School Trips in DC: What Visitors Need to Know

Participating in one of the multi-day school trips in DC is a right-of passage for many 8th graders across the U.S. If you are not visiting with one of these groups but coming to DC between mid-March and mid-June, these are a few things you need to know.

Washington DC Field Trip Season, Explained

What is school field trip season?

School trips in DC are a huge part of the local tourism industry. Most schools send eighth grade class trips. This is why you will also occasionally hear referred to as “eighth grade field trip season”. Eighth grade is usually the class that gets to come to DC because it’s a final reward before the kids head off to high school.

Trip Hacks DC offers tours specifically designed for school groups. We have led tours with students in fifth grade all the way up to 12th grade. Our tours are best for small schools who don’t pay for an all-inclusive package. For large schools, these services might make more sense.

When is school field trip season?

School group trips in DC typically happen at one of two times during the year. The big one is in the spring, roughly from mid-March through mid-June. There is also a secondary field trip season in the fall roughly from early October through Thanksgiving.

If you’re trying to avoid field trip season the months you want to consider for your trip are: December, January, and February in the winter, and July, August, and September in the summer. Most schools choose to come in the spring because it’s an end-of-the-school-year reward. Plus, the students get to spend all school year learning about social studies and history and then they get to come to DC and see things up close.

Fall field trip season is much less busy since most schools don’t want to do the trip at the beginning of the school year.

How will field trip season impact your trip?

The most important thing to know is that school groups travel together in large packs. So, if you are visiting the memorials, there might be four groups of 50 students or more at once. This can really change the feel of some of the sites, particularly smaller memorials like the Vietnam and Korean War memorials.

School groups are only in DC for a limited amount of time. They need to maximize that time as best as possible. That means that during the day they’re going to be at the sites that are only open from 10 to 5. This includes the museums and the other indoor sites. Then, after dinner, they are going to head out and tour the monuments and memorials. This is because there are not a lot of evening activities you can do with big groups of teenagers.  

The bottom line is that if you’re visiting during spring field trip season you’re going to be sharing those monuments and sites with a lot of other people.

Where do field trip groups eat?

As far as restaurants go, school trips groups in DC tend to stick to a limited number of places. For lunch they go to food courts. The food courts at Union Station, L’Enfant Plaza, the Reagan Building, and Pentagon City Mall are all popular choices. Food courts are ideal for school groups because they’re cheap and they give the students a lot of different choices. For dinner, they go to the inexpensive restaurants that can accommodate groups. This includes places such as the Hard Rock Cafe, Buca di Beppo, Carmine’s, and similar chain places.

Where do school groups stay?

School groups usually stay at suburban hotels because they travel on charter buses. Thus they do not need to be near Metro. Suburban hotels usually offer group rates to schools. Although, you will occasionally see school groups staying downtown, especially if they’re a small group who doesn’t have a charter bus. So if you plan to stay at a downtown hotel and eat at mostly local restaurants, you are probably not going to bump into too many of these groups at those places.

Coming to DC and want to book a tour?

Trip Hacks DC was founded by Rob, a veteran tour guide in the Nation’s Capital. Trip Hacks DC provides tips, tricks and travel hacks for planning your trip; and guided tours to show you around once you get here. Our tours are family and school group friendly and our guides specialize in the major Washington, DC sites. Click here to check out the upcoming tour options and to book your tour here today! Feel free to contact us if you have any tour questions

About Trip Hacks DC

Trip Hacks DC was founded by Rob, a veteran tour guide in the Nation's Capital.

Everyone wants to get the most out of travel experience; we know that planning a trip can be fun but sometimes stressful. The tips and travel hacks offered here will help you make the most of your trip and avoid missing out on the best things the city has to offer. Our trip planning e-book is the perfect resource for every first-time Washington, DC visitor.

If you're looking for a guided experience once you arrive, Trip Hacks DC specializes in private tours; but has public tours options as well. Visit the Guided Tours section to learn about some of the suggested tours and the trip planning resources section for help preparing for your trip. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions!

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