The Complete Beginner’s Guide to Leading Virtual Field Trips with Google Expeditions

Note:Google Expeditions was shut down on June 30, 2021 and has been relocated to the EdTech Graveyard.

Check out these alternatives to Google Expeditions.

The Complete Beginner’s Guide to Leading Virtual Field Trips with Google Expeditions

Google Expeditions – Beyond Virtual Field Trips

From the bottom of the sea to the moon and beyond:  virtual and augmented reality now enable us to take students virtually anywhere. The best part is that you only need a mobile device, no expensive virtual reality headsets, to take full advantage of these virtual field trips. Google Expeditions create engaging experiences for students that transcend time and space.

Getting Started with Google Expeditions

Find an Expedition

Search the List of Available expeditions

This convenient Google Sheet makes it easy to find an expedition for any age or subject area. Search by topic, keyword, location, etc. to find an expedition related to your curriculum.

Search for Google Expeditions

Browse Expeditions

You can browse expeditions directly within the app. While it’s less efficient, it has led me to discover some interesting and new material. Look for icons that indicate whether an expedition is available in virtual reality or augmented reality.

Virtual Reality vs. Augmented Reality

  • Virtual Reality (VR) creates a simulated environment (i.e. it puts you among dinosaurs on a prehistoric island).
  • Augmented Reality (AR) provides an enhanced version of reality (i.e. a dinosaur appears to be standing on a desk in your classroom).
Virtual Reality or Augmented Reality

No Fancy Equipment Required

Originally designed for viewing with a virtual reality headset (or Google Cardboard and a phone), expeditions now work on any mobile device (iPad, tablet, smartphone); just click “View Full Screen” when you open the expedition.

VR or Full Screen

Download your Expedition

Teachers and students can explore expeditions on their own, but it’s hard to beat a teacher-led guided expedition; either way, you first have to download the expedition. Simply access your chosen expedition by browsing or searching in the app, and tap to download it. Downloaded expeditions will display a checkmark on them, and can later be found by tapping “Saved” at the bottom of the screen.

Download Expeditions

Lesson Plans

Plan Your Expedition

Lesson Plans to Accompany Google Expeditions

You’ll find a large number of free lesson plans under #GoogleExpeditions on

Lesson Planning Tips

Check out this site for great lesson planning tips to get the most out of expeditions as an instructional tool. It’s broken into ideas for pre-expedition prep, what do to before the expedition, during, and after.

Prepare Before The Expedition

Lead The Expedition

Guiding VR Expeditions

  • In the Expeditions app select “Guide.”
  • Start the expedition by tapping “Play”
  • Select points of interest from the suggestions provided or touch and hold a location on your screen to create your own point of interest.
    • Ask students to tap “Follow” then select you as their guide. They will follow the arrows on the screen to view the points of interest that their teacher selects.
  • You can pause (locking student screens) at any time.
  • You can also draw on the screen using the scribble icon at the top of your screen. Students will see your drawings.
  • Swipe horizontally to change scenes.
Guide View - Google Expeditions
Change Scenes - Google Expeditions

Guiding AR Expeditions

AR expeditions are work similar to VR expeditions, but require the use of markers:

  • Teachers place up to seven markers throughout the room.
  • Students are divided into groups around the markers, and point their cameras at their group markers to see the image that the guide has chosen.
  • Note: the same image is displayed simultaneously across all seven markers.


  • Spend some time exploring the expedition ahead of time.
  • Limit Guided expeditions to small groups (5-10), otherwise they tend to not listen to what you’re sharing as a guide.
  • Give students time to explore before guiding the expedition.
  • Don’t forget that you can pause a scene.

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Cynthia Spratley

Thanks again for creating simple to follow directions to help bridge the technology gap between students and educators! Now we just need to find time to practice! I do get so enthusiastic just seeing a new blog by Nick’s Picks pop in my email! Keep sharing it is making a difference for this generation of students to stay engaged! Cynthia in SC

Nick LaFave

Thanks for the feedback, Cynthia. Thank you for always looking for new and innovative ways to empower learners! I hope all is well.

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