Summer travel programs for teens

Common Questions

About Summer

Enrollment is limited on all ARCC programs. Many families make summer plans early in the winter, and some programs fill by February. We encourage you to call our office at 415-332-5075 when you have decided on a program. We will connect you with a Summer Director to discuss availability and to answer any questions you might have about the program.

As every ARCC program offers a very different experience, our staff would be happy to discuss which program is right for you. Probably the easiest way to help you select the right trip is to give us a call and together we can narrow your options to a few great choices. Questions like: “How long do you want to go for?”, “Do you have date restrictions?”, “What type of activities are most interesting to you?”, “Do you want to be in the U.S. or travel internationally?”, and “Do you want to speak a language on a trip?”, will quickly help us narrow the trip options down for you.

Give us a call at 415-332-5075 and together we can find the right program for you.

No experience is necessary to participate in any ARCC program. We just ask that you arrive willing to contribute and try new things. We can teach you anything you need to know. Throughout the program, your leaders will help you with the basics so that you feel comfortable with all the activities. Be assured, though, that we would never make you do anything you don’t want to do.

ARCC has Essential Eligibility Criteria (EEC) which is applicable to all ARCC students. You can read ARCC’s EEC here.

We believe strongly that students should experience an ARCC program with peers of a similar age. To allow this, each ARCC program runs groups departing on the same date but organized separately by grade. For example, if a program is listed as “9th-12th grade” then all students on the program will be in that grade range. If a program runs multiple groups for a session, each group will do the same activities, just in a different order. This assures that the different age groups will generally overlap very little during the program.

No, ARCC programs do not require any previous language knowledge. That being said, if you do speak a language, there will be countless chances to use your knowledge in country. Often those who have some language background become the defacto translator for other students who don’t speak the language.

A number of programs have a mini “language school” at the beginning of the program to give students some basic language skills.

Absolutely. We are happy to give you contact information of people who have done ARCC programs in the past. Please call our office at 415-332-5075 and we can provide you with as many references as you’d like.
A major component of ARCC programs is the group experience, so we generally encourage students to attend independently. However, attending with a friend or family member is permitted with the understanding that exclusive behavior is not permitted. If you do attend with a friend, leaders will encourage you both to interact with the entire group and not just with each other. You may start the program in separate sleeping arrangements or separate cook crews. This is done with the intention of building a positive group dynamic in which everyone feels welcomed and included.

As part of the enrollment process, ARCC asks for a reference from every prospective student. This reference needs to be from an non-relative individual, such as a teacher, coach, or employer (we find that teachers are very honest!). We do this to ensure that all ARCC participants are going to be good, positive group members – which is critical to having a successful trip. Most references we receive are for students who are outstanding candidates for our programs. Every so often, however, we get an application/reference for someone who has a history of behavior issues or is being “forced” to go on the program. In these cases we will politely suggest they apply to a different organization. By doing this, we fill our groups with enthusiastic students who are excited about their summer experience.

For many ARCC students, this is the first time they have taken flights without friends or family. We know it can be stressful and we are here to make sure that your travel day goes as smoothly as possible. We encourage families with younger students (especially those who have to make connecting flights) to ask their airline about traveling as an “Unaccompanied Minor”. Airlines can arrange for students to be met in a connecting city and be escorted to their connecting flight. Sometimes airlines will require students under 14 years old to register as an Unaccompanied Minor.

For nervous flyers, it is also possible that there will be another ARCC student on your flight to meet your trip, especially if you are coming from a major city. If you would like to coordinate travel plans with other ARCC students, please call our office and we can let you know if there are other students coming from your area on travel day.

ARCC does not currently require any vaccinations other than those mandated by host countries or partners. ARCC students and instructors will be required to be fully vaccinated to participate in an ARCC program for which the host country or partner has a specific mandate. Additional details will be provided by your program director as to the specifics of any required vaccination. Unfortunately, no medical exemption will be given in these instances for the health and safety of our partners and communities with which we interact.

