Washington D.C.: The Capitol Tour and Tickets to Congressional Sessions

Tips on Obtaining Admission for Student Travel Groups

The following interview was conducted with Vicki Heebner, Reservations Manager for Educational Travel Consultants. She gives some quick and easy tips for student travel trips headed to Washington D.C. Heebner explains two different processes of obtaining tickets for a Capitol Tour. Student groups may also receive Gallery tickets to view the Congress or Senate when in session, or just take a tour of the Gallery itself.

Heebner works closely with another student travel specialist, Joanne Wycoff. Heebner says, “Once a group is booked, I review the itinerary and make reservations for the travel groups. I am in charge of Capitol Tours and tickets to Congressional sessions.”

How to Book a Capitol Tour for a Student Travel Group

In order to book a student travel group’s Capitol Tour, a specific procedure must be followed. “We find the senator or congressman of the district that the school group comes from. Often a school will request a certain senator or congressman,” says Heebner. She uses a surefire method of booking the tour, “I visit the senator or congressman’s website and determine what type of application is needed for a student travel group visiting the Washington D.C. area. It’s usually either an online request or a form that can be printed and faxed. I fill out the form and send it in, and follow it with a phone call.” Requests must be submitted early, and there must be full cooperation from the senator or congressman’s office. “If it’s a senator that cares about his constituents, their children, and getting re-elected the tour will be set up in an organized and timely manner,” said Heebner.


Booking the Capitol Tour in Washington D.C. is Still not Easy

Even with this type of follow-up, the requests for a Capitol Tour can sometimes be lost or misplaced. Heebner says that most representatives’ offices are run by interns that serve a six-month term. So, she always follows the initial contact and confirmation with another phone call, within a time frame closer to the student travel trip to Washington D.C. Usually, a different intern answers the telephone, and sometimes they have to dig up the paperwork, or Heebner has even been asked to go through the process again.

In the Washington D.C. student travel market, there are plenty of great attractions that are low or no cost. Heebner says that the Capitol Tour is one of those unique experiences every American must want to have – to witness our representative democracy in action. Booking the Capitol Tour is made easier through pre-planning and great execution by a student travel expert.

Large Groups on Capitol Tour in Washington D.C.

Heebner did mention that sometimes large groups on Capitol Tour can require even more advance planning. For example, her company, Educational Travel Consultants, scheduled a Capitol Tour with 230 student travel participants. “They require one intern for every 15 students. When groups are this big, planning ahead is essential. Requests for the tour must be in as quickly as possible. Even if the large student travel group is not scheduled for the Capitol Tour, they may still receive passes to the gallery so they can sit in on a Congressional or Senatorial session.

What if Groups Do Not Book the Capitol Tour On Time?
The only alternative to an advance booking for a Capitol Tour through a congressman or senator’s office is not a good one, especially for student travel groups with limited time on their itinerary. Tickets are distributed on a first come first served basis at the Capitol, one per person. During the busy student travel months of spring student groups must stand in line — and lines are long. The ticket window is open from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Even though student travel groups line up, there is no guarantee they will obtain admission. It’s better to work with an educational travel partner to book the Capitol Tour in advance rather than waste valuable touring time standing in the long times.

Gallery Passes: Another Alternative to the Capitol Tour

Student travel groups who cannot obtain Capitol Tour tickets may still have a chance to see a live session by obtaining Gallery passes. Seeing the representatives live is dependent upon whether the Senate or House is session. Groups can still obtain gallery passes but they are just touring the Capitol Gallery. The Senate Gallery is located at the north side of the Capitol and the House of Representatives at the south side of the Capitol. Gallery passes are much easier to obtain than Capitol Tour passes and will still give student groups a view of the chambers that serve as the heart of our democratic government.

The Kennedy Center in Washington D.C: A Student Travel Favorite

When it comes to seeing some of the finest in musical and performance talent, The Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. is a favorite choice for student travel trips.

Many performance tours, such as student orchestras, jazz ensembles, marching bands, and ensembles, visit The Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. These groups are looking for a specific travel experience in Washington D.C. that reflects their unique learning focus. The Kennedy Center can also be an excellent choice for an itinerary for any type of student traveler (even those not on performance tour). The Kennedy Center offers an excellent evening of entertainment to complement any student travel trip. It can also offer the musical or performance insight that performance students seek.

Kennedy Center Performances for Student Travel Groups
The Kennedy Center has a very special list of educational performances just for school groups. These performances educate student travel groups about the performing arts as a career choice, expand on their knowledge of the arts, and challenge their critical thinking skills. An example of an educational performance is the WNO Student Dress Rehearsal for classics such as Rigoletto and Elektra. These dress rehearsals teach students about the necessary preparations for formal performance. This unique glimpse into the behind the scenes work of artists performing at the Kennedy Center allows students to view this career choice realistically.

