Philosophy Of Travel
Our mission is to inspire the next generation to become global leaders by taking an active interest in the world around them. With a dedication to learning, along with an enduring passion for exploring the world, Smithsonian Student Adventures designs transformative and meaningful travel programs that uncover the authentic culture of each destination and inspire students to take action in their local and global community.
Smithsonian Student Adventures stands for a more open, curious, and compassionate approach to travel. We partner with select schools around the world to provide memorable small-group experiences, and invest in cultivating and maintaining longterm relationships with our partner communities. If you are interested in our organization and philosophy of travel, click here to learn more about us.
In order to provide a safe and memorable experience for our participants, teachers, and staff ; Program Leaders and Country Directors follow strict guidelines when deciding on lodging, working with partner vendors, making reservations, and assigning program participants to rooms.
Student participants will always be grouped in rooms and/or sleeping areas by gender, and will never share rooms with people who are not associated with SmithsonianSA. Group Organizers and Program Leaders will be roomed separately from each other and from student participants. SSA partners with locally-operated, three star or equivalent hotels that are centrally located, clean, safe and wifi-enabled.
Below are a few examples of our partner hotels. Although these are our preferred providers, they are subject to change based on availability. Your final itinerary will provide complete information on your accommodations in the cities you will be visiting.
Toledo District: www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g2507140-d308872-Reviews-The_Lodge_At_Big_Falls-Big_Falls_Toledo_District.html
Cristo Rey: www.crystalparadise.com/
St. George’s Caye: www.ecomarbelize.org/research-station.html
Flores, Guatemala: www.hotelisladeflores.com
Standards of Behavior
SSA provides fun, safe, and meaningful programs for our travelers. In order to achieve this goal, it is important that we create an environment of trust, security and respect. All individuals participating in our programs are required to take responsibility for their actions and adhere to a high standard of behavioral conduct. Any of the following are grounds for early dismissal or in-country consequences at our discretion.
- Possessing, consuming or distributing alcohol or illegal drugs
- Associating with participants while they are in possession of or are consuming or distributing alcohol or illegal drugs
- Behaving in a way that consistently damages the group dynamic or jeopardizes personal or group safety. This includes consistently displaying a negative attitude, intimidating or excluding other participants, sneaking out, disobeying group leaders, and any other behavior that is not conducive to an atmosphere of trust and mutual respect.
GROUNDS FOR DISMISSAL OR IN-COUNTRY CONSEQUENCE
- Getting a piercing or tattoo
- Stealing, or deliberately damaging or defacing any personal property, buildings or materials
- Threatening with or using weapons such as firearms, knives, explosives, etc.
- Riding mopeds, motorcycles, or any other type of unauthorized vehicle
- Being out of designated area or accommodations after curfew
- Breaking group rules
These standards of behavior are essential for the successful completion of a travel program. Please take the time to review these rules as a family and make sure everyone understands and agrees to them before choosing to travel with SSA.
Tuition & Fundraising
International airfare, baggage fees, airline minor fees, personal shopping, passport or visa fees, and activities not listed on the itinerary.
We believe that cost should not prevent enthusiastic students from having the opportunity to join an SSA program. We are pleased to offer opportunities for fundraising and payment plans to help make this goal a reality. Please visit our Tuition and Funding page to find out more about tuition, fundraising, payment options, referral discounts, and more.
Visit Tuition & Funding
Passport & Visa Check
Passport must be valid for six months after the final day of your travel program, including one open visa page.
No Visa Requirements for US Citizens traveling to Belize.
NON US CITIZENS OR THOSE TRAVELING FROM A COUNTRY OTHER THAN THE USA
Non US citizens should check with their country’s embassy abroad to verify vaccination and visa requirements.
US citizens traveling from a country other than the United States should check the State Department website (www.travel.state.gov) for more information regarding additional visa or vaccine requirements.
Please contact SSA for further information regarding vaccination and visa requirements.
Health and Safety
We strongly recommend visiting the CDC Belize website to get the most updated information on health and vaccination considerations in your destination country. In addition, we encourage you to consult with your personal family physician so you can be as informed as possible when making important decisions about vaccinations and other necessary health-related preparations before travel.
