Frequently Asked Questions

Below you’ll find the most frequently asked questions about Unschool Adventures. Please contact us with any questions that aren’t answered below.

Australia 2010 – photo by Laura Cox

General FAQs

What is the Unschool Adventures safety record?

The primary mission of every Unschool Adventures trip is to keep our participants safe, and we have a perfect safety record. No participant on a Unschool Adventures trip has ever sustained a serious injury, encountered a life-threatening situation, or been hospitalized (whether in the USA and abroad). We take pride in our safety record and intend to maintain it for the lifetime of our organization.

How is Unschool Adventures different from other organized tour/camp programs?

Unschool Adventures trips offer more freedom and responsibility to participants than a typical organized trip, tour, or camp. Our participants enjoy the opportunity to explore cities on their own, determine their daily itineraries, participate in preparing meals, and stay up late. While we provide the means necessary for participants to get in touch with staff at all times during a trip, we do not provide 24-hour adult supervision of participants. An Unschool Adventures participant is largely responsible for his or her own well-being and is expected to act as a self-responsible young adult. Our goal is to minimize the number of arbitrary behavior restrictions in order to maximize the experience for our mature, self-directed participants.

What is the priority application deadline?

This is the date that we make a go / no-go decision about running a trip based on current applicant numbers. It’s also when we typically begin phone interviews. Apply before this date for your best chance of enrolling!

How do I sign up for a trip? What are the steps?
  • Begin by reading the trip page, About Unschool Adventures, and this FAQ.
  • Fill out and submit the online application, found on the Apply page.
  • After submitting the application, pay the $30 non-refundable application fee with any major credit card.
  • You’ll immediately receive a confirmation of your application, and within a few days you’ll get an e-mail from Unschool Adventures telling you what to expect next.
  • When it’s time for interviews, we’ll set up a date and time do a 20- to 30-minute Skype interview. Here are some interview tips.
  • After the interview, we’ll make you an offer of enrollment via e-mail (or explain why we didn’t). The offer will include all necessary paperwork, health form, and payment instructions.
  • To secure your spot on the trip, return the signed paperwork to our office and submit the security deposit or entire trip balance.
  • The remainder of the trip fee is typically due 3-4 months prior to trip departure.
How do Unschool Adventures prices compare to other programs?

Our trips are very competitively priced. We do not offer scholarships or discounts, opting instead to keep our program fees as low as possible for all applicants.

How have previous participants and families raised money for a trip?

Most participants pay for their trips with a combination of fund-raising and family contribution. Previous fund-raising tactics have included: babysitting, house cleaning, regular jobs, selling popsicles at conferences, freelance work, matched-contribution fund-raising drives, donations from extended family, and taking “loans” against future birthdays/holidays.

Read our fundraising page for more money-making ideas.

What is the refund policy?

For most trips, all payments are refundable until 3-4 months prior to the trip departure, minus the non-refundable security deposit. To protect your investment, please consider purchasing tuition insurance designed for camps & travel programs.

What is the Unschool Adventures policy on drugs, alcohol, and tobacco?

We have a zero-tolerance policy on abuse of illegal drugs (including non-prescribed medications) and alcohol. Violating this policy is grounds for immediate dismissal. Smoking and tobacco products are not allowed, even for participants of legal age. (The Argentina Semester has a separate alcohol policy.)

What is the Unschool Adventures behavior policy?

Unschool Adventures attracts some of the nicest, sweetest, and most intelligent young adults on earth, so we rarely encounter “behavior issues.” That being said, all UA participants agree to a policy of respecting each other, respecting property, and behaving safely. Participant relationships are allowed but sexual activity is not (The Argentina Semester has a separate policy). Violating these agreements offer grounds for dismissal from a program.

Regarding language, we do not censor participant swearing as long as it is used in the spirit of friendly conversation, not hate or disrespect.

Is Unschool Adventures LGBTQ-friendly?

Yes, we have had many LGBTQ participants on our trips in the past. We mirror the greater unschooling community’s proactive acceptable of all young people regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender presentation.

Can Unschool Adventures accommodate my child’s asthma, allergies, diabetes, or diagnosed psychological condition?

Maybe! We’ve accommodated participants with each of these conditions before. Please make sure to note your condition in the online application.

Does Unschool Adventures have a religious affiliation?

No! We are unaffiliated and welcoming of all beliefs and non-beliefs. We encourage reasoned and courteous discussion about religion and spirituality.

FAQs for Trips Within the United States

What is the arrival and departure procedure?

Participants may arrive/depart via personal vehicle or flight. We ask that all participants fly into the airport designated on the trip webpage. An Unschool Adventures staff member or representative greets participants at the airport and facilitates their transportation to the program site. If you would like to arrange an alternative form of transport (train, bus, etc.), please contact the office before enrolling.

Can I send my child with an Unaccompanied Minor service?

We can sometimes accommodate Unaccompanied Minor arrivals, but we can rarely accommodate Unaccompanied Minor departures (because they require that a staff member accompany the participant to the gate and wait until their flight leaves; we typically do not have the staffing power.) Please contact the office before enrolling a participant that will require an U.M. service.

How much unsupervised time is there?

While at least one trip leader is always available at the program site, Unschool Adventures participants have the freedom to explore the local area without staff supervision. For this reason we always choose very safe domestic trip destinations. We ask participants to always carry their cell phone (with trip leaders’ numbers programmed into it) in case of emergency.

What are the accommodations like?

Accommodations vary by trip and are described on each trip’s specific webpage. Sometimes we rent a youth hostel which offers each participant a bunk bed and small storage space. Bathrooms are sometimes shared by all genders, with private areas always available for changing clothes.

How can I keep in touch with my child during the trip?

