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Old 09-30-2011, 04:49 PM   #46
Anne34
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Originally Posted by KiminChicago View Post
My son did an 8th grade Washington DC trip just last year and it cost us $949. They flew out from O'Hare at approx. 6:30 am on a Friday (the school had a half-day that day so they didn't miss a lot of school) and got back to O'Hare around 9pm on Sunday. They went to all the memorials (Vietnam, WWII, FDR, Lincoln, etc.), the Washington Monument, the Capitol, the Naval Academy at Annapolis, Arlington Cemetery, the Air and Space Museum (and one other section of the Smithsonian), Holocaust Museum and Mount Vernon. They also did a ghost tour, went to the roof of the Kennedy Center, They got to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and saw way more than I would have ever expected. The company they used is called Brightspark (used to be Educational Tours).

DD has already started planning for next year's trip (the cost this year is $979). The school has set up fundraisers for the kids who are going and this year they're allowing 7th graders to participate with the understanding that any money they raise this year will be applied to next year's trip, and if the student ends up not going at all, the money raised will be split among the students who do go.

ETA: The price included airfare and all meals except for breakfast at O'Hare before the flight. Any water or incidentals were out of pocket. We sent our son with a $100 Visa gift card that he was able to use for water and snacks and the gifts he brought home for the rest of the family.
Sounds like our school does the same trip. My dd leaves in a couple weeks for this trip. We are going Sat 6am through Mon night (Columbus weekend). Our trip is $959 with flights, meals & attractions. She is our 3rd to go and in the past 7 years the trip has gone up $200 from the first to the last. We go through Brightsparks.
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Old 09-30-2011, 06:06 PM   #47
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i am going to piggy back on sparklynails.

My oldest son's (current 8th grade) class is scheduled for DC as well. He is not going for two reasons. One, the cost is somewhere around 1500. (don't know the details because my mind is made up due to my second concern)

Second, the trip has only teacher chaperones, 2-4 for 45-55 kids. In my mind, the number of adults does not meet the requirements of an adequate child to adult ratio. I think, at a minimum it needs to be 1-10 or less. Further, it is very difficult, and, in my experience, somewhat scary, to have kids in a hotel, in their own rooms.

case in point, when we traveled over 600 miles for boy scout camp this year, we opted to stay in a hotel room on the travel day, so as not to bother with the equipment in the trailer. We set up fire watches, had a room key for each room, and made bed checks, following YPT principles. I highly doubt chaperone teachers are going to be concerned enough about the kids to set up a fire watch to ensure they don't decide in the middle of the night to run the halls. In DC, the kids have much more opportunity to be in harms way, than, say, at a summer camp, where they have freedom, because of the closed and contained environment.

Personally, I don't believe these trips follow the safeguards that I trust, i.e. BSA, and, as a result, he is not going.

I agree with the cost issue as well. With some planning, a family of four could go to DC for 3-4 days, flying, and sdtay at a holiday inn, for darn near the same cost, exclusive of meals.

Finally, I don't understand why schools seem to feel compelled to offer, and sometimes, assume that parents actually want 8th graders to travel across the country on a "field trip".
As I mentioned, DS's tour was done by WorldStrides, same as the OP's. We had 3 teachers and around 55 kids go.

The kids were 4 to a room, however WorldStrides made sure they were all in the same hallway. They then actually did have a watch person stay at the end of the hallway all night to make sure there was no leaving the room.

I was extremely comfortable with the level of chaperoning that was provided, both by the teachers and World Strides. And from all accounts, the kids were very well behaved. And I have a cheerleader, so I am very sensitive to large groups of unchaperoned kids that misbehave as I don't want my kids associated with those kinds of groups. Unchaperoned kids are a pet peeve of mine as it gives all groups a bad rep. But I was very pleased with the control and care given to make sure the kids were properly chaperoned on this trip.