Our in-country staff prepare meticulously for all programs. SSA will register our programs and travelers with the U.S. Department of State Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) in case of emergency. In country staff also verify the safety records of our partner organizations, vendors, and transportation providers, thoroughly vet homestay families via in depth interviews and home visits, and keep up on important current events in the region.
Program Leaders are seasoned travelers who are CPR and First Aid certified, undergo thorough training in crisis management, and participate in a multi-day leadership training retreat. We do our best to prepare for any eventuality and have detailed emergency protocols for our leaders, in-country staff and U.S.-based staff.
We receive medical disclosures from all participants to ensure we are able to meet every students’ needs during the program. Please inform us immediately of any additional health issues that you did not list during your initial registration process. Program Leaders will also hold an online information session before your departure, as well as an arrival orientation in-country, in order to give participants important instructions on food safety, hygiene and preventing injury and illness. Leaders and in-country staff always respond immediately to any mental, physical or emotional health issues and follow comprehensive emergency protocols.
Our experience has taught us that international travel can sometimes be unpredictable. As such, SSA will purchase basic secondary travel and medical insurance for all SSA travelers via Travel Insured International. This service provides the following coverage at no additional cost to our participants:
$500 Return Airfare for Trip Interruption
$750 ($150 per day) Trip Delay of six hours or more
$500 (Three or more hours) Missed Connection
$1500 ($250 per article) Baggage/Personal Effects
$300 Baggage Delay – 24 hours
$25,000 Accident & Sickness Medical Expense
$100,000 Emergency Evacuation and Repatriation
Emergency Assistance Non-insurance Worldwide Emergency Assistance Services Included
Once you have been accepted onto your program, SSA will be in touch regarding this insurance and other additional options (see below).
ADDITIONAL OPTIONAL COVERAGES
The following additional optional coverage upgrades are available upon request for an additional premium charge to the traveler. For further information on the premiums associated with these optional coverage enhancements, please email your inquiry to our travel insurance program administrator, Hayashi Insurance Solutions: email@example.com
– Trip Cancellation Coverage – Reimburses the traveler up to the trip cost insured up to a maximum of $10,000 per person if the trip must be cancelled for unforeseeable life events including but not limited to; medical/health reasons, bereavement, etc.
– Cancel for Any Reason (CFAR) – Reimburses the traveler for 75% of the non-refundable trip cost. Cancellation must be made 48 hours or more prior to scheduled departure. Must be purchased at the same time as initial plan purchase and prior to final trip payment. *This benefit is not available to residents of New York State.
The Plan is administered by Hayashi Insurance Solutions (CA DOI 0F61680) a licensed Insurance Agency authorized to transact this insurance under the express authority of Travel Insured International, Inc. and its representatives, and on behalf of Walking Tree Travel, Inc. The Plan contains insurance benefits underwritten by the United States Fire Insurance Company. Fairmont Specialty and Crum & Forster are registered trademarks of United States Fire Insurance Company. The Crum & Forster group of companies is rated A (Excellent) by AM Best Company 2015. The Plan also contains non insurance Travel Assistance Services that are provided by an independent organization, OnCall International, and not by United States Fire Insurance Company or Travel Insured International. Review the Plan Document for complete terms, including benefits, conditions, limitations and exclusions that apply. Coverages may vary and not all coverage is available in all jurisdictions.
Global Leadership Curriculum
Walking Tree Travel has developed a curriculum that helps SSA travelers mature as global leaders before, during, and after their travel program. These simple, engaging tools are meant to spark discussion, frame the experience, and prepare participants to travel ethically and effectively both on our programs and in the future.
For more information about student learning objectives and format of the curriculum, click on the ‘learn more’ button below.
Learn More About the GLC
To view and complete the Pre-Program Activities, visit Walking Tree’s online portal at the button below.
Pre-Program Activity Portal
Want to learn a new language and be better prepared for your travel program? Duolingo is the easiest, most entertaining way to start learning and using a new language right away! The more you practice, the more you’ll be able to communicate with locals in your host country and help your fellow travelers navigate a foreign environment.
Tap the Duolingo owl to get started, or download the app to your mobile phone.
Group Flight Information
In an effort to make the flight booking process as smooth as possible, we have partnered with STA Travel. This partnership provides our participants with discounted fares through STA’s contracts with the top airlines to help our travelers get the best possible rates. To learn more about STA as an organization, please check out their website at www.statravel.com.
