Outstanding summer programs for teens since 1982

Frequently Asked Questions

There’s a lot to consider when choosing the right summer program and it’s perfectly normal to have questions about the experience. Browse through our most frequently asked questions below to find the answers you need.

In some of the answers below, we really only scratch the surface of the topic-at-hand. There really is no substitute for a conversation, so if you don’t find the answer you’re looking for below, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We’d love to hear from you!

General

Participants may bring their cell phones so parents may call and message their kids directly. You may also contact our Communication Centers which serve as the official link between programs on the road and parents. We are staffed every day during the summer and have somebody on call for after hours emergencies ready to assist you 24/7.

Yes, we offer many programs for middle school students. You can see the full list open to middle school students here. We also offer exclusive middle school departure dates on select programs, indicated by the “specific date: middle school” tag on the program page. You can see all programs with exclusive middle school departures here.

Attending a summer program is an incredible opportunity to learn and grow into a more well-rounded, mature individual. No matter what type of program you choose, the personal development and experience gained over the course of the summer are valuable resources that could help you with your college essays and applications. If your goal for the summer is to get a head start on college prep, a Pre-College Enrichment program could be just what you need. So while attending any particular summer program will not necessarily get you into your choice school, it’s what you get from it that can make a difference!

Of course! We design our programs to balance action, adventure and excitement with structured downtime and relaxation. There is a reason our itineraries are known to be “perfectly planned and perfectly paced.”

Unfortunately, not at this time. Our core offerings are summer programs between 1 and 6 weeks long. The first program available will depart in late June and the last program will return in mid-August.

We encourage participants to join our programs with an open mind and a willingness to try new things. That being said, we will never pressure you to do anything that you do not feel comfortable with. If there are several such activities on a given itinerary, we are happy to speak with you to discuss if another program is a better fit.

Our travelers’ security is our number one priority and we strive to create the safest programs possible. There are various aspects to safety from planning and itinerary development, staffing and training, risk management and social and emotional safety. Built on 38 years of experience in providing teens with reliable and secure travel experiences, we are proud of our excellent safety record. For more information, visit our Safety page, and better yet call us.

Many of our programs are open to students completing 11th and 12th grade mixed with younger high school students. You can see all itineraries for students completing 11th grade, or for those completing 12th grade.

ON TOUR designates specific departures for students exclusively completing 11th and 12th grades. These itineraries combine a higher level of independence appropriate for older teens with the structure parents still expect from a summer program. These itineraries include more personal choice, added nightlife, and later curfews. See our full list of programs offering exclusive ON TOUR departures.

In addition to our staff, you enjoy the benefit of a local guide with us daily on our community service programs and global adventures in Central & South America, Africa, Asia, Iceland and New Zealand. This guide helps create a smooth and safe experience. They help with logistics, confirm details (hotels, transport, restaurants, activities), provide information about the area and culture, translate to help meet dietary needs, coordinate bank, hospital or supermarket visits as needed, and communicate with local service partners and recreation providers. In other international destinations, we have local guides join us for specific touring highlights or adventure activities as needed.

The situation is ever changing and rest assured we are monitoring, adapting and staying well-informed. With guidance from the American Camping Association, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Tour Association and  Student & Youth Travel Association, we are prepared to implement COVID-19 protocols if needed closer to our programs’ departure.

TRAVEL Programs

Our Active Teen Tours offer larger group sizes (generally 35-48 participants) and travel in deluxe motor coaches. Accommodations include quality hotels and fun college residences. A few western USA itineraries also include a few nights of deluxe camping.

Global Adventures are smaller group experiences (generally up to 26 participants). Groups travel by private motor coaches and occasional public transportation internationally, and use passenger vans in the USA. While these programs have a slightly bigger focus on adventure travel, we stay in quality hotels and lodges, always ensuring a good night’s rest.

LEARN Programs

You will receive a Certificate of Completion for your courses outlining the corresponding hours of class and course content. For those who choose community service options, a letter is issued for the hours completed. If requested, our staff is also pleased to write letters of recommendation.

