Nothing Went As Planned: 32 Times School Trips Failed So Badly, The Teachers Couldn’t Help But Share It Online
Ah, school trips—one of the best parts of the education system, in my opinion. They're right up there with pizza Tuesdays and passionate teachers showing us that learning can actually be fun. However magical we might think all school trips are, the fact is that some of them end up being complete disasters.
Just how disastrous are we talking about? So disastrous that teachers ended up sharing them on a thread on Reddit. And the stories are eye-opening: there are just so many ways that a simple class trip can go wrong. It's like the Universe has it out for these teachers (though there are some things they can do to prepare themselves for some bad scenarios).
Check out some of the best real stories shared by teachers below, upvote the ones that made your eyebrows jump into your hairline, and if you've got any strange school trip experiences to share with us, drop us a comment at the bottom of this list. Hear that bell? It's time to start reading.
Bored Panda wanted to learn about how best to prepare for school trips, so we reached out to trained primary school teachers Tom Rose and Jack Pannett from the United Kingdom. "School trips are very challenging, especially for newer teachers, because of the constant changing of locations or 'transitions' as teachers usually refer to them as," they said. You'll find our full in-depth interview with them below. If you're an educator, you won't want to miss it!
Fifth grade field trip to a zoo. During a tour of the primate exhibits a notoriously ill-behaved student hurls a stick down into the gorilla habitat and lands near an adult gorilla. Without hesitation, the now angry gorilla arms himself with the same stick and sends it back like a tomahawk to the boy with terrifying velocity and wildly impressive precision. The stick shatters around the boys face and he goes down. Commotion insues. More gorillas make an appearance and begin to scream at the group of horrified children. Zoo staff start piling in out of the woodwork to see whats going on. The orangutans on the other side of the trail have now got wind of the situation and have begun mobilizing to assist their gorilla comrades. It's a war on two fronts now. Gorilla and orangutans launch volleys of feces and student's scatter. Througout the entire exibit all manner of primates begin their intimidating chatter and howling. An army of zoo staff has swarmed the primate exibits and manages to stop war of the planet of the apes.
30 minutes later, the zoo has indefinitely banned the school from returning and the boy is on the way to the hospital for 5 stitches in his chin.
Not a teacher but a chaperone on a 6th grade trip. And on the bus a pair of the more ... um... developed students proceeded to have a rather extensive make out session.
So I went back there and plunked my Dad butt between them. They were not happy. The conversation about teen pregnancy avoidance was even more painful for them.
"Many teachers fear PE for the same basic reason, which is: not having a safe confined space to teach (as they are used to when they are in a classroom). The extra pressure of trying to impress the parent/carer helpers is another thing that gets in the way of many teachers doing their job too, which is again much more obvious with less experienced teachers," teachers Tom and Jack pointed out some of the challenges that teachers face when going on a school trip.
"Beyond the transitions and dealing with the other adult help, you then have to deal with the many unexpected things that crop up along the way, such as the transport issues, sudden changes of weather, stumbling across a bee's nest (that was Tom in Bushy Park) amongst many other potentials," they said, referring to an incident with the bees that you'll find in detail below.
Preparation and repetition are the keys to having a successful trip. The British teacher duo suggested that you do the trip without kids first if that's possible, in order to get ready. "If that’s not possible then talk to someone else who's done the trip before and/or complete the route via Google street view," they told Bored Panda. "This then informs your plan and your 'risk assessment' which is a document that contains all of the potential hazards and problems that you could incur ranging from walking near dogs on a lead to losing a child at a train station."
In the kindergarten field trip, we had the parent of our most challenging student come along as a chaperone. Her group was her own son, and a very sweet, obident girl. Let's call him Jim and the girl Shaunda.
Typically we teachers set up "base camp" while the parents take the groups of students through the park. We do a scavenger hunt, and the parents bring us their cards for a stamp as they go through each section.
The first time the zoo employee brought us Jim, he said that the boy was in the monkey exhibit trying to climb over the fences. Luckily he had on a school shirt, and Jim was brought right to us. We called his mother's phone, and she didn't answer. About 15 minutes later, the mom shows up and says "Jim, how did you get in front of us, we we're walking together just a minute ago." We teachers explained that in fact, Jim had been with us for a bit, and the zoo ranger had brought him over. No real responseonce from the mom. We asked her to turn on her phone.
They went off again.