ARCC does strongly recommend that all participants receive routine and travel-specific vaccinations, including the COVID-19 vaccine, according to current CDC recommendations. Please visit the CDC website for more information.

How to Apply

In order to officially hold a place on a trip, you will need to complete our online application and submit an $800 deposit. The application can be found on our website by clicking the blue “Enroll Now” button on the top of the webpage. This will take you to an online application.

Once we receive your online application, we will contact you to answer any last minute questions and to secure an $800 deposit. This deposit is essential to holding the space. The easiest and fastest way to submit the deposit is with a credit card. We accept Visa, MasterCard and American Express. You may also pay with a debit card, e-check, or physical check. If you opt to pay the deposit with a physical check, your student’s spot is not secured until ARCC has received the check in the mail. If we don’t have a deposit held by credit card or check, then please don’t consider the space reserved.

Upon receipt of your application and deposit, you will receive access to an online family portal, containing more detailed information about your specific program, as well as a number of forms for you to complete pertaining to your trip.

Since many programs fill by mid-February, there is a chance that your first choice will already be full. We have a waitlist for all programs, dates, and age groups. Many students sign up for their second choice program and put their name on a waitlist for their first choice. If a space opens up on your first choice of program, we will contact you to see if you would like to move to this trip. If you do decide to move, the program deposit and any tuition paid are transferable between programs.

If ARCC cancels a program prior to the start date, you will receive a full refund of your deposit and any program payments. Alternatively, you can roll your deposit or payments over to another program that is running and has spaces available, or to a future season.

Withdraw Before March 15:
An applicant who withdraws in writing from their trip prior to March 15 will receive $300 of their $800 deposit.

Withdraw After March 15:
If cancellation occurs after March 15, the participant will forfeit the entire tuition and airfare.

Travel insurance is available to protect your investment and, under certain circumstances (such as an injury or illness of the student or of their immediate family member, thus preventing them from going on the trip) families will be granted refunds as determined by their insurance company.


It should be no surprise that safety of our students is the primary concern of our office staff, our field staff, and our partners around the world. As a result, ARCC has an unparalleled safety record and we are proud to be able to state that since our inception over 40 years ago, no ARCC student has ever had a serious injury. In fact, no student has ever suffered an injury even requiring an overnight hospital stay. We attribute this to the maturity and training of our trip leaders, our trip supervision and the safety protocols that ARCC puts in place on all our programs.

For information on our COVID-19 protocols please see above. If there are any other specific safety concerns that you have, please don’t hesitate to call our office with questions.

ARCC has protocols in place to deal with almost any medical situation or emergency. ARCC has pediatricians, orthopedic surgeons and infectious disease specialist on standby to assist families should the need arise. Any medical condition requiring a visit to a clinic or hospital will prompt Leader/Instructor communication with both the ARCC office and with a family member back home. Most often this is simply to notify the family that their child doesn’t feel well and is going to the clinic. Parents can get as involved as much as they wish in the care of the student. Sometimes parents want to speak with doctors about the situation. At other times, parents will leave the situation to be handled in country by the trip leaders or instructors.

ARCC’s communication protocol in all medical or emergency situations is also comprehensive and thorough. Even a clinic visit for something as basic as “traveler’s stomach” will result in multiple phone calls between the trip leader, the office and the student’s family. ARCC’s philosophy on something of this nature is “you can never communicate too much”.

All ARCC leaders come to us with rich experience in everything from teaching to outdoor education. In addition, every ARCC Trip Leader must go through at least 20 days of wilderness first aid and leadership training before leading for ARCC. The quality of ARCC’s leader training is the well known in our field and the minimum training standards we set for our program leaders are among the highest in the industry. At a minimum, EVERY leader must complete a rigorous ten-day Wilderness First Responder (WFR) training course, which is an 80-hour backcountry medical certification. All leaders are also required to attend ARCC’s intensive eight-day Staff Training which focuses on safety, group dynamics, logistics, communications, protocols and emergency procedures.

