Thursday, February 24, 2011

Travel Health Basics: Carbohydrates

A new post from April Davis,' our resident dietitian, in her series on basic travel nutrition.

Most people have heard the term “carb-loading” in relationship to endurance sports. In fact, traveling can be a rather athletic activity. Many novice travelers are not expecting or used to the and constant motion that traveling often entails, especially the day-long site tours and hikes. A proper diet with the correct portion of carbohydrates will provide the energy needed to sustain your student throughout his/her daily adventures while traveling abroad.

What are carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates are compounds made up of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen molecules. The body converts carbohydrates into a simple sugar called glucose. They provide the main source of fuel for all physical activity, along with being the sole source of fuel for the brain. Adequate intake of carbs is crucial for recovery from long-term physical exertion and maintaining the correct amount of carbohydrate stores, known as glycogen, in the body.

Where can I find carbs?

There are two main types of carbohydrates: simple and complex. Simple carbs are made up of only one or two sugar molecules, whereas complex carbs are composed of two or more linked simple sugars. The complex carbs found in foods are starches and fiber. It is important for your student to include complex carbs in his/her daily diet because they help keep the digestive system healthy, lower cholesterol levels, and aid in controlling blood sugar. During travel, it is extremely beneficial to maintain a healthy gut and stabilize blood sugar levels. A high-fiber diet will also help your student feel fuller for longer, which is important with an energetic travel itinerary.

Most of the foods found in the grains section of the USDA pyramid are excellent sources of complex carbs, fiber, and B vitamins. The key is to choose whole grain products that are more nutrient-dense to sustain energy longer than simple, or refined, carbs. In addition to whole grains, fruits and vegetables are ideal for traveling because they contain soluble and insoluble fiber. Dairy, beans, nuts, seeds, and soy products provide a convenient mix of carbohydrates, fiber, and protein – a perfect combination for active travel days.

Healthy Complex Carbohydrate Snacks for Travel
  • Popcorn with chocolate soy milk
  • Yogurt topped with fruit and nuts
  • Whole wheat crackers with string cheese
  • Homemade granola bars
  • Banana, celery sticks, and peanut butter
  • Hummus and veggies
How much carbohydrates should be consumed daily?

Your student should be getting about 45-65% of his/her daily intake in the form of carbohydrates. In the days leading up to travel, encourage your student to trend toward the upper end of this range by consuming slightly more complex carbs than normal. On days that are particularly active, your student should “graze” on nutritional snacks (I highly recommend the granola bar recipe above!) that are rich in carbohydrates. Most importantly, your student should remember to replenish his/her energy stores by eating extra complex carbs after a markedly physical day. A good rule of thumb is to eat about 0.5 grams of carbohydrates per pound of body weight after prolonged strenuous activity.

Remember, a proper intake of complex carbohydrates will ensure your student has enough physical and mental energy to meet the demands of his/her dynamic travel experience!

For more information of carbohydrates and fiber, please visit

By April D. Davis, RD, CD, ACSM CES®

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

People to People Carefully Monitoring Tragic Events in the South Pacific

Our friends in the south Pacific have had more than their share of challenges in the last few months, including the floods and cyclone cyclone Uasi that impacted several cities in Northeast Australia earlier this month. We are carefully monitoring the current situation surrounding the earthquake in New Zealand to determine if the events unfolding might impact our students in any way during the upcoming travel season.

Immediately following news of the earthquake, we prepared frequently asked questions (FAQs) that were provided to all of our delegate support associates. Our objective was to be as prepared as possible for the questions parents may have regarding their children’s future travel plans.

Here is what we know right now:

The earthquake has mainly affected Christchurch and surrounding areas, located on New Zealand’s South Island. The majority of People to People’s itinerary destinations in New Zealand, are unaffected by the earthquake. We will assess the damage to any activity locations however at this point we know highlights for each itinerary will remain the same. The Schedule of Activities will be posted at 60 days prior to departure and will reflect the final itinerary for each If that situation should change in anyway, we would quickly reach out to all parents of students who are planning to travel to New Zealand with any updates regarding alternate programs or cancellations and details on the refunds provided.

The following is an outline of the approach we take in evaluating the impact of natural disasters or other events that may impact the safety of People to People programs:

How We Handle Disasters

  • The most important thing for you to know as parents is that if an event poses a risk to your child’s safety or health, we would not hesitate to cancel or reschedule the program.

  • When a safety threat occurs, key representatives of the organization are immediately notified. We typically receive information from one of the many partners we work with around the world as well as from a government organizations like the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) at the US State Department. Once we have knowledge we immediately seek additional relative information from our partners within that country.

