The perfect Chaperone plan can go VERY wrong quickly, trust me! Hi, my name is Jim Kreisman, and after six years of chaperoning, these are my best Disneyland Chaperone Secretes and Tips for a successful Senior Graduation or another event trip.
Each year we take a seven-hour bus ride with 340+ seniors (including special needs students), 15-22 chaperones, and 6+ buses on a Senior Graduation trip to Disneyland immediately following graduation, pictures, and some dinner. Our departure time is usually around 11 pm, and the bus ride is about six-seven hours from our school in Arizona.
You work hard to coordinate the perfect plan, but when you least expect it, something out of your control will happen, and your level of success will be determined by how quickly you and your chaperones can shift gears to handle the emergency.
The Best Plan Gone Bad!
On a recent trip to Graduation Night at Disneyland, we planned to follow our plan that worked great for so many years, and we expected the same great results, boy Was we surprised! The project was for our chaperones to meet their seniors at a predetermined location and time in the middle area between Disneyland and California Adventure to return to the buses. We did not anticipate the number of people visiting the parks for the 60th anniversary! In anticipation of the first evening parade, the park got so overcrowded that Disney shut down access to the parks, so once you left, you could not reenter either of the parks. Later, with the parade ending, thousands of people were exiting the park and waiting to enter through the inspection areas. There were so many people that Disney cleared the plaza area, and nobody was allowed in that area for Disney to maintain control. So our seniors and chaperones trying to meet at their designated areas were escorted out of the plaza towards the downtown area. You can only imagine the confusion that happened next as 300+ students and chaperones started looking for each other.
It was a very eventful evening, and as a lead chaperone, my focus was the safety of all the seniors and chaperones and reuniting everyone at the House Of Blues. Through the fantastic effort (texting and calling) by the chaperones and students, we finally had a complete headcount after one and a half hours. I made it sound simple, but many other coordination events were happening all at the same time in the background, such as staging the different groups throughout the downtown, working with our special needs seniors, keeping everyone calm as they waited in a large group, seniors being picked up by parents…
Our takeaway from this experience was that it was time to upgrade our plan for future chaperones!
I created this page for you to share your experiences which will help future chaperones make amazing Senior Grad Night at Disneyland memories for their seniors. We are using a PTO dropbox folder with all the documents we hand off to the new incoming volunteers.
Here Are Some Suggested Guidelines To Create Your Plan
- Start the chaperone list earlier in the year. Create an email folder dedicated to emails coming into PTO for the Disney Trip for chaperone requests and student group requests. Avoid waiting till the last second, as chaperones may back cancel on you at the last second.
- Request busses with restrooms and charging capability at the time of bus reservation, and make it non-negotiable.
- If a parent is picking up a kid at Disneyland or the location, make sure it is in writing, as it causes many issues when there are already many things to coordinate.
- Check with Disney if chaperones and seniors can get some discount on food or merchandise.
- For a 54-person bus, allocate at least three cases of bottled water, and know many of these will be left on the bus half full. We found that half bottles work the best to avoid waste.
- Check with Disneyland group sales to see if there will be any bus parking fees and if they can be paid ahead of time. Otherwise, there will be confusion when the buses arrive at the Disney parking lot, and the parking lot attendant wants the bus driver to pay a $25-$30 parking fee. On one trip, the parking attendant had a clipboard with our group’s name with five buses on the list and was let right through. On another trip, one of the chaperones paid the fee for the bus driver, not knowing any better because the lot attendant would not let one of our buses in.
- Make sure they have a charger brick for their cell phone. This is valuable information to provide to the students ahead of time. See the tip below for PTO to make some revenue.
- Have at least two large trash bags available to put on the bus.
- If there will be any box breakfasts or lunches eaten at the buses, make sure to have plenty of large trash bags so the bus parking lot does not get littered.
- Make sure to let students know to bring a pillow and blanket, as buses are always cold!
- Sometimes later at night, when everyone is tired and returns to the buses, there are 50+ buses, and it can be hard to find yours, so provide the bus drivers with something that blinks to help locate your buses.
- Please provide all the Chaperones with a fully charged USB Brick (battery for cell phones), so they can set up their phones.
- Sell USB Brick (battery for cell phones) as part of signing up the seniors and generate some revenue to ensure they all have a backup to charge their cells, as most will be almost dead by the end of the trip when it is time to leave and the most critical time. Put your logo on the USB Brick and graduation year to get sales results.