Before You Leave

Once you have enrolled in an ARCC Program, your program’s Summer Director (SD) will contact you with an introduction email along with their contact information. They will be in touch with you from your enrollment until you finish with your program. Along the way they will be sending you information about your trip and will be your “go to” person if you have questions or concerns before, during or after your trip. While your SD is your primary contact in the ARCC office, any one of our staff members is available to help you at any time!

In addition to receiving an introduction from your Summer Director, you will also receive information on how to access your online portal where all of your forms and paperwork live. On the portal, we provide you with a number of resources to help get you ready for your trip.

To further prepare you, ARCC will also be hosting a trip-specific webinar which will address many of your questions about your specific trip. This webinar will only be for people attending your specific program and will address issues such as “How does travel work? How do I pack my pack? How much money should I bring? What type of adapter plug to I need for electronics?”….plus many other questions. This webinar is generally available in late spring.

As you get closer to your program’s departure, you will undoubtedly have many questions. All you need to do is give us a call to have them answered.

Passport: Yes, all students traveling internationally are required to have a valid passport. It is very important to make sure the passport expiration date is at least six months after you return home from your travels (some countries will not allow entry if a passport will soon be expiring). If you do not already have a passport, you should apply for one as soon as possible. It normally takes six weeks to process a passport application.

Visa: There are certain ARCC destinations that require visas. Please check the trip specific Common Questions for information on visas. ARCC will provide all of the necessary information to get any visas. If you hold a passport from any country other than the United States, please contact ARCC to discuss visa requirements specific to your country.

Every ARCC destination has different recommendations for innoculations. These recommendations generally match those of the Centers for Disease Control. Some countries require specific vaccinations for entry. In these situations, you will need to show proof of vaccination.

Upon enrollment, you will receive more complete information on pertinent travel vaccinations and immunizations. We recommend that you speak with your doctor (or local travel clinic) to decide what medications to take. The Traveler Health section of the Centers for Disease Control website provides up-to-date health information.

Each ARCC program has two experienced and extensively trained leaders. In addition to these leaders, we also enlist local guides and expert partners for the service programs and for our adventure activities such as rafting, surfing, and SCUBA diving to ensure the highest level of safety and instruction.

Every trip has two Trip Leaders and every leader’s background is unique. However, all of our leader’s have one thing in common: a love for teaching young people about leadership, the outdoors and international travel.

ARCC Leaders are exceptional people of extraordinary character and experience. They are enthusiastic about adventure, serving others, and most importantly, helping our teenagers thrive. A job at ARCC is a coveted position. As a result, we are able to handpick experienced, energetic, fun, capable and mature individuals to lead our programs. Our competitive hiring process ensures ARCC students receive the finest quality leadership in the industry. Our leaders inspire, motivate, and set a positive example that lasts far beyond the summer’s end.

ARCC boasts over a fifty percent return rate for staff. Ranging from roughly 21-32 years old, our leaders have extensive experience in team leading, adventure travel, marine biology, service, and language. In addition to these leaders, we also enlist professional outfitters for our adventure activities such as rafting, surfing, and SCUBA diving.

ARCC’s outstanding reputation in the industry brings us hundreds of staff applications each year. We take careful steps to ensure we hire leaders with extraordinary character and experience. We only hire new leaders after they participate in a multi-stage interview/hiring process; this process includes a detailed application, multiple reference checks and in-depth interviews. In addition, all leaders must pass rigorous background checks in order to work for ARCC.

Each ARCC leader has training in emergency wilderness medicine and all of our leaders are WFR certified (80 hours) or EMTs (120 hours). In addition to the multitude of experiences our leaders bring to ARCC, leaders are required to attend our week-long intensive staff training focusing on trip safety, group dynamics, logistics, leadership, communications, protocols and emergency procedures.

