Our hurricane updates and this Q & A are meant to provide travelers and schools an accurate depiction of the conditions in our Caribbean destinations and Vamonos’ relief efforts. These statements do not come out of a desire for continued business. Vamonos stands with integrity always making sure the safety of our travelers remains our number one priority.
Is my deposit refundable if Puerto Rico becomes unsafe?
Our goal is to keep groups safe and together. We would never take students to an unsafe place. If there is a travel ban on Puerto Rico by the US State Department or the CDC, we will do all we can to get back as much of your deposit as possible on top of our cancellation policy or change your destination. However, cancellation because of a school, administration, board, teacher, or parent decision will be subject to our cancellation policy.
Should we purchase travel insurance?
Yes, it’s always safer to purchase travel insurance, in particular our Classic with Cancel Anytime option. However, make sure you review Allianz Travel Insurance and their hurricane policy by calling them or going to their website before purchasing insurance. Here’s an article they posted on hurricanes from September 6, 2017.
- (This question is addressed to Mr. Pardo, President of Vamonos and former Spanish and French teacher)
Mr. Pardo, as a former teacher who took students annually on tours before Vamonos, should we change our Puerto Rico destination for 2018?
Teacher answer: If it’s for 2018, I would definitely take my students. I’ll never forget our February 2002 trip to Puerto Rico. It had only been a few months since 9/11 terrorist attack. School trips were being canceled everywhere. Instead of canceling our tour, we said “no” to fear and traveled to Puerto Rico with our largest group of students to date. Yes, we took necessary precautions, had numerous meetings with parents, and traveled with more chaperones, but we went. The trip was possibly the most uplifting and fulfilling one that I can remember. As for 2018, 3-4 months of hurricane recovery is more than plenty for our hurricane-experienced island. More than ever, I would want my students to help with hurricane-relief efforts, to chat with locals about their experience during the storm, and certainly still enjoy the beauty of our island.
Vamonos answer: Group leaders may change their destination if desired, especially if done early (and approved by school) in the registration process and before ticketing the group. We have many destinations to recommend. Do keep in mind that a new destination may increase the tour price. However, would you cancel your 2018 trip to Houston? Would you cancel your Key West or Miami tour after their hurricane? Keep in mind it’s only been a few weeks after these hurricanes. Things will drastically improve. The news will strictly focus on the worst hit places.
Can group leaders change the deposit deadlines to a future date?
Yes, group leaders should email us and request we move the deadline to a future date. Caution! Remember that when the first deposit is paid, we secure airfare. The later the first enrollment and payment deadline, the greater the risk you have for a rise in airfare.
Have you heard from your Puerto Rico staff?
We have heard from most of our staff and they are safe. They have all they need right now. However, we still have not heard from: Tito, Splendid, and our main driver Joito. Communication with the island is still difficult at this point. As communication begins to normalize, we are confident that we will be able to reach them and find them safe and sound.
What about hotels in Puerto Rico?
We are beginning to hear from our hotel properties. So far, the Hampton Inn and Villa Parguera didn’t sustain much damage and will operate as normal beginning in November 1, 2017. We will continue to check the rest of our partner hotels to ensure they have power, water, and are fully operational and safe. We would never put students in an unsafe hotel.
How can we help?
There are some ways in which you can help. Soon we’ll be able to visit all of our service locations and people and suggest necessary donations. For now, we recommend monetary donations to our Go Fund Me charity called Vamonos Hurricane Relief Fund . This fund is to help our service locations and our staff make much needed repairs. 100% of the money that we receive from this account is used for this purpose. We will purchase the much needed items and deliver them personally to ensure that your donations are fully utilized. Secondly, we are considering organizing a service trip to help with the rebuilding efforts. Please let us know if you are interested; we would love to have you. There are also other funds to help the island, such as unidosporpuertorico.com.
How do we stay informed and continue to promote our Puerto Rico trip?
We urge group leaders, parents, and schools to constantly check our Facebook page and Vamonos Blog for updates. Group leaders should also share our latest statement and all other resources on the hurricane. Please ask us and speak to one of us if you have questions. Also visit the Tourism Company daily update for more information. Group leaders are moving forward in confidence knowing that our first priority is student safety. We won’t cut corners with safety. Rest assured, the island will recover in the coming months and our itineraries will run smoothly in 2018.
Are we able to change our service-learning activity so it’s all about hurricane-relief service?
What would projects look like for elementary school students? Certainly! We’d love to concentrate on safe hurricane-relief service projects for 2018. In the coming weeks we will know the specific needs for our underprivileged communities. As far as service for elementary kids, here are some safe and age friendly projects we have so far. They could help with any agricultural/garden efforts in our local pineapple farm, wrap gifts, make cards for kids or for senior citizens, play and entertain rural school kids, organize donations and clothes, pick up litter and debris with gloves, etc. As soon as we have more updates on specific needs, we will be able to give more news here.