  • We then work with our partners to determine if an event will have lasting repercussions that may require changes to our itinerary. If necessary, we devise plans to off-set any scheduling or itinerary changes that may be needed.

  • Even if a situation appears stabilized, we prepare for the worst case scenario. Our primary concern is for the health and safety of our student travelers as well as our staff traveling with them. We will take every precaution to be prepared to respond in any possible scenario.
[Updated] Should we have any delegates actually traveling on program, we initiate a fully planned, rigorous safety plan run by a duty officer and managed by our 24/7 OnCall center, which coordinates with key executives. We have successfully implemented this plan for events such as the London Bombing, where we had accounted for the safety of all our delegates and made alternate arrangements for them before many parents even knew of that event. [End of Update]

I hope knowing that we take each of these situations very seriously helps ease any concerns a parent might have with regard to our upcoming itinerary in New Zealand. My son will be traveling there this summer and he is extremely excited. He has started reading the newspaper to stay current as the events down under unfold. I am confident that our team at People to People Ambassador Programs is prepared to address any safety threat that may present itself. Together with our health and safety team?, I spend 100% of my day looking out for the health and safety of every student we send on a life changing adventure with People to People Ambassador Programs.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of the 75 people known to have perished in this most recent tragic earthquake and we wish gods-speed to the more than 400 rescuers from Australia, Singapore, Taiwan, the United Stated, and Britain who are searching for the remaining missing.

As always, I wish you all safe travels and a healthy life!

Mike Bowers
Senior Director of Health & Safety

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Students with disabilities travel with People to People

As Hillary says, we want everyone one to travel.

At the annual Overseas Security Advisory Council meeting back in November, I heard Secretary of State Hillary Clinton say she wants every American to Travel and that she knew how important these People to People contacts are. I even tweeted these sweet words as she said them.

Our goal at People to People Ambassador Programs is much the same. We bridge cultural and political borders through education and exchange, making the world a better place for future generations.

That mission is not intended for only those that can walk, talk, and hear as most of us can. Our mission is to provide the opportunity for everyone, no matter what their physical abilities are.

That is one of the reasons we require a health form for every traveler. On the health form we ask if there are any conditions we need to be aware of, such as mobility limitations, hearing or vision impairment, allergies, diabetes, etc. We are not asking so we can disqualify these students. We are asking so that we can properly prepare for their arrival and ensure they have as good an experience any other student would enjoy.

Several years back we developed a strong partnership with the Disability and Business Technical Assistance Center (DBTAC). This group of ADA specialists provides People to People Ambassador Programs with the most up-to-date information on ADA laws and how to effectively incorporate them within our program. With DBTAC's support and mentorship, we have worked to design one of the most comprehensive reasonable accommodation programs in our industry.

In the United States organizations such as ours has a responsibility to meet the ADA laws. Other countries sometime have very different requirements or none at all. That doesn’t deter us in our mission to open up borders for all students and we are very creative in finding a solution that works for the student in need.

Each of the past three years we have seen our enrollments for those needing reasonable accommodations flourish - which makes us very proud. That means many more students now have access to a life changing experience, including those that may not have had the opportunity with other organizations in the past.

The key ingredient in developing a solid reasonable accommodation starts long before the actual travel. It is founded on early notification of the need by the student and the parent.

For example last year in Europe, there was a portion of the day where the students had to walk a long distance uphill to visit Monmartre in Paris, France. We had a student with limited mobility, who was in a wheelchair and was accompanied by a medical attendent. We made special arrangements to ensure she could experience Monmartre with her other delegation members. One of our leaders personally escorted her medical aid and her on a tram to the top of the hill where she waited patiently for the tired hikers to arrive so so that they could all enjoy the fantastic views of Paris—together.

(My photo of the Sacre Coeur at the top of Monmartre - which has a lot of stairs. Below is the view from the top - courtesy of smemon87 via Flickr.)

I thought it was important to share this information with you all as every year we continue to have a few students arrive on program in need of a reasonable accommodation, but provided no advance knowledge of the condition (i.e., no condition is listed on the health form). This forces us to make last minute accommodations which may not be as complete as possible and can jeopardize the student's enjoyment and comfort, not to mention limit our ability to provide for necessary health and safety accommodations while on the road. That student in a wheelchair might not have been able to see Monmartre if we hadn’t known before to make special arrangements for her.

The lesson here is to always disclose ANY condition when submitting the health form. If you have failed to do so and you have submitted the health form already, please contact our Health & Safety Team at They are a great group of folks and they will quickly update your file, work with you to collect the needed information from your family medical provider and then work diligently to create the right accommodation that will ensure your child’s safety.

