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.
SSA partners with locally-operated, three star or equivalent hotels that are clean, safe, centrally located, and provide modern amenities. 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.
Chiang Mai: http://ihouse.payap.ac.th/
Kui Buri: http://baanraikongmun.com/
Koh Talu: www.taluisland.com/
Chiang Rai: www.benguesthousechiangrai.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.
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 Thailand.
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
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.
Vaccination information and requirements can change frequently. Because of this, and for more information, we suggest that you consult your local travel clinic and/or family physician for specific details.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
– 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 their experience, and prepare them to travel ethically and effectively both on our programs and in the future. For more information about student learning objectives and the format of the Walking Tree Travel Global Leadership Curriculum, click on the ‘learn more’ button below.
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.
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 to have the second Program Leader or the Country Director meet them as they land in the host country.
With either option, we strongly encourage you to book your flights through STA, but it is not required.
Please wait to make any flight arrangements until we have sent you our chaperoned group flight information by email, which we will post by April 1, 2018 with instructions on how to proceed.
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 to support the group as needed. Please check out the below bios of some of the people on your programs support team.
The International Film & Television School in Paris – B.S. in Video Editing
Born and raised in Paris, after working for a couple of years in the television industry, Laurene decided to volunteer with elephants in Thailand. After few months, she was offered the position of volunteer coordinator. She learned everything about the animal welfare issue within the Southeast Asia context. She worked for four years in several wildlife rescue centers in Thailand, and raised awareness to hundreds of young international volunteers about this matter. Laurene lives now in Chiang Mai, northern Thailand, where she loves living amongst the local people, helping animals in need, and educating local communities and also foreigners about humane care of stray animals. Aside from her passion for animal welfare, she loves the Thai culture and delicious Thai food, and volunteers to help the Thai children who are victims of trafficking.
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.
Community & Project Details
Bring The Elephant Home
BTEH is aiming for a better chance of survival for Asian elephants. They achieve their mission by restoring natural habitat, stimulating animal-friendly ecotourism, and by finding solutions to human-elephant conflicts. They work with a small community in Kanchanaburi that is particularly difficult human-elephant conflict zone. They are supporting this community by bringing volunteers to their tree nursery, but also to build check-dams to make sure that elephants can find enough water in the forest during the dry season, which prevents them from coming to villages and drinking from people’s houses. They have an extensive program of reforestation with local people all year round. They are also at the head of the second beehive-fencing project in Thailand. In collaboration with the National Parks system, they are building beehive fences to protect crops and local communities from wild elephants, who avoid bees at all costs. The resident communities benefit through the sales of honey and the reduction of elephant-caused damage and destruction of their crops. The pollination work of the bees increases biodiversity and even increases the yield of the crop that they protect. As a result of strategically placed beehive fences, elephants and humans can share the same area in harmony. BTEH is one of only a few community-based wild elephant conservation initiatives in Thailand.
The team from Elephant Nature Park, one of the first elephant sanctuaries that was created in Chiang Mai 15 years ago, have been working together with The Sai Yok Elephant Park, a former trekking camp in Kachanaburi, to take the saddles off of elephants that were being used for riding. This relatively new project is extremely important to educate trekking camps and people who keep elephants about the joy and satisfaction that comes from returning elephants from captivity to their natural habitats. The more people that support this project, the brighter the future is for other Asian elephants. Kanchanaburi in infamous for elephant camps that mistreat their animals by offering rides or shows, and Elephant Haven serves as a positive example of tourism that takes into account the welfare of the animals.
At Elephant Haven, guests prepare the food for the elephants, feed them, walk with them in the forest, go to a mud bath with them, and finish with a bath with the elephants in the river. Elephant Haven made the decision to shift to a more responsible model a year ago, and it’s very important to support them, as they are trying to set an example in the Kanchanaburi province. The family at the head of the park has been working for a long time with elephants all over Thailand, so they are very influential in their network and hopefully change the mind of many other trekking camps.
Burm and Emily’s Elephant Sanctuary
BEES is a retirement home for elephants, providing an alternative for elephants and their owners. Their aim is to educate locals and visitors about elephants, wildlife conservation, and the ethical treatment of animals. BEES works towards sustainable community development and working to create better futures for humans and animals. They provide an alternative for owners and their elephants to move away from city life and the hard, rough days of trekking or working in the tourist trade by providing a retirement home for elephants where they can come to have some much needed rest or have a long term/permanent stay. The elephants have the chance to live free and both owner and elephant no longer have to face the hardships of daily life in the city and trekking camps. In addition, they give a home to all animals in need and run rescue, rehabilitation and release programs and have education programs in the local community. BEES participates in reforestation efforts, environmental clean-up, and community education programs. BEES is located 3 hours’ drive southwest of Chiang Mai, amongst breathtaking views of Doi Inthanon, the highest mountain in Thailand.
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: https://smithsonianstudentadventures.com/2017-thailand-21-day-elephant-expedition/
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.
Thailand Packing List
10 pairs of underwear
6 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 or strong poncho (it will be the rainy season in July)
1 swim suit
2-3 pairs of travel/athletic shorts that are breathable and light (no short shorts please)
2 pairs of comfortable/hiking/everyday pants (NOT all jeans – this is important for repelling mosquitos)
1 nice shirt/top to be worn to more formal dinners (girls might want a skirt or something a little nicer and guys a polo or button up shirt with jeans for
such occasions. Please have the skirt reach your knees)
1 pair of durable athletic/hiking shoes
1 pair of sandals
1 pair of work gloves
1-2 pairs of work pants
1 sarong (something to cover knees when entering Temples and holy places *this may be purchased in country)
rain boots (for volunteer activities – *we encourage you to be purchase these when in country for cheaper)
TOILETRIES: BRING THE BASIC TOILETRIES YOU NEED PLUS:
Sunscreen (you will use a lot)
Mosquito repellent (you will use a lot)
Band Aids and Neosporin
Medication in properly marked original container
Journal and pen
Camera (digital, disposable, waterproof)
Power Converter (220 volts AC)
Alarm Clock and watch
Debit card/US Dollars (we recommend about $50-$150, depending on amount of desired souvenirs, extra
Durable water bottle
1 quick-dry towel
Deck of cards or other portable games
Host family gift for each host family
Pictures of family, friends, home
***Please keep in mind that the villages we will be staying in are generally more conservative. The people usually wear long covered up clothing and do not appreciate seeing a lot of exposed leg, cleavage, or bare shoulders.
***Dress in Bangkok: Thailand is still in its mourning period after the King passed away last October (His official funeral/cremation, is planned for late October). And especially in Bangkok bright colors clothes, and short shorts, or tank tops should be avoided (black and white are the mourning colors. But dark colors in general are just fine), ideally shoulders and knees should be covered. Again, this is more a Bangkok specific. Thai people are pretty flexible with the foreigners, but that would show some respect towards the population.