Travel Planning for High School Cross Country and Track Teams

By Chelsea Osborne of Farragut High School


When I started my coaching career I never realized the amount of planning and paperwork that went into coaching. I knew the coaches I had in my running career planned our workouts and meets, but as an athlete I never thought about all of the other things that went into coaching. Now, after 11 years of being a head coach at Farragut High School, I realize some of the most important things a coach does are plan the small details that go into a season. In 11 years I have learned a lot, and I wish I had known these things when I started. Planning a successful trip for a team requires advance planning, parent communication, and detailed scheduling of the trip. This goes for a team of 50 athletes to a team of 10 athletes. The more detailed you are in planning, the smoother the trip will be. In this primer, I will be sharing everything I have learned about how to successfully plan an overnight trip for a team, but this can easily be adapted to just planning a day trip for a team. All coaches have what works best for them, and my hope with this primer is that it will give new coaches a place to start and possibly help more experienced coaches plan more efficient trips.

The Basics

The most important part of planning any trip is make sure you know your district’s requirements for field trips. Research how many chaperons you need per athlete and make sure you meet that standard. Find out if you have specific bus companies you have to use. By researching these issues weeks in advance you guarantee you won’t be scrambling when the meet gets closer.

Research your district’s requirements for forms and submit them in advance. If you wait and fill out the field trip forms at the last minute you run the risk of being denied the field trip all together. I find it most beneficial to sit down at the end of July and submit all my field trip forms for the entire season. By doing it in late July teaching isn’t in full swing, so I have more time to track them and make sure we have approval for all trips in a timely manner.

Consider whether there are any forms required for the students to complete that you may have to keep with you as well. These could be medical forms, permission forms, etc.

Planning the trip

Just like with the basics, planning the trip can take place weeks in advance. The more you accomplish before you are bogged down the duties associated with teaching, the better to relieve stress. For this section I will divide the trip up.

First up, booking hotels.  Some large invitational events, like the Great American, hire a company who will book hotels for teams. You submit what type of hotel you are looking for and how many rooms, then the travel company books for you. If the invitational you are traveling to offers this, use it. This makes things a lot easier on you as a coach. If the meet you are traveling to does not offer this service, start calling hotels early. Just like with field trip forms, I tend to spend some time in late July, early August calling hotels. I find hotels that allow for cancellation so that if something comes up, and I don’t need all the rooms, I can cancel them without penalty. You may also want to take into consideration breakfast at the hotel, free wifi, etc. Just make sure you do your research and book early. Hotels closest to the course get booked first, so the earlier you start the better chance you have of getting a nearby hotel.

Second, dinner. When you travel over night you are going to have to plan for dinner with your athletes. We all want to make sure we feed them the appropriate food the night before, but you will need to plan ahead. Be sure to know whether any of your students have food preferences or allergies to take into account. There are three possibilities I would suggest for large-group dinners.

-First, you can call a restaurant and book a large party reservation. I recommend calling months in advance and make sure you tell them how the checks will be handled. This will allow you to take your team out to dinner if you want, but not have to wait for hours to be seated.

-Second, you can find a mall that has lots of choices and give the athletes a time frame. This allows kids to pick what they want to eat.

-Third, ask your hotel if there a space you may use and order take out. I stole this idea from another area coach and now this is the only way we do dinner on overnight meets. For example, Olive Garden will deliver, supply all utensils, and it’s cheaper then going out. It also allows for the kids to just settle in at the hotel.


Any of these options work well for dinner. It just depends on how many athletes you have and what works best for you.

Third, bus. Book early. You will notice a trend that I recommend doing as much as possible in late July. Book your bus early, then you are not rushing around trying to find a bus the week before the meet.

Fourth, cost. Cost is a large part of travel. Some teams ask the athletes traveling to help pay for the cost of travel. You can figure out how much ¼ of a room costs plus food costs and then charge the athletes that amount. You can also choose to do a fundraiser that will cover the cost of the meet.


Parent Communication

This is one of the most important things in helping to have a smooth overnight trip. Parents like to be kept in the loop. High school kids aren’t the best at relaying information home to their parents. Let the parents know who is traveling as early as possible so they can make their own hotel arrangements if they opt to come to the meet. Make sure and give them the name of the hotel and send them meet website so they can get all the information they need. If you are asking for the students to help pay some of the costs then start collecting that the week before the trip. Parents want to help and they want to know what is going on, and it’s your job as the coach to make sure the have all the information. Providing a printed itinerary, addresses, time schedule can be helpful.

Travel Days

Once the travel weekend is finally here the most important thing is have a plan. Plan out your stops along the way, plan out the schedule for the day, such as are going straight to the course to run or the hotel first? Make those decisions so you can let the athletes know. Also have a printed document with addresses for the bus driver and a rough time schedule that you try your best to adhere to. Making sure parents know when you arrive back in town and how transportation of the students home is also important.


Overall, the most important thing is plan ahead so you aren’t scrambling for hotel rooms the week of the meet or having difficulty getting a bus. The more detailed you are the smoother the travel ends up being.  If you can have a plan and share that with the parents it helps make them more comfortable knowing that their child is being well taken care of.


Chelsea Osborne has been the head cross-country coach at Farragut High School for 11 years. During her tenure, Farragut has had 5 All-State athletes, and two top 5 finishes for the girls team. She was head track coach for 9 years, with a State Championship in the 4×800 in 2007. She was an all-state athlete in high school at Oak Ridge with her team winning 2 cross-country state championships and a 4×800 state championship. She went on to run at the collegiate level at Appalachian State University where her team won the 2002 Southern Conference Championships in cross-country.