ANSWERS to COMMON QUESTIONS
Who are these trips for?
Our summer trips are designed for homeschool students and family members. Grads and family members are welcome to come on our student trips. The trips are open to family members if the homeschool student is also on the trip. NOTE TO PARENTS on the Trip
Why only Italy, Greece, & Turkey?
We love travel and recommend exploring other parts of the globe. The unique focus of a ClassicalTrips.org experience is a classical approach to the ancient Greco-Roman world and its influence on Western civilization from a Christian perspective. Italy, Greece, and Turkey encompass unique aspects of history that have shaped our modern culture and are also significant to the growth of the early Christian church and it's spread across the world. Whether your specific interest is the study of Homer's world, the development of the Renaissance, or the missionary journeys of St Paul, you can experience all on a ClassicalTrips.org expedition.
A One Sentence Trip Description?
Our days and our bellies are full, our feet are tired, our brains are expanded, our spirits are soaring, and we've made deep, lasting friendships with tripmates we've known for only a few days.
How long have you been taking groups overseas?
The Summer 2020 trip is our 8th year and 13th Classical trip to Italy, Greece, & Turkey. However, we've been taking groups overseas since 1988, traveling into 100 countries, and coordinating hundreds of overseas groups through the years. We've learned a thing or two and use that knowledge to maximize each trip's experiences, activities, and adventures.
Required for international travel. Must be valid for travel 6 months beyond last day of trip (Feb 2021). Can take several weeks to obtain so start early. Allow a minimum of 6-8 weeks to obtain. USA passport application: https://www.usa.gov/passport
All necessary visas included in the trip costs.
International ID card
All participants will receive an International ID card that will contain your picture, Passport #, DOB, and group information. You will be required to submit a digital, passport-type photo for use on the ID card six weeks before trip departure. Submit the pic by email.
1 carry-on bag per person (max 22 lbs). Rolling or back-packable. NO Check-in bags!
Surprisingly, you can fit everything you will need for this trip in one carry-on bag, plus a small daypack (which you'll use during the day for water bottles, snacks, etc.) A packing guide will be provided before the trip that will teach you the deep, dark secrets travel pros use to pack everything they need for a month of travel in just one small carry-on and one small day-pack.
(If you plan on traveling much in the future, this secret alone may well be worth the price of the trip!)
Acceptable bag size is: 21.65 x 15.74 x 7.87 inches
If you bag exceeds these dimensions, you WILL likely be charged an additional $60 per flight by the European airlines!!
Note: You will carry your own bags. We will not hire porters. If your bags are too heavy for you to carry or roll down city streets, then reduce the weight!
Land Package Only
All trips include roundtrip air from NYC, but if you'd like to use airline miles or points, a Land Package Only cost is available. The specific costs saving is not known until the point where group air travel is purchased, but usually the savings is about $600-800 off the listed trip price. To take advantage of the Land Package Only option, you must arrange to meet the group overseas at the designated arrival airport within a few hours of the group's arrival and depart no sooner than the same day of the group's departure at the end of the trip.
Additional time in Europe can be arranged before or after the group departure at your own expense and travel arrangements.
Air tickets purchased for the group are typically non-refundable, non-upgradeable (to a higher class of travel) and do not allow changes. If either of these is an issue, choose the Land Package Only option and make your own travel arrangements to Europe. Make arrangements in advance with the ClassicalTrips.org office if you desire this option.
We will use public transportation as much as possible. We will NOT hire a tour bus. You will become an experienced traveler on Metro, Underground, train, city bus, Funicular, walking, etc. On average, you will walk 7-9 miles per day over cobblestone streets and ancient trails. A small backpack or fanny pack for carrying camera, snacks, H2O, etc. NOTE: You will actually walk 7-10 miles per day, up hills, up stairs, over hiking trails, and on rough roads, etc. This could be described as a walking tour of Italy, Greece, & Turkey.
We will stay in apartments or leased flats. Think AirBnB.com style. Better than youth hostels, but cheaper than traditional lodging. Benefits are: (1) more living space, (2) kitchens, (3) courtyards, (4) laundry facilities, (5) stove top espresso makers, (6) experiencing the culture like a local. Drawbacks are: (1) shared bathrooms, (2) no elevators, (3) noisy neighbors, (4) no maid service, (5) no room service, (6) not located at major intersections, (7) rarely rated 5 stars in the Michelin Guidebook. I book entire villas and buildings with large living spaces, spectacular views, and close proximity to the top sites when possible. All in all, it is a great way to save money. Typically trip participants are housed 4-5 per room.