And as a parent, I did want my child to travel across the country on a "field trip." And apparently, so did 54 other families. I am extremely glad the trip was offered. But then, my 8th grade trip was flying to Europe alone to visit relatives. There was less chaperoning on that trip as my relatives allowed me to explore the country at will than there was on DS's DC trip.

However, I must include that our DC trip is not school sanctioned. 3 teachers put it together, along with World Strides as an opportunity to do something fun and educational over Spring Break.

I will never regret spending the $1,600 to send our son. Yes, it was expensive. Yes, the family could have gone to other places for the same price. BUT...the experience of and the confidence gained flying across the country independently of Mommy and Daddy, with all his friends and seeing DC through the eyes of friends and teachers was an adventure that a family vacation can never provide.

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Old 09-30-2011, 07:04 PM   #48
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I'm going to second goofy!'s comments. We sent our son and will send our daughter next year because the experience of travelling with friends is so much different than going with family.

Our trip was very well-chaperoned -- there was one teacher for every 10 students. At night, once the kids were all in their rooms, a piece of tape was placed on each door. There was a security guard in the hallway, and if he heard anything, he would check the tape on the door. If it was disturbed, he was to wake the teacher in charge. The teacher who organizes the trip says that if the guard woke him, he'd be calling the parents, and in 20 years of going on the trip, he'd never had to call a parent to come and get their student.
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Old 09-30-2011, 07:47 PM   #49
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I'm not worried about security for my son at all. When I chaperoned these trips, all the kids were on the same hallway of a hotel, the chaperone's rooms were mixed in and a security guard was stationed in the hallway all night long.
Plus, my son is an experienced traveller, he knows what to do and how to behave. And I think it is a great experience for him to establish a little more independence. I just have to decide if we want to spend $1700 for him to have this experience. I have two other sons who are younger so by the time the youngest is in 8th grade I'll have spent $5100 on 3 DC trips.
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Old 09-30-2011, 08:47 PM   #50
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I googled Worldstrides. There are lots of reviews out there, many of them not good. Their 2005 Presidential Inauguration debacle was something, apparently. I guess the teachers get kickbacks and can win free trips (not the trips with the students). That explains alot of the markup. Many of the complaints say not to use EZ pay and to watch for them automatically charging for trip insurance that you didn't want and not honoring the cancellation insurance without a big charge. Hmm. I'm sure all tour companies have their issues, but I would be careful.

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Old 09-30-2011, 09:00 PM   #51
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Originally Posted by sparklynails23 View Post
I googled Worldstrides. There are lots of reviews out there, nany of them not good. Their 2005 Presidential Inauguration debacle was something, apparently. I guess the teachers get kickbacks and can win free trips (not the trips with the students). That explains alot of the markup. Many of the complaints say not to use EZ pay and to watch for them automatically charging for trip insurance that you didn't want and not honoring the cancellation insurance without a big charge. Hmm. I'm sure all tour companies have their issues, but I would be careful.
Posting a link when citing specific information is really helpful so people can read things themselves, in their complete context.
I say that because there are actually people out there who would complain if the travel insurance was not automatically added in (I would not, be one of those people).
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Old 09-30-2011, 09:03 PM   #52
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I just googled worldstrides reviews. There were multiple links. One was epinions.
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Old 09-30-2011, 11:59 PM   #53
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2 of my kids took trips to DC with WorldStrides in 8th grade.

It was absolutely a once-in-a-lifetime experience that could not be replicated if I made the travel plans myself.

World Strides was a good company to work with on every level.

We are in the St. Louis area, and it was 4 days 3 nights, airfare and all meals, motorcoach taking the kids to every sight-seeing destination, entrance fees...$1200 per person.

World Strides paid a company to handle night "watch duty" on the hotel floor where the kids were. They also arranged for a buffet breakfast in a private room each morning at the hotel.

