Operating a University’s Camping Trips

If you’ve ever been on a camping trip with an organization or group, I’m sure you had a ton of fun! But, did you ever think about the logistics and amount of work involved in planning a trip to have it run smoothly? Well, I did because that was one of my many responsibilities as a Project Peak trip leader for George Mason University (GMU).

Project Peak is a weeklong camping trip for incoming freshmen of the university, in which they do outdoor events and learn about transitioning into college. 

When it comes to having everything run smoothly though you have to book and schedule events, understand and buy the proper supplies for the campers, create emergency procedures, create the best makeup of teams, and stay under budget.

Scheduling and Staying Under Budget

In order to have events for the campers to go on, we had to call venues such as kayaking services and campgrounds to price check their group rates, compile it into excel to compare the rates, and then book the events. Google Calendar was the scheduling manager used to compile the events at the specific times. It was also used to send calendar invites to the other trip leaders and other department heads involved in the program.

As much as I would’ve loved a blank check, we had to operate within a budget. So making sure everyone stayed within budget became one of my many responsibilities. For example, an area where we have to keep a tight budget was meal planning and keeping track of food expenses. To keep track of this , I created two spreadsheets, one with planned meals, and another that has the ingredients with their prices. This way I can use the sum function to easily add the prices together to compare it to the allotted food budget.

Creating Procedures and Managing People

So we’ve got the supplies and locations planned out, but now we have to create procedures for emergencies and how they’ll operate while camping. At this point, we go over any medical conditions and dietary restrictions of the campers. We adjust our meal plans to compensate and add in any extra medical supplies. Then we create detailed plans for every emergency scenario, such as what to do when there’s a lightning storm or someone is injured. I also have to research where the closest hospital is to each campsite and event location so everyone has directions in case of a medical emergency. It involves a lot of research and planning so everyone is prepared for any situation.

We also have to create procedures for how the campers will do things while camping so they can get the most efficient use out of their day and events. Accomplishing this involves a firm schedule, groups of campers to do certain chores, and implementing a restriction on “campsite romance”. We have to pay close attention to each camper to get a judge of the disposition and figure out who they would mesh well within a group. This is important because we want them to do their chores efficiently but also get the most social pleasure out of it.

Altogether being a trip leader for a camping trip has taught me a number of valuable skills. Skills range from budgeting, planning, the use of spreadsheet tools, to leadership. It taught me a lot about how to make a business run most efficiently, overcome obstacles in running a business, and getting the most value out of it.

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