The second time they brought us Jim, he had gotten into the fountain. It had taken several employees to chase him down as he ran and giggled. Same drill, we called Mom. No answer. Jim was sopping wet with gross fountain water. He did not seem too concerned. The mom did not show up for 45 minutes. Again she said, "Jim, how did you get in front of us, we we're walking together just a minute ago." This time I was watching Shaunda, the look on that little girl's face said it all. Total amazement that an adult was lying.
They went off again to walk to the picnic area.
Yes. The third time the zoo brought back little Jim, it was with a police officer. Apparently, the zoo was watching the cameras, and the minute the mom was out of sight, she let go of Jim and basically ditched him. The mom got a citation for failure to maintain responsibility for her child and a 1 year ban from the zoo. The police officer accompanied her and Jim back to the buses and waited with them until it was time to leave. They did not participate in the picnic.
Shaunda had the best moral to the story. "No wonder he is so bad, his mama won't even keep him safe when there is a tiger around.".
He is now a very troubled 4th grader. He doesn't get to go on field trips without 1 on 1 support from a school staff member.
Ok, so not a teacher, but: One time on a trip to the movies in 8th grade, one of the chaperones was my english teacher, who was deathly alergic to citrus. (I think we know where this is going) On the bus ride back to school, a kid takes an orange, peels it and throws it at her, HARD. Hard enough to the point where orange juice got all over her shirt. Not sure if it was revenge related or just being a [prick]. Anyway, she immediatly starts having an allergic reaction and we have to pull over on the side of the highway and wait for an ambulance. We go back to school and the day is over. The school sends out an email basically saying "please dont attempt to kill your teachers with allergic reactions" and that she will be fine. Although, we had a substitute for 4 days and the kid got expelled.
Obligatory "not a teacher but" story.
I went to a water park in 3rd grade, and I remember after our class got changed into our bathing suits, we noticed a kid was missing, and so were all of the teachers. Then we looked out at the area where the slides were, and witnessed this kid sprinting, butt naked, dropping logs as he went with 3 teachers and a lifeguard trailing him.
They caught him, shut down half of the park for an hour and called his mom to come get him, and to this day I can't figure out why he did it.
Far from everything will always go as planned, however, so you also need a way to calm down and stop panicking when things start going downhill. As a teacher, keeping your composure is paramount. "Planning a trip is one thing, but having backup options if things go wrong is another that requires composure—‘box breathing’ is our ‘go-to’ method if we are stressed and want to calm down. Box breathing is a practice where you breathe in for 4 seconds, hold breath for 4 seconds, breathe out for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds and repeat until your heart rate slows down," Tom and Jack said.
Tom and Jack added that teachers need to be aware of how children will cope with a change in their environment. Some environments will naturally be more challenging than others. And some students will act out more when they've got more space, find themselves in new surroundings, or meet new people. So knowing which kids will need their behavior managed more than others is vital.
We went skating, and one of the students fell, smacked her chin off the ice, and somehow got a skate blade to the face... she needed a bunch of stitches, and was able to stick her tongue through the hole in her face...
I went on a class trip as chaperone to a science center. I was in charge of a group of 8 boys. One of them goes missing, I ask the others where he went, and they don't know either. He's missing for about 10 minutes until a security guard from the center comes up to me with him. The guy asks "is he one of yours?", and tells this kid to open his backpack when I say yes. Probably $200 worth of stolen stuff in there. He spent the rest of the trip right next to me
Former assistant teacher here, we were on a 6th grade field trip to the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. Cool place.
So - at the time one of the attractions was a sort of centripetal force machine that you can sit in and get swung around (poor explanation but imagine the Gravitron only smaller and faster with seats and no walls. I googled it but can't find the ride, guessing it was swapped out for something else). Well, one dumbass kid thought it'd be funny to show off and see what happens when you undo your seat belt while riding.
Naturally, he got flung out of the machine at roughly half the speed of sound and broke his fall with nothing but his face. Glasses busted, massive concussion, totally wrecked. There was a whole investigation and the teacher in charge of that kid's group had to actually defend himself from accusations that he could've somehow stopped that level of stupidity. Sadly I didn't witness it but did hear the impact from one room over. Pretty interesting day.
As a teacher, you should always allocate slightly more time for each step of the school trip than you think is necessary. Educators can also reach out to their colleagues and parent chaperones to hear their experiences going to specific places and with particular students, too. But if you plan to have parents helping out during the trip, make sure that they understand that they'll have to help take care of the entire group, not just their own child. Of course, when briefing parents, try to be as sensitive in how you word advice and instructions as possible. And keep in mind... parents gossip! So being diplomatic with them is incredibly important.
