What distinguishes Apogee from other adventure travel programs for young people?
In a word, care. While we’ve enjoyed great growth over the years, Apogee is still a small program and we love nothing more than to get to know the families that choose our program and watch as students grow over the course of their experiences with us. Additionally, we care deeply about the greater community – that’s why nearly all Apogee programs incorporate community service.
How long has Apogee been in business?
Founded in 2001, we ran our first trips in the summer of 2002 with a grand total of fifteen students. Apogee has grown steadily since those humble beginnings, and we now welcome hundreds of students, both new and returning, to our program every summer.
Where are most of Apogee’s students from?
Just about everywhere! While about half of our students hail from northeast of Washington, DC, we annually welcome students from all over the United States, Canada, Europe, and Asia.
Can my child do an Apogee trip with a friend?
Yes. As a general rule, a maximum of two friends or siblings may attend the same Apogee trip together. Our experience has shown that more than two friends or siblings on the same trip can often hinder the dynamics of a small group. If you would like to attend a trip with a friend or sibling, please indicate this on your application.
Is Apogee accredited?
Yes! Apogee is accredited by the American Camp Association (ACA). Accreditation means that Apogee meets or exceeds more than 300 ACA standards to ensure a well-managed and dynamic summer camp experience for our students and our staff.
My child is new to hiking / biking / outdoor living. Can they still participate in the trip?
Prior outdoor adventure experience is not a prerequisite to participate in an Apogee program. While training is important or necessary for some of our programs, Apogee is open to students with a positive attitude, a willingness to try new things, and a basic to moderate level of physical fitness.
Is there community service and volunteering on every trip?
Just about. We incorporate community service and engagement projects into all of our domestic, Caribbean, and Costa Rican itineraries. We feel that giving back makes our trips more well-rounded and better for everyone – better for the communities we serve and better for our students. Apogee strives to partner with organizations that offer our groups a hands-on experience while building a sense of generosity and community-mindedness in our students.
Community service projects and number of hours vary by trip and by year. Students may find themselves working at a regional food bank to support wildfire victims in California, contributing to trail maintenance in Boulder, Colorado’s Flatiron Mountains, weeding and harvesting produce in organic gardens in mid-coast Maine, or planting trees in Puerto Rico. You can find general descriptions of community service projects and estimated hours at the bottom of our individual trip pages.
For our European programs, we’ve found that consistent, short-term volunteering partnerships are rarer in Europe than they are in the United States. While we cannot guarantee community service hours for students on our European trips, the majority of trips in the past have been able to participate in meaningful service projects.
Who are Apogee’s Leaders?
One key difference between a good summer program and an exceptional summer program is the quality of its staff. We know that our staffing decisions are critical to the success of our programs, so we spend the time and effort to ensure our trip leaders are among the best in the business. Our hiring process is extremely competitive; in 2019 we received more than 380 applications for 40 open positions. Apogee’s trip leaders are outstanding role models with strong leadership skills and great experience working with young people in group situations. They are adventurers who love the outdoors and are eager to share their knowledge and enthusiasm with their students. Learn more about our outstanding staff and read selected bios on Our Leaders page.
How physically challenging are Apogee adventures? What are your essential eligibility requirements?
We believe in the concept of “achievable challenge.” While every Apogee program provides a measure of both physical and mental challenge, our trip itineraries are carefully designed to be within the reach of motivated students who are able to fulfill the “essential eligibility criteria” (described below). Trips with additional expectations include our America Coast to Coast (ACC) and Europe Coast to Coast (ECC) cycling trips, and our Alps Explorer (AX) and Pyrenees Mountains & Coast (PMC) hiking adventures. These trips are our most challenging and are for highly motivated and prepared students. ACC, ECC, AX & PMC participants must be prepared to push themselves daily and train ahead of time (we’ll send a suggested training schedule for all of our trips). Parents and students considering one of these more challenging trips are encouraged to be in touch with Apogee’s Directors about expectations and essential eligibility criteria.
Essential eligibility criteria for Apogee students may vary by trip, but will include at a minimum:
- The student must be ambulatory and able to walk, hike, and ride a bicycle (as applicable) without assistance. As appropriate for the specific trip and physical frame of the student, the student must be able to carry weight, appropriate to the camper’s frame and the program, either in a backpack or in panniers attached to a bicycle.
- The student must be able to see clearly, whether with or without glasses or contacts.
- The student must be able to self-toilet and provide for their own self-care.
- The student must be verbal and able to clearly communicate their own needs.
- The student must be able to follow a structured schedule.
- The student must be able to self-manage frustrations or emotional outbursts. Additionally, the student must be able to self-calm following an event that causes frustration, sadness, or anger.
- The student must be able to sleep in a small tent (if applicable) with one or two other students without sleep aids (such as lights, music, screens, etc.).
- The student must be able to follow verbal directions from Apogee staff.
Apogee uses a 1-10 Challenge Level system – what does it mean?
