Chances are, at some point in the past year, you’ve had to make a change of plans quickly and gracefully.
For William Klein and his concert choir at Austintown Fitch High School in Ohio, that change meant planning and executing a trip in merely a month. For years, the choir has made a point of performing for veterans at VA hospitals all around the country, but the pandemic made that nearly impossible.
However, when one of Klein’s students came up with family connections granting them access to Quantico Station in Virginia, they knew they had to make the trip happen. In April, 42 students went on a four-day trip to the Marine base, and Klein largely credits it to their tour operator, Complete Custom Itinerary Services (CCIS). The choir even got to see Marine One, the president’s helicopter.
Every trip is unique, and with any luck, you won’t ever have to pull something together this quickly. But if you do, here are some general tips from Klein and Bryan Stevenson of CCIS.
Your community is key. Stevenson said the main way they were able to plan the trip so quickly was having connections already in place. Past travels and acquaintances made up a network that allowed CCIS to quickly put the trip to Virginia Beach together, largely working off past experiences. Planning a trip in 30 days is never ideal, but build up your connections now and anything is possible.
Work with those eager to work with you. Virginia Beach, Quantico, Chrysler Museum—all of these places and the people there were excited to help Klein’s choir come visit, especially at a time when nearly no one else was. They were welcoming and helpful, a reputation they had established long before the pandemic. This also includes Baron’s Bus, a motorcoach company Klein says is “simply the best” and very Covid-friendly.
Safety first. Despite the time crunch, the group managed to implement strict safety measures, including grouping kids off for rooms, eating, activities, bus-seating, etc. It made contact tracing easier, though no one on the trip contracted Covid anyway! Still, Klein had a long plan to fall back on, just in case. If you want parents to trust you with their children, make safety a priority.
Overcommunicate. Whether you’re an educator or an operator, complete transparency is an absolute must right now. In this time of uncertainty, everyone involved will feel better and be more prepared to help if information is being shared constantly. This is how you earn trust, even when planning a trip in one month.
If you can go, go. Above all, Klein’s advice right now is to travel. “If you can go, and you can be safe and have parent/administrative support, go. Kids remember these trips when they leave high school. The musical opportunities they get on these trips are huge. The planning is hard and adds more to our overfilled plate—do it anyway.”
This story was written by Managing Editor Josh Veal, for the September issue of Teach & Travel.