Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How to Apply

Step 1: Start an Application. 

If you are new to National Geographic Student Travel, visit our Online Application. 

If you are a National Geographic Student Travel or Putney Student Travel alumni family, use your existing account information to Log In. For an existing account Log In information, you can reset your password here. 

Step 2: Hold Your Space. 

In order to hold your space for a program, you must complete the Online Application Form, submit a signed Agreement Form, and provide a $700 payment, consisting of a $200 non-refundable Application Fee and a $500 Tuition Deposit. The $500 Tuition Deposit is applied toward your tuition. After March 15, we must receive full payment within five days of your initial $700 payment to hold a space in the program. 

Step 3: Complete Your Application. 

Before we can make a final admissions decision, you must submit your Applicant Statement and two Teacher Reference Forms. These documents are available as part of our Online Application. Our Admissions Team will review your application within a few days of completion and notify you of the decision by email.

  • Admissions

When should I apply? 

We have a rolling admissions process and will accept applicants until a program fills. Every year, however, we receive more applications than we are able to accept, so early applicants have the best chance of being accepted into their first choice program. 

Who is eligible to travel on these programs? 

Programs are open for current 9th-12th graders or upper secondary which typically includes students who are enrolled in high school, upper secondary school, homeschooled or in non-traditional programs. Motivated 8th graders may be considered for certain programs. We encourage you to call our office if you would like to discuss this further. 

Who is accepted? 

Applications are carefully reviewed by our Admissions Team and students are selected on the basis of their enthusiasm, motivation, and willingness to live and participate constructively in a supportive and inclusive community environment.
National Geographic Student Travel encourages applicants from all backgrounds to apply. We embrace each person’s identity, experiences, and abilities, and we are committed to creating an environment where everyone benefits from opportunity, mutual respect, and a sense of belonging. National Geographic Student Travel staff and leaders work with our students and families to foster a safe and supportive experience for all students regardless of their race, national origin, religion, sex, gender, ability, sexual orientation, or other protected class. 

What forms of payment do you accept? 

You may pay by credit card (Mastercard, Visa, or Discover) through our secure online system, by personal check, or by wire transfer. Our admissions staff is also available to take credit card information over the phone. Personal checks must be in U.S. dollars and must be drawn on a U.S. bank. Checks should be made payable to Putney Student Travel with the student’s name written on the memo line. Please note that a 2.75% convenience fee is added to payments made by credit card, but is waived for the initial $700 payment. Please contact us for bank details if you prefer to pay by wire transfer. 

What if I need to withdraw my application? 

If you withdraw an application for a summer program on or before March 15, your payment, less the $200 Application Fee, is refunded. If you withdraw an application after March 15, all payments are forfeited. Withdrawals are effective on the date that National Geographic Student Travel receives written notification. 

What happens if I am not accepted? 

If an application is not accepted or if space is not available in the program listed as first choice, all payments, including the Application Fee, are refunded in full. 

Do you have a wait list? 

Students who wish to hold a space on a waitlist for a program that is currently full must complete the Online Application Form, submit a signed Agreement Form, and provide a $700 payment, consisting of a $200 Application Fee and a $500 Tuition Deposit. The $700 payment is fully refunded if space does not become available or if the application is withdrawn prior to a space becoming available. 

Who follows up with my teacher references? 

Students are responsible for following up with teachers to ensure that they have sent completed reference forms to National Geographic Student Travel. Students can check to see if we have received their teacher references by logging into their National Geographic Student Travel application and online portal. 

How long do I have to complete my application? 

Before March 15, National Geographic Student Travel will temporarily hold a space for a reasonable amount of time upon receipt of a completed Online Application Form, a signed Agreement Form, and the $700 payment. The application is considered incomplete and cannot be considered for admission until we have also received a completed Applicant Statement and two completed Teacher Reference Forms. If the application is not completed within a reasonable amount of time, we will consider it withdrawn and the applicant’s temporarily held space will be released. After March 15, we must receive full payment within five days of your initial $700 payment to hold a space in the program or the application will be considered withdrawn and the $700 payment will be forfeited. 