NOTE: whether student or adult, we have the same accommodations. There are not options for private rooms or room upgrades.
Pack enough clothes for 5-6 days only. You will have opportunity to do laundry at least once per country during the trip. Hand washable, quick dry items are best, as you can pack lighter but do laundry in your bathroom sink more often. Laundry detergent is available locally.
Depends on where we are. You will always have a bed, but it may be a fold out couch, rollaway, hideaway, or futon. If your bed is a double or larger, you will share it. Sheets will be clean and bug-free, but not quite like a hotel. Sleep sacks suggested (this is not a sleeping bag, but a breathable, light weight cocoon sheet you slide into to separate your body from the bedding).
On past trips, students have found approximately $200-300 sufficient. The best exchange rates are always obtained by using a debit or credit card at ATMs that give the current rate of exchange. Travelers cheques are difficult to exchange due to the very limited places that accept them. Cash (US dollars) typically incurs a 20% fee to exchange into Euro and is NOT recommended. I highly recommend bringing your spending money on a credit/debit card. Note: you'll need to let your bank know you'll be withdrawing $ overseas. And YES, we said CASH is NOT recommended.
All your basic expenses are included in the trip including 3 meals a day. However, items for which you will want extra money are: gifts, snacks, coffee shops, hand-made leather sandals from the "Sandal maker to the Stars" in Athens, more coffee shops, lots of gelatto, etc., any meals you choose to eat separate from the group, and perhaps some souvenirs. On past trips, students have found approximately $200-300 sufficient. ATMs are the best way to obtain Euros during the trip, but you must inform your bank in advance of the trip dates and countries you will visit. Check with your bank regarding fees charged for ATM cash withdrawal. It is recommended you bring a Credit/Debit card that works overseas rather than cash!
We will do our best to accommodate group tastes, but most often food preparation is out of our control. If you have stringent dietary needs, you will need to bring $ for your own food supply, as it is not feasible for the group to cater to one person's specific needs when traveling and eating as a group. On a typical day, the group will eat from restaurants, food stalls, street vendors, and fresh food from the local market, either at a restaurant or in our apartment kitchen. You get to embrace the culture and live like a local.
Most meals are served "family style". (Family Style: the trip leader orders a variety of foods for the group to share around the table at the meal.) Either the trip leader will order for the group (to make sure you get to try some of the fantastic foods you've never experienced before), or each table will combine their $ allotment for that specific meal to order shared dishes for your table. As determined by the trip leader, there will 2-3 meals in which you will be given cash to eat at the establishment of your choosing.
FOOD PHILOSOPHY: You are not expected to like everything, but you are asked to try everything. You may discover a new favorite!
NOTE: We will rarely take you to a chain restaurant overseas. You may find one and eat at it on your own time and expense, but our thought is that you don't travel to the other side of the world to eat American food!
NOTE: Read this if you have FOOD ALLERGY CONSIDERATIONS
Typical meals (3 per day included) are:
BREAKFAST(always at our apartment): yogurt, fruit, coffee, tea, milk, cereal, bread, butter, jam, boiled eggs, bakery items, etc.
LUNCH: this is our larger meal of the day. Usually eaten sometime between 12p-3p at some of my favorite spots (which are highly rated restaurants known for authentic meals of great quality and good quantities).
DINNER: smaller than lunch. Usually eaten between 8p - 10p. Good food, just not as large as lunch. Europeans typically eat a later supper by American standards.
SNACKS (at your own expense): coffee shops, gelaterias, bakeries, etc.
NOTE: our meal schedule is typical for Europe but later than most American meal times.
NOTE: water is our beverage of choice 99% of the time. Break your soda addiction. Drink more water!
Every participant is REQUIRED to carry Overseas Medical insurance. If your existing medical insurance does not cover overseas travel, you will be required to obtain coverage. Proof of overseas medical coverage is required before trip departure. If your current medical insurance does not cover you overseas, low cost Travel Medical Insurance policies that span the trip dates are available through Sevencorners.com and other travel insurance companies. Typical cost is $50 and is not part of your trip payments. The suggested policy is the Liaison® Travel Elite at Sevencorners.com that covers $500,000 medical expenses with a $250 deductible. Note: the required Travel Insurance coverage is not for trip cancellation, lost luggage, delayed transport, etc. but for Medical & Emergency situations.
Release/Hold Harmless Form
All participants are required to submit a 2020 RELEASE & HOLD HARMLESS FORM to participate in any GlobalQuest.org or ClassicalTrips.org trip or activity. Click link above to download the PDF form.
Due 4 weeks before departure.
