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FAQ: Travel &
COVID-19

For twenty years, EPI has safely delivered life-changing international travel experiences for its students, teachers, and families. Many things have changed during that time, but one remains the same: safety is our top priority.

In light of the increased risk of infection, recommendations for social distancing, and rapidly changing government restrictions on travel, EPI has canceled all of its visiting student travel programs through June 27th, 2020. For programs scheduled after that date, EPI's risk management team is continuing to monitor the situation, and we will update students, families, and teachers in anticipation of any changes. Please know that we will not travel with students without taking every necessary precaution to protect their health and well-being.

Updated: May 12, 2020
 

My course has been canceled due to COVID-19.  What happens now?

EPI is in the process of issuing Travel Vouchers for use at any of our program sites at a later date. The Travel Voucher will be valid for all tuition received minus any non-refundable direct costs already incurred by EPI. For more information about the specifics of your travel voucher, or any other questions or concerns related to course cancelations, go to www.ecologyproject.org/vouchersupport.

We are hard at work responding to questions and concerns about vouchers and cancellations. EPI staff availability is limited as we work through a high volume of inquiries with significantly reduced staff. We'll respond to all submissions in the order that they are received. Response times will vary but may take up to two weeks.

 

My child really wants to travel with EPI this summer. The course is scheduled for after June 27th, but I'm worried. Should we consider canceling?

Non-essential travel that necessitates gathering in groups larger than ten persons is not advisable at this time according to the US government and public health institutions. In an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus and protect the health and well-being of our teachers, students, and families, EPI has canceled its travel programs through June 27th.

 

At this point, it is too early to predict whether or not the outbreak of the virus will affect EPI's late summer programming. Our risk management team is monitoring the situation daily, and we will update participants about their courses in a timely fashion. Wherever possible, EPI has extended final payment deadlines to provide you with more flexibility in your decision making. Please contact your trip organizer directly for details on payment extensions.

  

What will EPI do to make travel safer for its late summer courses?

While it is too early to know if the pandemic will postpone July or August courses, EPI has nonetheless instituted a number of steps to minimize risks related to COVID-19. Our policies meet or exceed the CDC recommendations for enhanced precautions. Some examples include:

  • Increasing education and emphasis on student and instructor hygiene on course

  • ​Ensuring that hand sanitizer and soap and water are easily accessible and frequently utilized on course

  • Carrying face masks within our first aid kits in case of any illness. Masks are recommended only for individuals who have symptoms of COVID-19 (coughs, fever, etc.), not for prevention.

  • Communicating with all our vendors and partners to ensure that they take the same proactive measures regarding the hygiene and health of their respective staffs

 

If late summer courses proceed as scheduled, participants and families should know that EPI's courses take place primarily at remote field locations, where access to the general public and risk of infection is limited. In addition, we will continue to assess all aspects of our itineraries and will not hesitate to make changes to avoid locations or activities with an increased likelihood of exposure to the coronavirus. These actions could include:

  • Avoiding public gatherings and spaces

  • Opting for alternative activities in place of things such as visits to natural history exhibits or public visitor centers

  • Limiting cultural and student exchanges

 

What about the risk during air travel or during the time spent at airports?

Due to the currently enacted social distancing measures and government recommendations to avoid gatherings of more than ten persons, EPI has deemed air travel and time spent in airports an unacceptable risk for its participants at this time.

For courses scheduled to depart after June 27th, EPI's risk management team will continue to monitor regulations and risks for travelers while assessing its summer programs. EPI will keep students, teachers, and families abreast of any anticipated changes.

 

What would happen if a student or parent decides to cancel their participation in this course?

If a parent or student chooses to cancel from a course, EPI’s standard cancellation policy would apply. If travel insurance has been purchased, as recommended, contact the provider for possible coverage.

In some scenarios, it may be possible to roll over tuition dollars to a later course in order to avoid the loss of enrollment or tuition deposits.

What would happen if the school administration, district, or organizer decides to cancel the course?

EPI’s standard cancellation policy also applies here—in the case of the school, district, or teacher cancellation. In some scenarios, EPI may be able to reschedule or relocate a course experience, but families and schools would be responsible for associated costs. If travel insurance has been purchased, please contact the provider for possible coverage.

If EPI cancels July or August courses, what would happen?

EPI continues to assess the monitor the outbreak of the situation with regards to its summer travel programs:

  • If EPI chooses to cancel a course based upon the guidance of leading public health organizations, national and foreign governmental bodies, and its own internal risk assessment procedures, EPI will offer a Travel Voucher valid for travel to any program site at a later date.

  • The Travel Voucher will be valid for all tuition received minus any non-refundable direct costs already incurred by EPI. Where possible, airfare purchased by EPI will be released to the school or family for possible refund or future use. Other restrictions may apply.

 

Will federal travel restrictions impact my course?

Currently, there are international travel restrictions in place into the summer in Belize, Costa Rica, and Ecuador.  All courses traveling to these locales between now and June 27th have been postponed and are in the process of rescheduling to a later date. EPI's risk management team will continue to monitor restrictions as well as on-the-ground risks at our program sites while assessing its summer travel programs.

At this time, it’s difficult to evaluate if, where, and how possible travel warnings or restrictions could affect EPI's courses after June 27th. In some cases, EPI has been able to reschedule or relocate a course experience to alternative course locations or alternative dates, but the ability to do so is contingent upon a number of factors.

In the event travel restrictions are imposed while participants are on course, families may bear some additional costs, but EPI would continue to provide logistical and travel support until the participants arrive home.

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Ecology Project International (EPI) is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization © 2020