|1||USA - Chengdu, Sichuan||Today we'll depart the U.S.A. and fly across the Pacific to the metropolis of Chengdu in Sichuan Province, China.||In flight
|2||Chengdu, Sichuan||After crossing the international dateline, we'll arrive in Chengdu in the evening. We'll settle in at the hotel, have our first dinner together and rest up for our upcoming adventure!||Chengdu Dreams Hostel
|3||Chengdu, Sichuan||After a good night's rest we'll have our big orientation and explore Chengdu, checking out the famous Wuhou Temple and eating our fair share of Chengdu's specialty street snacks on Jinli street. We'll also stroll to the People's Park and “hang” with the locals while they get fit and socialize with ballroom dancing, kite flying, taichi, and more! For dinner, we'll try our hand at expert level DIY Sichuan cuisine, hotpot! ||Chengdu Dreams Hostel
|4||Dujiangyan, Sichuan||Early this morning, we'll make our way to the Panda Center at Dujiangyan to begin our volunteer program. Our tasks will include cleaning panda enclosures, preparing bamboo and “Panda Bread” as well as hand-feeding the pandas. We'll also watch a documentary about panda habitat loss and learn about the breeding and reintroduction work that is currently being done.||Dujiangyan Panda Business Hotel
|5||Dujiangyan, Sichuan||Today, we'll visit the Chengdu Base of Giant Panda Breeding to see the public-facing side of panda conservation in China. We'll tour the facilities and see the Giant panda’s smaller cousin, the Red Panda. Another possibility includes heading to Panda Valley, where important reintroduction work is being done. We'll get the insider's scoop speaking with scientists working at the center about their research and the future of China's adorable mammal. In the afternoon, you will have two options: a relaxing hike in the misty waterfalls of Qingcheng Back Mountain, where you'll enjoy stunning scenery and an escape from the heat; or, you can check out the Dujiangyan Irrigation System, for which the region is known, an impressive feat of urban/structural engineering that has been in use since the 3rd century. ||Dujiangyan Panda Business Hotel
|6||Dujiangyan - Chengdu - Guilin - Yangshuo||Early this morning, we'll leave Dujiangyan and head to Chengdu for our flight to Guilin. Upon arriving in Guilin, we'll relax, grab a meal, and then make our way via bus to Yangshuo, famed for its stunning scenery of the Li River cutting through karst peaks. Upon arrival in Yangshuo, we'll settle into the hotel and explore our home for the next few days on foot, including an evening stroll along the Li river to see Yangshuo's famed karst peaks. When the weather conditions are right, it's like walking into a classical Chinese painting! ||Faulty Towers
|7||Yangshuo, Guangxi||Aside from its unique karst topography, Guangxi and neighboring Guizhou are home to some of the most elaborate cave systems in China. Today, we'll have the chance to explore an immense limestone cave. We'll see stalactites and stalagmites and even a river that runs through the cave! We'll enjoy a packed lunch inside the cave and spook ourselves with local ghost stories. This evening we'll try our hand at traditional cormorant fishing while riding on bamboo rafts with local fisherman. We'll discuss how this local custom has been passed down through the generations, the implications of overfishing and habitat degradation that comes along with development, and differing perspectives on animal rights. ||Faulty Towers
|8||Longji, Guangxi||Early this morning, we'll make our way via to the sublimely beautiful Longji Rice Terraces and spend the night in a Zhuang or Yao village. Aside from the staggering natural beauty and ingenious irrigation dating back as far as 700 years, we'll also learn about and witness the culture and customs of some of China's ethnic minority groups who live in this area. After we arrive at the base of Dazhai village, we'll make a 40-minute trek up, up, up the mountain to remote Tiantou village, where we'll be spending the night in a traditional wooden Yao house. Weather permitting, we'll be sure to catch the sunset over the idyllic rolling rice terraced hills surrounding the community. For dinner, we'll enjoy local specialties of rice and chicken baked inside bamboo tubes and fresh, organic veggies from the family plots nearby. ||Dragon's Den Hostel
|9||Longji - Guilin - Beijing||The next day, we’ll rise before the sun and hike 40 minutes from our accommodations to the No. 2 overlook to view the sunrise. Even if it's cloudy or rainy, watching the mist clear and the clouds roll over the terraced hills is not to be missed! Then we'll pack up and make our way straight to Guilin to hop on the long-distance sleeper train to Beijing. As we zip through the countryside, we'll rest and recharge our batteries, play cards, journal, and snack and/or practice our Chinese language skills with our neighbors.||Train
|10||Beijing - USA||Wake up, transfer from the train station to the airport, and fly home! 再见中国！||Airplane
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.
