Advance Planning for Student Tours of D.C. to Include White House and Capitol

2015  Student Travel Update

by Howard Clemens

Government, Social Studies & History Teachers often take class trips to Washington D.C. to experience democracy at work. This type of active learning is a great way to immerse students into thinking and questioning about various facets of the U.S. government. Security measures are more complex across the United States and internationally – and rules change from time to time. Nowadays, teachers and trip leaders must be aware advance planning is needed to tour the White House and the Capitol.

For student tour groups headed to Washington D.C. – there are some recent changes in rules about bringing electronic devices to the White House, too. The good news is that students can now bring smart phones in the White House, so long as they do not use it to take video (only still shots). With enough planning, student groups can be well informed about what to bring – and what items to leave on the bus or in the hotel room.

Student Tours of the White House
There is no denying that a tour of the White House can be a memorable experience for students and persons of any age. Trip leaders must be prepared well in advance of the student trip to Washington D.C. A minimum of six months planning time may be required to ensure that every person who is attending the tour provides a formal name, date of birth and city in advance of the trip. On the day of the White House tour, each person must present a valid government picture Identification that matches the information provided exactly. Acceptable forms of ID include: valid government issued photo IDs, drivers license, military ID or a passport for foreign students.

In the past, students were not allowed to bring electronic devices such as smart phones and cameras on tour of the White House. On July 15, 2015 the White House, through Michelle Obama, declared (on a YouTube.com video) that visitors are now allowed to bring their smart phones and small cameras (lens must be 3” or less) on tours. No video recorders are allowed on tour and no live streaming of videos on any device is permitted. Lifting the ban on cell phones and small cameras on White House tours is excellent news for student travelers. Many students want to take photographs and post them to social networks while they tour Washington D.C. Now they can share their experience with others publicly.

Leave Personal Items Behind
While student groups may bring smart phones and cameras, they still must leave their purses, handbags, book bags and backpacks behind on the bus or in the hotel. Similar to school zones, no explosives or firearms are allowed. This includes: aerosol containers, guns, ammunition, fireworks, weapons or knives of any size.

Students may bring their smart phones and cameras but they are still expected to give their full attention on tour. This means students are not permitted to talk or text while on tour. Students will not be allowed to use flash photography, or – as already mentioned – video recording or live streaming on their devices.

Trip leaders and teachers need to make students aware they are in a sensitive area for national security and breeches are taken seriously. While security measures have loosened in some respects, the Secret Service still reserves the right to confiscate phones if they are used in the White House.

Educational Tours of the Capitol Building in Washington D.C.

Though the rules are less strict in the Capitol Building for touring student groups, the advance time frame of six months or more to schedule a tour is still relevant. An educational travel company can book the student group tour online or through the school’s Senator or Representative’s office. Trip leaders do not need to provide advance lists of visitors for a tour of the Capitol.

Electronic devices are allowed in the Capitol Building, but not in Senate and House Galleries. Students will be expected to hand over their battery operated electronic devices, cameras and video recording devices of any kind before entering. These items will be securely stored and then returned to visitors once their time in the galleries is concluded.

Student groups can expect to begin the tour at the Capitol Visitor Center, where they will see a brief film, “Out of Many, One” on establishing democracy. Then they will be escorted into the Capitol to see the Crypt, the Rotunda, and the National Statuary Hall. The student tour will end at the Capitol Visitor Center.

Visiting these significant buildings in Washington D.C. is a must for students of history, social studies and government. Seeing government representatives in action, in the environment where political, legal and social battles are fought will be a strong memory for years to come.

Learn more about custom tours of Washington D.C. which include a visit to the White House and Capitol Building. Email info@educationaltravelconsultants.com or visit Request a Quote.

