Booster organizations make careful plans to ensure excursions to out-of-town events go smoothly.
Every summer, the students in the Fontainebleau High School Crimson Band attend a Drum Corps International (DCI) show, traveling in tour buses from their hometown in Mandeville, Louisiana. The location of the show changes every year though the Crimson Band Booster Club selects an event close enough to ensure the excursion remains a day trip.
“We attend the show, so that new and returning marching band students can see what professional marching bands do,” says Tammy Durst, booster president. “The trip is part of being in band. The kids pay for their portion of the bus and the ticket, and the parents and siblings are welcome to pay for tickets and attend, too.”
The Crimson Band Booster Club plans for the trip every year and begins coordinating the charter buses up to two months in advance of the event. “We try to have a solid head count by May, so we know how many buses to charter,” Durst says. “A couple weeks before the show, when we have a much firmer idea of our attendance, we’ll purchase the tickets.”
Because the event occurs every year, planning typically goes smoothly. The boosters leverage that experience when they plan for the optional overnight trip.
“Right after school gets out, our organization takes a large overnight trip, typically to a vacation type of destination, such as Disney World,” Durst explains. “We start planning for this trip in September or October of the previous year and ask parents and students to commit to attending by January.”
Terry Motsenbocker, vice president of finance with the Center Grove Trojan Band Boosters in Greenwood, Indiana, agrees with the procedure of planning ahead for large overnight trips, stating that providing 18 or more months of advanced notice is ideal. “Tell people as early as possible,” he says. “If the trip is not optional, parents need as much time as they can get to prepare financially.”
Mandatory trips include those to competitions—such as the Bands of America (BOA) Grand Nationals in Indianapolis—or, like Fontainebleau High School’s DCI excursion, to a professional event.
For major events, Motsenbocker recommends working with a travel agency and involving parents from the start.
Advance planning also gives booster organizations plenty of time to arrange accommodations, transportation, excursions, and performances. When the Fort Mill (S.C.) High School Marching Band traveled to Ireland several years ago, the boosters began booking airfare, hotels, and charter buses more than a year in advance.
“That far in advance, airfare can be a big unknown,” says Kelley Baird, past booster president. “We try to plan conservatively and adjust as we get closer to making reservations.”
The Crimson Band Booster Club works with familiar organizations—such as the same bus chartering company—to keep travel arrangements as simple and reliable as possible. For the annual overnight trips, the boosters begin booking hotels and venues in February. The goal of every annual trip is to include at least one performance by the marching band, so instruments and uniforms must be included in logistical plans.
“We travel by charter bus to all our overnight trips” since buses cost much less than air travel, Durst says, “We depart late at night on a Monday, so the students can sleep for most of the driving time. When we arrive at our destination, we jump right into the events.”
Such early planning can help booster organizations arrange fundraisers and seek sponsorships from interested companies. “The funding plans for our trips can be supplemented by fundraisers,” says Amy Yeackley, president of the Wolverine Band Booster Association at Wellington (Florida) High School. “We go out of our way to select high-quality fundraisers and not hold too many. We don’t want to burn out our community.”
Wellington also sets up trip payment schedules, allowing parents to pay small amounts over a longer period of time. “We plan ahead, so we can give our parents time to start saving,” Yeackley says. “We take a large trip every other year, so parents typically have two years to plan for the next one.”
Last year, the Wellington High School Band, known as “The Mighty Wolverine Sound,” traveled to Hawaii and had the honor of performing at Pearl Harbor.
Durst notes that booking large groups often results in discounts or bonuses. The Crimson Band passes along these savings to the band directors and other staff members.
“Hotels will give complimentary reservations if you book a certain number of rooms,” she says. “In some cases, Disney will give discounts when we purchase multiple passes in advance.”
The Crimson Band Booster Club may also use any savings to treat the students. For example, some years the boosters are able to sponsor a special dinner for the seniors. “It’s a chance for the seniors to celebrate with the band director,” Durst explains. “It’s a way to send them off in style.”