys who were there for a soccer tournament. I had a 6 hour meeting and passed out at 9:30 p.m. At 2:00 a.m., I was awakened to a loud thumping….I took out my earplugs. The boys were throwing each other against the wall behind my headboard, I opened the door to look in the hallway and saw trash all up and down the hall floor along with ice everywhere…they had apparently hauled buckets from the ice machine and had an ice fight. WHERE WERE THE CHAPERONES? I called the front desk and Sarah was right up there and was furious. She was up to her eyeballs in disruptive children.

In March, I met a Mom who told me that on their sporting tournaments, they call the hotel ahead of time and arrange to pay a security guard ( sporting a gun LOL) $100 to walk the halls and make sure the kids are in bed from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m., so they could get some sleep themselves. This sounds like a very thoughtful idea for both the other hotel guests and also the management of the hotels. I have been in hotels that have called the police to escort children ( and the chaperones) out due to disruptive behavior. SO NO CHAPERONING FOR ME….I can handle my own kids but certainly not those who come from homes that have no rules or respect for other’s property.

For those of you who are laid back and relaxed about the chaos of field trips….my hat is off to you and thanks! I make sure I volunteer in other ways and do my part.


April 30th, 2009
1:37 pm

I don’t think we had overnight school trips before 6th grade or so–before that it was daytrips to Atlanta. I would feel comfortable with this sort of trip, though. Camp-ins at zoos, museums, etc, are run by trained professionals who regularly work on these programs, have security protocols, structured activities, etc., so between the staff and the parent chaperones, I wouldn’t be worried. I would be more concerned about hotel stays, where the parent chaperones and teachers are solely responsible for the kids in a new place (I wouldn’t particularly want to chaperone in that situation either). For bigger middle-high school trips like D.C., especially for the Inauguration, I highly recommend that schools work with a local educational program (not a tour company) like the Close-Up Foundation (www.closeup.org). The instructors are well-trained and really know the city, and trust me, you’d be hard-pressed to imagine a scenario they haven’t encountered. There is a strong educational component too, so the kids learn a lot more than they do on less structured “sight-seeing” tours. The students have appointments with their Congressional Offices, and teachers even have their own program during the week separate from their students’.


April 30th, 2009
2:10 pm

The field trips I can think of off the top of my head from when I was a kid,
Day trips to Etowa indian mounds
The Gold Dome (got to meet Max Clealand as I recall)
Puppets (the High?)

Overnight Epcot with the advanced club around 7th grade maybe. I remember my Mom chaperoned that one. It was kinda funny because I was born rather late for her, she was in her late 30s when I came along, and though she wasn’t too bad, she was a little out of touch with the youth of the day.

Glad fun was had by all and nobody got swalloed by a boa constricter


April 30th, 2009
3:22 pm

I went to Savannah, GA, to the Etowah Indian Mounds, numerous ballet recitals (yawners, but fun to get out), to some nature center place, Callaway Gardens, all loads of fun!


April 30th, 2009
3:26 pm

Blog topic suggestions: What should a parent’s role be when a child gets in trouble outside of the home? Do you stick up for your child no matter what? If you thought your teen or older child had done something wrong and no one knew, how would you approach it? If you knew they had, would you turn them in? Can you guess I’m VERY disturbed by the hit-and-run driver whose mother covered for her?! I wonder when and how those seeds were sown!

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

April 30th, 2009
3:51 pm

Reader — that is a very good topic!! We will use for tomorrow!! Excellent thinking!


April 30th, 2009
3:55 pm

My son is in second grade and his school cancelled all field trips this year. In Kindergarten and 1st grade he went on two local (day) trips each year but we had to pay an extra $3/per person for the bus. I took the day off and chaperoned one kindergarten trip (a play at a nearby high school) but I didn’t go on the other trips. My husband barely lets him spend the night with his (husband’s) mom without us being there so I KNOW that an overnight school trip is out of the question unless one of us (I) can go too. His cub scout troop has had a couple of campouts that he missed because Daddy had to work and Mommy doesn’t camp! LOL

I grew up in a small rural town and our elementary school trips consisted of walking to the courthouse or police station. We sent to the zoo in second grade (1 1/2 away) but it was just a day trip. A couple of the clubs I was in had overnight trips (Biloxi, Huntsville, etc) but something always happened that I couldn’t go. My senior class was supposed to go Washington, DC (first time ever for our school) but the trip had to be cancelled because not enough people could afford to go. I was so bummed because at that time my cousin worked at the Capitol and had arranged all kinds of tours and things for us to do while we were there. :-(


April 30th, 2009
3:58 pm

OR how about a neighbor’s child was arrested and whose mug was on the police blotter with a DUI and a small amount of drugs in the car…the child is still driving as if nothing happened. He is over 21 and does this matter…I have no experience in this area. Readers?