I know people say all the time they could take their entire family for that amount of money and that is just plain untrue. unless you are renting your own charter bus you could never hire a driver and see all of the "attractions" that are seen in just a few days like when scheduled through the tour company.
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Old 10-01-2011, 12:54 AM   #54
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Originally Posted by sparklynails23 View Post
I googled Worldstrides. There are lots of reviews out there, many of them not good. Their 2005 Presidential Inauguration debacle was something, apparently. I guess the teachers get kickbacks and can win free trips (not the trips with the students). That explains alot of the markup. Many of the complaints say not to use EZ pay and to watch for them automatically charging for trip insurance that you didn't want and not honoring the cancellation insurance without a big charge. Hmm. I'm sure all tour companies have their issues, but I would be careful.
And you can find horrible reviews of the deluxes in WDW if you google enough.

We did not find any problems with WorldStrides. In fact, they went above and beyond to work with parents to make sure their kids could go.

I know of 2 families who ran into some problems financially for a few months and the trip was not completely paid off by the deadline. WorldStrides worked with them and allowed them to make up the payments for four months AFTER the trip happened.

They were incredibly easy and flexible to work with. I talked to them numerous times on the phone and they were always very helpful.

Our teacher was very upfront about all the costs and their were no free trips, but he mentioned something about a discount for himself and the 2 other teachers chaperoning.

I had absolutely NO problem paying a bit more to subsidize their travel since I was entrusting my kid with them.
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Old 10-01-2011, 03:33 AM   #55
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My 8th grade DS told me there is a DC trip in the making this year and said fundraising covers everything. I'll believe that when I see it. With all the costs I'm seeing posted, I thinking because airfare from Alaska is usually pretty high.
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Old 10-01-2011, 08:21 PM   #56
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.We are in SoCal and my nephew's school is planning a trip for 6 days that will cost $1595. That includes air fare, hotels, all meals, transfers, admissions, etc. They will visit D.C., Williamsburg, Jamestown, Mt. Vernon, Monticello, Gettysburg and the Liberty Bell. Actually it's not a school-sponsored trip, but a private one. It's organized by a group of teachers who have spring break all at the same time. We're just trying to convince my nephew it would be a great trip.
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Old 10-03-2011, 08:35 AM   #57
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2 of my kids took trips to DC with WorldStrides in 8th grade.

It was absolutely a once-in-a-lifetime experience that could not be replicated if I made the travel plans myself.

World Strides was a good company to work with on every level.

We are in the St. Louis area, and it was 4 days 3 nights, airfare and all meals, motorcoach taking the kids to every sight-seeing destination, entrance fees...$1200 per person.

World Strides paid a company to handle night "watch duty" on the hotel floor where the kids were. They also arranged for a buffet breakfast in a private room each morning at the hotel.

I know people say all the time they could take their entire family for that amount of money and that is just plain untrue. unless you are renting your own charter bus you could never hire a driver and see all of the "attractions" that are seen in just a few days like when scheduled through the tour company.
That's the thing. You CAN see all of those sites on your own, and there are a dozen tour busses that travel around to the different attractions, a boat that goes down to Mount Vernon, and the metro which will take you almost everywhere. I've lived there, and I know how cheaply a trip could be done. Most of the attractions are free. If you want to spend your money on a class trip, go ahead, but this company's prices are out of line.
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Old 10-03-2011, 09:17 AM   #58
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That's the thing. You CAN see all of those sites on your own, and there are a dozen tour busses that travel around to the different attractions, a boat that goes down to Mount Vernon, and the metro which will take you almost everywhere. I've lived there, and I know how cheaply a trip could be done. Most of the attractions are free. If you want to spend your money on a class trip, go ahead, but this company's prices are out of line.
Yes, you can see all of those sites on your own, but several of them require passes (the Holocaust Museum permanent exhibit and the Washington Monument were just two I saw) and those passes are given out on a first-come, first-served basis unless you reserve them in advance. And they all have a designated time for touring. Also, I doubt that the tour buses you describe will show up at the exact time you wish to leave, unlike a charter bus. I imagine they're closer to the buses at Disney, where you go to a designated stop and hope that you didn't just miss a bus.