Foreign Student Trips to Washington, D.C.: Winding Shopping, Dining & Sightseeing Together

The National Harbor is a shopping, dining and entertainment area on the shores of the Potomac River in MD, that overlook the D.C. skyline.
The National Harbor is a shopping, dining and entertainment area on the shores of the Potomac River in MD, overlooking the D.C. skyline.

by Howard Clemens

Washington, D.C. is the center of American political and social life and has been a hub for international visitors since the beginning. For foreign students traveling to Washington D.C. for the first time, it is almost always a thrilling experience. However, seeing everything that the area has to offer can take weeks. So the question for trip leaders may be – where is a student tour group to start? And which are the most important points of interest?

Many students from other countries want to shop in the U.S. They can obtain goods that may not be available in their country. Trip leaders need to know that there are several points of interest in the Washington D.C. area where the visitor can combine sightseeing, shopping and dining.

National Harbor: A Grand View of Washington D.C.
With its many shops and restaurants, The National Harbor is situated on the Maryland side of the Potomac River. It is a great place to kick off any excursion. Students can board The Capitol Wheel, a towering 180-foot wheel with enclosed cars, that offers sweeping views of the Washington Monument, the U.S. Capitol building, and the whole glittering panorama of the city itself. Groups can also cruise the Potomac (or even sail right to the National Mall & Memorial Parks) on the Alexandria-National Harbor Water Taxi, which operates day and night.

When it’s time to shop, choose from 150 retailers, with an outlet mall that appeals to everyone. There are also 30 different restaurants to choose from at the National Harbor, ranging from McDonald’s to a high end dining experience overlooking the Potomac.

Downtown Washington D.C. also has more than its share of fun theme restaurants: the Madhatter, which has been a city institution for more than 30 years, takes its name, its décor, and its inspiration from Alice in Wonderland. Or, have the student group sample some Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken. Here, patrons can sample maple-bacon, s’more, or passionfruit pastries. Astro Doughnuts is the kind of fun and quirky eatery that students are bound to love.

Shop, Dine & be Entertained in Georgetown
There’s also never any shortage of shopping, historical sights, and dining in D.C.’s legendary Georgetown neighborhood. Students can take the Gastronomic Georgetown Food Tour, an outing that will expose them to gourmet French and Italian cuisine, delectable desserts from D.C.’s best bakeries, and other capitol-region culinary delights.

Shop at the Smithsonian Museums or National Air and Space Museum
One-stop shopping (as in something-for-everyone) is also an apt way to describe D.C.’s Smithsonian Museums. Students can take in three centuries of American art at once, or explore “the final frontier” (as Star Trek calls it) at the National Air and Space Museum. At these prominent museums, the foreign visitor will find lots of interesting merchandise for purchase, from clothing to jewelry to interesting limited edition art and memorabilia. Students may also want to visit the magnificent Anderson House, a lavish 50-room mansion-museum located in the city’s historic Dupont Circle neighborhood. This is always a feast for the eyes, and a rare glimpse into what it’s like to live like American royalty.

When it comes to dining out, it doesn’t get any hipper than the Hard Rock Cafe, located near Washington D.C.’s bustling Chinatown district. Students can also visit the cafe’s “Rock ‘n Roll Embassy,” which is situated right next to the world-famous Ford’s Theater. Washington D.C. is also known for its lively dinner theater scene: at Medieval Madness at Renaissance Hall, students can enjoy a 4-course “knights of the round table” type feast while they take in a medieval-themed play, complete with sword fighting.

Finally, if foreign students are looking for really offbeat entertainment, they’ll find it at the Spy Museum, where they’ll learn how to decrypt secret audio conversations, escape from inescapable places, and engage in their own missions of espionage and intrigue. It is definitely an educational experience—and a great time that gives the term “interactive exhibit” a whole new meaning.

To sum it up, there’s no shortage of entertainment in the nation’s capitol, and for foreign students looking to get a taste of sightseeing, dining and entertainment all in one – there’s no place quite like Washington, D.C.

For more information about booking a tour your foreign students will never forget, email: info@educationaltravelconsultants.com, or visit the website at http://www.educationaltravelconsultants.com.