Feature Article - March 2013
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Programming: Day Trips

The Path to Adventure

By Kelli Anderson

Get the Idea

But whether your program is for children or seasoned citizens, one factor these days is key: unique ideas. With competition for recreation dollars so fierce, finding unique day trip ideas and ensuring that those trips are successful is the key to keeping patrons happy and attracting new ones.

"Any time you can give people something they can't get on their own like places not accessible to the public is popular," said Jennifer Schlick, Audobon program director of Jamestown Audubon in New York. "We scheduled a behind-the-scenes tour of a research facility to see purple martins gathering prior to migration. We had experts from the purple martin society who could call in the birds so we could see them up close and it's unbelievable how many you see! Just spectacular. Make arrangements that people can't get anywhere else."

Schlick also attributes their programming success to another key factor: creative staff. "Our method of choosing an idea tends to be what our naturalists are passionate about, and through their enthusiasm, they will fill a class."

Most will agree, however, that variety is helpful (day time and evening or active and passive) as are non-typical programs. Researching ideas online or looking to other recreational organizations like Audubon as a springboard to something new are certainly some ways to come up with that unique day trip experience. And one way to know if you are headed in the right direction is to ask.

"One of our volunteers might say, 'Have you heard about a fabulous migration in Arkansas?' and we research it and put it out to the audience and see if they think it sounds cool," Latona said about one kind of approach.

But no matter how great or unique an idea for a day trip might be, there are some critical factors to consider like transportation and affordability. For some locations where urban traffic may make travel a nightmare, day trips need to probably stay closer to home.

And the Survey Says…!

Getting people to sign up, however, is only half the battle. The other is making sure that the day trip you choose is successful and worthy of a repeat performance. Surveying those who have gone on a trip is an essential part of knowing what you did right (to do again) and what you didn't (to avoid next time). Asking good questions on a survey is, therefore, pretty important.

"On every trip we survey what went well," Latona said about their survey process. "We ask what are two things we did well, what we can improve on, where they might want to go next and how to rate the value of the trip."