STA Travel will help our families and travelers book their round trip travel between their home city and our host countries. We are excited to offer this premium service to our participants so that we can focus on what we do best – providing meaningful adventures around the world.
Open Enrollment participants are responsible for booking and paying for their own international flights. You have two options for making your flight arrangements:
1. (Preferred) Book a seat on the chaperoned international group flight.
Each Open Enrollment program has a suggested, chaperoned, group flight that will depart from a designated departure city in the United States and arrive to the destination country. Participants on these flights will have the support of our on-scene Airport Liaison as well as an accompanying Program Leader, on-flight. The Airport Liaison will help gather, coordinate and direct the arrival and departure of our participants in the airport and the Program Leader will accompany the group to and from the host country while on the flight. The vast majority of our travelers choose this option.
The following information is for the chaperoned group flights for this program:
DEPARTURE FROM USA
Date: July 6, 2018
Departs: Atlanta, Georgia (ATL) at 12:20pm
Arrives: Belize City, Belize (BZE) at 1:30pm
RETURN TO USA
Date: July 15, 2018
Departs: Belize City, Belize (BZE) at 12:00pm
Arrives: Atlanta, Georgia (ATL) at 4:58pm
Here’s how to proceed:
Call our dedicated representative at STA Travel at 800-781-4040 to learn about your booking options.
- Tell the agent you are a Smithsonian Student Adventures participant, the full name of the program you are traveling on and your program travel dates. They will walk you through the details of your flight options.
- Once you know your flight options, you can book directly with STA or on your own to travel to the host country.
- IMPORTANT NOTE: Should you elect not to travel on the suggested, chaperoned, group flight please email your complete flight reservation to flights@SmithsonianSA.com
Program participants should meet the airpot liaison at the below airline check-in counter three hours before the international flight. If you are traveling on a connecting flight from your home destination, you will meet your flight chaperone at the boarding gate for your international flight. If you have trouble locating the group, please contact Smithsonian Student Adventures at our 24/7 emergency hotline: 303-997-0310.
2. Book your own flight to the host country.
For this option we require travelers to arrive at the same time, or earlier (no more than 3 hours), than the suggested group flight’s planned arrival. We ask participants not to arrive later than the suggested group flight’s time of arrival. If travelers arrive on their own prior to the rest of the group, we will arrange for either a Program Leader or the Country Director meet them when they land in the host country. If a participant arrives more than three hours before the group chaperoned flight, we will have in-country staff pick them up, but a $100 fee will apply.
With either option, we strongly encourage you to book your flights through STA, but it is not required.
STA operates a full 24/7 emergency line and can support you with issues from date changes, cancellations, or general crisis management support wherever you are in the world. To contact them, please call 800-781-4040.
A NOTE ON FLIGHTS
Air travel is unpredictable. Although we can ensure that our groups arrive to the airport with ample time and follow all airline instructions, there may still be instances when a flight is delayed or cancelled due to weather, mechanical problems, labor strikes, etc. Please note that in such an event SSA is not financially responsible for unexpected costs incurred by travelers. Our programs officially begin and end in our host countries. Notwithstanding, our travelers’ well-being and safety is always our number one priority in all facets of our operations and programming, so please know that in case flight delays or cancellations occur we will do everything we can to get travelers home in a timely manner and will keep family members updated on developments as we are able.
Important note: Please make sure your passport is valid for at least six months beyond the final day in country.
SSA is not responsible for fees associated with checked baggage or for lost or stolen luggage. We strongly encourage all travelers to pack a carry-on bag if possible, or to at least put all valuables and a change of clothes or two in a carry-on along with all important medications and basic toiletries such as a toothbrush, deodorant, glasses, contacts etc.
Please confirm with your air travel provider as some airlines may require that travelers under a certain age have completed an unaccompanied minor parental consent form. Please consult the airline website to confirm whether this is required on your flight.
SSA will send a minimum of one experienced Program Leader on every program. In addition to this Program Leader, we also have a support staff in our host countries and 24/7 support from our headquarters in Denver, Colorado that are available to the group for additional help when necessary. Below you’ll find a list of the Smithsonian Student Adventures staff involved in the planning, organizing, and leadership of your program.
