As a teacher, parent or school administrator, it’s important to understand the effects of seasonality in planning your student group trips. Airfares, hotel rates and even bus prices will vary greatly during the year and in this day and age when everyone’s pinching pennies, and juggling multiple activities and busy work schedule, understanding when to travel is almost as important as where to travel.

First of all, you don’t want your kids to miss too much school. Naturally this leads one to think about wrapping a trip around holiday weekends, but this too can create conflicts. Long holiday weekends are notoriously busy travel periods with traditional family destinations which also happen to be the most popular student travel destinations – go figure!  Couple this with potential conflicts with family vacation plans and many teachers want to shy away from these long weekends. Best advice? Look for some of the less significant wrap-around weekends and put some feelers out to a trusted few.

Beyond that, here is a review of the most popular student travel time periods.

September / October Student Travel

What better way to get kids excited about a subject than a back-to-school trip? The benefits of fall student travel are immense – cooler temperatures, spectacular fall foliage scenery (most places), light crowds and lower hotels rates (this is often their weakest booking period). However, back-to-school time is a challenge for a lot of kids and parents as they get adjusted to a new routines of class schedules, homework assignments and often a new level of sports. Adding a trip to this stressful time period should be considered carefully.

December School Trips

This is the longest vacation period for students, allowing time for a lengthier student trip. Many destinations are dressed to the nines in holiday décor, adding a fun element to your journey. But airfares can be steep over the holidays and hotel rates skyrocket. You may also have trouble recruiting because the holidays are family time.

Winter Break Student Trips

Some schools have a February winter break which is a good time to get away to warmer destinations. But winter weather could force flight delays, severely impacting shorter trips. If you’re planning a bus tour to a cold weather city, you’ll find favorable rates and light crowds. As they say, it’s 72 degrees year around inside museums! But once you’re outside bundle up, and be prepared for snow and ice storms that could delay travel plans.

Spring Student Travel

The majority of school trips still take place in late April and May and the most popular student travel destinations are packed to the rim with school buses and chaperones. It’s easy to see why. The end of school year is an easier time to get away. Routines are down pat, weather is more predictable, plus trips are a great way to reward good performance and to explore a subject up-close- and personal that up to this point have been only experienced with textbook and internet.

While some student travel groups look to the weeks before and after Easter, these are the most popular times to travel for families. If you venture down this path, prepare to reserve your flights and hotels early to avoid disappointment.

Summer Youth Vacations

Summer offers the most flexibility, but is only appropriate for certain subjects. Keep in mind that older students may have summer jobs, travel with the family, participate in sports or go to camp. This can hamper your trip participation, so if summer is on your agenda, get your announcement out in the fall to avoid overlaps with family events.

Student travel at any time of the year presents both opportunity and challenges. When you decide to travel should be based on your geographic location and your community’s demographics. More experienced teachers and school administrators may be able to lend advice on what’s worked for them, because having a feel for the best travel time for your school could make the difference between a good student trip and a great student trip.