When is final payment due? 

For students accepted before March 15, final payment of the full tuition, airfare (when offered/purchased through National Geographic Student Travel), and any associated fees is due on March 15. For students applying after March 15, full payment of the tuition, airfare (when offered/purchased through National Geographic Student Travel), and any associated fees is due within 5 days of your application. National Geographic Student Travel reserves the right to revoke an applicant’s acceptance if timely payment is not received. No refunds are provided in this circumstance. 

Do you offer travel insurance? 

Trip cancellation insurance (including a Cancel For Any Reason benefit) is available at an additional cost and is strongly recommended. Each year, a small number of students must withdraw from their program for medical or related reasons, and families who purchase trip insurance are thankful to receive a tuition refund when their cancellation was due to a covered reason. TII/United States Fire Insurance Company/Crum & Forster has designed a plan specifically for National Geographic Student Travel. This plan is available for U.S. residents only. You will be able to purchase the Travel Protection Plan through Putney Student Travel when you pay your invoice in your digital locker. 

  • Scholarships

Does National Geographic Student Travel offer scholarships?

Yes, please click here for more information.

  • Cost

What is included in the tuition? 

Tuition for National Geographic Student Travel programs covers all day-to-day expenses including three meals each day, lodging, excursions, any theater and concert tickets, entry fees, bike and boat rentals, local guides, ski passes and equipment rental, tips, and all ground transportation during the program, including trains, buses and taxis. Tuition does not include the $200 Application Fee, international or internal airfare, baggage fees, visa and entry/exit fees, laundry, communication home, health care, gifts, snacks, or other personal expenses, or the optional activity fees or On Assignment fees listed below under Program Specific Supplemental Fees. 

What additional fees might I encounter? 

Application Fee • $200 

Travel Coordination Fee • A minimum fee of $150 is assessed when students require special travel arrangements. Please see details below. 

Arrival to or Departure from the U.S. Gateway Airport: If your arrival to or departure from the U.S. Gateway Airport falls outside of the designated window(s) we have indicated on the Travel Information document for your program AND you miss the group flight and/or your connection because of this, you will be charged a minimum of $150 to cover the cost of our staffing and logistical support. 

Arrival to or Departure from the Program Destination: If your arrival to or departure from the program destination falls outside of the designated window(s) requiring special coordination from our staff, you will be charged a minimum of $150. 

Unaccompanied Minor Fee • $150 fee each way if your child flies as an Unaccompanied Minor to/from the U.S. Gateway Airport or program destination requiring a National Geographic Student Travel representative as an escort. Many major airlines have policies that require students under a certain age who are flying independently to register as an “Unaccompanied Minor.” Please note that registering with the airline as an “Unaccompanied Minor” often incurs a fee in addition to your ticket cost, and requires you to be escorted at all times (between security, departure/arrival gates, and connecting flights) when you are not with your leader(s) and group.  

Program Specific Supplemental Fees 

Scuba Diving
This supplemental fee covers dives for students who are Scuba certified and have opted to dive during the program.

  • Travel Logistics

Once a student has been accepted on a National Geographic Student Travel program we will provide detailed information about program-specific travel day logistics. 

How do I get to my program? 

Most students on programs outside of the contiguous United States use National Geographic Student Travel’s escorted group flight, departing from a U.S. Gateway Airport to the program destination. The escorted group flight cost is not included in the program tuition. Students are responsible for all travel costs and arrangements to and from the U.S. Gateway Airport. Students on U.S.-based National Geographic Student Travel programs are responsible for making arrangements to arrive at the program destination at the designated time. 

What is a group flight? 

For most programs outside of the contiguous United States, families will be directed to book their own seats on a roundtrip group flight itinerary designated by National Geographic Student Travel to fly with a leader and other students. For select destinations, families may be directed to purchase their seats through National Geographic Student Travel (in this case a group flight charge will be added to your final invoice in your digital locker). Families may call the office at any time to speak with us about group flight arrangements and cost. 

