Getting school kids ready for the Sydney, Canberra, Snow trip

Sydney Opera House

Over the years, countless students have made the pilgrimage from sunny south-east Queensland to icy cold Canberra, often with a side trip to the snow, as part of their school’s camping program.

You may even have fond memories of making the long journey down on an iconic Greyhound bus, perhaps spotting snow for the first time at Perisher Smiggins or Thredbo, before taking in our national institutions: Parliament House, the Australian War Memorial, Australian Institute of Sport and Royal Australian Mint.

These days, kids will reach our nation’s capital within hours, thanks to the magic of affordable air travel, but otherwise, the itinerary remains much the same, except for a few additions (like Questacon!). Some schools also spend a few days in Sydney exploring our nation’s unofficial capital.

If you have a child heading interstate soon, we’ve listed everything you need to consider before they head off, including, what to pack, tips for kids who have never flown or skied before and budget considerations.

Sydney Harbour Bridge

What to pack

Kids who are well prepared will feel more confident setting off on a camp as momentous as this. With this in mind, it’s a good idea to write a packing list (check with your school first as they may provide a list) and then pack well ahead of time. Another good tip is to attach a bright ribbon or key ring to your child’s bags so they are easily identified. And remember to label every item, to ensure it makes a return journey!

  • One large bag or suitcase (for stowaway luggage)
  • One small bag or backpack (for carry-on luggage)
  • Toiletries: shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, soap, toothbrush, toothpaste
  • Camera
  • Torch
  • A watch
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • Clothing: 1- 2 pairs jeans, 1- 2 pairs of long pants or tracksuit pants, 1 pair shorts, 2 long sleeved shirts, 2 jumpers, 5-6 t-shirts, enclosed shoes and socks, beanies, scarf, pyjamas and underwear.
  • A large plastic bag for storing dirty clothes and some smaller ones for any wet shoes etc. Pack enough clothes for the whole trip as kids won’t have the chance to wash.
  • Itinerary and notebook
  • Stationery (a few pens and pencils but no scissors!)
  • Small board games and card games (optional)
  • Snacks – muesli bars, chocolate, biscuits, dried fruit or anything that doesn’t require refrigeration. Most schools have a nut free policy.
  • Money for food, drinks and souvenirs
  • Medications (ensure the school is aware). Generally all medication will need to be labelled with the name (even panadol if needed) and will also need a letter to accompany from the doctor.
  • Book to read
  • Empty water bottle

If your school is skiing, you will also need:

  • Ski goggles
  • Waterproof snow gloves
  • T-shirt or long-sleeved shirt for under the ski clothes in case it is cold (or a thermal shirt)
  • Long socks – preferably a wool blend or thermal socks
  • Shorts or leggings for wearing under ski hire pants (or thermal pants)
  • Most schools will hire ski gear but check with your individual school for their requirements

snow ski Queenstown

Tips for first timers

If this is the first time your child has skied or flown on an aeroplane, it is natural for them to feel a little nervous. Talk with them about what they can expect, as eliminating the unknown can also eliminate the anxiety. Here are some more tips for preparing your child to have the best camp experience possible.

Navigating planes and airports

  • Check which airline your child will be flying with and research the baggage allowances (both weight and size), any airline restrictions (such as no liquids over 100ml) and where you will say goodbye to them so that there’s no last-minute confusion.
  • Research the airport car parking options. You will probably need to walk your child in to hand over the duty of care to the teacher or parent volunteer. In this case, you will need to choose the “Park Short” option at Brisbane Domestic Airport. Alternatively, you may like to arrange carpooling with other parents.
  • Remember to pack anything fragile (such as cameras) in the carry-on luggage. Allow plenty of time to get through check-in and security. Planes won’t wait for stragglers.
  • If your child suffers from ear pain on flights, pack some lollies to chew on. If your child has a fear of flying, discuss this in advance with your child’s teacher and/or doctor.

Preparing first-time skiers

  • Reassure your child that many kids will be skiing for the first time, and that lessons and support will be provided.
  • Consider arranging some learn-to-ski lessons before the trip. Urban Xtreme in Brisbane runs learn to ski classes for kids on their indoor, artificial slope.
  • Watch some ski-tuition clips for beginners on You-Tube.
  • There are a number of places to purchase ski gear in Brisbane, including the annual May ski sale at ALDI, Snow Central at Keperra and Underwood, Kathmandu at multiple locations, SnowBiz in Brisbane City and SnowScene at Wooloongabba. You can also look online for second hand ski gear.

Budget considerations

This will be one of the most expensive school camps your child will attend, so it’s a good idea to start saving as early as possible. Sometimes, the school will ask for parent volunteers to attend, usually at their own cost, which also needs to be budgeted for. Although it is a big financial investment, the Sydney/Canberra/Snow trip is a valuable educational experience for students, incorporating elements from the science, English and social science curricula. The Commonwealth Government recognises that this trip provides students with an important framework for the civics education of ensuing years and supports schools by offering a per head subsidy for the trip. But perhaps even more importantly, this trip helps to build and consolidate relationships between both students and teachers, at the beginning of their secondary studies, creating lifelong memories for each of them.

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