COVID-19 Risk Management FAQ

Check this page for the latest frequently asked questions on the COVID-19 pandemic.


2021 brings renewed hope as we shift our focus to delivering life-changing experiences around the world this year! There is no doubt that COVID has impacted every single person in our world, bringing new perspectives and a new level of resilience along with it. While there may be many questions left unanswered, we can confidently say that the safety of students, staff and local communities remains our highest priority and any return to operations will be done carefully. We are committed to reopening operations in a safe, responsible and sustainable way.

We anticipate being able to confirm a program is running at least 60 days prior to each session start date to allow for time to move forward with flight bookings and pre-departure requirements. This means most decisions will be made in Spring 2021.


Below, we’ve provided some responses to several frequently asked questions about the future of GLA travel and how we intend to manage COVID-19 prevention and response in the field.

Q: How is GLA responding to COVID-19?

A: We are consulting regularly with our risk management team, in country expert partners and a variety of global health experts and organizations including the WHO, CDC, and our partner in managing student health and safety, Cultural Insurance Services International. In addition, GLA is in touch with peer organizations in order to share information and work collaboratively in the interest of our participants and partner communities.

We have developed an in-field management and response plan and will be training our staff to risk factors, prevention measures, and response protocols in preparation for a  time when programming can resume. We are hopeful that once travel restrictions are lifted, and greater understanding of the disease emerges, we will continue to run programs that can safely take into account new COVID-19 considerations.

Q: How and when will GLA decide which programs are running?

A: Deciding when, how, and where we will run programs is a dynamic process that includes numerous considerations. We have carefully crafted guidelines that we will use as part of our foundational decision-making process when determining when and where we will run programs:

  • Status of international travel. We will seek guidance from the U.S. State Department for travel restrictions and warnings as they apply to both our home country and the country of our program destination. All travel bans must be lifted, borders must be open, quarantine restrictions must be lifted and regularly scheduled flights must be available.
  • Status of the specific country and program destination. Each country is in a different phase of managing COVID-19; as such, we will evaluate each location individually. We will consider: health infrastructure utilization, availability and access; location and availability of COVID-19 tests for foreigners near the program site; the stability and well-being of the local community which we will be aiming to serve; group gathering restrictions in place; and our abilities to provide a safe and enriching program experience.
  • A specific program location may have unique logistics that allow for greater control precautions within a certain country. It is possible, for instance, that we may have a program that has 100% exclusivity in its lodging, transportation and designated activities, with limited or no interaction with the host community (animal & wildlife programs, for example). Our Local Partners on the ground will be a critical piece of this puzzle, as we will evaluate each location with their input. We will also consult trusted online resources for reliable data. We will not be able to operate programs in any locations where shelter-in-place restrictions are enacted.

Q: Will you consider the US State Department or CDC Travel Warnings to determine whether or not to run a program?

A: We are closely following the State Department travel warnings as they are issued. We follow the State Department because it takes the CDC travel warnings into consideration and the mass majority of our students are American.

Q: What if I enroll now, could my program get cancelled?

A: There is still so much uncertainty around what the future holds. While we are hopeful that a return to travel will eventually come, we must also manage the reality as it presents itself. Yes, it is possible that your program could get cancelled after you enroll for either operational risks or low enrollment. As such, your enrollment will be subject to our Terms and Conditions. From us, you can expect honest and transparent communication around our decisions. We will do everything within our power to keep programs running, but will not compromise the safety of students, staff, or the local communities in which we serve at any time.

If your program does get cancelled, you will have a full lifetime credit that can apply to any program we offer (both in-person or virtually), which can be transferred to another family member or friend at any time. Furthermore, your credit can be used with any of our sister companies: Discover Corps, which operates family and adult travel programs, and Summer Springboard, which operates academic programs on college campuses throughout the United States.

Q: What does the refund policy look like for 2021?

A: We invite you to read through our full refund policy here.

Q: What type of pre-departure requirements does GLA have?

A: We ask all families and staff to limit exposure and avoid non-essential contact outside of their immediate pod or family unit as best as possible 10 days prior to their program departure, in preparation for their COVID test. At this time, GLA requires 72 hours before departure, a negative viral PCR test must be obtained and submitted.

GLA will also implement any additional regulations as outlined by the country they are traveling to as needed. All of these actions will ensure the group is off to a strong start! These guidelines may change closer to departure based on current CDC guidelines and GLA will communicate specific requirements to enrolled families prior to departure and based on destination.

Q: What processes do you have in place to minimize the risk of COVID-19 on your trips?