Universidad Rafael Landivar – B.A. Marketing with emphasis on Advertising
Postgraduate studies in Business Management, Costa Rica and India
Guillermo was born and raised in Guatemala. He has traveled throughout North and Central America, and parts of Europe and India. His first intercultural experience took place in North Dakota and Canada as an exchange student. He then volunteered with an international organization in Guatemala that provides educational opportunities to young students. Through this organization, he became a guide for a Latin American student group in Norway and Denmark, giving him the opportunity to explore several European countries and find his traveler spirit. Guillermo lives in Antigua, Guatemala, where he works to support independent coffee farmers and an artisan community and leads programs throughout Central America. He speaks both Spanish and English and enjoys adventure travel, photography and history.
Please have all travelers check below to ensure their name is spelled exactly how it appears on your passport. For edits, email lacey@SmithsonianSA.com.
- Christopher Cole
- Tristan Metz
- Alexa Shapiro
- Mattea Beachy
Community & Project Details
Balanced on the geographical and cultural border between the Caribbean and Central American regions, Belize is a small and often overlooked country that nonetheless harbors its own unique mix of both worlds. The thick jungles of the western districts are some of the most pristine in all Central America, and harbor not only a wide array of wildlife, but hide the secrets of old, fallen empires, buried under centuries of tropical growth. Not to be outdone, Belize’s relatively small coast is hosts the largest coral reef system in the Western Hemisphere, and the clear blue waters and white sand beaches make it a tropical paradise unlike any other.
ECOMAR MARINE BIOLOGY CENTER at ST. GEORGE’S CAYE
Historical St. George’s Caye is less than 10 miles from Belize City and one mile from the Belize Barrier Reef, making it an ideal location for getting to and from the mainland and reef ecosystems. The Caye, and the other cayes, reefs, and estuaries that surround it, collectively make up Belize’s section of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, a chain of barrier islands stretching from Mexico to Honduras that together comprise the largest coral reef ecosystem in the Western Hemisphere. This “seascape” is also the second longest reef in the world, and is home to hundreds of invertebrate and vertebrate species such as whale sharks, Antillean manatees, and hundreds of mollusks found nowhere else in the world. The unique geology of the region and the biodiversity it harbors make it a priority conservation area, and one of Sylvia Earle’s “Hope Spots.”
During our stay in Belize, we will be partnering with ECOMAR, and organization that coordinates marine biology and conservation projects that focus on conserving the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System and World Heritage Site, along with the associated marine ecosystems and the diverse marine life that is so important to the people that live near the coast. ECOMAR’s mission is to help local people, governments, and visitors learn more about the marine ecosystems that support their livelihoods. “When resources users are more knowledgeable about the ecosystem processes they take ownership of the environment and become involved in protecting these valuable natural resources.”
They do this through a variety of programs that we will learn about and participate in, including sea turtle nesting and in water studies, coral reef ecology studies, manatee and conch research, and a variety of other marine biology research education programs which we will learn about during our stay. We are privileged to be guided in our work by local and visiting researchers who are experts in their respective fields.
The seaside Belize City is the largest city in the country, and is the former capital of British Honduras. We will briefly experience this populous city as we drive through its bustling streets, which originally were designed for foot-traffic and mule-carts only. The city is an excellent showcase of Belize’s distinctly diverse ethnic makeup, with Latinos, Asians, Blacks, and Whites all living together in this vibrant port town. Just outside of the city is the Belize Zoo and Tropical Education Center, which allows us to see a variety of otherwise difficult-to-spot wildlife (such as Jaguars and Tapirs). Founded in 1983, this Zoo started as a small project to keep animals that were being used in Hollywood films, and grew into a world renown and reputable small zoo, which now serves as an invaluable education tool for local Belizean students to learn about their country’s wildlife.
St. George’s Caye
Historical St. George’s Caye is less than 10 miles from Belize City and one mile from the Belize Barrier Reef, making it an ideal location for getting to and from the mainland and reef ecosystems. They Caye, and the other cayes, reefs, and estuaries that surround it, collectively make up Belize’s section of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, a chain of barrier islands stretching from Mexico to Honduras that together comprise the largest coral reef ecosystem in the Western Hemisphere. This “seascape” is also the second longest reef in the world, and is home to hundreds of invertebrate and vertebrate species such as whale sharks, Antillean manatees, and hundreds of mollusks found nowhere else in the world. The unique geology of the region and the biodiversity it harbors make it a priority conservation area, and one of Sylvia Earle’s “Hope Spots.”
