REFUNDS AND SAFETY
Cancellations and refunds
Program Cancellations and Refunds
GEA programs can be canceled up until 7 days before departure for a full or partial refund for a program. A full refund will be given back if the program is canceled 45 days or more before the departure date, minus the deposit which is different for each program and can be found on each program page, flyer and payment page.
Program deposits are non-refundable, except in the event that GEA is compelled to cancel the program due to unforeseen circumstances or in the case of extenuating circumstances on the participant brought on by Covid-19. In both cases a fee of 2.9% of the sum that has been paid before cancellation, will be kept to cover transaction fees.
In the event that you cancel a program you have paid for, you may be able to transfer part of your program costs to a future program. GEA aims to be as flexible as possible and work with our participants in good faith to ensure everyone’s interests are fully considered.
We will reimburse you no later than 30 days from the day on which you cancel the program. You may cancel the program by writing to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will use the same means of payment for any eligible refund as you used for the order.
Timeline of Cancellation and Refund Policy
7 days prior to departure - Non-refundable
8-20 days prior to departure date - 25% of total purchase amount can be refunded
21-30 Days Prior to departure date - 50% of total purchase amount can be refunded
31-44 Days Prior to departure date - 75% of total purchase amount can be refunded
45 or more Days Prior to departure date - 100% of the total purchase price can be refunded (minus the deposit, which differs from Program to Program)
A minimum deposit of $250 is due within one week of being accepted to a program to confirm and hold a participant’s spot. The deposit is more for more expensive packages, and should be at least 15% of a program’s total price. $250 is the starting deposit amount for a main program and each additional pre- or post-trip added to a package is at least $100 more/segment. Deposits may be up to $500 for programs and packages that are more than $2500 in total.
GEA’s payment plans will generally include three payments in total, including the deposit (due one week after being accepted to the program), Payment #2: Which will be at least 30% of the total program price so that with the deposit amount, it covers about half of the total fee owed), will be due approximately two months after the deposit, and generally at least two months before a program begins; Payment #3 is the final payment which also includes any add-on or upgrade fees. The final payment is generally due on the 1st day of the month prior to the program start date. For example, any June programs would have final payments due on May 1st. In some cases, the add-on and upgrade fees may need to be paid closer to the program start date if all options have not been finalized.
In addition to GEA cancellation policies you may want to consider purchasing travel insurance. There are a few different kinds of travel insurance, including trip cancellation, medical and evacuation insurance. You will want to choose which one is right for you. The following link will help you distinguish between the different kinds of policies and will point you towards sites that will help you choose the appropriate company for you:
Health and Safety
GEA chooses locations where we can have spectacular conversations around spectacular scenery. The locations we choose are always on the safe travel list of the US State Department. They are places where we can comfortably lead you to have the experience you have paid for. We team up with phenomenal local partners who know and are connected to all available resources of the area and who know how to keep you safe. In order to provide for your added comfort we ask you for your allergies and food preferences before the start of the journey as well as medical conditions you would like us to be aware of.
GEA takes Covid-19 very seriously. These guidelines will be adapted to the changing situation. Our objective is to keep everyone feeling safe, happy and comfortable! Last updated April 13, 2022
Why does GEA feel it is fine to travel during this time?
There are many reasons to consider traveling again. Here are some of them.
First, it is helpful to look at the risks associated with travel abroad in comparison to the risks we face in our own communities in the US. Case counts are falling in the U.S. and in Europe. When planning travel, we find that it is helpful to compare target destinations in light of the states we live in. Many states carry the same CDC Covid counts and levels as your destination, and often much higher.
Currently we are at the same level of risk, or less risk, traveling to Scandinavia and the Baltics, than most of us would be going about our business at home. We will also not be endangering people more in Scandinavia or the Baltics, than we would be endangering people going about our business at home. After all, we will have had our COVID-19 tests prior to travel and will be exercising caution before, during and after travel (more on that below).
Please see this Forbes article that outlines the travel ban in context of US States case counts here.
Second, medical breakthroughs and our own personal efforts have allowed people around the world to start living new-normal lives. Vaccinations, new COVID-19 remedies, our masking and social distancing efforts have paid-off. Difficult breakthrough cases (after receiving two doses of the vaccine together with the booster) are rare and breakthrough cases that require hospitalization are even rarer. The rate of hospitalizations of fully vaccinated people has gradually risen to 15% of all COVID-19 hospitalizations in the US (as of our earlier report in February), which is still an impressive accomplishment from vaccines, but this has convinced GEA to require a booster shot for spring and summer travel, even if it isn’t yet required by the countries we will be visiting. This is also timely as research suggests the Pfizer booster is positively effective against Omicron.
In the end, we believe the benefits of travel will outweigh the risks, when appropriately managed. We have come a long way from the first days of the pandemic and have collectively learned how to navigate a pandemic and manage risks along the way. Amanda Mull, in an Atlantic article recently put it nicely:
"Right now, the best that most people can do is continue to control whichever straightforward variables they can—get vaccinated, sit outside when possible, choose places that require proof of vaccination over those that don’t, avoid visiting Grandma or your cousin’s new baby the week after attending an indoor concert with a thousand screaming people, get a test if your throat is sore. The situation we’re all in is extremely complicated, but the best ways to keep yourself and others safe still aren’t."
WHAT IS GEA DOING TO ENSURE SAFE AND HAPPY TRAVELS?
GEA will be doing everything we can to navigate the situation on all our spring and summer 2022 programs and to help everyone feel secure and comfortable. This means we may sometimes go above and beyond safety protocols in the US and abroad. GEA is committed to following CDC guidelines even if they are not required in the countries we will be traveling to. In addition to CDC recommendations and local guidelines we are also requiring our participants to follow additional strategies that will help us provide the smoothest possible travel experience.