Our Pre-College programs are enrichment focussed and do not offer college credit. The one exception is students who choose Careers in Fashion with the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising (FIDM) on the 21 and 28-day Pre-College Enrichment Los Angeles programs on the campus of UCLA will receive college credit. This credit is transferable to many colleges and universities.

All classes on our Pre-College Enrichment programs are private and exclusive to Westcoast Connection students, with the exception of Careers in Fashion at UCLA.

Courses on our Pre-College Enrichment programs are taught by university faculty, local industry professionals, and other specialists.

VOLUNTEER Programs

We work with longstanding non-profit organizations that have been carefully screened by our program coordinators. These include Boys and Girls Clubs, Habitat for Humanity, and Costa Rican Humanitarian Foundation, among other organizations. For more information, see our full list of partners and projects.

We offer 5 different kinds of volunteer projects: Youth Leadership, Environmental Sustainability, Community Welfare, Infrastructure, and Wildlife Conservation. Most of our volunteer programs offer a mix of project types.  For more information, see our full list of partners and projects.

We provide clean and comfortable accommodations so you can get a good night’s rest. We do not have any homestays and every participant will always have their own bed.

We will provide a Certificate of Completion to confirm the number of hours completed and projects accomplished on your program. These letters are typically sent out in September. We are happy to complete any further documentation that may be required.

The President’s Volunteer Service Award (PVSA) is a prestigious award given to those completing community service over a 12 month period. If you are interested in earning this award, it is available to any US citizen or resident and you can use your hours completed on our programs towards earning it. For many participants, it only takes 50 hours to earn the Bronze medallion, 75 hours to earn the Silver medallion and 100+ hours to earn the Gold medallion.

Westcoast Connection is a Certifying Organization for the PVSA.

Safety

Our travelers’ security is our number one priority and we strive to create the safest programs possible. There are various aspects to safety from planning and itinerary development, staffing and training, risk management and social and emotional safety. Built on 38 years of experience in providing teens with reliable and secure travel experiences, we are proud of our excellent safety record. For more information, visit our Safety page, and better yet call us.

Throughout the summer, our Company Directors and other support staff make scheduled supervisory visits to each program to provide ongoing support to our staff in the field and help all to run smoothly. This investment in depth of personnel is unrivaled in teen travel and is a critical element to achieving consistent, excellent program quality. Learn more on our Safety page.

Over 38 years, we are proud of our record of handling emergencies from world events to personal medical needs. We have many protocols and investments in increased summer personnel to help us respond in real-time. Please contact us to discuss any of your concerns or how we have handled specific situations.

We do not accept bullying on our programs. Our staff work hard to create an inclusive culture and safe space for all. They are trained to intervene accordingly as needed.

Enrollment & Eligibility

No prior experience is required! Programs are open to high school and middle school students who are ready to bring a positive outlook and respect for others. Students from 7th to 12th grade (ages 12 to 18 years old) are eligible. Program departures are made up of age-compatible groups.

As ages and school grades vary by country, here is a guideline of the ages that apply for the current grades listed on our website:

  • Grade 7: 12-13 years old
  • Grade 8: 13-14 years old
  • Grade 9: 14-15 years old
  • Grade 10: 15-16 years old
  • Grade 11: 16-17 years old
  • Grade 12: 17-18 years old

You can enroll on our website here.

Programs fill up at different times in the year. All of our programs are open to enrollment up until the time of departure or until the program is full. Many families make summer plans early in the winter; while other families wait until the spring. Those that wait have less trip options because some fill by the middle of February. For information on program availability, contact us.

Yes, of course! We welcome travelers from all over the world and look forward to sharing an unforgettable summer with you. For more information, visit our International Students page.

English is the language spoken on our programs. Many students from around the world join us to immerse themselves in an English-speaking environment.

After enrolling, you will receive a confirmation email as proof of your registration. Soon after, a member of our enrollment team will be in touch to welcome you and check in and see if you have any additional questions. As summer approaches, you will receive more details including flight and packing information, requests to complete various activity and medical forms, and information on optional trip cancellation and interruption insurance.

Students have joined us with a variety of medical needs ranging from Diabetes and Crohn’s to anxiety and anaphylactic allergies. Since no two cases are identical, please contact us to discuss your particular needs.