Because a lot of teachers are so busy taking care of everyone else, they can completely forget about their own well-being. So much so that they can even forget to pack a lunch. Getting enough sleep the night before the big trip is essential. As is taking a day or two afterward to unwind. But while on the trip, one item that you probably want as a teacher is a whistle to get everyone's attention when you're outside: you don't want to lose your voice shouting constantly.
And even though you can prepare for the weather, the terrain, and the route, Tom and Jack pointed out that you can't fully prepare for what happens on the day of the school trip. For instance, Tom was on a trip to Bushy Park when suddenly, he and his group heard a loud buzzing noise all above them and saw a cloud of bees descend on them. So he yelled for everyone to grab what they could and run after him. Fortunately, this worked out well for everyone and nobody was stung.
Asked my students to be respectful of other pedestrians while on the trip, because some people want to enjoy the nature center by themselves, one kid saw a woman with her service dog and tried to pull on it because “mommy would let me have it” we had to leave because of that and he ruined the entire trip for everyone
Our bus driver stopped on train tracks as a train was coming.
Our bus full of first graders was approaching train tracks as the lights flashed and the gate started to lower. Our driver decided not to stop at the tracks (like any bus should by law) and thought maybe she could beat the lowering arms? She realized she couldn’t and braked ON THE TRACK (the first of two). The gate arms slammed onto our bus, and a man stopped at a red light got out of his car to lift it off my side of the bus. I panicked from the front seat as the incoming train whistled, and the parent chaperones and I screamed at her to MOVE BACK. She kept saying “I can’t go in reverse.” She had no panic in her voice at all.
Thankfully the train came on the second track. I can’t remember if she actually backed up or not; I was absolutely traumatized and spent the beginning of the trip on the phone with transportation. They sent us another driver for the way home, and our original driver sat awkwardly in the front seat. We take the same trip every year, and every year I cringe when we cross the tracks.
A girl on a BETA club trip thought it would be funny to put “bomb on board” in the window of the bus. The interstate was shut down, the bus was pulled over and SWAT team raided the bus. The bomb squad was called in to sweep the bus even though the girl admitted it was a hoax. She didn’t go to jail somehow, she was also a popular cheerleader and didn’t get any disciplinary action from the school.
I have a very nostalgic view of school trips because most of them went fantastic for me. Some of my most memorable moments include getting lost in a cornfield for a bit (the stalks went way above my head) and gazing at the most beautiful starry sky I've ever seen while lying on a beach at night.
What's not to love about trips? Your mom packs you a delicious lunch (her sandwiches are always the best), you grab your GameBoy and sit with all the other cool kids at the back of the bus, and you connect to your classmates in a way that you can't when you're just in class.
Not a teacher, just a student. Went to an aquarium just before finishing primary school which had an ice wall. A lot of bloody tongues that day
Kid punched a dolphin. Petting tank at SeaWorld. Kid just hauled off and punched a dolphin. School was banned.
Another time all the chaperones went to the beer tasting at Busch Gardens. That got a few people in trouble.
Another time we had a kid from Kenya with us. She was straight up out of Africa for only a few weeks. When it was time to leave Disney she got on the first bus she saw and ended up at Pleasure Island (Disney Springs now.)
Then there was the kid that destroyed TWO hotel rooms in Gainesville by flushing soap down the toilet.
Another kid (Disney again) roughed up a chipmunk (it was Chip or Dale.) Disney Security stopped our bus before we could leave and detained him. There is so much more.
As a student I was left behind at a hutterite colony. I went to use the outhouse and the bus left.
But nothing, absolutely nothing, beats the sense of adventure that you feel inside of you, somewhere near your solar plexus. It's the same tingling sensation that I get when I board an airplane, bound for some exotic destination. You know that something memorable is going to happen. And while most of my experiences have been great, the teachers over on Reddit have shown that even the best-laid plans can fall apart. All it takes is one tiny mistake.
I'll be honest that I was always one of the ‘good kids' on those trips and I never got in trouble. But my classmates! Oh boy! I remember, one time, a whole bunch of them went sneaking off to have a drink in the woods and then they got caught by the teacher. Imagine how embarrassed they were when they had to call their parents and explain what happened the next morning.
Obligatory not a teacher, but when my econ class went to NYC for a field trip, one of my classmates tried to buy weed off a guy in an alleyway. Turned out to be an undercover cop. We were the honors class. He was a cool kid. I was walking to school in freezing weather one day and he offered me a ride.
Don't remember what happened to him after that. I know he didn't graduate with us that year.