The following are strategies GEA is requiring from its student travelers:
1. We require all of our participants to be vaccinated and to carry a vaccination card. This is needed to fly abroad but many locations also make them mandatory when entering public spaces, such as restaurants and museums. These (EMA-approved) vaccinations must be one of the following when traveling to Europe: Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson&Johnson or Astra Zeneca. The CDC vaccination card is all that is needed for Europe.
2. We require our participants to abide by local regulations and requests, including masking up, social distancing, using hand sanitizer and meeting outdoors as much as possible.
3. We ask that our participants test before traveling and do not travel if they are having covid symptoms.
4. We ask that our participants bring covid home tests with them for the possibility that they feel unwell during the program.
5. After participants return home we ask that they test again for covid, self-monitor for symptoms and follow their state and local recommendations.
6. We ask that our participants purchase additional travel insurance for additional coverage that will help cover alternate flights home and additional hotel nights, should they contract covid while on the program.
The following are strategies GEA has committed to in order to make travel this spring and summer safe and easy:
1.GEA is committed to following local guidelines in all the locations we visit.
2. GEA will assist in all of the additional Covid logistics required for each location.If something changes GEA is ready and able to change the itinerary even at the last minute. This may include changing one or more of the destination provinces or even countries on the schedule.
3. GEA is taking care of all logistics of Covid testing in our program locations. This includes the antigen test or PCR test required of all participants traveling back to the US, taken within 48 hours before departure.
4. GEA has a list of excellent medical centers in each location we visit. This means we are prepared with a list of medical providers for our/your peace of mind.
5. GEA does not want to negatively contribute to easily overwhelmed health systems. Our 2022 programming reflects this – our more vulnerable program locations are on hold until further notice.
6. If -despite our combined best efforts- a participant does get sick, GEA has a plan in each location to handle isolation and medical care. This plan includes a contact person in each location who would be assigned to the participant with covid to ensure their needs are met, even in the event that the rest of the group moves on to the next location.
With a long history of taking hundreds of educators on international travel programs we have experience with and are comfortable navigating a number of medical emergencies – we have just added Covid to a list of possibilities (in addition to the ones we have already dealt with on our programs, including kidney stones, broken toes, spider bites, stingray burns and diphtheria).
7. GEA always signs up for the state department travel alert program STEP. In other words the State Department will know where we are and will know how to get in touch with us should something unforeseen happen. GEA also has a personal contact at the US embassy in Helsinki. They will know we are visiting and are aware of our programs.
8. GEA will also keep aggressively monitoring the situation, as always. Our participants will be informed before departure and during the program as to any possible changes to our plans, or additional precautions.
How should our participants prepare for travel?
There are many ways you can personally manage a safe and happy travel experience. GEA will help remind you along the way, as there are a handful of important items to remember.
3 months before
If you have even minor covid symptoms within 3 months before departure you will need to test for covid. If your test result comes back positive, go to your health care provider once you have recovered (or when you are sick obviously) as you need to obtain a doctor's note that says you have recovered from Covid. This is important as you may have antibodies for the following 90 days, rendering the covid test travelers need to take upon travel, useless. Your doctor's note will function in place of the test in case your pre-departure covid test ends up positive.
If you haven’t yet, purchase TRAVEL INSURANCE with trip cancellation due to Covid. You can often purchase this in conjunction with your ticket. GEA does not partner with any travel insurance providers, and cannot be held accountable for your insurance needs. However, if you’re looking for a well trusted travel insurance agency, Allianz.com is a good one (https://www.allianztravelinsurance.com). Always read the fine print of your insurance options carefully.
6 weeks before
If you have not gotten your first covid vaccination this is the deadline. You will need 2 vaccinations, 3 weeks apart. Your last vaccination needs to happen no less than 14 days before departure.
At this time you need to start practicing social distancing, masking up and avoiding crowds, if you haven’t already. This will lessen your chances of becoming ill right before your program starts! The closer your travel the more you may want to follow the above precautions. The incubation period for covid is anywhere from 2-14 days, with the symptoms of the grand majority of cases beginning at day 4. According to CDC guidelines you will need to quarantine for 10-14 days after your first symptoms, as long as you are symptom free and have been fever free for 24 hours. If this happens please be sure to get a doctor’s note to prove you have recovered from Covid! You will need to bring this with you to the airport!
Please order some free covid tests to bring with you. We ask that each participant bring their own box of 2 tests. You may order free ones (4 per household) here: https://www.covidtests.gov
7 days before
Please be sure to book your PCR test by this time. At the time of this writing this should be taken within 3 days of departure. This is important in order to ensure your health, the well-being of everyone on our programs, and to protect people in the locations we will be visiting. This will also ensure that we are prepared for any possible strategy changes that could affect travel.
What should you do if you end up having to postpone your travel, despite precautions?
If you do happen to get sick right before departure please let GEA know, and immediately consult the following -in this order- as applicable: 1. your travel agency 2. your airlines 3. your travel insurance. If you have proof of your covid status and tell your airlines on time, you may be able to easily change your tickets or get your money back. Alternatively your travel insurance can kick in and you should be able to get your money back. Please speak with GEA about the cancellation of your program.
After you return home
After you get back home we ask that you take an additional covid test in order to ensure the health of the people around you – especially if your circle of friends includes people with pre-existing conditions or those who are elderly. You will also want to keep on monitoring your health for any symptoms (of covid or other illnesses) and following your state and local recommendations.