Payment & Refunds

All prices displayed on our website and print materials are in U.S. dollars.

On all programs, we include all lodging, recreation & entertainment that is listed, airport transfers in the arrival city and return city for flights in our approved times, gratuities and taxes.

We include breakfast & dinner daily. For lunches, it ranges from none to all included; please check the specific program.

After your initial deposit, the payment schedule varies depending on enrollment date. Please see a detailed outline of the schedule on our Enrollment page.

We accept payment by credit card for the initial deposit and second payment. The remaining balance can be paid by check, money order, wire transfer or Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) drawn on a U.S. bank. For more details please see the payment schedule on our Enrollment page.

All tuition payments are fully refundable or transferable to another open program until February 1st upon written notice received by WCC. Cancellations or program changes received after February 1st will result in fees, outlined in more detail on our Enrollment page.

In the spring, you will receive trip specific information including suggested spending money for your program. Your spending money is for personal items like laundry, snacks and souvenirs as well as for lunches depending on the program. The recommended amount varies depending upon the program type, length and destination.

We have one period every year for early enrollment savings, running through the fall. This discount is automatic and is available on all our programs. To get the best possible pricing on a program, this is the best time to enroll. Also, note that deposits are fully refundable until February 1st.

Accommodations

This differs by program and can vary from assigned roommates to rooming rotations that help students branch out and make new friends. For information on a specific program’s rooming assignments, please contact us.

Deluxe camping is featured on a few of our Active Teen Tours. Deluxe camping means you will stay at private campgrounds with hot showers and clean modern bathroom facilities with indoor plumbing and hot showers. We provide every participant with an insulated air mattress and camping cot for a restful night’s sleep. Many campgrounds also feature pools, basketball courts and other facilities. Our professional campsite managers are an additional staff member at each camping location who ensure that you have everything you need for a comfortable stay. See the full list here.

Group Dynamics

It varies by program, so it’s always best to check with us on your choice. We have a Social Integration Plan in place with a heavy focus on the first few days to help all students acclimate to the program. We do many icebreakers and ‘get to know you’ activities, will assign roommates and rotate them and more – lots of initiatives on our part to help advance things socially and build the community! The following video & reviews may be helpful if you’re considering traveling independently.

Group sizes vary depending on the program type. Generally speaking, these are the number of participants by program type:

  • Active Teen Tours: 35-48 participants
  • Global Adventures: 18-26 participants
  • Community Service: 15-24 participants
  • Pre-College Enrichment programs: 45-80 participants in Barcelona, Florence, and Montreal. 150-190 participants in Los Angeles.

Please note that this is a guideline. Actual group sizes may vary and will be confirmed in late spring.

It depends on the program, so it’s always best to contact us. On some programs, we assign a specific departure date by age group to create the best possible social dynamics. For example, if grades 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11 are listed on a program, note they will not all be traveling together on the same departure.

To find the programs with exclusive age-specific departures, look for tags saying “middle school” for students completing 7th and 8th grades, or “ON TOUR” for students completing 11th and 12th grades.

Our enrollment overall is 85% from the USA, 10% from Canada and 5% overseas.

Since our participants come from all over the country (and world!) and we don’t want anyone to feel left out, we do not host any formal get-togethers for participants prior to the program.

Health & Insurance

Trip cancellation & interruption insurance is not mandatory but strongly recommended (especially for programs overseas) and information is forwarded upon enrollment. You are free to choose our recommended insurance or find your own. For more details, visit our Trip Insurance page.

For any situation that requires medical attention, parents will be notified as soon as possible and our staff will take the participant to a nearby clinic or hospital. Prior to departure, our Program Directors are provided with detailed information regarding nearby medical facilities. Parents are kept up to date on developments after any medical visit. If participants are unable to participate in a day’s itinerary, a staff member will stay with them.

We know how disappointing it is when illness or injury forces you to interrupt your program, so we strongly recommend trip interruption travel protection.

Participants have the option of carrying their own medication or parents may complete our form to have staff hold medications and distribute it at the appropriate times.