Group trip to take a tour of a college campus. We had a young man jump out of a bus window while it was going down the highway! His long term girlfriend had broken up with him a few days before, and he later explained that he didn’t see the point of going on the college visit anymore because he didn’t want to go to the same college as her, or even apply to the same ones. Denied up and down that it was a suicide attempt.
His friends circled the wagons and supported his story, and the story/rumors died quickly. He got some gnarly road rash, but avoided being hit by any cars.
I always got the impression that it was, in fact, a suicide attempt. If he didn’t want to go on the tour, why go at all? Why board the bus? He could have stayed at school.
This was several years ago. He is fine!
I had a child have a massive asthma attack after a visit to a farm and a cotton gin. I ended up giving her mouth to mouth on the side of the road and praying for an ambulance. She was fine after a couple breathing treatments and some steroids, thank goodness. This was before cell phones were common and we had to use the call box on the side of the highway. 10/10 would not repeat!
Halsbury Travel had some friendly advice for teachers for when they plan the next school trip. They explain that organization is “absolutely paramount” and that educators ought to have “ten copies of everything” and “check everything a hundred times.”
In other words, even if our plans tend to fall apart, we should still make them. There's nothing dorky about being prepared. In fact, your students (and their parents!) are counting on you to be well-organized and know everything.
One of my students thought it would be cute to sit in a baby swing. She got stuck. The NYPD had to be called. They cut her out of the baby swing in front the whole grade, who naturally swarmed the area to watch. She was “Snapchat famous” for a weekend
I took three classes of 6th graders (age 11-12) to visit the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. We’d come from about an hour and a half away - the kids & other teachers on buses, but since I was hugely pregnant I was allowed to drive my own car. It had been raining, but I arrived a bit ahead of the bus, so when the kids got off I was there to lead them to the museum.
As I began walking towards the kids getting off the buses I noticed a lot of papers on the sidewalk...and suddenly realized that they were an assortment of extremely graphic pictures. I stopped to try to gather them up before the kids got an unexpected and completely inappropriate sex ed lesson. We’d already had a BIG TALK about being MATURE when viewing classical art (e.g. nude statues, omg) but we were not prepared for the most lurid p**n LA had to offer.
Unfortunately the rain had plastered the papers to the sidewalk, and the sight of the very pregnant teacher scrambling on hands and knees on Wiltshire Blvd sent the chaperones and teachers rushing to my aid...with 100 kids right after them, no matter how urgently I tried to wave them back.
I was on a field trip to a local forest preserve with my third grade class, and there was a boy on the trip with special needs who was also a flight risk. Well, at one point he darted back towards the bus and I took off after him. But instead of going to the bus, he ducked into the poison ivy and poison oak-riddled woods 250 feet ahead of me! And to make it even worse, he was wearing camouflage for this field trip because that's what his dad always wore in the woods, so as I got into the denser part of the forest, I had to rely entirely on sound to try to catch up to him. Eventually he ran back across the main road and down the river bank, right towards the rapids, which were flooded due to a recent storm! Now, I’m a strong swimmer, but I knew that flood waters are nothing to mess with, and that if this kid got in the water, he would drown. So, I slid down the river bank as fast as I could, and caught up to him just as he started taking off his socks and shoes. I quickly grabbed him, threw him over my shoulders, and walked him back up the steep, slippery bank. Then back on the bus, while waiting for someone to come pick him up, he started complaining...about a rash.
Another vital part of organizing school trips is communication. I'll repeat that so we're crystal clear: communication. You gotta do it. It's always better to overcommunicate and irritate the heck out of someone than to not communicate enough. Why? Because someone will always misinterpret what you said. So you gotta repeat everything a hundred times (sometimes, that's not hyperbole) cuz that's how people learn.
Something else that teachers should be aware of is their students' medical requirements. Maybe Jane has a peanut allergy. Perhaps Robert has asthma and needs to remember to pack his inhaler. This is where a teacher's personal connection with their students plays a pivotal role. If you're aware of what could go wrong, you can stop disaster from striking.
When I was in the 2nd grade we took a field trip to the forest preserve. For me it was an awesome field trip, being led by a guide through this cool hiking trail and learning things about nature was my kind of thing.
About halfway through the hike a few of us decide to take "the fun" way across a thick log over a little creek. This kid named Marcelo was in front of me and he was goofing off a bit too much and slipped. He fell into the creek, but in the process smacked his face into the log. We helped get him out of the water and noticed that his mouth was bleeding profusely.