A: The safety of students, staff and local community members is our highest priority. While there is no single action that can remove the inherent risks of travel during this time, we have created an integrated risk management plan that aims to reduce the risks associated with travel during COVID by implementing a series of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPI’S). The program will operate in a pod-like structure that we are calling a “Travel Pod”. We will ask all families and staff to follow pre-departure requirements.

Once students arrive, they will be provided a thorough orientation. Students will go through daily temperature and health checks with staff. Subject to availability, GLA aims to provide on-site covid tests 3-5 days into the program for all students and staff. To keep with our Travel Pod structure, the program will be crafted in a way that minimizes interaction with people outside of the group. Students and staff will wear masks when in areas that are not exclusively used by our group, or where a distance of 6 feet cannot be maintained.

Extra sanitation and cleaning procedures will be taken, including frequent hand washing and hand sanitizer use.

Program Updates: It is likely that programs will look a little different than they have in the past or may have appeared in marketing. Itinerary changes may happen at any time either before the students arrive or during the program to support the safety of our group and the local community. Even with masks on, it is likely that direct interaction with youth and adults in communities we serve will be limited or nonexistent until the entire world has equitable access to an effective vaccine.

Q: What does fostering a ‘Travel Pod’ experience mean?

A: The Travel Pod concept refers to the entire group of students and full-time staff who will travel together while minimizing many of the risks typically associated with group travel by agreeing to follow health protocols both prior to departure and while on program.

In order to return to providing travel programs for students, every single person has a role to play — this includes students and their entire families, staff and local partners. In order to be part of the travel pod, all participants will follow the pre-departure requirements as outlined by GLA (we ask all families and staff to limit exposure and avoid non-essential contact outside of their immediate pod or family unit as best as possible 10 days prior to their program departure and obtain negative viral COVID test and submit 72 hours before you leave).

Once the group arrives on the program, they will wear masks whenever they are interacting with anyone outside of the Travel Pod, while in a shared space with others, or when physical distancing measures cannot be met or maintained. Every program has exclusive areas for just our group — this may be at the Home Base, in private transport, and for some activities. During these times, the group can enjoy time without masks.

Q: What happens if a student shows symptoms of COVID-19 while on a program?

A: We have created a robust set of guidelines to manage potential COVID exposure on our programs. Before students arrive, we work to identify testing centers and a quarantine location should a student or group of students test positive. Daily symptom checks will help us to stay up-to-date on the well-being of any participants. If a COVID-like symptom presents itself, this will enact COVID management protocol, which includes further monitoring (pending the symptom), potential isolation, health consultation and testing.

Q: What if my student tests positive for COVID while on the program?

A: If a student tests positive for COVID-19 while on the program, we will enact COVID management protocol. Student(s) will immediately go into isolation from the rest of the group and be moved to a different room at the existing Home Base, a Home Base nearby, or the hospital, pending their situation. Wherever they are placed, staff will be on-site and available to support them in their care. Students will never be left alone while on a program. If several students test positive, they may isolate together.

Q: What if my child gets COVID and needs to go to the hospital?

A: We monitor all students’ general well-being through daily health checks. The choice to take a student to the hospital will vary pending the individual student and the specific symptoms they are showing. We work closely with our medical consultant and medical insurance to take swift and appropriate action. If a student must go to the hospital for care or for general testing, they will always be accompanied by a staff member and supported every step of the way.

Q: What if I test positive for my pre-departure COVID test or I simply do not feel comfortable traveling due to a local outbreak in my hometown or that the destination is no longer “safe”?

A: We ask all families and staff to limit exposure and avoid non-essential contact outside of their immediate pod or family unit as best as possible 10 days prior to their program departure, in preparation for their COVID test that they will get 72 hours prior to departure. A student needs a negative COVID-19 Viral PCR test to travel on a GLA program. To add an additional layer of certainty in your investment, we highly recommend Travel Insurance with coverage cancellations including for COVID-19, or ideally, a Cancel For Any Reason coverage option. If reimbursement is not claimed from your travel insurance policy, upon proper verification, a credit of the full tuition amount will be honored for future participation.

Learn more about our Peace of Mind Commitment here.

Q: Which COVID-19 test do you need to get to travel with GLA?

A: While there are several testing options available, GLA is asking all travelers to obtain a negative PCR COVID-19 test (also known as nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT), RT-PCR test, or LAMP test). As border regulations vary and change rapidly, the PCR test is both the most accurate testing option available at this time as well as the most widely accepted by international governments.

