Last updated: March 19, 2020
We continue to monitor the coronavirus with the support of our medical and risk management partners.
Here are some answers to questions we are frequently hearing from customers:
Will my tour, event, or program be cancelled?
We are proactively working with Program Leaders to postpone most programs through May 10. We are working with Program Leaders to communicate these changes directly, as we are handling each on a case-by-case basis. We are committed to student safety and will not take anyone to a location that is not deemed safe for travel. As new information becomes available, we will not hesitate to make changes, if needed.
We will continue to work on programs with most imminent departure dates first.
I am worried about traveling later this year. What should I do?
Our recommendation is to see how the situation develops before making any decisions.
To help our travelers, we are changing the deadlines associated with our cancellation policies. If you are worried about the date that a new cancellation penalty will apply, please know we have extended these deadlines. This allows you to wait until closer to the time of your travel to make a decision. The cancellation window will remain frozen until at least May 10.
I am having a difficult time reaching customer service. What do I do?
We apologize we aren’t able to offer prompt customer service. As you might expect, our phone lines and inboxes are experiencing an unprecedented level of inquiries regarding the coronavirus situation. We are currently working to expand our customer service team, while also working to support the other parts of our business that are essential during this challenging time. Please know that we are doing everything we can to provide the best service possible. Here are some suggestions that will help us help you:
- Reach out regarding urgent needs. If your situation is not urgent, we recommend contacting our customer support team at a later time when we can better assist you. As of February 28, we paused the deadlines associated with cancellation penalties to be sure that you don’t need to worry about an increased fee associated with a deadline passing at this time.
- Group or individual question? Because our work is highly customized to each group, we work through the teacher or school associated with each program on high-level decisions like a new date for travel. If your questions are related to a group decision, we recommend waiting to hear from your Program Leader, who will work with our team to confirm and share with you.
- Communicate via one channel. If possible,we recommend using one channel of communication to reach us, so that we can make sure to address your needs most effectively. If we cannot respond with full answers promptly, we will communicate a timeframe within which we plan to respond.
Why can’t I get a full cash refund?
In these challenging circumstances, we have been able to work with our vendor partners to reschedule trips. To help customers who cannot join the scheduled program on the new date, we are offering transferable vouchers. The vouchers are transferable to allow additional flexibility to sell or transfer them, or to use them for other types of programs offered by WorldStrides and our family of brands.
Group travel programs require a significant amount of upfront planning and financial investment to secure the best trip experiences for our travelers at the best price and that’s why we collect money far in advance. Our standard refund policy is based on the nature of our unrecoverable investment when a trip needs to be rescheduled.
How can my voucher or credit be transferred?
Transferable credits are a flexible option that we are providing when the original date of travel has to be changed. These credits provide families with several flexible options that can be used through December 31, 2022. The value of the credit/voucher can either be applied to the rescheduled trip or to any other educational travel or experiential learning program offered by WorldStrides. Because they are transferable, they can be given or sold to any person in your family or in your school district for future travel or participation on any WorldStrides program. When we can’t offer a cash refund, this is a way for us to provide you – or someone you designate in your school – a chance to enjoy other experiences in our family of brands. Explore here on the website to learn about the full range of our product offerings where these vouchers can be applied.
If the tour or event I’m signed up for changes, what would that look like?
Though the destinations or timing of your trip or event would be different, you can expect the same incredible experienced staff, engaging educational activities, and the support of our global team for your group. We will determine a tour dates and location, in collaboration with your Program Leader, and each decision will be unique to your group.
How are you making decisions about where to support travel or events in the near future?
We are actively monitoring the impact that the coronavirus is having on the communities in which we operate programs as well as the CDC’s guidance for travel, events, and schools. This includes continuous communication with our many partners around the world about closures that impact our ability to deliver culturally-rich programs. Where appropriate, we’re also speaking with local health officials who can help offer additional perspectives and guidelines that we can follow to help make our future programs as safe as possible. In nearly all of our program locations, we have local staff who provide additional information for consideration by our Health & Safety Team. We are working with them to adjust their work schedules and habits for their safety, and we value their input on the situation where they live.
What will you be doing to keep students safe on tour?
For programs in process and when our tours and events resume, we are working to refine some of our procedures to prevent the spread of germs, and also to be ready for any emergencies.
- We have implemented additional training for our staff to encourage best hygiene practices to prevent the virus. We’ve worked with our Medical Director and Doctors on Call partners from George Washington University Department of Emergency Medicine to develop clear guidelines for our staff on what to do if a student feels ill and the steps that should be taken if a student is exhibiting symptoms associated with coronavirus.
- We’ve been in touch with motorcoach and hotel partners, who are educating their staff about additional cleaning to prevent the spread of germs. In addition, we have asked them to have extra supplies of hand sanitizer available for our travelers to use during their trip. We are also closely following news from cities and other local officials about efforts to improve cleanliness in many of the destinations where we travel.
- In consultation with our Medical Director, Dr. Neal Sikka, who leads our Doctors on Call program from the George Washington University Department of Emergency Medicine, we’ve revised our health and safety protocols, outlining how to immediately engage our resources if coronavirus is suspected. This includes developing specific plans for how we work with Doctors on Call in this scenario, and outlining how to engage local health departments to determine if other steps are necessary.
What if a student gets sick while traveling?
Students (and adults too) do sometimes fall ill while traveling, which is why we have invested in our Doctors on Call partnership with the George Washington University Department of Emergency Medicine. In the event that a student becomes sick, we will follow our best practices to allow the student to rest, and avoid spreading germs, and, where appropriate, seek additional guidance or care from our Doctors on Call.
In response to the coronavirus (COVID-19), we have developed additional guidance and protocols in consultation with Dr. Neal Sikka, who leads our Doctors on Call program at the George Washington University Department of Emergency Medicine. He and his team will work with our team to evaluate each sickness and determine if the individual has been exposed to COVID-19. Where appropriate, we will immediately engage local health authorities.
In the unlikely event that a traveling group is quarantined, WorldStrides is committed to supporting all travelers until their safe return home, securing lodging, transportation and meals and helping to facilitate flight changes, as well as covering any financial costs associated with these items.
Dr. Sikka advises that if a person is feeling ill, it is essential not to wait until an individual is very sick to seek advice and help. COVID-19 is an influenza-like illness. Like the flu, most people who get COVID-19 will only need rest and over the counter medications to recover fully. However, immediate care helps to avoid the unlikely situation that a person might become very sick and need to go to a clinic or hospital to get better.
What can I do to stay healthy?
To keep yourself and others safe and healthy:
- Comply with special instructions issued by local officials.
- Adhere to known, effective best practices to minimize your chance of catching respiratory infections:
- Do not touch any part of your face without first washing your hands.
- Avoid contact with persons who are already ill.
- Avoid unnecessary touching of other persons (e.g. shaking hands in greeting) and limit touching publicly-shared surfaces, where possible.
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Carry hand sanitizer (60-95% alcohol) and use it for situations where hand washing might not be possible.
- When you cough or sneeze, cover your mouth with a tissue or in your elbow.
Due to the volume of inquiries at this time, we have set-up a new toll-free phone number. For inquiries related to COVID-19 and its impact on your program, please call 888-963-8324. If calling from Mexico, please call 52- 800-266-5211.