Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Tried it Tuesday (, Wednesday): Trip Itinerary

Well, even though I'm a day late and a dollar short, I thought I'd still link up with Holly for Tried It Tuesday, because, why not?

By the way, I have recently gotten a bunch of new followers. So welcome! So glad you came by to check out the blog :)

I will admit that the project for this week's Tried It was a little indulgent on my part, but it still fit in with the curriculum of my English IV course. I looooove planning trips. I sometimes even plan trips I know I won't be taking for a very long while (like a trip back to Hawaii or to Italy). Even weekend getaways give me something to be giddy about and I love having something to look forward to.

Well my English IV class is a practical writing and communications class, but we also talk about other aspects of life after high school so they can go on to be responsible and knowledgeable citizens. At the beginning of the semester, I pass out a student interest survey. While there are some things I will cover regardless (resumes, cover letters, memos, etc.), I usually have a few weeks at the end of the semester where I can do a choice of a few projects I have up my sleeve that all tie in to the content. Three out of four semester I have taught this course, I did a sample trip itinerary project with them.

The majority of my students said they wanted to learn more about budgeting. I do talk some about budgeting in regards to the home, like utilities, groceries, etc. Our capstone project (which I should do a separate post on) actually has budgeting as a possible topic, and it usually always get chosen.

But another way to work in writing (which is key in this course), as well as problem-solving, decision-making, and budgeting skills is to have the students plan (either individually or in groups) a sample trip within a budget and stipulations I give them.

I require four written components of the project turned in:
1. A trip proposal: Where they are going, why they chose it, any foreseen problems this trip might produce, questions they have, etc.

2. An overall budget: how much will be allotted to transportation, lodging, food, activities, etc? I also prefer for them to look at flights/train schedules, etc. and put down some possible transportation and lodging specifics.

3.  A detailed, day by day trip itinerary with prices listed (yes, I do actually make them look up restaurants and excursions online to give accurate or, at least educated guesses on prices)

4. A project reflection: what costs surprised them most, what would they change if they actually took this trip, etc.

We spend at least 2 weeks working on this daily. Many students don't even know about sites like Travelocity, Trip Advisor, etc. I do give them stipulations. I give them the dates of travel (to correspond with a school break), the nights they have to be there and a budget (I do $1500). I do allow them to split hotel rooms with friends and travel with friends, but in their write-up, they must share a room with ONLY same-sex people :)

What I like about this project:
  • It's real-world application for my students, and most have never planned a trip before
  • They do a LOT of writing for it, so I'm not skimping on content at all. I still grade for organization, thoroughness, grammar, etc. Also, some may perhaps have to plan travel for their work in the future.
  • It gives them experience with budgeting. Like I tell them, most will not have an unlimited budget with which to travel. I sure don't! Some found their original destinations were just not realistic for the time constraint or budget.
Problems I ran into:
  • Kids started to get sick of it after about a week of working on it. So in the future, I think I may have them do one or two parts, then take a break for a couple days with maybe a pertinent grammar mini-lesson, then go back to the project.
  • Many tried to cut corners the first time I did this, and didn't really get the experience I wanted them to. For instance, many said they would borrow their parents' car and their parents pay for their gas always and they wanted to drive somewhere where they have family and they could stay for free. Well, even though we do take trips like that sometimes, we don't always, and I wanted them to actually have to budget lodging and transportation. So every time since the first, I have not allowed them to stay for free with anyone or get free transportation.
  • Many students didn't understand how packages on Travelocity, etc. work. They decided to travel with a friend, and therefore said they were going to split the cost of the package. That's not how packages work though. A package with airfare + hotel is just for one person and cannot be split (it's impossible to share an airplane seat, for instance). So I took time one day to explain how packages work.
  • Every time I do this, I have students who either do it bare bones and have hardly anything on paper and/or lie about excursion prices because they don't want to put in the research to look things up. If a price seems off, I ALWAYS Google and find out if it is right or not. I also have started requiring they do at least one excursion per day of their itinerary. Some students wrote "play video games in hotel" for every single day, but again, that is not realistic for every vacation you take, and they weren't getting the budgeting experience.
Overall, I liked this project and would do it again if I had time. The kids did like it even though they got burnt out towards the end, which is why I'd split it up. I also have always just done this as an individual project, but would consider making it a group project and have each group present their trip to their classmates at the end of the whole thing using a visual aid.

So there you have it! Speaking of trip planning, I am beyond thrilled that we will get to take a little mini-getaway this August. I just booked us a waterfront suite at an adults-only B&B in South Haven, Michigan.

South Haven, courtesy of Trip Advisor
A picture of the fire pit area at our B&B, courtesy of
We've never been up to Michigan before, and I am SO excited for a good dose of R&R. I'm not bringing my computer and only using my cell phone to check in with my parents (who are dog-sitting) occasionally and for emergencies. Totally going to unplug (OK, I might use it to Instagram some pics but that's it). We plan to spend a lot of time at the wonderful beaches up there, enjoy our private balcony overlooking the harbor, visit some wineries, go up to Saugatuck and visit the sand dunes, and just unwind before school starts the following week. I am GIDDY with excitement.

Any Michigan folks with recs for activities or restaurants we just have to try?


  1. I love how you were so detailed in what worked and didn't work! Isn't blogging one of the best teacher reflections ever? Your trip to Michigan looks like heaven! Good for you having some time to unwind and unplug:)
    Fourth Grade Flipper