April 30th, 2009
4:04 pm

Thanks Theresa & Reader…I can’t wait til tomorrow. My coworkers and I have been talking about that very thing all day!


April 30th, 2009
4:48 pm

MJG, I’m confused by what you are asking? Should he not ever be allowed to drive again? Should he be in jail? Should he walk around telling everyone that he had a DUI and drugs?


April 30th, 2009
4:53 pm

My oldest went to Disney with her middle school band in 8th grade. In 9th grade her highschool band went to Ireland and marched in the St. Patricks day parade and next year (her Sr. year) they are marching in the Macy’s day parade. I did not go to Disney and probably will not go to New York (because of the economy) but I did go to Ireland as a “follower” not a chaperone. I have all the respect for chaperones but it is not for me. We could do what the group did or go out on our own. We did have to pay for all of the costs associated with the trip but were given opportunities to raise funds. It has been great for her!


April 30th, 2009
4:59 pm

I am wondering if a license is suspended or if you just pay a fine and get on with your life as if nothing has happened.


April 30th, 2009
5:00 pm

Please let your kids go on trips! As much as I LOVE to chaperone both school and church trips, I still let my son go on trips “by himself”. Kids need to learn how to act independently without their parents being around. Expectations, rules & consequences are typically communicated at the beginning of trips and if kids don’t follow them, they have to live with the consequences. Kids need a chance to grow a little without their parents looking over their shoulders. They also need to have a little confidence in being able to hold onto their own money, budget for a weekend, get to where they need to be when told, know when they need to go to sleep, etc. Sure, there are always small mishaps but I’ve never been on a trip where we’ve had to send a kid home (been a church youth leader for 8 years). I just think learning how to be independent is invaluable.

My son took his first overnight school field trip in 5th grade (although he’d been to summer camp the year before and of course on tons of youth trips with us already so I wasn’t concerned with him being away).

My recommendation for parents who chaperone is to chaperone because you want to be there with your child, his/her friends and enjoy the experience. Don’t do it just because you think your child will get home sick or because you’re afraid to let him/her grow up. I went on my son’s 8th grade week-long trip to D.C. last month and I was one of 2 parents who talked to kids other than my own. There were a few kids who were miserable because their parents came along and wanted to be only with them the whole time so the kids didn’t get a chance to hang out with their friends. The thing is that most of the time, other kids think you are way cooler than your own kid; take advantage of that! It worked out well for me going instead of my husband because that meant that our son wouldn’t have to room with his parents. Anyway, I really went on this trip for me (I love D.C. and haven’t been in a while) not him.

My son is now 14 and will be going on his first overseas trip this summer to Sweden for 10 days. He is going to a youth camp run by some of our friends. I am not fearful of him going off by himself simply because Sweden is such a safe place and I know he has the experience of having travelled before. Plus, this is also a kid who has been flying by himself since he was 5.


April 30th, 2009
5:08 pm


I don’t think that the license is suspended until he goes to court. Until that time he can continue to drive


April 30th, 2009
5:11 pm

Stan….thanks…I do not know these things.


April 30th, 2009
6:23 pm

My son rarely went on any one day field trips during elementary school. I recall one to the Woodruff Arts Center to see the play, “James and the Giant Peach”, the others were all to the “stupid” (his description) teaching museum in Roswell, maybe once a year, until 5th grade. In the 5th grade, he went to Tybee Island (I don’t recall how many nights, 1 or 2), and in the 8th grade, middle, school, he went on a 3 day/2 night trip to Savannah, Okefenokee Swamp and couple of other spots. Upon his return, his reply, when asked how the 8th grade trip went was, “Good,”…and, “Oh, the bus was pulled over on the interstate.” Several months later, tales emerged about the 8th grade trip that made my jaw drop. They sort of came up casually in conversation, but opened us up for some serious talks.