During our stay in Belize, we will be partnering with ECOMAR, and organization that coordinates marine conservation projects that focus on conserving the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System and World Heritage Site, along with the associated marine ecosystems and the diverse marine life that is so important to the people that live near the coast. ECOMAR’s mission is to help local people, governments, and visitors learn more about the marine ecosystems that support their livelihoods. “When resources users are more knowledgeable about the ecosystem processes they take ownership of the environment and become involved in protecting these valuable natural resources.”
They do this through a variety of programs that we will learn about and participate in, including sea turtle nesting and in water studies, coral reef ecology studies, manatee and conch research, and a variety of other research education programs which we will learn about during our stay. We are privileged to be guided in our work by local and visiting researchers who are experts in their respective fields.
Marine Reserve Caye Caulker is a small limestone coral island about a mile 20 miles northeast of Belize City. Its reefs are home to multiple species of sea turtles, sharks, and invertebrates. The reserve itself includes five distinct habitats: mangrove, littoral forests, lagoon marsh-lands, sea grass beds and the coral reef.
Hol Chan Marine Reserve
The Hol Chan Marine Reserve is Belize’s oldest marine reserve. Hol Chan is Mayan for ‘little channel,” and the entire reserve focuses on a cut through the reef (called a quebrada) which is little more than 25 yards (23 m) wide and 30 feet (9 m) deep about 4 miles southeast of San Pedro. It is an excellent snorkeling site, and an ideal place to view marine mammals.
In start contrast to the barrier reefs and mangrove ecoystems of eastern Belize, the western district of Cayo is host to thick, verdant rainforest laced with networks of karstic limestone caves and massive waterfalls. Ancient Mayan pyramids and temples rise from the vegetation, reminding us that this land was once home to thriving civilizations that had metropolises larger than any of Belize’s current cities. From San Ignacio, we will take some time to visit Mayan ruins within Belize, or if time allows, cross the border into Guatemala to visit the ruins at Yaxha Lake or Tikal. We will also visit some of the caves which the Maya believed to represent the underworld, and which hide their own, much longer geological history.
Communication & Blog
The easiest way for students to keep in touch with family and friends at home while traveling will be using Wifi (available at most hotels and some restaurants) via Viber, Whatsapp, Skype, and Wechat for free.
SSA tries to keep families and friends updated as frequently as possible with text and photo blogs. If parents would like updates regarding the group beyond these blog posts and email updates, they should direct all general inquiries to info@SmithsonianSA.com. We are always checking this email inbox and will respond promptly to inquiries. You can also reach us by dialing 303-242-8541 from the U.S.
Here is the link to your blog: -Coming Soon-
What follows is a sample packing list, which will be updated for each program. We recommend you bring a larger piece of luggage like a roller, duffel bag, or backpack, as well as a smaller backpack that you can bring on hikes, weekend excursions and shorter activities.
Most importantly, be sure to remember your PASSPORT and STUDENT ID.
Belize Packing List
6-8 pairs of underwear
6 pairs of socks (a mixture of good hiking socks and casual socks)
6 t-shirts or work shirts (some quick dry)
1 long sleeve shirt
1 set of pajamas
1 light sweater
1 rain jacket
2-3 pairs of travel/athletic shorts that are breathable and light
2 pairs of comfortable/hiking/everyday pants (NOT all jeans)
2 nice shirt/top to be worn to more formal dinners (girls might want a skirt or something a little nicer for such occasions)
1 pair of durable athletic/hiking shoes
1 pair of sandals (Chacos/Tevas etc)
Long-sleeve sash guard, to protect from sun while snorkeling (mandatory)
TOILETRIES: BRING THE BASIC TOILETRIES YOU NEED PLUS:
Reef-safe or biodegradable sunscreen
Band aids, Neosporin and other basic first aid supplies
Medication in properly marked original container
Journal and pen
Alarm Clock and watch
Debit card/US Dollars (we recommend about $50-$150, depending on amount of desired souvenirs, extra items etc.)
Durable water bottle
1 quick-dry towel
Deck of cards or other portable games