Why Chaperoned Flights Are Fantastic for Students (and Parents!)
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Why Chaperoned Flights Are Fantastic for Students (and Parents!)

This weekend I got a glimpse into how challenging it can be to help your child navigate through the current world of airline travel. In one day, I received more than 25 emails from the airline about flight delays and gate changes. My college daughter is older than the average Rustic Pathways student.

At age 19, she has traveled alone on airlines several times, so it wouldn’t seem like flight problems caused by bad weather would be too hard to handle. But then I saw the online systems were not working well. When I tried to call the airline while she dealt with Uber, I got this message:

“The estimated wait time for a return call is eight hours.”

We banked on human interaction to help, even though my daughter doesn’t like asking for assistance. After standing in line, she told an airline employee she needed a change in her flight itinerary so she didn’t miss her connection. The overwhelmed worker told her he could not help her and that there supposedly were no flight options for three days. For some reason, she did not want to put her mother on speaker phone to ask more questions.🤷

My daughter then tried standing in line at an unmanned desk at the gate for her first flight. Like everyone else, her wish was that someone would show up who may be able to help.

Luckily through ongoing efforts over a period of hours, we managed to get her booked on a later flight, and she got home. It was a happy ending to a long day.

Generally, there’s no question that taking a trip is joyful, but dealing with flight challenges like this sometimes is not. Chaperoned flights take this burden off parents, giving the peace of mind that comes from knowing that any flight problems that arise will be handled by Rustic Pathways. And for students, hanging out with other teens while flying is much more fun than searching around an airport for help.

Rustic Pathways students gather at the airport.

How It Works

Parents have until April 1 to lock in a guaranteed chaperoned flight. After that, the option will be subject to availability. Information can be found on  the flights page. Rustic Pathways handles the booking process and any travel challenges that arise, along with having an adult chaperone on each flight.

The prices for a chaperoned flight have been updated based on current flight costs. Details for each nation can be found on the flights page by selecting the desired link in the country menu, which is located on the right on a computer screen or at the bottom on mobile.

Each chaperoned flight begins at a gateway airport in the United States. Rustic Pathways will have staff at this airport who will be able to text and call your child and vice versa. You’ll receive the name and contact info for your Rustic Pathways chaperone in the days shortly before your travel begins. In the airport, the leaders and students will all be wearing Rustic Pathways t-shirts as well to assist the group members in finding each other.

Parent Dee Dee Olsen said this process worked well for her family. She had been nervous about sending her 15-year-old son on a Rustic Pathways trip to Tanzania, but then she got a glimpse of what the experience would be like for her son.

“Our minds were put at ease the moment we arrived at the airport in New York,” Olsen said. “It was an instantaneously welcoming community that quickly embraced him. We were greeted by his friendly chaperone, and we knew he would be fine.”

Advantages for Students

For students, the chaperoned flight helps them ease into their trip. They get to meet group members earlier and begin to make friends.

Alumna Sarah Helmers says she was really anxious about her trip with Rustic Pathways to Costa Rica before she got to the airport. She had never traveled without her family and wasn’t sure how it would unfold. Then she found that she clicked with other students from the start.

“As soon as I arrived at the airport I felt how special Rustic Pathways truly is. I was surrounded by kind, adventurous, and unique people who shared similar passions and ideas about the world. The bond I made with the people on my trip in the nine days we were there was insane,” Helmers said.

Katie had a similar experience when she traveled to Tanzania. Her concerns and those of her parents were eased when they arrived at the airport.

“Being only 14 years old, my parents were very hesitant to let their teenage daughter go without them. But as soon as I stepped into the JFK airport, all my worries went away. While everyone was different from each other, we all had this unbreakable connection,” Katie said.

On the chaperoned flight, some students also figure out who they want to room with during the program. That can lead to something even more significant – lasting friendships. Alumna Alison Sawyer is among the students who met a lifelong friend during her chaperoned flight.

At the JFK airport she met Mackenzie on their way to the Dominican Republic. During the flight, they realized they only lived 20 minutes away from each other at home. After their Rustic Pathways trip they ended up going to the same college and becoming roommates.

“The trip was the start of our crazy adventurous and close knit friendship,” Sawyer said. “We have traveled to multiple countries and states together and have gone on countless road trips across the states… Our adventures and memories together are truly hilarious, amazing, once in a lifetime, and absolutely unforgettable.”

For more information on our chaperoned flights, please visit our flights page.

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.