In comparison, it seems that I went on a lot of field trips in elementary school. We went on day trips to the beach, museums, plays, even the circus, and a few trips to NYC. The overnight trips were in jr. high, to the state capital in Albany in 7th grade, and to Washington, D.C. in 8th. We always had to pay for transportation…I remember bringing the permission slip and money in an envelope, and the anticipation of waiting to find out the group assignments. Fond memories.


April 30th, 2009
8:36 pm

I’m a teacher who has gone on several of the GA trips mentioned above. While some of our students have the opportunity to travel extensively both internationally and domestically, there are so many who have not had that opportunity, and might not ever, if not for a school trip. I will never forget the look of awe on one of my students’ faces the first time she saw the ocean at Tybee Island and waded in the surf. Her family had just lost their home and they were living in a hotel. At a time in her life when bad memories were piling up, she acquired some good ones that I hope will give her direction as she grows.

Truly, the hovering parents who chaperone are not letting their children gain the full benefit of an overnight field trip. The cool ones who can let go and observe at a distance should go The worry-warts and helicopters cause everybody involved angst, and should stay home. The only exception to that would be parents of a child who has a serious illness….need a feeding tube or nightly injections, for example, and the parent would be best qualified to provide that care. Otherwise, let the kids grow and spread their wings a little.

Been There and Loved It

April 30th, 2009
9:26 pm

As an elementary school teacher, I’ve been on many field trips over the years. Our third graders enjoyed the overnight Night Crawlers adventure for 3 or 4 years, but as some of the teachers started their families and had babies at home, we quit doing overnight trips. I highly recommend New Echota up near Calhoun for learning about the capital of the Cherokee Nation and the new Tellus Museum near Cartersville.
Students cannot be left behind due to lack of payment, so many field trips get canceled due to a lack of funds. I know the current economy has caused even more problems, and field trip money would be considered an extra in most household budgets. Unfortunately, this has been an issue for many years with parents thinking that since the form says the money is a “donation”, they may choose to not pay and the school can pick up the slack. Please be aware that public schools don’t have the money to pick up the slack and the trip gets canceled.
During my children’s high school years I chaperoned many band trips and loved every one of them. We made some great memories with trips to Orlando, Chicago, New Orleans, and New York. I walked many a hotel hall at one in the morning, making sure kids were where they were supposed to be!


April 30th, 2009
10:45 pm

Theresa, I can’t wait to hear what was most helpful in your “mom bag.” I am going on the Night Crawler trip for the first time next week with my child.
Angel – you summed up my feeling exactly. As a teacher, I have been on many of the field trips listed here – both overnight and day trips. In addition to seeing new sights and having beneficial academic experiences, these trips give students to test their independence in a safe environment with adults nearby to watch out for them. At my children’s school, each class goes on several field trips a year. I have always made it a point to only go on one with each child to give them the opportunity to experience independence and a little freedom.
A friend’s child is in middle school and has never been on a field trip on her own – not even the down the street to a high school play variety. She is now terrified of going on her own and would rather stay home and miss a fun experience with her friends than get on the bus without a parent.


May 1st, 2009
1:09 am

I absolutely LOVED chaperoning class trips!! I tried to alternate between kids, so that one year, I’d go with one child’s class, and the next year, I’d go with the other’s child’s class. That way, I wasn’t hovering. It was a great chance to get to know the other kids in their class, and the other parent chaperones. I have to admit, I’m stunned at the number of people who are reluctant to allow their kids to go on trips — yes, things go wrong, and some kids, outside of their routine, can get a little excited, but I’ve never been on a trip where kids were downright unmanageable. New York, Washington DC, a zillion local field trips, band camps and UGA music festivals . . . they are all memories that I treasure. The class trips in high school did NOT have parent chaperones (boo hiss!), with mission trips all over the world for spring break chaperoned by faculty, and a European summer trip again only chaperoned by faculty — that was a deliberate choice by the high school, to allow the kids to interact on a personal basis with the faculty. My daughter has been to Paris, London, the Ukraine and Romania on school trips – her passport is much more interesting than mine! Their senior trip next week is out West, where they will be skiing, rappelling, fishing, hiking, etc. for five days.