- Be aware of the age of the graduates. Some may be 16 or 17 years old, graduating early. If they are 18, they are free to do what they want, so it is essential to understand some families will want to pick the graduates up at the end of the night and continue a vacation. Make sure to plan for this challenge as it will happen and cause confusion among the chaperones, not knowing what to do, and parents getting frustrated.
- Designate a lead and an assistant lead chaperone if an issue prevents one from attending or if something happens on the trip. Trust me, 20 Chaperones is a lot of work, and you have to assume some will not make it to your pre-trip meeting and others will not remember what you said or emailed them. 🙂
- Check if any special events are happening on the planned event day and plan accordingly.
- Check if there will be any special needs seniors because their teacher may be a chaperone, and the senior may be assigned to them.
- Make sure all chaperones have a phone that can receive texts. Assign one chaperone lead for each bus.
- Max of 20 students per chaperone. Create one excel document chaperone list (group number, name, email, cell phone) and their student information (group number, name, email, cell phone).
- Make your you let chaperones know that most cell service providers only allow you to text 20 people in a group text at a time.
- Establish a fallback meeting place like “Starbucks.” Never use the center between Disneyland and California Adventures as the meeting place. It may get shut down and cause a HUGE problem and confusion. If you still decide to meet in the center area, never meet on the star in the middle as they set up bands and other exhibits on the lead.
- Schedule a mandatory one to two-hour chaperone orientation meeting one to two weeks before the trip to allow chaperones to plan during the busy graduation season. In the meeting, do a trip walkthrough, answering most questions and making the chaperones feel at ease. Remember, this may be the first time for many chaperones; they will be nervous and fearful. Do not make the meeting only about “The Rules”! If you want to go the extra mile, create 2-3 emails on different subjects related to the trip, and then send them to the chaperones as the trip approaches. 🙂
- Provide chaperones with a guide that details exactly what they should do step by step during the trip.
- Inform chaperones that the Bus drivers usually have a USB slot that a chaperone can use to charge their phone en route if the bus driver is not using it.
- Inform chaperones that buses will be cold so bring a pillow and blanket.
- The lead bus chaperone should always leave the phone on during the trip.
- Walk chaperones through potential security issues that may arise (drinking, theft, fighting, line cutting, students leaving Disneyland…).
- Walk chaperones through some potential health issues and where the medical center is at Disneyland. The most common is exhaustion and a little time in the infirmary seems to be the cure.
- INFORM CHAPERONES NEVER TO GIVE OUT TICKETS TO SENIORS UNTIL THEY HAVE AGREED ON A MEETING FOR THE END OF THE DAY!
- I would highly recommend that if you are passing out tickets, you call out the names, have them come up, and ensure you track all your tickets. Even more important is if you are handing out keys and a gift card for a Starbucks or something like that. On our last trip, the other chaperone and I ended up with 60 seniors in our group, as some other chaperones had family emergencies, and we had to be coordinated.
- MAKE SURE YOUR CHAPERONES UNDERSTAND PLAN B IF SOMETHING GOES WRONG! I can’t stress this enough! When there is a lot of chaos and waiting around, everyone gets impatient, which is when the chaperones need to be on top of their game and organized. Come up with a plan and ensure all chaperones sign off on the project so there is no confusion later. It is essential also to communicate who will be the lead chaperone and what everyone’s role will be in the event of Plan B. Without this, I can assure you after an exhausting day in the heat, everyone (graduates and chaperones) is tired, it will be tough to try and coordinate finding missing chaperones and groups (cell phones will be dead) and keeping control of the hundreds of people standing around waiting while there is the chaos of all schools around you that do not have a plan.
NIGHT OF EVENT
- Specify check-in time for chaperones, but be flexible because some will have seniors going through graduation (hugs, pictures…).
- Lead chaperones should check with each to ensure they are healthy and prepared for the trip.
- Provide the chaperone a packet with group information, a group # sign, and a cell phone battery brick that is fully charged.
- Bus drivers may have to pay a fee to get into the Disneyland bus parking area; it seems like it is hit and miss and who the parking attendant is. We noticed that the parking attendant usually has a clipboard with a list of all the large groups, so make sure to tell your driver to check if they are on the list before paying anything.
- The lead chaperone per bus should have the $30, just in case.
- The lead chaperone should be given a tip to provide to the bus driver if they feel the bus driver did a good job.
- PUT VOLUNTEERS BY THE BUILDING EXISTS TO PREVENT SENIORS FROM GOING TO THE BUSES UNTIL THEIR GROUP IS CALLED.