Come back next week when I will be discussing (live from China) the training we provide to the Delegation Managers around the world.

As always, I wish you all safe travels and a healthy life!


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Bringing it Back to Basics

Healthy nutrition is important for everyone, especially travelers. During the process of travelling, our bodies may encounter long flights, crossing time zones, and lack of proper rest. At People to People Ambassador Programs we recognize the need for you, the parents of our delegates, to be well informed about healthy nutrition for both your delegates and yourselves. With this goal in mind, last year we developed a partnership with April Davis RD, CD, ACSM CES®, to provide you with important nutritional information and help us improve our menus. As far as we know, our organization is the first to take this dramatic step in improving meal quality and nutritional value and with April’s help we will continue make strides in providing the best travel experience for our delegates.

Starting this week, April will begin her special feature on micro and macronutrient education. Stay tuned for more of April’s entries coming to you every other week through March. As always, I will continue to post health and safety related articles on a weekly basis so please come back at least weekly for the latest and greatest news from your Health and Safety team.

Mike Bowers
Sr. Director Health & Safety

Believe it or not, nutrition is all about biology and chemistry, otherwise known as biochemistry. Your body runs like a well-oiled machine due to the thousands of chemical processes that are occurring inside it every second of every day. It’s important to support these processes fully by providing your body with a wide variety of nutrients. Foods provide the nutrients needed for your body to grow, repair, regulate, and maintain itself.

There are six basic nutrients: carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals, and water. All of these are classified as essential. Your body requires essential nutrients to function properly. These nutrients must be obtained from the foods you eat; your body cannot make them on its own.

The two major categories of nutrients are macronutrients and micronutrients.
  • You need a large amount of macronutrients on a daily basis. They provide your body with energy in the form of calories. Carbohydrates, proteins and fats are the three macronutrients.

  • Micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals are required in smaller amount, hence the prefix “micro.” Water fits into its own class and requirements for it vary greatly depending on your weight, activity level, and medical condition.
Now let's test your knowledge on the six basic nutrients! (If you're a parent, pass this on to your children). Take this quiz and see how you do.

In upcoming blog posts, I’ll be talking about each of the six basic nutrients in great detail. My focus will be on explaining how each nutrient is used in everyday life, giving examples of healthy food choices, and relaying the unique role each nutrient plays in supporting your child's body during travel abroad.

I would also like to answer questions you have on macro- and micronutrients or nutrition in general. Please reply to this post with your questions and comments so that I can address them in future blogs. It is my goal to cultivate dialogue and education as it relates to nutrition, health, and travel. Thank you in advance for your contributions in helping to make this happen.

By April D. Davis, RD, CD, ACSM CES®

Saturday, February 5, 2011

People to People temporarily suspends programs in Egypt

We carefully monitor events around the world as they arise. From natural disasters such as I recently blogged about (Australia Delegation Safe: We Keep on Eye on Disaster) to the current political events in several Middle Eastern countries, we actively plan to ensure the safety of all our participants on all our programs.

Our decisions are driven by the intelligence and guidance provided to us multiple times each day from the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) and the U.S. State Department, as well as from the U.S. Embassy’s around the world. We match that to our own intelligence from on the ground through our partners, and our staff makes decisions daily to determine if we cancel, alter or move forward with our planned itineraries.

Part of our plan in evaluating the situation is being diligent in our communication to readers such as yourself.

While our student programs do not travel to the Middle East region, our Citizen Ambassador Program, geared to professionals, does.

Ultimately, we have decided that Egypt presents too great a risk and have canceled our currently scheduled programs there.

Part of our expertise is an analysis of the situations at the country level, understanding the sharp differences of the situation can exist in the same region. Therefore while, we are canceling our currently scheduled programs to Egypt, we are planning on continuing our Citizen program in Jordan and Israel.

At the current time the activities taking place in Jordan, although similar in nature, do not appear to pose the same potential threat as those taking place, as I write, in Egypt. The demonstrations in Jordan are much smaller and have remained peaceful. Some organizations have shifted travel to Jordan from Egypt.

There have not been any active demonstrations in Israel – Israel is a democratically elected government and while they are naturally impacted by the perception of what is happening in Egypt and Jordan there is no direct link. Clearly our Executive Task force will continue to remain focused on the events taking place in these countries and at any point conditions were to change and pose a potential risk to our travels, we will not hesitate to cancel the program and refund those participants who have enrolled.

Part of the decision making process may also include working strategically with the delegation leaders to consider moving to a different region of the world should the current situation change.

