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.