Visual Field Trip Itinerary

  • Situation

    I have several students in my classroom who seem to get very anxious when we’re going on field trips. I’ve tried explaining where we’re going in advance, but it doesn’t seem to do any good. What can I do to help them feel more comfortable on these outings?

  • Summary

    Many students can feel anxious if they don’t know what to expect from a situation, especially when it falls outside of their typical routine. Providing a visual “itinerary” of the upcoming field trip and reviewing it with the students can help them understand what will happen and act as clarification of verbal information. The more students know about an upcoming situation, the greater their comfort level may be.

    Utilizing a visual field trip itinerary can reduce anxiety or discomfort in students with special needs who are used to following a routine schedule. Create a step-by-step itinerary of the activities you’ll be completing on the field trip.

    For example, if your students are going to the grocery store to purchase items for their life skills class, write out each step of the process including: how the class will get to the location, what you’ll be doing when you arrive at that location, and how you’ll get back to school when the field trip is completed.

    Include pictures of these steps alongside each itinerary point. Including your students with special needs in this process will further help them in their preparation for the trip. Students can research the location to which you are traveling and can find images to accompany each step.

    You may also include suggestions for what the student can do if they become uncomfortable at any point throughout the field trip. Reviewing the itinerary with your students in the days leading up to the field trip allows them to gain more comfort with the process and ask any questions they have about the trip.

  • Definition

    The visual field trip itinerary is a pictorial and/or written outline of things the students will see and do on their upcoming trip.

  • Quick Facts

    • Child's Age: 3-5, 6-10, 11-13, 14-17
    • Planning Effort: Moderate
    • Difficulty Level: Moderate
  • Pre-requisites

    knowledge about writing social or behavior stories for students

  • Process

    1. Find out as much as you can about the upcoming trip (i.e. location, transportation mode, length of trip, activities, sights, rules [like special footwear], whether the students will eat lunch out or back at school, etc.).

    2. Enlist the students’ help to do internet or library research to gather information.

    3. Organize this information in an easy-to-read, sequential itinerary. Create a story version with pictures and words if needed and make individual copies for the students.

    4. Include a simple calming plan on the itinerary so that students know what they can do if they should start feeling anxious.

    5. A week before the field trip, and then again a least once or twice in the days prior to trip day, review the itinerary with the students.

    6. Answer any questions the students may have or help them research the answers themselves. This further enhances the students’ feelings of control.

    7. On trip day, refer to the itinerary as you remind students what to expect. Reinforce the calming plan that you discussed just in case students need it.

  • Documents and Related Resources

    Developing Leisure Time Skills (resource book)

    Social Stories for Field Trips


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