I didn't visit the web site of every place in Washington that my son went to, but just from the half dozen I did look up, I would imagine that trying to see as much as DS did in two days by planning a tour on my own would be a nightmare of waiting in lines for passes, waiting for buses, etc. If it costs me a bit extra to have someone else make all the arrangements for me, it's worth it in my book.

That's not to say that I don't think the $1700 price in the OP is a little steep, but it is also for slightly longer than DS's trip and we don't really know all that is included. In the end, everyone has to decide what they can afford and what the value of a trip like this is for their child. I don't believe WorldStrides or Brightspark is deliberately trying to rip people off -- they wouldn't stay in business very long if they did that.
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Old 10-03-2011, 10:07 AM   #59
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Yes, you can see all of those sites on your own, but several of them require passes (the Holocaust Museum permanent exhibit and the Washington Monument were just two I saw) and those passes are given out on a first-come, first-served basis unless you reserve them in advance. And they all have a designated time for touring. Also, I doubt that the tour buses you describe will show up at the exact time you wish to leave, unlike a charter bus. I imagine they're closer to the buses at Disney, where you go to a designated stop and hope that you didn't just miss a bus.

I didn't visit the web site of every place in Washington that my son went to, but just from the half dozen I did look up, I would imagine that trying to see as much as DS did in two days by planning a tour on my own would be a nightmare of waiting in lines for passes, waiting for buses, etc. If it costs me a bit extra to have someone else make all the arrangements for me, it's worth it in my book.

That's not to say that I don't think the $1500 price in the OP is a little steep, but it is also for slightly longer than DS's trip and we don't really know all that is included. In the end, everyone has to decide what they can afford and what the value of a trip like this is for their child. I don't believe WorldStrides or Brightspark is deliberately trying to rip people off -- they wouldn't stay in business very long if they did that.
There are just so many other tour operators that I would shop around before paying $1700 for that or bring up the cost to the teacher/ school board. I've gone in the morning on a holiday weekend and gotten Washington monument and Holocaust Museum and Bureau of Engraving tickets. The Capitol building tickets are best to reserve ahead of time and the White House you have to have ahead of time. Obviously, $1500 isn't a big deal for you, but it is for some people. For those people, Worldstrides is probably not a great option.

They also had some pricey junior acheivement summer program for middle schoolers that I saw complaints about. They pretend like the student is recommended by a teacher and send them an invitation for a meeting where they advertise the trip and may or may not give out a scholarship. There were doubts about the legitimacy of that whole scholarship issue. I'd avoid that, for sure.
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Old 10-03-2011, 11:49 AM   #60
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That's the thing. You CAN see all of those sites on your own, and there are a dozen tour busses that travel around to the different attractions, a boat that goes down to Mount Vernon, and the metro which will take you almost everywhere. I've lived there, and I know how cheaply a trip could be done. Most of the attractions are free. If you want to spend your money on a class trip, go ahead, but this company's prices are out of line.
I am sure you can bus-jump and walk and catch the metro on any given day. But are you going to get the SAME bus with the SAME bus driver for the entire trip...who has been doing this job for 20 years and gives you more history en route to all of the attractions than you will get with any tour guide around?

The OP was asking specifically about World Strides and pricing. 2 of my kids have taken the World Strides trip and I was a chaperon on one of those trips. I am giving the OP MY opinion to her direct question.

The trip was extremely organized, fast paced, and really a trip of a lifetime for the kids. Everything went smoothly at the airport, meals were taken care of, and I felt very safe at the hotel and was glad they had a guard on our floor through the night.

The tour bus also took us to the places only WE wanted to go. We didn't have to see anything along the way we didn't want to see, our meal stops were scheduled for where and when we wanted to stop. Our tour bus driver even added in driving us past many of the monuments one night when he said they were most beautiful to look at when lit up.
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