It is suggested that all participants be up to date with routine vaccines. We recommend that you follow the guidelines of the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and consult your family physician about the need for additional vaccinations or other precautions such as antimalarials based on your destination. For each program, we send you a summary of current CDC recommendations. For more details, visit our Health Advice page.

Meals

We provide a variety of delicious food options on all our programs! When traveling, part of your experience will be immersing yourself in the local cuisine and culture, so please bring with you an open mind and a willingness to try new things. We also ensure that our travelers always have access to clean water everywhere we go.

We have extensive experience in satisfying the choosiest of eaters and we welcome discussing your individual requirements with you. Please note that international travel may present more challenges than domestic locations and we are happy to help you select an appropriate itinerary based on your personal needs.

Yes! We gladly accommodate most special dietary requests including vegetarian, food allergies, lactose intolerance, celiac/gluten-free and kosher style. We’re happy to discuss your individual requirements with you.

Our Leaders

The staff ratio on our programs is 1 staff to every 6-9 participants, depending on the program type and itinerary. That does not include the additional local guide who joins us daily in Central & South America, Africa & Asia. We also schedule supervisory visits during the summer that give our staff and programs additional support. Last year we had over 200 scheduled support visits by experienced team members to help programs achieve consistent excellence.

Our staff are educators, guidance counselors, coaches, college and university students, former camp counselors, residence life coordinators, community volunteers, world travelers, and other leaders with diverse backgrounds. Many are former participants themselves who couldn’t get enough of the Westcoast experience! Learn more about our summer leaders.

All staff go through an intensive application process which includes a personal interview, criminal background checks, and personal reference checks. Having offices in New York, Florida, Toronto & Montreal gives us access to an incredibly wide pool of candidates to meet with. This all comes together to produce a much stronger and more diverse staff team. Last year, we hired roughly 120 new staff from over 1200 applicants.

All staff, whether it’s their first year with us or their 15th, go through an in-depth training process that includes a mix of workshops, policy and itinerary reviews, and role-playing exercises that cover topics like safety, supervision, teen behavior, socialization, community building, etc. We have been told by many staff that the quality of our training far surpasses any other camp, school, or travel program they’ve been a part of. Each staff member is also First Aid and CPR certified.

Planning Ahead

Participants may bring cell phones which promote safety and easy communication (not to mention are your camera, alarm clock, flashlight, music library…) We use a messaging app for group reminders and may incorporate tech for fun programs like a photo scavenger hunt. We ask that phones are put away during group activities, meals, while volunteering, etc. so as to make the most of the social experience.

A valid passport is required when traveling internationally. To be valid, your expiration date should be 180 days (6 months) after the planned date of return. Requirements vary per country and can change at any time for reasons beyond our control. It is the responsibility of the traveler to verify appropriate documentation. For more information please visit our Passports & Visas page.

Each program has a unique packing list that will be sent to you with other trip-specific information in the spring. Whether your program is 10 days or 6 weeks, you only need a week’s worth of clothing as laundry options are available. Bring casual, comfortable and machine-washable clothes.

Depending on the program type, laundry is done approximately once a week, so you will only need to bring one week’s worth of clothing.

  • On all North American Teen Tours, Global Adventures, and Community Service programs, we go to laundromats together to do our laundry. We provide detergent and the WCC laundry lesson for first-timers.
  • On all international programs, we drop our laundry off at a local wash-and-fold service and then pick it up clean, folded, and ready to go.
  • On our Pre-College Enrichment Programs in Los Angeles and Montreal, students can choose between doing their own laundry at the residence, or dropping it off at a local wash-and-fold service to be picked up afterwards.

On our Travel and Volunteer programs, we discourage valuable electronics beyond cell phones. On Pre-College Enrichment programs, depending on the courses selected, bringing a laptop or camera may be required or preferred.

Transportation

Although we use private motor coaches for ground travel on most programs, it varies by division so please check the “Overview” section of the web page of your program of interest or contact us. Some of our Global Adventures in Europe use public transportation. Our Volunteer and Global Adventures in the USA travel by passenger vans. Depending on the itinerary, transportation may also include boats/ferries, internal flights, etc.