A little more background information about the kinds of tests available and why GLA only accepts PCR tests:

  • There are 2 different kinds of tests currently available: viral and antibody. A viral test shows if you have a current infection, while an antibody test shows if you have had the infection in the past. Because antibody tests do not show if someone is currently infected, they cannot be used for travel purposes.
  • Within the viral tests, there are two styles: a molecular test and an antigen test. The molecular test is often known as a PCR test.
  • While both the PCR and antigen tests require a nasal swab, the PCR test is molecular and therefore can take 3-7 days for results, while an antigen test result comes back within 15 minutes. Due to the rapid turnaround, antigen tests have a higher rate of false positives and sometimes need to be re-done, while a PCR test is considered highly accurate.

Q: How do I get my COVID test and what do I do with the results?

A: To find a COVID-19 testing center near you, you can start by contacting your state or local health department or your primary care provider. Once you obtain a negative PCR test result (from a test taken within 72 hours of departure), you will print a copy of it to keep in your passport and also email a copy into GLA prior to your departure.

Q: If the CDC requirement as of January 26, 2021 — that all travelers into the USA need to have a negative test 72 hours before departure — is still in place when my program happens, will GLA be able to accommodate that? How?

A: Any program that GLA guarantees to run internationally will be able to accommodate for this new CDC requirement. Prior to launching a program, GLA will work with our in-country partners to identify a testing site that fits within our itinerary and trust in their ability to turn around results in our time frame. Pending the location of the program, this may shift the itinerary slightly to make space for obtaining a test. The group will get tested within 72 hours of their departure and spend the remainder of the program in the Travel Pod with activities that limit unnecessary exposure to prepare for a smooth transition home.

You can learn more about this new requirement and find answers to even more FAQs regarding this new requirement from the CDC here.

Q: Who is responsible for these COVID test logistics and costs?

A: Prior to the program, the family will be responsible to obtain the correct test, receive results in the timeframe and provide proof to GLA and the airlines.

If the CDC requirement for a negative viral test for any travelers coming into the US is still in effect, GLA will facilitate the testing within the required time frame and implement the COVID ‘surcharge’ as outlined in the waiver. We will inform your family of the cost of the test in the local location, collect this additional test costs from you before your program, and ensure students are supported through the entire process.

Q: What if I have a COVID-19 vaccine? Do I still need to get a COVID-19 test to come on the program and to go back home?

A: Yes, as defined by the CDC travel requirement, all passengers traveling to the United States, regardless of vaccination status, are required to present a negative PCR or antigen COVID-19 test result. For GLA purposes, we will accept documentation of vaccination as a replacement for a negative test to travel to a program; however, each country has different entry requirements and therefore a negative test may still be required, pending the destination.

Q: What if I have a COVID-19 Vaccine, do I still need to take the additional COVID-19 test 3-5 days into the program?

A: The main purpose of this additional test is to protect the rural communities that we visit and interact with during our program experiences. At this time, data regarding transmission of COVID-19 by vaccinated individuals is not widely available. We are closely following the CDC for guidance and authority, and will continue providing the additional test until data is released that allows us to make an informed decision around this risk.

Q: How can activities (volunteering, ziplining, etc.) continue given the current COVID recommendations?

A: GLA programs will look similar to life as we know it everywhere. Physical distancing measures will be enacted, masks will be worn when distancing measures cannot be met or maintained, and frequent sanitizing and handwashing will take place. If we apply this to any and all activities on our programs, we can start to get a sense of what is and is not possible. We will be evaluating every activity against our COVID Guidelines to ensure it meets our standards. Ziplines, for instance, can take place if all parties are taking appropriate precautions.

If we find that an activity does not meet our standards, we will switch it out for a more appropriate activity. As such, it is likely that your itinerary will change as standards and risks levels evolve. We will always do our best to communicate these changes to you so that you can prepare accordingly.

Q: What if my top program choices do not get enough students? 

A: Given the uncertainty of this year, we are not able to guarantee a session to run until it has met the minimum number of students. For group dynamic and infrastructure reasons, most sessions need a minimum of 8 students to run, though that number does vary by program site. As such, it is likely that we will have to consolidate some session dates to have enough students to run the program. If your selected program session does not get enough students, we will support you to find another session that is more likely to run, or already guaranteed to run, that you can move to. If none of them meet your needs, we are happy to work with you to find a solution that fits your needs.

Q: What will communication be like with Global Leadership Adventures?

A: The need for all parties to remain flexible is more important than ever. To that end, we are committed to transparent and open communication with you before, during, and after your program experience. We will continuously update you about your program, as situations involving COVID-19 evolve. This includes any updates to your itinerary or other changes that may impact your experience, we are here to support you as you prepare for your travel.

Furthermore, while programs are running, we also have our 24/7 emergency line available to all families. If you have any questions, we invite you to reach out to us!