Return to Travel Guidelines

Last updated: April 24, 2023

This is a general FAQ and resource reflecting current policies and information. These policies are subject to change in response to the ever-evolving environment. As we move closer to summer 2023, we will continue to update our policies and information with regards to COVID-19 if the situation requires it. 

For students enrolled in summer 2023 Smithsonian Student Travel programs that have destination-specific entry and/or pre-travel testing requirements, information can be found in the “COVID-19 & Pre-Travel Information” document in their digital locker. All students, regardless of program-specific requirements, are also required to review and complete the “COVID-19 Travel Waiver,” also found in the 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 throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. They have learned from programming successes of the past few years and continue to adapt robust health and safety practices to changing circumstances.

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 2023

Q: What is your current thinking on COVID-19 and travel?

We understand that traveling today requires special care in planning, flexibility, and prudence to ensure the safety of our students, leaders, destination partners, and host communities around the world.

In 2022 we worked carefully with our destination partners and host communities to execute our programs safely, and in some cases with slight modifications in place to ensure the highest program quality and experience. Looking ahead to 2023, we are confident the summer will be full of learning, adventure, opportunity, and fun. 

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, including a booster for everyone who is eligible (you are eligible for a booster shot two months after completing your primary COVID-19 vaccination series). We recommend the most recent bivalent COVID-19 booster, per CDC guidelines. Additional information about booster shots can be found on the CDC website. All vaccine doses must be administered at least 14 days prior to program departure. Prior to the summer, students must provide us proof of vaccination. Certain destinations may require more specific and potentially more restrictive preparation.

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 Travel program.

  • We require all students, program leaders, and experts to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19, including a booster if eligible, and complete any pre-trip testing as required by the destination (we will inform you of any destination-specific requirements prior to departure).
  • Daily wellness checks.
  • Strict adherence to handwashing and personal hygiene.
  • Wearing facemasks in cases of potential exposure, and as required by local guidelines or local contacts.
  • Wearing KN95 face masks (which offer a higher level of filtration) while flying to and from your program is highly recommended. See your program’s Packing List for details.
  • Adapting our approach to programming, such as shifting activities and meals outdoors, when feasible.

Q: Am I required to test negative for COVID-19 at the end of my program before flying back to the United States?

A: No. There is no requirement to test negative before returning to the US. 

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.

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: We do not anticipate the need to cancel any programs. 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: While it is unlikely that we will need to end a program already in progress, Smithsonian Student Travel will provide participants a pro-rated refund based on the number of days not completed on the program.

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: 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 possible that a parent would be asked to accompany the student during their quarantine/recovery.The cost of healthcare, accommodation, meals, travel, and any other costs associated with the period of quarantine are to be covered by the family. Once a student has isolated consistent with CDC or local guidelines, it would be our goal to reintegrate them with their group

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

A: As we look toward summer 2023, 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. It is the family’s responsibility to know what documentation and medical review is necessary for a claim to be honored. If you think you might need to make a claim, you should call the insurance company to ask what might be required. 

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: Non-U.S. citizens must 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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