But really, you haven’t chaperoned until you’ve been a Girl Scout leader! :-D We’ve been to camping all over Georgia, a “shopping trip” to the Mall of Americas in Minnesota, swimming with dolphins and Sea World in Orlando, Savannah and Tybee Island, including the Marine Science center and a dolphin cruise, whitewater rafting in North Carolina and Tennessee, SCUBA diving in Alabama, the BMW plant in South Carolina, rappelling and caveing, as well as putting on numerous overnights for younger Scouts. My criteria was that each trip had to have an educational component. (Even the trip to the Mall of the Americas had a workshop on fashion marketing and merchandizing and a behind-the-scenes tour.) It’s just you, your co-leader, maybe another Mom — and a troop full of girls. Our final trip as Girl Scouts is a Caribbean cruise on an amazing ship, for which they have earned the money over the last four years.

Then there were the Boy Scout trips, but my husband did chaperone duty on most of those.

And then there were the soccer team tournament trips . . . ah, the memories. Standing in the snow in Greenville, SC in November. Washing 17 mud-and-snow encrusted boy’s uniforms at 1:00 am so they would have clean and dry uniforms the next day.

The trips are experience-widening for the kids, exposes them to new and interesting things, and give parents a priceless opportunity to get to know the kids in their child’s class. I would never say “no” to a field trip. Some were better than others — but all of them added something. (And yes, I always have a first aid kit in the car and a small one in my purse, along with a Tide stain pen, Kleenex and cough drops, not to mention extra scrunchies and Tampax for the girls.)

One of my favorite memories was a middle-school band trip to Washington, DC, where the band played at the Jefferson Memorial on a cold but beautiful President’s Day. When they played the “Star Spangled Banner”, all the in-uniform service personnel immediately in the audience came to a sharp attention to the nearest American flag — which happened to be across the Mall, at the White House and the Washington Monument. The kids (and adults) were enchanted. Another song, and someone requested the SSB again, so the orchestra complied. Again, the service personnel came to sharp attention — but I happened to overhear one whisper to his companion “Quick, let’s get out of here before they play it again!”


May 1st, 2009
1:12 am

Theresa, our Girl Scout “Night Crawler” evening was a Dad & Daughter evening — such fun! A couple of moms, whose husbands were out of town or absent, came, too, but otherwise, it was a fun evening for the dads and their daughters.


May 1st, 2009
6:47 am

been there, April and DB…thanks for all you do with field trips.
I agree that the opportunity is priceless and perhaps the only one for some kids.

My own kids have been going to sleep away camp ( on their own) since they were 7 and they gain a lot of independence.

We have been lucky, in that we travel a LOT within the US and my kids have learned how to navigate airports and subways as I have encouraged them to take the lead.

Regarding donations for field trips. I always try to throw in a couple of extra bucks …if they request $10, then I send $15 and this will help for those who simply cannot;
however, this is like everything else and those who do not have the money are those who drive cars that are much nicer than mine and are making payments they cannot afford..oh well!

DB…Mall of America is a GREAT summer weekend trip. When it is a hot tamale here, it is a cool 75 in MSP and NO ONE goes to the mall as they prefer to be outside when it is nice and not 20 degrees below. There is an amusement park inside and it is reasonable without the lines like Six Flags!


May 1st, 2009
8:11 am

motherjane, most of the time if this is the first offense for this kid, they get probabtion and community service..Then hopefully they learn from this and know to not do it again..If like my nephew (no DUI) they don’t learn and they serve time..At 16 he was caught with a half of a joint. They did suspend his license (cause of age)..At 18, he was caught again with about a half a bag of pot..Then again at 24ish with pot again..He’s 29 now and still smokes..So some people learn, some don’t..


May 1st, 2009
10:38 am

Waht a wonderful sounding field trip, Theresa. I teach middle school and have been on a few overnight trips with some of these. Believe me, we don’t get too much sleep. lol

Eddie Martinez

May 14th, 2009
6:54 pm

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August 11th, 2009
10:59 am

What’s up; ive been viewing this forum for a while – Wanted to reach out the community


January 3rd, 2010
1:33 am


Eddie Martinez

February 2nd, 2010
5:43 pm

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