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: June 24, 2018
Departs: Atlanta, Georgia (ATL) at 5:50pm
Arrives: San Jose, Costa Rica (SJO) at 7:45pm
RETURN TO USA
Date: July 3, 2018
Departs: San Jose, Costa Rica (SJO) at 7:05am
Arrives: Atlanta, Georgia (ATL) at 1:03pm
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 two experienced Program Leaders on every Open Enrollment Program. In addition to these Program Leaders, we also have an Airport Liaison who will be in the departure city airport to gather the group and help with any flight delays, as well as various staff (including a Country Director) in our host country and in our headquarters in Denver, Colorado that are standing by 24/7 to support the group as needed. Please check out the below bios of some of the people on your programs support team.
University of Colorado, Boulder – English & Philosophy
During college, Philip spent a summer abroad in southern Spain, where his love for travel and language acquisition were sown. Upon graduating from university, Philip joined the Peace Corps, and subsequently spent 2.5 years living and teaching high school English in a small town in southern Costa Rica—only a stone’s throw away from the Panamanian border. While in Costa Rica, Philip’s passion for service blossomed, rooted in a strong desire to dedicate his life to the empowerment of others. Now, home in Colorado, Philip is an English Language Learners (ELL) teacher for Denver area schools, and an aspiring occupational therapist. When he’s not teaching or studying, Philip likes to cycle, snowboard, and listen to music.
B.A Macalester College
Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, Rachel Ozer-Bearson graduated from Macalester College in 2016 with a major in International Studies and minors in Hispanic Studies and Latin American Studies. During her time at Macalester College, Rachel developed her passions for social justice, travel, and education. She collaborated with community partners while working for the Civic Engagement Center, completed an intensive teaching fellowship with Breakthrough Twin Cities, and spent a semester studying abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Upon graduating, Rachel moved to Antigua, Guatemala, where she has spent the last two years teaching middle school social studies at Antigua International School through a Princeton in Latin America fellowship. In her free time, Rachel loves to read, write, see live music, try new foods, backpack, and whitewater kayak.
Country Operations, Costa Rica Operations
Earlham College – B.A. Non-Profit and Business Administration, Minor in French
Born and raised in Costa Rica, Esteban has spent the last seven years of his life traveling around the world and fostering his education in the U.S. Esteban has a strong background in cross-cultural education and developing business projects that strive for sustainable and social development. While attending college in Indiana, Esteban spent a semester abroad in France. During his free time Esteban loves reading, playing soccer, surfing, hiking, drinking a good cup of coffee, and dancing to Latino rhythms. These days Esteban has moved back to Costa Rica and loves leading awesome SSA programs in his home country!
Please have all travelers check to ensure that their name is spelled correctly. If you have any questions or edits please contact Lacey Merkel at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Meryl Gibson
- Carlos Lum
- Alexandra Bush
- Claire Cella
- Eva Brandis
- Carol Sujet
- Caroline McKenna
- Elena Velarde
- Natalia Sailly
- Syra De
Community & Project Details
The heart and soul of our Costa Rica programs is the time in the host village. For the duration of our time in the community, students will live with homestay families where they will significantly improve their Spanish and experience firsthand an intimate snapshot of Costa Rican family life. While we understand the thought of living with another family can be intimidating, we believe that homestays are extremely rewarding. Walking Tree has carefully selected each host family to ensure a safe, nurturing and enriching environment. Typical homes that are constructed nowadays are made of concrete and cinder blocks with tin roofing. They are made this way in order to withstand earthquakes. Traditionally, houses were made of wood with clay tile roofing. In rural areas, it is much more common to see traditional style housing whereas in the city it is very hard to find. Generally, homes are sized modestly with a living area, kitchen area, cuarto de pilas (utility room) and 2-3 bedrooms. Generally, parents will share a private bedroom, but depending on the size of the family and income, kids may share a bedroom with parents. Kids will often share a bedroom, especially when they are younger. It is considered normal to live with your parents until you get married, meaning that it is not strange for someone in their late twenties or early thirties to live with their parents. It also may be common for elderly family members to live with their children if they cannot take care of themselves. You will find that in small towns, family members will construct their houses very close to their other family members, which creates a greater sense of family within the community. Kitchens are generally very basic in small towns. Gas or electric countertop stoves are most common nowadays, but you may find that some families still stick to the traditional wood burning stoves. The kitchen will almost always be found within the home unless a wood-burning stove is used. In this case, the kitchen may be partially outside the home. Ovens, toasters and dishwashers are not common in Costa Rican kitchens. All dishes are hand washed. All houses are equipped with electricity, running water and indoor plumbing, but it is important to note that you should not flush toilet paper or other paper products down the toilet. This will clog the toilets and can eventually cause the overflow of septic tanks.
Host Community and Project Information
Students will be rebuilding the entire main entryway to a local church in Canaan de Rivas, and constructing a shop for the community to be able to fundraise throughout the year by selling food. Work will involve laying and leveling cement and bricklaying.
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: TBD
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.
Costa Rica Packing List
10 pairs of underwear
10 pairs of socks (a mixture of good hiking socks and casual socks)
4 t-shirts (some quick dry)
2 long sleeve shirts
1 rain jacket
1 quick-dry/travel towel
2-3 pairs of travel/athletic shorts that are breathable and light
2 pairs of comfortable/hiking/everyday pants (NOT all jeans)
1 nice shirt/top to be worn to more formal dinners (girls might want a skirt or something a little nicer for such occasions, boys may want to opt for a polo shirt or button up shirt with jeans)
1 pair of durable athletic/hiking shoes
1 pair of sandals (Chaco/Teva/Merril sandals are great to have for water activities)
1 pair of work gloves – required for service work
TOILETRIES: BRING THE BASIC TOILETRIES YOU NEED PLUS:
Sunscreen (you will use a lot)
Band Aids and Neosporin
Medication in properly marked original container. It’s important that medication travel in its original container, as customs officials have the right to confiscate it otherwise.
Plastic garbage bag to separate wet/dirty clothes from clean/dry.
Journal and pen
Camera (digital, disposable, waterproof)
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
Host family gift
Travelers often contact us regarding what an appropriate gift might be for their student’s host family. Host families are often curious about where our students come from and their families in the U.S. As such, we recommend a simple gift that describes, represents or depicts your home. Well-received gifts in the past have included calendars or picture/coffee table books from your city or state, a framed picture of your family, paraphernalia from a local sports team, toys, soccer balls, school supplies, or something produced or grown in your hometown, like chocolate, local candy, t-shirts, etc. The most important thing to keep in mind is not to worry about this… Anything, no matter its value, will be well received!