Via cell phone and e-mail. Every domestic trip happens in a location with cell phone service and internet access (unless otherwise noted on the trip webpage).

What kind of food is served? Can you accommodate my child’s special dietary needs?

Participants on Unschool Adventures trips agree: We serve excellent food. Our staff offer a wide variety of delicious and nutritious foods for each meal, aiming to strike a balance between participant requests, nutrition content, and our food budget. Typical Unschool Adventures dinners include burritos, pizza, chili, and pasta. Sometimes we adventure into the land of sushi, Indian curry, and other ethnic dishes. Depending on the specific trip, some meals are prepared by staff or work-traders while other meals are do-it-yourself. Consult the specific trip webpage for details.

Vegetarians and omnivores fare best on our trips. Dairy-free and vegan participants have many options, but we cannot guarantee that alternative products (like dairy-free cheeses) will be available due to their cost. Gluten-free participants can also be accommodated, but we again cannot guarantee a wide variety of speciality products; be prepared to choose from a more limited selection of foods (but always enough to fill your belly!). Also, please note we are not equipped to provide 100% gluten-free (a.k.a. celiac) dishes.

Do participants help with cooking, dishes, and cleaning?

Yes, yes, and yes!

What happens if my child gets sick?

In the case of serious illness, we arrange transport to the nearest hospital and call parents immediately to notify and ask for their desired course of action. A trip leader will accompany the participants to the hospital. In the case of routine illness (e.g. cold, flu, stomach illness), trip leaders support participants with basic health advice and over-the-counter medications approved on their health form.

Unschool Adventures requires all participants to carry health insurance. This can either be provided through family insurance or purchasing a supplementary travel insurance policy.

FAQs for International Trips

How does Unschool Adventures keep participants safe abroad?

We keep group members safe through a combination of trained leaders, smart itineraries, and common sense rules.

1. Each UA trip has two leaders, each of whom holds an active Wilderness First Responder certification. These levels of certification are excessive for the urban destinations that we visit, but we believe that excessive safety training is the best way to ensure that minor situations present no problems. We sometimes also have a Volunteer Trip Assistant Leader with Wilderness First Aid certification.

2. We design itineraries for international UA trip to get our North American teens “out of the box” but never into an area of known political instability, desperate poverty, or other significant threat to Western travelers. Our sources for safety ratings include the U.S. Department of State, guidebooks, travelers’ blogs, and on-the-ground contacts.

3. At the beginning of each trip we do a participant orientation in which we present our common sense safety rules. Some of these rules include the “rule of 3″, whereby participants must stay in groups of 3 or larger when exploring cities without staff, and the “check in” rule, whereby they must contact a trip leader if they will be late or changing their day’s itinerary. As a general rule, participants must inform a trip leader of their planned destinations during unsupervised time. Each trip leader carries a cell phone during an international trip, accessible by both parents and participants (barring the unforeseeable out-of-service moments).

How much supervised and unsupervised time is there on international trips?

While a majority of trip time is spent in the presence of the trip leaders, participants often enjoy chunks of time (up to 8 hours) without staff supervision, such as an unstructured afternoon or free day in a city. Participants always stay at the same nighttime residence as staff or in a UA-approved residence, such as a homestay.

Are international youth hostels safe for North American teenagers?

U.A. groups sometimes stay in youth hostels which are safe and appropriate for our groups. The worst we’ll encounter is a few drunk people. The diversity and friendliness of hostel travelers far outweigh whatever minimal concerns they present. And because we have such a large group, we typically get our own rooms (participants never stay in rooms with strangers).

How can I keep in touch during the trip?

The internet has pervaded the world, so keeping in touch via e-mail or Skype chat is almost never an issue. Parents may reasonably expect to hear from participants once or twice a week (though sometimes the participants are having too much fun to call home…sorry mom). participants may also opt to bring an international cell phone, purchase an inexpensive SIM card in the destination country, and have their own international phone number. Trip leaders carry cell phones with international phone numbers that parents may call in an emergency.

What kind of food can I expect?

When our group cooks for ourselves, you can expect big, diverse dinners, with meat, veg, and gluten-free options. When participants stay at homestays or eat out, the answer depends on the destination country. Some cultures are carb-heavy, or meat-heavy, or spicy, etc. Keep an open mind (and extra $ for personal snacks) and you’ll do fine.

Can you accommodate special dietary restrictions?

Omnivores and vegetarians will fare well on an Unschool Adventures trip. Vegans, gluten-free, and others with special dietary restrictions may face serious challenges in most countries and should be prepared to eat simple, repetitive meals.

Do participants help with cooking, dishes, and occasional cleaning?

Yes, yes, and yes! We’re all in this together.

What happens if my child gets sick overseas?

Unschool Adventures requires all participants to carry health insurance that covers them internationally. This can either be provided through a normal family policy or purchasing a supplementary travel insurance policy.

In the case of serious illness, we arrange transport to the nearest hospital and call parents immediately to notify and ask for their desired course of action. A trip leader will accompany the participants to the hospital. In the case of routine illness (e.g. cold, flu, stomach illness), trip leaders support participants with basic health advice and over-the-counter medications approved on their health form.

How much do Unschool Adventures international trips cost?

Each trip is uniquely priced by factors including: duration, cost of living, planned activities, accommodations, and group size.

Please note that international airfare is NOT included in trip pricing. Due to the potentially volatile nature of airfare, visas, and associated taxes & fees, we do not include airfare in our program fees and ask families to purchase it separately. Our travel agency, Global Vision Travel, works with flight consolidators to find us excellent international group fares.

Additional costs to factor in the equation include: domestic airfare to the trip meeting point, spending money, international visa or entry fees, and traveler’s insurance. These are noted on the trip program page.

How awesome is an Unschool Adventures trip, and how long will I remember it?

Incredibly, and forever!