International Flight Information

This information is for students participating in a global learning program. Students participating in our Environmental Leadership Academy at Dartmouth College should review the information on that page of our website or in their MySummer account for travel specifics.

Sustainable Summer designates a recommended international group flight, which students are encouraged to take. This flight typically departs from a major international airport. Most students will fly from their local airport and make a connection to our international group flight. The prospect of changing planes and locating the rest of the group can cause some anxiety for both participants and parents, but as long as ample connection time is allocated, there is very little reason for concern. All students are provided with very clear instructions for how to meet up with the group and t-shirts are mailed to students, to be worn on travel day, to help make identification easier.

It’s important to note four things about our group flights:

  1. Not all flights have an adult chaperone/flight escort
  2. With few exceptions, Sustainable Summer does not purchase flights for you*
  3. Do not make any flight reservations until explicitly directed by Sustainable Summer
  4. Students NOT traveling on our designated group flight will be assessed a $35 fee if they arrive on a flight other than our specified group flight and/or a $35 fee for departing on a non-group flight ($70 total). Students must verify BEFORE BOOKING all non-group flight travel itineraries

* Internal flights, for instance flights from mainland Ecuador to the Galapagos on our Galapagos programs, are purchased by Sustainable Summer and invoiced to families. Charter flights are also booked directly by Sustainable Summer.

Group Flights FAQ

In general, we have an adult escort only on the first program of the summer in any particular destination. Once we have our staff in country, they’re likely to stay there until the end of the summer. There are some exceptions, so check the “flight” section on our website of your program of interest to see if the group flight is escorted or unescorted.

The short answer is that doing so drives up program tuition (since we have to pay for an additional round trip staff flight) and unnecessarily creates carbon emissions (air travel is a major contributor). We’ve also asked parents of our alumni about the importance of chaperoned/escorted flights, and only 5% said that they would be uncomfortable sending their teenager on an unchaperoned international flight. We know that not all prospective families are going to feel the same way, but we’ll offer this as an additional rationale: If you have any doubts about your son or daughter’s ability to successfully manage their own international air travel, which is a highly controlled and structured environment, than they probably don’t belong on our program.

We designate a recommended flight for three reasons: First, it streamlines our ground operations if all students arrive at the same time, which means less waiting and hassle for both our staff and the program participants. Second, it takes some of the guess work out of the reservation process for families. We’ve selected a particular flight for a reason, so, 9 times out of 10, it’s going to be the best option for most travelers. Finally, students are given an opportunity early in the program to work together and be responsible for each other. At the airport, some of the more experienced travelers will often step into leadership roles; less experienced travelers will benefit from traveling as part of a group.

Nope. If, for whatever reason, you would prefer a different flight than the one we’ve designated, you’re welcome to go your own way, provided: 1) You confirm your itinerary with us before booking, and 2) You acknowledge that you will be assessed a $35 fee (one-way) for deviating. This modest fee helps offset both administrative and in-country costs associated with deviation.

Students, whether arriving on our group flight or independently, will be met at the international arrivals area by our staff. Very detailed travel and booking instructions will be provided to all participants upon enrollment.

We choose flight routes and departure times based on the following criteria: 1) Cost 2) Our ground itinerary 3) Carrier network and flight schedule 4) Carrier reputation. Please understand that the flight we’ve chosen may not be the ideal option for your family based on your preferred carrier, your location in the US, or your schedule. We have students from all over the US and it is impossible to choose a flight that is going to be ideal for every single participant, so we try to choose a flight that is going to be be the best option for the greatest number of people while minimizing the possibility that our designated flight is simply not workable for any one person.

We select a group flight once we have established dates for a particular program, which is done usually in September. In most cases, we won’t change the designated flight, and we definitely won’t make any changes once we’re 120 days or less away from travel. However, there are two reasons we might and this is precisely why families should not book a flight until they get the go ahead from our office to do so. Reason 1: Carriers change their flight schedules around. That flight we thought would work great in September might not look so ideal come January when the carrier decides to reshuffle their summer schedules. Reason 2: We like to watch fares and try to get our families the best deal possible. It doesn’t happen that often in most of the markets we operate, but every now and then a great deal will come along and we’ll switch our group flight to capture the savings for our families. Once we hit 120 days from departure, we won’t make any changes to the flight itinerary even if a better option comes along. Generally speaking, international airfares are at their lowest between about 120 and 30 days from departure. During peak travel times, like the summer, it’s better to book between 120 and 90 days from departure, so we typically recommend that families secure their airfare during that window. Enrolled families will get notifications from us to do so we’ve finalized the group flight.

Families are responsible for making their own travel arrangements, with few exceptions. Do not book airfare until explicitly directed to do so by Sustainable Summer. You can book using your preferred method: direct on the airlines website, an OTA (online travel agency, like Kayak or Expedia), or a good, old-fashioned travel agent. You will receive very explicit information about how to book your flights to minimize the already very low chances of booking the wrong flight. Of course, many parents take responsibility for booking flights, but we think it’s great to give students as much ownership of their experience as possible and we know that they are very capable of handling the responsibility. Federal law requires that airlines have a 24-hour hold or refund period, so if you’re at all concerned about making a mistake while booking, you can forward your flight information to our office and we’ll verify its correctness. Once you’ve made your flight arrangements, add the record locator (on your booking confirmation email, usually alphanumeric and 6-digits in length) to your MySummer account and that’s it.

If you’re not traveling on our designated international group flight, you’ll need to get authorization on your preferred travel plans prior to booking unless your outbound flight arrives less than 60 minutes prior to the scheduled arrival time of our group flight or your return flight departs less than 60 minutes after the scheduled departure time of our group flight. Unless those circumstances apply, please confirm with our office before booking. Once booked, you can share the details of your itinerary in your MySummer account.

No. We’ve gone this route in the past (pre-purchasing a block of seats on our group flight) and it’s just not a very good option any more, all things considered. Why? We won’t go into all the details, but here are a few: First, airlines charge more for group block seats. Second, most families will also need a connecting flight. AA previously allowed for reasonably priced “add-on” domestic connections, but they ended that policy in 2014, and there are similar issues with other carriers, so that the only way to offer a group block is to effectively require that families purchase two separate tickets (the international group blocked flight) and a domestic connection. This is hardly the best way to get good prices on airfare. There are other reasons we don’t have a group block, which we don’t go into. We understand the appeal in knowing that the international airfare for your program is “reserved” at a set price, however we’re confident that it’s an unnecessary component to student travel. We have never had a student unable to get on our group flight because all the seats were sold out. We’re also quite confident that you’ll get a much better price without the group block. Shop around to some of the other organizations that still do group blocks and compare airfare prices for the same routes. You’ll see what we mean.