On occasion, some of the better known musicians and performers (such as Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater) will give mini performances for student travel groups during their stay at The Kennedy Center. All of these types of performances enrich the student traveler’s experience and provide a wonderful foundation for their own performances.

Fall Highlights for the National Symphony Orchestra
The National Symphony Orchestra (NSO) is housed at The Kennedy Center, and is a unique cultural experience for any student travel group. The NSO performs on a regular schedule and is composed of some of the finest musicians in the nation. Consider some of the creative musical fusion on the fall 2008 schedule. In the fall of 2008 NSO Pops plays with Arlo Guthrie on September 18th and Linda Eder sings Judy Garland songs with Marvin Hamlisch conducting on September 25. These exciting musical guests bring both innovation and exceptional musical talent to the program.

Planning The Kennedy Center Visit
Advance planning is key to a successful student travel trip and to booking the performance that works best for a specific group. Many student travel groups and/or their planners want to see the National Symphony Orchestra perform. Or perhaps, they want to see the popular show Sheer Madness, a comedy mystery who-dunnit that the audience participates in solving. In any case, advance ticket purchase is necessary for student groups.

One of Educational Travel Consultant’s professional staff will be happy to assist with this task while creating a student travel trip to Washington D.C. Just email info@educationaltravelconsultants.com or fill out our request a quote form for more information on specific destinations and itineraries.

Student Travel Groups Tour the Historic Canals in and Near Washington D.C.

In Early America, ships and boats transferred food, people, and other items into the Washington D.C. metropolitan area. To expedite progress and create a transportation system that benefited all, a canal system was built that connected the Potomac River to inland waterways and ultimately Ohio. The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal was a pivotal moment in U.S. history because it created nearly 200 miles of waterway for the efficient passage of goods and people.

Student Travel Groups Headed to Washington D.C.: Don’t Miss the Canal

The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal was created in the 19th Century. During this period in our nation’s history, many people along the Potomac River benefited with jobs generated from the flurry of business on the Canal. Today, the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal are maintained by the National Park Service, which preserves and protects 184 miles of the former Canal route and its history.

The Great Falls of the Potomac in Northern Virginia: an Engineering Feat
The National Park Service also oversees the Great Falls of the Potomac in Northern Virginia. The Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center is just 15 miles outside of Washington D.C. These Falls were once seen as a severe challenge to building the canal, but this was overcome when a series of locks were installed here. Student travel groups find the rugged rock formations, river scenery, and historic inn stimulating, so the short drive outside Washington D.C. is entirely worthwhile.

Student travel groups on their way to Washington D.C. will want to schedule a visit to one or both sites in order to gain a full understanding of the canal system, and the way in which it functioned and enriched the region where it was located.

Add a Trip to the Georgetown Visitor Center in Downtown Washington D.C.

For student travel groups visiting the Washington D.C. metropolitan area for several days, it is easy to add a visit to the Georgetown Visitor Center of the Canal to the itinerary. Students can take a ride on a canal boat at this location or at the Great Falls Visitor Center. There is a nominal additional fee for canal boat tours, but it’s well worth it for student groups to experience the excitement of really taking a ride on a replica of an historic canal boat.

The visitor centers are also great places to see films and participate in interpretive programs that explain to student travel groups the historical high points of the canal system, the people who built it, made a livelihood on the canals, or used it for travel.

Teachers Take Note: And Educational Kit for Prepping Student Travelers

The educational programs offered by the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park are designed to meet U.S. History Standards for students in grades 5-12. There is an excellent place on the park’s website http://www.nps.gov/choh/forteachers/aboutthislesson.htm teachers may visit in order to prepare student travel groups for the trip to Washington D.C. to see the historic canals.

How to Study the Historic Canals in and Near Washington D.C.
There are many different angles from which the canals can be studied. They are not only a great engineering feat, but impacted the economy of the region and this country in a profound way. There is so much to learn about these historic canals. Students will gain a better understanding of the way in which the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal was built and also how it helped advance transportation to meet the pressing needs of an industrial world that was quickly switching to automation for many aspects of life.

Our founding father, George Washington, played a crucial role in the construction of the Potomac Canal, which is one way of stressing its importance. Student travel organizers and educators will want to consider adding a canal visit to their itinerary for Washington D.C. trips. A member of the professional Educational Travel Consultants team will be happy to assist. Email info@educationaltravelconsultants.com for more information.