Do I have to travel on the group flight? 

All students are encouraged to fly on the roundtrip escorted flight and most do, although if it makes sense for your family, you may make alternate travel plans. Before making any alternate travel plans, please contact our office first to ensure the timing of your arrival and/or departure (at the U.S. Gateway Airport and/or program destination) falls within the designated window of time that we can accommodate your travel. If your arrival or departure falls outside of the designated window, you will be charged an additional Travel Coordination Fee of a minimum of $150. 

What documents do I need to travel? 

To travel internationally, you must have a passport that is valid for at least six months after your program return date. In addition, you may need a visa depending on your nationality and the country or countries you are visiting. For countries requiring a visa from U.S. travelers, we will provide you with information necessary to help you apply for and obtain a visa upon acceptance of your application. Non-U.S. citizens must check local visa requirements, including requirements for countries passed through in transit. For U.S.-based programs, we recommend bringing a school I.D., driver’s license, or other form of identification. 

Do I have to travel with an adult from my hometown to the U.S. Gateway Airport where I meet my group? 

Not necessarily. Each year, many students fly alone from their hometown airport to the U.S. Gateway Airport where they meet their group and leader(s). If you plan to fly independently, please note that many major airlines have policies that require students under a certain age who are traveling alone to register as an “Unaccompanied Minor.” This age requirement varies by airline, so it is important to research each airline’s policies carefully before purchasing a ticket. If necessary, National Geographic Student Travel can provide staff and logistical support for “Unaccompanied Minors” traveling to and from the U.S. Gateway Airport as for an additional $150 fee each way; please call us with questions and/or to coordinate meet-up details.

  • Health & Safety

Does National Geographic Student Travel require COVID-19 vaccination? 

Yes, we require all students and National Geographic Student Travel leaders and experts to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19, including a booster shot for everyone who is eligible (you are eligible for a booster shot two months after completing your primary COVID-19 vaccination series). Additional information about booster shots can be found on the Center for Disease Control’s website. Prior to the summer, students must present to National Geographic Student Travel proof of vaccination. Certain destinations may require more specific and potentially more restrictive preparation. 

What vaccinations are recommended for travel to my destination? 

We recommend that you consult the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and your healthcare provider to make the right decision for your family. Once a student has been accepted on a National Geographic Student Travel program, we will provide information on general wellness for travelers, country-specific CDC recommendations, and a list of cities and regions visited on your program. 

How do I stay healthy during the program? 

The best way to stay healthy during your program is to start your trip well-rested and to pay attention to your eating, sleep, and hygiene habits while traveling. Our leaders provide guidelines on hygiene and how to stay healthy during the program. 

What if I get sick on my program? 

Adjusting to the differences in food, climate, etc. can take a little time. It is important to be open and tell your leaders about any physical discomfort you may be experiencing. For any situation that we feel requires professional medical attention, leaders take students to a nearby clinic or hospital. Health decisions are made as a team based on input from the student, parents, leaders, and our home office in Vermont. In the event of serious illness or injury, International SOS, a leading provider of international medical emergency services, is available to provide consultation and emergency medical evacuation services for destinations outside of the United States. All students are required to carry their own medical insurance. 

What if I have specific dietary or medical needs? 

We are able to accommodate many medical and dietary needs. Please contact our office to discuss your specific situation before applying. 

What are your safety protocols? 

At National Geographic Student Travel, students’ health and safety is our top priority. We strive to deliver active, educational, safe, meaningful, and fun programs. We maintain close relationships with the communities we visit and have strong networks of in-country contacts. Our leaders are well-traveled and trained in first aid and CPR. In the event of serious illness or injury, International SOS, a leading provider of international medical emergency services, is available to provide consultation and emergency medical evacuation services for destinations outside of the United States. 

What are the rules? 

