Summer officially begins at Adventure Treks in just four months, and the first students of 2017 will be landing at their arrival airports a few short weeks later. In order to make planning your student’s transportation a little easier, here are a few lessons we’ve learned over the years.
*These suggestions are based merely on our experiences on flying more than 1,500 students in the last several years.
Choosing airlines and unaccompanied minors
Simply put, some airlines, like Southwest and Alaska Airlines, are easier to navigate when booking tickets for teenagers under 18. For example, students 12 and older can fly alone on Southwest and Alaska, meaning you do not need to purchase the extra unaccompanied minor (UM) service (which can cost upwards of $150 each way) which will assign an airline attendant to accompany your child during the flight. (However, you do still have the option for your child to fly as a UM with either airline.)
Delta has great customer service when dealing with UMs and travel complications. They do require UM service for students 14 and younger, and it usually costs about $150 each way, but on a rough travel day (e.g., with delays due to weather, etc.), we’ve found that they are the most helpful in helping students get from point A to point B. If flights are delayed and connections will be missed, they’ve often already re-booked a student on the next best flight before we’ve reached a human on their customer service phone number (but that also happens relatively quickly, too).
Now onto our least favorite: Last year, United quietly changed its UM policy mid-winter, upping its age requirement from 15 to 16, and restricting those under 16 to nonstop flights only. We had several families who had to pay for new plane tickets last-minute due to this policy change, costing thousands of dollars. We encourage families to look at other airlines first, and only choose United if necessary or if your student is older than 16.
Choosing early flights and connections
It may sound nerve-wracking, but remember—it’s OK to book flights with connections! In fact, most of our students will fly with at least one connection during their journey to or from Adventure Treks. However, look closely at connection times before purchasing a ticket. We highly recommend at least an hour between flights, as it is our experience that anything less can result in travel complications. Last summer, the students who most often missed their second flight leg were those with connection times of about 30 minutes.
For our east coast students, please book the first flight of the day. We know it will mean an early morning for you and your child, but it offers much more breathing room in case of delays, missed connections, bad weather, cancelled flights, etc.
Adventure Treks is there to help!
Flying to and from Adventure Treks sometimes causes more stress for parents than students! Adventure Treks is with you every step of the way.
- We have the confirmation code of every student’s flight so that we can quickly and easily confirm and/or note any changes in flight details.
- We check flights three to four days before opening and closing days, again the day before, and again the morning of.
- We are in the office by 7 a.m. on airport days, even if it’s a weekend, for support.
- On opening days, our instructors and regional directors arrive at the airport early. We (both the office staff and instructors/directors) track all flights—from before the first student takes off at his or her home airport to when the last student lands at his or her destination airport.
- We pay close attention to weather all over the U.S., and we try to get ahead of any potential complications as much as possible. It is not uncommon for one of us to call a parent with information regarding a flight delay, possible missed connection, etc., and a plan B (or C!) before the parent is aware of that change.
Someone from our office is always on call (24 hours a day, 7 days a week) during the summer. If a student experiences a significant travel delay, we’re available to help, even if it’s 3 a.m. We also ask for our students’ cell phone numbers so we can be in direct contact with them while they are traveling. Please stress to your child the importance of turning their cell phones on when they land at every airport, and to answer any calls or text messages from strange phone numbers, as it is likely a staff member. Also, it’s a good idea to plug our office phone number (828-698-0399) into your child’s phone.
A few tips for your child
It’s a good idea to sit down with your child and look over a map of the airport your child will be flying into; this gives your child a head-start on navigating the terminal. If your child feels lost at any point inside the airport, tell him/her to look for a mom with kids—she will always stop and help your child! Here’s more helpful information on airport days, and we suggest watching this video for both you and your child:
Read all the paperwork
Before booking airline tickets, read your student’s Travel Information document, which you’ll find in the “forms and documents” section of your CampInTouch account. You’ll find all the details you’ll need to book your student’s tickets, along with other valuable travel information, including a description of how the unaccompanied minor program works. A note to new families: feel free to browse tickets, but please don’t purchase anything until your student has been officially accepted.
We treat all of our students as if they are our own kids. If you have any questions or concerns, or just need to chat through the process, please give us a call at 828-698-0399. We’re always here to help and make the travel process as smooth as possible.