Schools should look out for special offers from venues and attractions whenever they can, because there are lots out there – you can always find a large selection in a dedicated area of the UK School Trips website.
As much as possible, schools should be flexible with their dates and be aware that there are certain parts of the calendar where demand is always high. That makes it far harder to negotiate a better price, so plan any school visits as far in advance as is practical and try to book dates during quieter times – though when those are will depend entirely on the type of trip and venue you have in mind.
Demand for school bookings of residential trips involving lots of outdoor pursuits typically peaks between June and the start of the summer break, but what many schools have started doing is booking residentials in September and October.
As well being easier and cheaper to book, organising trips like that at the start of the academic year, rather than at the end, can do a lot to help pupils bond outside of the classroom environment. Besides, in the UK it can easily rain in summer, so there might even be a case for organising outdoor trips in March.
Of course, it’s always worth shopping around. If you send your Year 6 on a residential trip every year using the same provider, be prepared to look at other venues offering something similar and see if any can quote you a better price for a service similar to what you’ve been getting.
Indoor venues have different quiet times of their own, and it’s worth asking when those are. Contact them, tell them the time of year you have in mind for visiting, and ask which months you would need to book for to get the best price possible. Trampoline centres, for example, are full at weekends but virtually empty from Monday to Friday.
To the venue, you’re potentially bringing a very large group in with you, so it’s in their interests to give you a good deal by making the booking cheaper. An easy way of lowering your booking costs is by negotiating with the venue to let your supervising teachers go free.
Beyond that, don’t be afraid to simply ask for some money off – you’re interested in visiting, but the price quoted is a little out of your budget. Is there anything they can do?
When it comes to more expensive trips, planning well in advance also make it more likely that your pupils’ parents and carers will be in a better position to afford the cost. Payment plans can be arranged, whereby parents pay for upcoming trips in instalments over time, instead of via a large upfront payment.
Clare Hunter is the co-owner of UK School Trips