Yangshuo, Guangxi: www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g303712-d1143715-Reviews-Fawlty_Towers_Hotel-Yangshuo_County_Guangxi.html
Longji, Guangxi: www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g1159371-d2690690-Reviews-Dragon_s_Den_Hostel-Longsheng_County_Guangxi.html
Dali, Yunnan: www.jims-tibetan-hotel.com/
Kunming, Yunnan: www.hostelworld.com/hosteldetails.php/Kunming-Upland-International-Youth-Hostel/Kunming/57778
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
When you travel with Smithsonian Student Adventures, your participation benefits the work of Smithsonian’s nineteen museums, national zoo, and nine research centers, helping to shape the future through science, research, and exhibitions. Tuition details are below:
Baggage fees, airline minor fees, personal shopping, passport or visa fees, and activities not listed on the itinerary.
Tuition is an estimate until dates and itinerary are finalized.
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.
A visa is required of all US visitors to China. In order to obtain your Chinese tourist visa, we recommend that you employ an agency to expedite the process. We’ve had success in the past with Flychina.com. A single-entry tourist visa will cost around $200 and this is a process we suggest you begin immediately. A valid US Passport, which will not expire for at least 6 months after your trip date, is required to obtain the visa.
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 us for further information regarding vaccination and visa requirements.
Health and Safety
We strongly recommend visiting the CDC China 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: 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 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
Program participants will meet the group organizer at the below airline check-in counter three hours before the departure flight. If you have trouble locating the group, please notify your group organizer or contact SSA.
DEPARTURE FROM USA
RETURN TO USA
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. That being said, our travelers’ well-being and safety is our number one priority, so please know that should flight delays/cancellations occur we will do everything we can to get travelers home in a timely manner and will do our best to keep family members updated on developments.
SSA is not responsible for fees associated with checked baggage. Please also make sure your passport is valid for at least six months beyond the final day in country.
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 if 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.
China Country Director, Program Leader
Columbia University – B.A. in Art History and Asian Studies
Columbia University – M.A. Art History
Jillian hails from Chicago and recently relocated to Los Angeles after five years in Beijing. She studied art history and Asian studies as an undergrad and received her M.A. in Art History from Columbia University. Before relocating to China, she spent five years working in the Asian Art Department of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. While in Beijing, she served as the Director of International Programs at Three Shadows Photography Art Centre. She has curated and produced exhibitions and educational programing in China, the U.K., Europe, and most recently, Ethiopia. Jillian is an avid yogi and completed a 200 hour intensive teacher training in Bali. Jillian loves seeing live music, biking, being in/near the ocean, and making the people around her laugh. She never feels more alive than when she’s navigating the streets of China, sampling local delicacies and seeking out the best bargains she can find.
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
This is where your host community information will appear, along with your community project, if applicable to your program.
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.
China Packing List
7-10 pairs of underwear
5 pairs of socks
1 set pajamas
3 short-sleeved T-shirts
2 long-sleeved T-shirts, preferably light-weight
1 sweater or sweatshirt
2 pair of shorts
2 pair of light-weight pants/hiking pants
1 nice outfit to be worn at community gatherings and final dinner (sundress, skirt, polo, khaki shorts, etc.)
1 rain jacket
1 pair of sneakers (appropriate for hiking/athletic activity)
1 pair of sports sandals or 1 pair flip flops
1 hat or visor
Sunscreen SPF 30+ (You will use a lot!)
Tampons/maxi pads (if applicable)
Any necessary medication (TSA requires that pills be properly labeled and in the original container.)
Band aids and neosporin
REQUIRED ADDITIONAL ITEMS
Bath towel (quick-dry recommended)
Plastic bag for dirty laundry
Alarm clock or watch
$100-200 US dollars in perfect condition (for souvenirs, snacks, optional excursions, etc.)
Visa/MasterCard ATM card We do NOT recommend traveler’s checks, gift cards or credit cards.
Durable water bottle
RECOMMENDED ADDITIONAL ITEMS
Small luggage lock
Portable charger (for long train ride)
Journal & writing utensils
Journal and pen
Flashlight or headlamp
Cards/games/etc (small and easy to carry)
Electrical converter and adapter
**China runs 220V, 50Hz AC electricity. A converter is only necessary if your device does not have 120-220V range.