When he smacked his face on that log he got a stick about 2 inches long jammed up into his gums. It was pretty damn gnarly and the park ranger that was leading the hike called for an ambulance.
Not a teacher, but in 4th grade a turkey flew through the windshield of the bus. We were driving through the middle of nowhere on our way to a farm or something, don’t remember what it was supposed to be because we just ended up going back to the school.
Some teachers near the front were picking glass out of their forehead, think the driver was mostly okay but still needed to get checked out. I don’t think any of us kids were hurt at all. Maybe we were too short at that age for the glass to make its way over the seats enough to actually maim anyone? I have no idea.
But yeah, a teacher kicked the dead bird off the bus, did a quick head count, fluttered over the bus driver, and then we just lined up against a wooden fence at the edge of someone’s property while waiting for another bus to come get us.
Once my boss messed up and we got to the airport late and we missed our flight. So 40 kids and 7 adults and he refused to split our group up. We ended up having to stay an extra night. It was a nightmare since our bags made it and we didn’t.
Also had a student fall off the train platform and onto the tracks, breaking ribs and knocking herself out cold. She looked like a ragdoll going down and I felt helpless just trying to keep the other kids calm. She was okay eventually :/
Of course, a school trip isn't just about fun. It's supposed to be educational, too. So it's incredibly important that your students understand why you're on the trip in the first place. Sure, it's fun to get out of the school building, but we're going to the art museum for a reason, not just to muck about.
At an apple orchard with young preschoolers. One kid, who was always an issue in some way or another, pooped his pants. Fully. And didn’t say anything. I just happened to pass him and smelled it. There were no restrooms, just a port o potty. Had to stand him on the edge and try and get as much as the flattened turd out of his pants because there was no way he was going to sit in poop filled pants for the 30 min drive back. I was gagging and the kid was doing everything but following my directions. At one point I thought he was going to fall into the hole. It was awful.
I work with 18-21 year old students with disabilities. We took the students on our annual canoe trip at the end of the year. It’s typically like a two hour canoe ride through a chain of lakes and this particular year didn’t go so well. One of the students was aggressively yelling at other students to “paddle harder”. Another student got annoyed and turned around and started beating this student with his paddle. We had to get all the canoes (there were probably 7 of them) to shore to get these two students out because they were bludgeoning one another!
Not a teacher but I was a student. We went out ice-skating. A 190-pound guy I sorta knew (he was in one of my classes, didn't like him but I was too nice to tell him off) was having trouble staying up and I was the closest person to him so he grabbed me and used me for stability. Only problem was he was putting all his weight on me and ended up pushing me down, then because I was what was keeping him up, he fell and in the process stepped on top of my fingers and sliced 4 of them open. I really really despise that guy. I'm okay but I still have the scars and a story to tell.
You could also pack some game or sports equipment with you in case there's an hour or two free when you all have nothing to do. You should also consider avoiding planning trips for Mondays because parents tend to forget things over the weekend. And then you can end up with a situation that you'll be describing in an awful lot of detail on Reddit about how the trip went wrong quicker than kids get up from their desks when the lunch bell rings.
9th grade student got caught with beer in his energy drink bottle. Student very nearly got hit by a car. A third student vomited. All on the same trip.
When I was in fifth grade, my class took a field trip to Washington DC. It was my first ever overnight school trip and a huge deal because we weren’t in a wealthy area. It was basically a long weekend whirlwind tour of museums and such. To save money, we stayed in churches to sleep. There was onechurch that had a large activity room so we all slept there on the second night. Boys on one side, girls on the other, chaperones in the middle. An entire wall was windows without any coverings. At about 1:00 in the morning, some girl starts screaming. We all wake up to see this guy standing in front of the window staring in at us. He ran off, but word spread that he was exposing himself and the chaperones moved us to interior rooms and called the cops.
I was a new teacher when the whole grade went on a field trip during the first week of school.
In fact, I was so new that nobody - not even my colleagues - noticed that I wasn’t on the bus. So it left without me.
(Fortunately, the destination was only about 15 minutes away, so it wasn’t a big deal for me to jump in my car and follow the bus there.)
Band trip to Disney World. Lead bus driver "knew a shortcut". This led to 5 large motorcoaches lost in an orange grove somewhere near Orlando. No idea how much damage we did to those trees, the roads really weren't designed for huge busses.
not a teacher but once went on a trip to the woods, one kid climbed up on of the trees. after 10 minutes of sitting in the tree he decided to go down, and one branch snapped and the kid fell, there was a small twig just sticking out of this kids thigh. rushed to the hospital later and is doing fine now