Safety is paramount in all we do. All reasonable and customary precautions will be observed at every leg of the trip. Though you will be stretched, challenged, and pushed, you will never purposely be placed in personal danger by the ClassicalTrips staff.
NOTE: People have asked about the safety of travel to Europe and Turkey. We will only be in the "safe" areas, far from terrorists, world crises, etc. Additionally, trip leaders stay in close contact with the US Embassy in each country and the Embassy is informed of our itinerary in advance, plus we provide our leaders contact information in case the Embassy needs to connect with our group. Every trip itinerary and passenger list is registered with the US State Department in advance.
As a Student oriented Christian travel group, we follow broadly accepted guidelines for Christian behavior and interaction among all trip participants. NOTE: SAFETY & CHRISTIAN BEHAVIOR DETAILS
Though this is a rare situation, if you have a Medical Emergency during the trip, you (or your parents) will need to take care of the treatment arrangements & expense. The ClassicalTrips staff will assist you as much as possible and help you pursue medical consultation, but cannot abandon the rest of the group. Note: if a Student has a non-emergency illness, they will be left during the day in a safe, secure location with phone/text access and their parents will be notified.
Adult sponsors accompany the group during the trip. Groups are chaperoned for safety, Christian behavior, and to maximize the international experience. It is our goal for Students to be able to "explore" safe sections of each city in approved groups without a chaperone or parent, as the opportunity arises as a significant part of their exposure and adventure overseas.
Though your cell phone should work overseas after you inform your carrier you need international coverage, remember the cost for overseas calls and data can be prohibitive. However, smartphones can be very useful by providing free calling & messaging back to the USA over free WiFi in each city. Smartphone use is discouraged during site visits and meals (except in case of emergencies) to allow time for processing and Socratic discussions among the group. Most mealtimes and site-visits are "no-phone" zones. Talk to your neighbor instead.
What Is A Walking Tour
You will walk a lot! Based on IOS, Android, and fitness apps that track the distance and number of steps past participants have taken, you actually will walk 7-10 miles per day or use 10,000-20,000 steps per day. Typically a light day of walking is followed by a heavy day of walking. Unlike walking on a track or treadmill, almost all of the walking overseas is on rough paths, unpaved trails, cobblestone streets and uphill (don't ask me to explain how it seems we never go downhill).
Due to a typically full schedule each day, we try to fit in as much as possible in the number of sites we see. Though you'll never have to run or jog, we frequently walk at a rapid pace to reach our next scheduled site, followed by opportunities to rest and enjoy.
A walking tour of Italy, Greece, and Turkey gives you an understanding of how the locals live and what life is truly like in each country. As you learn to navigate local transportation, eat where the locals eat, and live like a local you will gain an appreciation of the cultural and sociological dynamics of each country. More importantly, you will gain the understanding needed to return on your own in the future, confident in your knowledge to successfully master travel in Europe.
You truly will walk a lot! A good pair of walking shoes is required. On average, you'll walk 7-10 miles (sometimes more, sometimes less) per day over paved streets, cobblestone paths, up hills, to historic sites, metro stations, etc. Break-in a good pair of walking shoes several weeks in advance! Typically, one pair of walking shoes and one pair of hiking sandals are all that is needed.
Note: your trip leader has long legs, walks fast, and expects you to keep up with the group.
Comfortable, casual clothing is desirable for most of the trip. However, "holy places" do not allow tank tops, shorts, skirts above the knee, bare shoulders, etc. This applies in Italy, Greece, and Turkey and includes Vatican sites, churches, mosques, etc. You will be informed in advance the days we are visiting "holy place" sites.
You will have the opportunity to do laundry on a regular basis. Bring clothes that air-dry easily, as no locations have clothes dryers.
Average temps in Greece & Italy are between 70-100 degrees. Hot & sunny. Sunscreen is a must.
Plan on having one day at the beach. As schedule allows, this will either be along the Athens coast or the Rome coast. This generally incurs a 10-15 Euro cost (your expense) to rent a beach umbrella, lounge chair, entry fee, and snacks. Sunscreen required. Bring a swimsuit of your choice. FYI: Though all the beaches we visit require clothing, European standards tend to be skimpier than your average Church Youth Group standards.
Packing & Audio Tours on the trip
Though we have traveled extensively around the world, we like to utilize "travel helps and tips" that others have prepared when appropriate. The following link connects you to some of those travel resources that we have found helpful. In addition to Packing helps (how to pack in just a carry-on) there are also downloadable audio tours of the sites we will see. These will be helpful during the trip at many sites. Link to helpful resources: PACKING HELPS and AUDIO TOURS.
