Return to Travel Guidelines

Last updated: October 6, 2021

This is a general FAQ and resource reflecting current policies and information. Prior to departure, we will share the most current COVID-19 considerations, information, and expectations with students and families in their digital locker.

With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to evolve, we understand this is a time of uncertainty when it comes to travel. Enriching and transformative educational travel experiences are at the core of who we are at Smithsonian Student Travel, and so is our commitment to the health and safety of our students, leaders, and partners around the world.

We have developed health and safety guidelines (outlined below) that make traveling with us in the era of COVID-19 possible, while ensuring our trips are meaningful and full of experiential learning opportunities. 

Our partner, Putney Student Travel, has more than seven decades of experience running educational travel programs for young people, and safely ran programs in both 2020 and 2021. They have learned from programming successes of the past two years and continue to adapt robust health and safety practices to changing circumstances.

For summer 2022 we are optimistic about the ability to offer our high school programs and we are confident that the summer will be full of learning, adventure, and fun. 

We will continue to be flexible and ask for flexibility from our students and families as we respond with caution and prudence to the shifting health landscape in the U.S. and in our program destinations abroad. 

If you have questions or concerns about potential or upcoming travel with Smithsonian Student Travel, we encourage you to call us at 866.870.2350.

FAQs About COVID-19 & Travel in 2022

Q: Does Smithsonian Student Travel require COVID-19 vaccination? 

A: Yes, we require all students, program leaders, and experts to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19.

Q: What health and safety guidelines have you put in place?

We have worked with our partner, Putney Student Travel, to develop health and safety guidelines informed by the latest recommendations of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), international and destination health authorities, trusted local contacts, and other travel industry guidance. We also closely monitor the U.S. Department of State travel advisories, the guidance of government officials around the world, and major media outlets so that we can quickly and effectively respond to potential travel restrictions or policy changes in the destinations we visit. Our approach is particular to each destination, meeting or exceeding the minimum requirements of each country or locality. In addition, we recommend that all students consult their physician for best practices to keep you safe and healthy before, during, and after your trip.

Students should anticipate the following health and safety measures when traveling on a Smithsonian Student Journey. Prior to departure, we will share the most current COVID-19 considerations, information, and expectations with students and families.

  • We require all students, program leaders, and experts to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19, and complete any pre-trip testing or quarantine as required by the destination (we will inform you of any destination-specific requirements prior to departure).
  • The CDC requires airlines to collect proof of a negative COVID-19 test completed within three days of the date of your return flight for all travelers (including U.S. citizens) returning to the U.S. from abroad. Assuming this policy is still in place upon your return, we will arrange for this test to be completed in the program destination and families will be invoiced.
  • Daily wellness checks.
  • Strict adherence to handwashing and personal hygiene.
  • Wearing face masks in public when in close proximity to others who are not part of our group as required by local guidelines, destination partners, or Smithsonian Student Travel.
  • Wearing KN95 face masks (which offer a higher level of filtration) while flying to and from your program and in settings during the program where physical distancing is not feasible. See your program’s Packing List for details.
  • Physical distancing to the greatest extent possible when in public and when around others who are not part of our group.
  • Adapting our approach to programming, such as shifting activities and meals outdoors, when feasible.

Q: Will the group operate as a single unit?

A: Our comprehensive health and safety measures described here ensure with the greatest possible certainty that we are beginning the program with a healthy group and allow us to travel as a “family” on the program. While in private settings or isolated outdoors, students can interact with each other without masks or being physically distanced. However, when in public and when interacting with others outside of their group, participants will abide by all Smithsonian Student Travel health and safety measures, including physical distancing and masking.

The majority of our programs are small group experiences of 14-18 individuals who will operate as a single unit.

Q: Could my program get canceled due to COVID-19?

A: Yes, it could. If we cancel a program before departure and you are not interested in a second choice, we will refund 100% of your tuition payment and application fee.

Q: What if my program is forced to end early while in the field?

A: If we decide it’s best to end a program early, we will refund prorated room and board expenses that we are able to recover.

Q: What happens if a student shows symptoms of COVID-19 while on a program?

A: If a student presents symptoms consistent with COVID-19 while on the program, their leader will help them minimize contact with other members of the group and a COVID-19 test will be taken as soon as possible. We are familiar with testing locations at each destination, but we also strongly recommend that all students bring a COVID-19 self-test kit on their program. 

Q: What happens if a student tests positive for COVID-19 while on the program? 

A: If a student were to test positive for COVID-19, parents of all participants would be immediately notified. The specific response would be highly dependent on the situation, with consideration to be given to the destination, timing of the incident, and local and national health protocols. It is likely that a parent would be asked to accompany the student during their quarantine/recovery, but our group leader or representative would be present until the arrival of a parent. The cost of healthcare, accommodation, meals, travel, and any other costs associated with the period of quarantine are to be covered by the family. 

Q: In what ways might my program itinerary be modified due to COVID-19 precautions? 

A: As we look toward summer 2022, we are evaluating our accommodations, transportation providers, and programmed activities to ensure that protocols regarding masking, physical distancing, and cleaning meet our standards. Small modifications to planned activities may be made to ensure that health and safety standards will be met. Destination requirements regarding arrival or in-country testing may continue to evolve between now and program departure. Families will be notified of any anticipated modifications as early as possible. 

Q: Can I purchase travel insurance?

A: Yes. We highly recommend purchasing Trip Cancellation insurance. We will offer a policy (including a Cancel For Any Reason benefit) at additional cost once students are accepted.

Q: I’m an international student. Should I be worried about not being allowed into my trip destination country or out of my country of residence?

A: If a student who resides outside of the U.S. is unable to participate in one of our programs because either their government prohibits them from leaving their home country or the government at the destination prohibits them from entering, we will give a 100% refund up to 30 days prior to departure. If there is still a perceived threat 30 days prior to departure, please call us and we can work together to decide how best to proceed. Non-U.S. citizens must also check local visa and health requirements, including requirements for countries passed through in transit to the program destination.

Q: What can I expect as my program approaches?

A: We will be in close contact with enrolled families as we plan for your program, and prior to your departure we will share the most current COVID-19 considerations, information, and expectations pertaining to your destination. Feel free to give us a call—we are happy to answer your questions!

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