The bottom line is that if it is not safe, we will not travel to that destination. That core philosophy applies to every program that People to People offers whether it is a student program or a professional program like the Citizen Ambassadors. We will not travel anyone if their safety and health is at risk, no matter what the cost to our organization to cancel such a program.

We continue to remain in constant communication with our partners in the Middle East. We are hopeful that our good friends and colleagues in Egypt remain safe and we look forward to re-opening our programs to Egypt in the not too distant future once it becomes safer. Safety is our first goal, but our mission is to heal wounds and bridge cultural and political borders through education and exchange, making the world a better place for future generations.

As always, I wish you all safe travels and a healthy life!
Mike Bowers

Senior Director of Health & Safety

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Student Travel Trends & Education at the Annual SYTA Summit

People to People Ambassador Programs is an active member of the Student & Youth Travel Association, or SYTA. All SYTA members are organizations - big and small - that focus exclusively on domestic and international student travel. This past week, SYTA held its annual Summit in Irvine, California. SYTA members came together to discuss the most pressing issues in our industry, and to hear from fellow experts (including People to People). We heard from some of the most experienced minds in the student travel industry, all helping to ensure that travel is as safe, enjoyable and sustainable as possible (for families and travel operators alike).

By comparing our experiences and hearing from experts, we make travel safer and better for the entire industry. The summit included educational sessions that addressed how to travel a student safely on an educational program, overall trends in the industry, and tools to strengthen international travel programs.

For the behind the scenes look at what the industry is talking about, keep reading. But I also want to know, what are you interested in, as consumers? Let me know...just leave a comment.

The Board Meeting
The week started off with an all day, face-to-face board meeting in which we were able to learn more about our new Executive Director, Carylann Assante (pictured below). Carylann is a Certified Association Executive and had clearly done her homework on the current issues facing the educational travel industry. Day two was focused on strategic planning for the organization and how to continually improve the effectiveness of this great organization.

The Summit Speakers
Micah Solomon started the conference off with insights into how to create the best customer service experience possible. Micah is a published author on the subject and firmly believes an organization can no longer sell on price and they must focus on service. In order to do that he believes you need the following:
  • A perfect product
  • Delivered by caring, friendly person
  • Timeliness. Delivery of the product must be fast
  • Effective problem resolution
Next up was Robert C. Chandler, Ph.D., a director at the Nicholson School of Communication at the University of Central Florida. Dr. Chandler provided guidance to help ensure effective and successful communication during critical periods. Drawing from his research, field experience, and his most recent book on Emergency Notification, Dr. Chandler reviewed basic key aspects for effective communication during critical and contingency situations.

George A. Aguel, Sr. Vice President for the The Walt Disney Company, then shared his views on the current trends impacting the industry. Of particular significance was his observation that the Walt Disney Company is seeing a 5% increase in booking this year and his prediction that 2012 would be, as he put it, “A barn burner year.” (The travel industry has felt the economic downturn as much if not more than any other industry, so it was refreshing to hear that people are once again traveling in great numbers.)

Day one then came to a close after a wonderful presentation by Phil Otterson and Cathleen Johnson (pictured below) on how organizations can break down the barriers to building the international market.

Day two started with Carylann Assante sharing the work that the board was able to accomplish during the week as well as her commitment to continue to improve the service provided by SYTA.

Next we heard a very interesting presentation by Joseph G. Osterman who shared the latest work being done by the Bus Industry Safety Council and what we as operators need to be focused on when selecting a great motor coach operator. I was particularly interested in his statements that 42% of accidents involve cars, 39% involve light trucks but of all the accidents, motor coaches account for the lowest level at just .1% of vehicle accidents.

Last but in no way least, the Summit closed with an emotional presentation by Word of Mouth Guru Geno Church, co-author of the book Brains on Fire. Church led a presentation showing why “People are the Killer App,” centered on the theme of stories as the ultimate connector between an organization and their audience. Geno shared results and methodology behind case studies from successful word of mouth movements, including the award-winning Fiskars Brands “Fiskateers” and “Rage Against the Haze,” South Carolina’s youth-led anti-tobacco initiative. Join in the conversation on the Brains on Fire blog.

Next fall SYTA will hold its annual conference in New York, and I will be there as a board member to share what we learn in 2011 and to help all travel related organizations enhance their health and safety practices. I also hope to gain further knowledge from my industry peers that ensures the safety of everyone who travels with People to People Ambassador Programs.

With that, I wish you all safe travels and a healthy life.

Mike Bowers
Senior Director of Health & Safety