Your leaders will attempt to call you as they are prepping for your program, usually just prior to the trip departure. The purpose of this phone call is to reduce any last minute jitters and to answer any questions you may have before the start of your program. This is also a great opportunity for parents to ask the leaders any questions they might have.

During Your Program

Yes. We can easily make changes to any itinerary. Frankly, changes in itineraries as we adjust to regional requirements are to be expected in the current COVID-19 environment. We plan for this and embed flexibility into our programming. ARCC has been dealing with “unusual” situations for 40 years. We have dealt with earthquakes, volcanoes, coups, border’s closing, civil unrest, and many other unpredictable events. Our infrastructure allows us to quickly make changes to an itinerary and we have the global resources to effortlessly make these adjustments.

On most ARCC programs you spend the majority of your nights sleeping in small hotels, basic community lodges, hostels or in bungalows. During some service project segments, you might be in sleeping bags “slumber party style” on the floor of a guesthouse or the community center. Some of our programs have “group stays” where groups of 2-3 students stay with local families for one to three nights. Several ARCC programs spend their nights sleeping in tents in established campgrounds with toilets and showers. The quality of the lodging varies by program and by activity and it will always be clean and safe.

Food is a critical component of every ARCC program. As a result, we spend a great deal of time on food selection and preparation to ensure a delicious and well-balanced menu. The food varies from program to program, but on all programs students will have delicious, healthy and filling meals and a variety of snacks between meals.

Groups will eat in restaurants, small hotels/guesthouses or in the local communities. When possible we strive for our students to be involved in the cooking process. In these cases, students are divided into cook groups which are then responsible for the selection, preparation and cleanup of the group’s meals. The food we provide is selected with an emphasis on freshness and variety. We always make sure to have extra food to ensure that no one is hungry. Vegetarian and other diets can generally be accommodated.

We can accommodate most special diets or restrictions if we are notified in advance. Please keep in mind, however, that the selection for vegans may be limited in some places. We are also able to make accommodations for most food allergies. Please contact us to discuss details.

Project days can often be long and challenging but very rewarding. The specific projects that each group works on during a program depends on the immediate needs of the organization or community. Possibilities include: working in an animal sanctuary; shadowing local environmentalists; community infrastructure projects; public health projects. Typically groups will do much of their service work in the morning and have their afternoons available for other activities, community exploration and any additional project work that needs to be completed.

Depending on the program, you will be able to shower either daily or every couple of days. On most programs you will likely have an opportunity to periodically swim as well.

We also schedule time for laundry stops during your program. A 14-day program will generally have one laundry stop, a 22-day program will generally have two laundry stops, and a 28-day program will generally have three laundry stops. Depending on the program, you will either have the opportunity to do the laundry yourself or, where there are not laundromats available, we will send the laundry out to be done.

All activities, lodging, and meals are included in your tuition. You will have the chance to buy souvenirs, post cards, and gifts for friends and family at various times during the program. You may also need money for unexpected expenses like a clinic visit or lost equipment. We suggest bringing $50 per week for all domestic trips and $75 per week for international trips. Hopefully most of that comes home at the end of the trip, but that will depend on your spending habits.

ARCC does not tolerate the possession or use of illegal drugs or alcohol. If a participant is found in possession or consumption of the above, or engaging in one of these activities, they will be sent home immediately at the expense of the parent/guardian. In such an event, no refunds will be granted.

Cell Phones: It is ARCC’s policy that students not have constant use of cell phones during the course of their ARCC program. We encourage students to travel with cell phones to use on their travel days to and for meeting up with the ARCC group. However, once the students have met up with the group and have called home to check-in with family, student cell phones will be collected by the leaders.

Periodically during your program your trip leaders/instructors will redistribute cell phones and will encourage you to call home (we love it when parents can participate vicariously with the trip!). ARCC groups usually have scheduled time between activities for students to place phone calls home, approximately every 5-7 days.