Available in many locations. Best apps we've used for staying in touch back home are: Skype, WhatsApp, Messenger, and Facetime.
Is there a payment schedule? What if I miss a payment deadline?
Yes, the Payment Schedule is found on the Payments page. If you miss a payment deadline and costs have increased due to adding you in after the group's air/lodging purchases have been made, those costs will be added to your overall trip costs.
If the trip fills up, is there any way I can still go on the trip? Possibly . . . we will start a Waiting List. If space opens, we will fit you in on a first-come/first-served basis. Due to changes in family schedules and other factors, this occasionally happens.
Can I join the trip last minute?
Yes, but at a price! It depends on how "last minute" you are. We generally purchase airfare and pay for lodging months in advance of our trip departure. Adding someone in after that often means the airfare cost will have increased and the lodging space needed may go at a higher rate. Those costs are passed on to you. Entrance fees to sites & exhibits are not usually affected, but the increased airfare costs and lodging costs (above what the rest of the group is paying) can be hundreds of dollars more. However, we are happy to work with you to try to keep the costs down, should you add in late. Often, as a late add-in, if you're able to fly on slightly different flights than the rest of the group, your additional cost will be minimal. As a side note, the trip payment is divided into 4 scheduled payments between November - April 2020. Payment schedule details are on the PAYMENTS page.
Here is a sample itinerary. Dates are not exact until the week of the trip, but the sites are part of what you will experience. During the trip, this itinerary is updated regularly. It provides each student a daily schedule of their Site Expert sites so they can be prepared before heading out each day, thus enabling you to share effectively at each of your chosen sites. Additionally, it is a great way for family & friends back home to follow your adventures.
List of some of the HISTORIC SITES you will visit.
Last year's itinerary:
We use the app SYGIC (https://travel.sygic.com) for not only tracking our daily site schedules but also site information at some sites. Though not required, you may want to download the app on your smartphone before the trip. A unique link specific to our trip schedule will be provided before departure for those who want to utilize this tech. Available for IOS (Sygic Travel Trip Planner) & Android (Sygic Travel Maps Offline & Trip Planner)
Every trip participant that has a smartphone is encouraged to download Whatsapp.com to their smartphone for use during the trip. It's been the best way to stay in communication among the group for times when we may be dispersed across one of the trip cities or for times when we need to inform everyone of an unexpected change in plans. It works over readily available wifi and does not cut into your data plan when on wifi.
The MobilePass app is a great time saver for the return trip to the USA and is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for all trip participants. Having the app on your IOS or Android smartphone allows you to bypass some of the longer Immigration and Customs lines to speed you through the process. Fill out the app prior to your US departure for the greatest convenience. Link to: MobilePass
Additional Smartphone Apps
We use the app Rick Steves Europe (https://www.ricksteves.com/watch-read-listen/audio/audio-europe) for additional information, free audio tours, and helpful tips for those who want to get the most out of the trip sites. Though not required, the free information is recommended for trip participants who have a smartphone. A recommended list of free audio tours will be provided at: PACKING and AUDIO TOURS
Internet Safety Overseas
It is essential to use a VPN service when handling ANY confidential, financial, or private information online when you are overseas. A secure VPN can eliminate being hacked when online overseas. Especially important for any financial or important transactions requiring internet security. Here's a listing of various free VPNs. Note: paid VPNs are ad-free.
What about Turkey?
We stay in regular contact with the US Embassy in Istanbul as well as the US Consulate during our travel in Turkey. Should there be any concerns prior to departure or during the trip regarding Turkey, alternate sites in Siena, Venice, Thessaloniki, or a Greek island may be added. Assuming there are no State Department issues to travel to Turkey, we will only be on the western coast of Turkey (which is the most modern and developed) and in Istanbul.
Greg's Recommended Travel Items
A recommended list of items we have found helpful in overseas travel is provided. None of these items are required. All of these items are easily packable in a carry-on bag, along with our required clothing, etc. For your convenience, online shopping links are provided for each item where a specific product is recommended. Link to SUGGESTED ITEMS
Online Conference Call Meetings
There are Online Meetings held prior to the trip departure. Recordings of the online meetings are posted to the website afterward. The last conference call is held a week before trip departure. Call recordings are posted online after each call.
Due to the in-depth study of Western culture and it's roots, a number of colleges/universities are willing to grant academic credit for students who participate on this trip. Details here.
Who is Global Quest Inc. and why am I writing checks to them?
Global Quest Inc is the parent organization of ClassicalTrips.org. ClassicalTrips.org is the educational arm of Global Quest Inc., which equips both students and adults in Christian education and worldview.