7 Steps to Ensure Student Safety When Traveling
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7 Steps to Ensure Student Safety When Traveling

Parents are naturally concerned about their child’s well-being during student travel programs. One of the first questions may be – what destinations are safe places to travel to right now? Beyond that, there are frequently questions about specific measures taken to handle medical needs and basic student safety.

In the last several months, Rustic Pathways has continuously been in contact with its employees and partners in each country to ensure the programs offered are a safe bet this coming summer. On top of that, we have many safety protocols in place based on decades of experience. Here are some of the ways we strive to keep students safe during their travels.

1. Organizing Program Logistics

Often when we travel with family and friends, we’ll research a destination and ask for advice, but we really don’t know what we are getting into until we get there. That is certainly not the case with our programs.

They’re held in locations where we’ve been organizing trips for years and have strong community partners. This alone reduces the chances of any surprise problems, but extensive planning still is completed for each program.

This preparation includes visits to the itinerary sites, along with the vetting of vendors and facilities used during the trips. All aspects of the programs are reviewed, ranging from transportation and lodging to activity operators and service project sites.

We ensure students have clean water to drink, healthy food to eat, and safe places to sleep. As a bonus, the teens always travel in groups, so there aren’t concerns about solo travel.

 2. Staffing the Best Program Leaders

The program leaders are the staff members who will interact with the students the most. They facilitate the activities, foster group dynamics, and are a go-to resource for the students if any needs arise.

All of Rustic’s international programs have at least one program leader from the country itself. They are matched to their programs based on their areas of expertise. For example, Rustic Pathways has a number of biologists on staff who run programs on conservation like Wild Galapagos: Eco-Service in Ecuador.

Many leaders also have a background in education, particularly in experiential, hands-on learning. Leaders often have a lot of travel experience as well, giving the flexibility needed to handle any problems thrown their way.

On the healthcare front, our program leaders have Wilderness First Aid and CPR certification. They also receive more than 60-hours of specialized training that allows them to support students during their travels. Each leader also goes through an official background check.

3. Gathering Medical Information

One of the most important steps to keep students safe is the proper gathering of medical information. Parents are asked to provide details about medications or health measures that may be needed for a student’s healthcare. This includes any mental health concerns. In addition, Rustic Pathways also requests Covid vaccination information. These details are crucial components in the efforts to keep students safe.

In addition to filling out forms, parents are welcome to discuss any particular medical concerns with the staff before a trip.

4. Handling Specific Needs

If a student has a challenge like a food allergy or a medical limitation, Rustic has procedures in place to handle these issues.

For food allergies and restrictions, menus can be altered to handle most major allergens, such as peanuts, tree nuts, milk, wheat, and soy. We also accommodate special dietary needs, such as gluten-free diets. Students with a history of anaphylaxis should bring epinephrine pens and go over safety protocols with us before their program.

Food allergies and restrictions can be accommodated by working with Rustic’s staff.

Likewise, we are able to accommodate most medical limitations. Therefore, it is uncommon for a student to be unable to do a program or activity.

5. Encouraging Travel Insurance

Travel insurance is really important if medical needs do arise. It provides coverage for medical expenses and can even help with medical records. Therefore, parents are strongly encouraged to have this insurance for their teens.

6. Dealing with Illness, Injuries and Emergencies

The vast majority of medical problems that occur during programs are minor. They may include abrasions, twisted ankles, headaches, or an upset stomach. The program leaders can address these concerns and evaluate if more care is needed, in partnership with the parents. After getting the proper care, students are usually able to safely get back to participating in their programs in no time.

If a visit to a clinic or hospital is warranted, Rustic Pathways knows all the best medical facilities in the regions where the programs are held. This will guide these decisions.

In addition, we have a partnership with a leading organization that provides expertise on medical care overseas and in the worst case scenario can help with medical evacuation. After each program, we also regularly evaluate our safety measures and make any adjustments necessary.

One special consideration this summer is Covid. If a student gets Covid while traveling, we will handle it on a case-by-case basis since laws vary by country. Whatever the scenario, we’ll ensure your child is comfortable and well-cared for.

Here is a video with some details about Covid protocols.

7. Keeping the Lines of Communication Open

Generally during a trip, no news is good news. We don’t want teens to spend their program on their phones or program leaders to be distracted by their phones when they should be attending to student needs. Therefore, parents may not hear much during the trip.

However, if something goes wrong, we will certainly be in touch to work in partnership on a solution. Keeping students safe is our number one priority. Parents can be confident that the Rustic staff has successfully navigated many challenges over the decades and is dedicated to helping students thrive.

If you have any questions about student safety, please feel free to contact us.

About the Author

Mary Rogelstad

Lead Editor

Mary is the Lead Editor at Rustic Pathways. She has been a writer and editor for nearly 20 years. Prior to covering student travel, Mary created content for the music education company J.W. Pepper & Son. She also was a writer and producer at CNN International and a communications director for a social service agency and a K-12 private school.