Electronics: You may bring an iPod/MP3 player along on the trip to be listened to only on plane rides, during other transport or at the discretion of your leaders. Laptops, tablets, iPads, iPod Touches or other WiFi enabled devices are not allowed on the program. Handheld game devices (Nintendo DS, Playstation Portable, etc.) are also not allowed.

Cameras: Cameras are a welcome addition to your ARCC program and you are encouraged to bring one. Please note that because all cell phones will be collected by the trip leaders, you will not have access to your cell phone to be used as a camera. ARCC leaders will be taking photos throughout the trip that will be made available to everyone after the program.

Due to the nature of our programs, it is generally not possible for students to meet friends or family during their program. Many families, however, meet their students after the program and then travel together. Call us to discuss this option as it might have implications on group reservations.

Our packing lists are fine-tuned each year, based on suggestions from students and leaders. Although the list may seem long, each item on the list is there for a reason! We ask that students follow the list as closely as possible when packing for their programs. Please refrain from the temptation of packing extra items as you will most likely just be lugging these unused items for your entire program. If you have questions about specific items, or would like to know why a certain item is on the list, please call our office and we’d be happy to answer any questions you have.

ARCC itineraries are carefully selected so that an absolute minimum of time is spent traveling. That said, many programs travel to multiple locations and transportation to/from each desitination is part of the experience. We travel by bus, van, trains, planes, ferrys and occassionally a smaller vehicle or boat to get to a more remote location.

Tuition & Travel

ARCC programs are meant to be “all inclusive”, meaning all food, lodging, transportation, and activities are paid for with your trip tuition. Unlike other programs, ARCC will never say to you “For another $100, you can do the zipline”. Everything you read about in the your itinerary will be included in your trip. You will only need to bring spending money for things like luggage fees, souvenirs, or unexpected medical emergencies/clinic visits,  and, on some programs, visas acquired in-country.

Yes! Each year we give approximately $75,000 in financial aid to qualified students with need. Please email [email protected] or contact us by phone for more information on our financial assistance program. Please know that aid is awarded based on need, program availability, and overall aid available.

All ARCC programs have a “gateway city” where the group meets on the first day of the program and where students depart from on the last day of the program. You are responsible for getting to and from the gateway city. At the start of the program, ARCC leaders meet all students at a convenient meeting location (typically baggage claim) in the gateway city’s airport.

Once gathered in the gateway city, most ARCC groups then fly together with trip leaders to their program’s initial destination. (As an example, all students on our Thailand programs meet in the trip’s gateway city of Los Angeles, and then fly together to Bangkok). At the end of the program, the group will fly together to the gateway city where the leaders will assist the students with checking in and getting to connecting airlines heading home.

No. Group airfare is additional and the cost depends on the program (some programs have up to 6 flight segments). ARCC students typically fly on their own from their home airport and then meet their leaders and other group members in a gateway city in the U.S.. The leaders and students then fly internationally together as a group. Costa Rica programs are slightly different as participants have two options: 1) meet the leaders in either Miami and take a leader-escorted group flight to San Jose, CR, or 2) fly directly to San Jose and meet your trip leader there.

In order to be sure there are enough seats available on international flights, ARCC books the international tickets in advance and families are invoiced for the cost of the international airfare. Call us if you would like to know the most recent costs for these international flights.

Travel insurance is available to protect your program investment, offset expenses from travel mishaps and provide you with emergency travel assistance. Upon enrollment, you will receive information about travel insurance options, but families are responsible for purchasing their own policies. You are also welcome to purchase your own travel insurance from a different provider.

An $800 deposit is due upon enrollment to secure your space on the program. The balance of your tuition, for which you will receive an invoice, is due March 1st. If you sign up after March 1st, the full tuition is due upon enrollment.

After Your Program

Yes. Each year families decide to meet up for family vacations in ARCC destinations. If you are a student on an international ARCC program and would like to meet your family at the final destination rather than fly back to the U.S. with the ARCC group, this can be arranged through the ARCC office. Please call us to discuss arrangements.