Faculty cannot make fieldtrips mandatory, unless a viable alternative assignment is given to those who cannot go to the fieldtrip. You might also consider giving students a deadline for attendance, instead of going as a group.
Getting Everyone There
If your destination is near a Metro stop, that is the way to go! Students can board MU shuttles at main campus, Ballston, or other locations and exit at the Ballston Metro stop. Visit the Washington Metropolitan Area Transportation Authority's website for information on routes and fares; you can also calculate routes and times on the WMATA site.
Arranging a Bus
If you need to get your students to an area without easy metro access, ask your Dean or School Secretary to put you in touch with the Academic Affairs staff member responsible for arranging day trips through Reston Limo. Recent initiatives have made this a central University initiative, and it is free to you and your students. You need to arrange well in advance, and be prepared with information about how many students will be on board, date and times for pickup and drop-off, destination (addresses are best), and class information.
Many students will be happy to go in small groups, organized individually, with a designated driver. In DC, however, public transportation is your best bet, since parking is difficult.
Campus Ministry has van that can take up to 10 people, including the driver. The driver must have taken the MU driver safety course and be registered with Peggy Axelrod, extension 1498.
If your destination is another city, you can book group tickets with Amtrak. Amtrak also makes student fares available at a 15% discount. As above, remember that you can go as a group or with a visit deadline for individual attendance.
Purchasing Tickets/Cost of Admission
There are several ways to get money for the cost of a fieldtrip, but it's best to be forewarned that this can lead to problems—as there's no systematic way to do so. You'll want first to get approval from your Chair and Dean, make sure the money (in the abstract) is available, and that you can use it. Then, consider how best to get the money to the institution you're visiting, if it's not free. Three forms of payment are typical: personal payment and reimbursement, payroll check from the University, and School or Department credit card.
If you have the financial capacity, simple individual purchase and reimbursement is the simplest. Some institutions have accounts with us, so we can cut a check directly to them; this is done through your Dean's office, but it takes a while. Payroll cuts checks on Tuesdays and Fridays, and everything must be approved and then make its way through regular mail. In some cases, you may be able to use a school or department credit card—always ask about this possibility!
Often, the department or the school will subsidize the cost of the fieldtrip, typically by 50%. Talk to your chair and your dean and make sure you know how much money the students will need to give you, if the event is not free.
Plan in Advance
Plan a fieldtrip well in advance, as different institutions require different procedures and theater tickets may sell out. Most group sales contacts will be happy to give you the flexibility you need with numbers and so on, but the most important thing is that you plan in advance. This ensures that the students know, from day one, that they'll have an external commitment. Repeat information about the event early and often, including the alternative assignment.
A big problem with group events is the eternal possibility of having extra tickets on your hands, especially if you're financially responsible for them. Ensure that students have their portion of the money to you at least a week, preferably two weeks, in advance, and be firm with the deadline. Then, you may advertise any remaining tickets to majors in your department, graduate students, interested faculty, and so on.