We expect our students to maintain high standards of personal behavior. We impose very few rules other than those designed to ensure that students can live in a safe, friendly, and constructive environment. Instead, we support an open atmosphere of mutual respect, trust, and consideration. Since students are encouraged, within the context of our programs, to take leadership roles and to make some of their own discoveries, students whose parents require them to be under constant surveillance or who are likely to act irresponsibly, use drugs, alcohol, or tobacco, or behave in a disruptive manner, should not apply. Any student whose attitude or behavior is, in our judgment, in violation of our standards or is otherwise detrimental/undermines to the successful operation of our program will be dismissed from the program and travel home at their parents’ expense. We do not tolerate harassment or discrimination.

  • Our Students

Where are most National Geographic Student Travel students from? What will my fellow students be like?

National Geographic Student Travel students join from all around the world. Our students are enthusiastic, engaged, and excited to learn new skills and make new friends. The dynamics of our programs and unique shared experiences help build close, lasting friendships and a strong community spirit within each group.

  • Our Leaders

What are the qualifications of your leaders?

National Geographic Student Travel leaders are dedicated educators with extensive experience traveling and working with young people. They are college graduates and many hold or are in pursuit of graduate degrees as well. All leaders also hold basic First Aid and CPR certifications. In addition to their professional experience and travel expertise, National Geographic Student Travel leaders are role models who teach students how to be safe and responsible travelers and inspire them to explore their interests and make their own discoveries. To learn more about our leaders click here. To read bios of our leaders click here.

  • Accessibility

Are National Geographic Student Travel programs accessible for students experiencing physical disabilities, hearing or vision impairments, neurological disorders, or other similar conditions?

National Geographic Student Travel programs operate across a vast spectrum of physical and cultural landscapes, transportation conditions, and accommodation conditions. While there may be limitations in a given destination, we would be happy to explore accommodations we can provide in some instances. We invite all prospective applicants to consult us about their preferred first and second choice programs, and will communicate with families to determine if a program is a good fit for a student experiencing any of the above. We also are able to provide suggestions for alternate National Geographic Student Travel programs that might be a good fit.

  • Communication

Am I allowed to bring a cell phone?

Yes, you can bring a cell phone on most National Geographic Student Travel Exploration programs; however, the first seven days of small-group summer programs are phone-free. Our travel philosophy values deep connection with your surroundings, experiences, and with your group. In a word, being fully “present.” To achieve this, our programs are structured to build positive group dynamics early, without the complexities that technology can present. Students contact their families after arrival at their program destination before setting their phone to airplane mode. Our leaders then help students lock their phones using a passcode for the next seven days. On the eighth day of the program, the group meets to determine their own guidelines for how to use phones for the remainder of the program. We find that being intentional about technology use enables our students to fully engage in the experience, build a stronger sense of community in their group, and strengthen skills in creating interpersonal relationships.

Students on National Geographic Student Travel University and Photo Workshops — MIT, Yellowstone, and Tokyo — do not lock their phones during the first seven days, and will have access to their phones throughout the trip.

Will there be group updates from National Geographic Student Travel?

Our leaders and students keep a program blog where they post updates and photos of the group’s travels once or twice each week. We encourage you and your family to bookmark the blog and check back every few days for new posts.

How do we communicate during an emergency?

For all essential health and safety communications during the summer, leaders will be in touch with National Geographic Student Travel headquarters staff who will then be in direct communication with parents at home. Our home office in Vermont can be reached 24 hours a day during the summer months, and our leaders travel with local cell phones. For absolutely essential communication, families can call our emergency line and we can reach leaders in the field.

  • Expectations

We take pride in our reputation for careful, thorough planning and attention to detail. The descriptions of our programs are based on our experiences in previous summers and our plans for this summer. It is inevitable that some things described here will not happen exactly as presented. To get the most out of the National Geographic Student Travel experience, participants need to be flexible in responding to unforeseen situations, and creative in taking advantage of unexpected opportunities. We expect National Geographic Student Travel participants to share responsibility for the success of their experience.