- The lead chaperone should meet with the bus drivers before they are loaded to explain their expectations and learn any requirements the bus drivers have.
- Gather all their phone numbers. The lead driver or supervisor onsite will usually have a printout for you or take a digital picture of their page.
- Make sure you have the dispatch or emergency number of the bus company in case there is an issue with a bus or driver.
- Make sure bus doors are closed until the groups for that bus are called to load.
- There should be three cases of half bottles of water on buses; believe it or not, most of the water will be consumed on the return home.
MEET & LOAD BUSES
- Chaperones meet with seniors at an assigned location in the hall and hold up group number signs.
- Check if any students are sick before they get on the bus and consult with the lead chaperone to determine if they should be allowed to go on the trip. If an emergency develops, it can sidetrack an entire bus and should be avoided.
- Make sure everyone uses the restroom before they leave.
- Some seniors are very emotional about sitting with their friends; sometimes, the seat assignments do not work out as planned and inject confusion as buses are loaded. It is so IMPORTANT to explain to the seniors that the bus ride is just a bus ride, and before you know it, you will be at Disneyland with your friends. Our seniors usually fall asleep within 30 minutes of boarding the buses.
- Walk students through the trip events based on the handout, and seniors will feel like a part of the process and are more likely to participate when they understand the importance of what is required of them. Explain the check-in requirements, and make it fun. For example, have them do a group text every time they get something to eat. It works great and is fun for everyone.
- Make sure all seniors are present before exiting the building to board buses. Sometimes, if, for some reason, there is a delay in boarding the buses, seniors may leave to use the restroom.
- Groups should be released to the buses one group at a time.
- If the group has documents containing all the senior permission and medical information, one of the best places to put them is in a locker inside the picnic area by the bag inspection area.
- Pick an end-of-day meeting place in the downtown area, like Starbucks or the Picnic Area right outside the entry bag inspection area.
- NEVER PICK A MEETING LOCATION INSIDE THE DISNEY PLAZA AREA BETWEEN DISNEYLAND AND CALIFORNIA ADVENTURES!
- Once you have agreed on a designated end-of-day meeting location, provide one ticket to each senior. Have the seniors take a digital picture of their ticket bar codes in case the ticket is lost.
- Hey, chaperones, if you want a little secret for Disneyland, the train rail near the Disneyland park entry is under construction (5/2016), so it’s a great place to take a nap in the shade, and no one will bug you.
- Send a reminder group text one hour before the meeting time.
- Arrive at the designated place 15 minutes early, as seniors will start straggling in.
- Walk as a group to the tram and go back to the bus. Everyone will be exhausted and sleep all the way home.
- Before you arrive home, pass a garbage bag down the aisle for bottles and wrappers.
- At the designated landmark close to the pickup location, wake students and have them call or text their parents, so they will be there when you arrive. Otherwise, you may have to sit around. There’s nothing like telling a parent you will be back at 6 am and having them sitting there waiting for you.
- Remind seniors to look for their stuff before they leave, including seat cracks! When the bus arrives home, do not leave until all your students are picked up.
- Move all the leftover water and snacks to a designated location.
- Make sure to tell the seniors thank you for a fantastic memory!
- Return bus parking fees and any extra tickets to a lead chaperone.
DEALING WITH ISSUES THAT MAY ARISE
- Lead chaperones will have all seniors’ personal health information stored in binders in a rented locker.
- If necessary, chaperones must be notified of any health or security issues and contact the lead chaperone.
- Seniors with a lost ticket should go to the Disney chamber of commerce for assistance in getting a replacement ticket. It is essential to inform them which group they are with for leverage.
- Lead chaperones will have all seniors’ personal health information stored in binders in a rented locker.
What did you think of my Secrets and Tips? Share your experiences below such others can benefit and create a safe and fun trip!
Best Wishes On Your Trip – Jim Kreisman – Proud Dad and Independent Insurance Agent, Scottsdale, AZ
Meet The Author – Jim Kreisman, MBA
Jim Kreisman, MBA
Independent Insurance Agent/Broker - AZ & CA
Check out my Insurance Insurance Claims Secrets. Learn what your agent and insurance company does not want you to know about claims and getting the best rates.
Jim’s office is in Scottsdale, AZ, where he has been servicing his insurance Arizona and California clients since 2001. He has 15+ companies where he quotes auto, home, renters, umbrella, life, and business insurance for his clients.
Jim is passionate about spending time with family and his fur babies, and in his spare time, he love off-roading in his Can-AM in the Prescott, AZ, mountains.