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Flights and Travel

Flights and Travel

When you enroll in a Rustic Pathways Student Travel program, you’ll have the option to select a chaperoned group flight arranged by Rustic Pathways (if traveling from the United States to an international destination), or you can choose to book your own airfare.

Chaperoned Group Flights

When you book a chaperoned group flight through Rustic, we handle all your flight details, including booking, trouble-shooting ticket changes, and day-of-travel flight delays / cancellations.

Our staff greet students at the airport, fly with them to their destination country (and on their return flight home), help them navigate customs and immigration and find their baggage, and stay with them for the duration of the program.

Students from the United States on chaperoned flights are still required to arrange their own travel to one of our gateway airports where their international flights depart. Those could include George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) in Houston, John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), Miami International Airport (MIA), and Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) in New Jersey, depending on your program destination.

In addition to providing parents and students peace of mind, our chaperoned group flights are really the beginning of the travel experience for many students. It’s where they meet and start to develop friendships that morph into multi-year travel buddies and even college roommates. Any applicable airfare and taxes are estimates and may fluctuate as we finalize airline contracts. Should any of these costs change, we will notify you immediately.

Most parents choose to book chaperoned flights for their children.

Self-Managed Airfare


Families also have the option of booking their child’s flights directly for an additional charge of $175 (excluding spring break programs and programs in the United States because self-managed is the only airfare option). Use airline miles or book through an agent. To be eligible for self-managed airfare, students must be at least 15 years old by the time their program departs. Read more below about airline unaccompanied minor policies.

Rustic Pathways flight option comparison chart

To ensure your child arrives to their program on time, we ask that you book a flight scheduled to land within a six-hour window, which will depend on the destination country and program, that we’ll publish on February 1, 2020. Students who arrive outside of the arrival window will incur additional charges.

Please note, because Rustic is not involved in the purchase of self-managed airfare, we will not be able to assist with any flight delays, cancellations, or additional costs associated with those changes.

If you select the self-managed airfare option, your Personal Travel Advisor will be in touch after you enroll with more info about how and when to book your child’s flights.

Beginning Travel Outside of the United States

Students beginning their program from outside the United States are responsible for booking their own airfare and confirming the travel information with Rustic Pathways. Or they may choose to join one of our chaperoned group flights departing from one of our gateway airports in the United States if that is convenient with their travel arrangements.

Please note that should you book your own airfare, these flights will not be chaperoned by Rustic Pathways staff, but we’ll clearly identify the staff member who will meet your child after they arrive in country. It’s important that you contact us for information relating to the preferred arrival and departure times for your program. International clients will be assessed a $175 self-managed airfare fee if they are not traveling on one of our chaperoned group flights. If special pick-up and drop-off arrangements outside these time frames are required, a minimum fee of $135 will be assessed each way. Please call our office at +1 800.321.4353 or +1 440.975.9691 for more information.

Traveling Within the United States

Students traveling on Rustic Pathways programs in the United States are responsible for arranging their own travel to and from their program(s) within specified arrival and departure windows.

Traveling During Spring Break

Students traveling on Rustic Pathways Spring Break programs to the Dominican Republic, Fiji, and Peru are also responsible for booking their own flights.

Unaccompanied Minor Policies

Many airlines classify children of a certain age who are traveling without their parents as “unaccompanied minors,” and have strict policies about how these children must be supervised on the airplane and in the airport. Airlines assess fees if a child is classified as an unaccompanied minor (fees and ages vary depending on the airline). Parents are responsible for making all unaccompanied minor arrangements for their child’s round-trip flights and for paying any applicable airline fees. Rustic Pathways is not responsible for assessing these fees.

Rustic Pathways provides an Unaccompanied Minor Coordinator to meet and greet students at their gate when their flight arrives at the domestic gateway airport. Parents should add their domestic flight info in their My Rustic Portal (which you’ll get access to after enrolling) so we can schedule their Unaccompanied Minor Coordinator. We’ll provide parents with the name, address, and phone number of that staff member at least one week before their child’s departure date to include their contact information on the airline paperwork. If parents want to complete their Unaccompanied Minor paperwork before we send the exact contact information, they can list “Rustic Pathways” as the pickup person until they can provide the airline with the staff member’s name.

NOTE: Parents MUST update the airline with the exact contact information of their Unaccompanied Minor Coordinator prior to the domestic flight because the airline will only release their child to the exact person listed on the paperwork.

Click on the domestic airline carrier name below to learn more about their unaccompanied minor policies for children 14 and younger. For other unaccompanied minor policies, please see the website of the domestic airline your child will be traveling with or contact airline personnel.

Alaska Airlines (12 and younger)

American Airlines (14 and younger)

Delta Airlines (14 and younger)

Frontier Airlines (14 and younger)

JetBlue Airlines (14 and younger)

Southwest Airlines (11 and younger)

Spirit Airlines (14 and younger)

United Airlines (14 and younger)

Virgin America (11 and younger)

If your child meets your chosen airline’s criteria for unaccompanied minor status, please book your domestic flights, pay the associated fees, and communicate this information to Rustic Pathways through your My Rustic Portal.
Additional Flight Information
Chaperoned Group Flights Costs

The price of chaperoned group flights includes the cost of employing Rustic Pathways Flight Leaders to accompany all students on their round trip flight as well as the cost of employing Rustic Pathways Airport Coordinators at our gateway airports to help students connect with their group and Flight Leaders before their international flights. Employing Airport Coordinators and Flight Leaders ensures that all students remain accounted for and are safely escorted out of and back into the United States before and after their program.

Rustic Pathways chaperoned group flight tickets are nonrefundable. Airline tickets that permit changes will have an associated fee incurred by the specific carrier. In most cases, seat assignments are given at check-in. If you have a specific seat or meal request, we will do our best to accomodate you.  Please contact your personal travel advisor with your request.

Late-Season Bookings

Students can enroll in most programs up to eight days before its scheduled departure date. By that time, seats on our chaperoned group flights may no longer be available. If that happens, Rustic Pathways offers parents the option of accepting higher airfares or making their own flight arrangements and paying a $175 travel coordination fee.

Please apply for your summer program as early as possible to avoid higher airfare costs. Late-season applicants must complete all of the necessary paperwork at least eight days prior to the start of their departure date.

Communicating With Your Child During Travel

high school students waiting for a flight for a summer travel program at the airport

Safe Arrival Emails

When students depart their homes and begin journeys with Rustic Pathways, we understand how eager families are to receive notice of their child’s safe arrival. Within 24 hours of reaching their program destination, parents will receive an email confirming their child’s safe arrival in country. You’ll also receive emails throughout the trip with short updates about your child’s group.

If the student is connecting multiple trips, parents may not necessarily receive a safe arrival email each time their child transfers between programs.

The Benefits of Disconnecting

Rustic restricts cell phone use on programs to select times of day, usually before breakfast or after that evening’s activities. During the day, students are allowed to use their phones as cameras, but will be asked to keep them put away during meals, program activities, community service, and discussions.

(Because there is a wide variety of cellular service and / or Wi-Fi on our programs, you’ll receive clearer expectations about connectivity as your departure nears.)

To help prepare students and their parents for these times of limited connectivity, we ask that they discuss the importance of disconnecting before their program. Doing so will allow students to really engage with their program and get the most from their travel experience.

Read more:
Why You Should Disconnect When Traveling Abroad
What Happened When I Put Down my Cellphone During my Rustic Trip
An Open Letter to Parents About Cell Phones