Our Challenge Level number refers to the physical challenge of any particular Apogee program. We’ve designed our programs to roughly fit a “Beginner,” “Intermediate,” and “Advanced” scheme. Thus, Challenge Levels 1, 2 & 3 are beginner-level trips and are designed to be accessible to any motivated student within the program’s age range with a minimum of pre-trip training. Conversely, Challenge Levels 7, 8, 9 & 10 describe our more physically challenging programs and, while designed to be accessible to motivated and fit students, will require pre-trip training. Programs with Challenge Levels between 4 and 6 are designed to be truly intermediate, accessible to all motivated and moderately-fit students within the program’s age range. Moderate pre-trip training is recommended for intermediate level trips.
A further note about our Challenge Level designations: while we’ve done our best to accurately categorize our programs, the process is not an exact one, and any given person’s understanding of the meanings of “Beginner,” “Intermediate,” or “Advanced” may differ considerably from another’s. Please call us to talk through the specifics of any of our trips – we’re happy to describe the physical challenges in more detail.
I’m not a U.S. citizen. Can I still apply for and participate in an Apogee trip?
Absolutely! We encourage the participation of international students in Apogee programs. Since visa requirements vary a great deal from country to country, non-US citizens joining Apogee programs are responsible for obtaining all necessary visas and travel documents. We are happy to provide enrollment verification and itinerary information as may be required for visa applications.
How do we find the trip that is right for us?
What are Apogee’s policies on matters of identity and inclusion on trip, particularly with regard to gender identity?
Apogee supports an inclusive, affirming learning and living environment, one where individual differences are respected, appreciated, and recognized as a source of strength. Accordingly, Apogee respects the gender with which an individual identifies. To that end, Apogee staff and students use the personal pronouns a student prefers and permits individuals to use the accommodations (tents, hostel rooms, restrooms, etc.) of the gender with which they identify. All Apogee students are afforded privacy to change, shower, and use restroom facilities. Apogee celebrates each student as the individual they are, and we make it our mission to treat our entire community with compassion, respect, and professionalism.
Applying with Apogee
How quickly do trips fill up? What if my first choice is filled?
Apogee begins accepting applications in July for the following summer season, and many trip departures will be full by the end of February (some programs may fill as soon as November). In the event your first choice is not available, we’re happy let you know where we still have availability, or put you on a waiting list for your first choice in case a spot opens up.
Are you able to put me in touch with families that have previously participated in Apogee programs?
Absolutely! References are a great way to learn more about Apogee and to answer many trip-specific questions. Please give us a call or send us an email and we would be happy to put you directly in touch with alumni parents and students.
What is included in the tuition? Other than the tuition, what additional expenses should we anticipate?
Tuition covers all meal, accommodation, transportation, and activity costs while on trip. Airfare, bike rental (for select trips), and costs associated with transporting or shipping your own bicycle to trip start locations are not included with tuition. Students are asked to bring a small amount of spending money that they may use to buy souvenirs or treats when visiting towns or cities, as well as to pay for showers and laundry. We’re happy to provide you with a copy of our packing lists ahead of time so that you know what personal gear is required.
Do you offer any scholarships or financial aid?
Yes. We’re happy to offer two different types of financial aid. We work closely with the To the Top Foundation, a non-profit supported by Apogee alumni families and dedicated to helping financially-deserving kids participate in programs like ours. To the Top has its own application process, and you can find their application for scholarship assistance on their website. To the Top scholarships are offered on a rolling basis as long as funds are available. Additionally, Apogee provides direct financial aid based on availability – we are typically able to offer this type of beginning in late March or early April. Please contact our Directors if you are interested in applying for financial aid through Apogee or the To the Top Foundation.
What is Apogee’s refund policy?
Please see our Terms and Conditions for details regarding refunds and withdrawals.
Safety & Risk Management
How “safe” are Apogee trips?
There are inherent risks involved with many of the activities on an Apogee program – whether hiking, biking, or otherwise – making it impossible for us (or any outdoor organization) to guarantee an entirely safe experience in the outdoors. That said, Apogee’s number one priority is creating and maintaining an environment where unhealthy risk is minimized for our students. We spend a great deal of time personally researching our trips to find the roads, trails, partners, and projects that best meet our, and our students’, needs. Apogee’s staff participate in our 14-day Leader Training at the beginning of every summer and often have extensive personal experience in the types of activities they’re leading. All of our field staff are lifeguard certified and hold certifications in CPR & Wilderness First Aid at a minimum. Parents should not hesitate to be in touch with any questions regarding our risk management program.
How important is physical training beforehand?
While we recognize that sticking to a training schedule may be challenging for students busy with school and other commitments, we firmly believe that participants who train ahead of time will be safer and get more out of their trips. Students participating in America Coast to Coast (ACC), Europe Coast to Coast (ECC), Alps Explorer (AX), or Pyrenees Mountains & Coast (PMC) must train beforehand as these trips jump right into days with a lot of mileage. Before applying for ACC, ECC, AX, or PMC, parents and students are encouraged to speak with Apogee’s Directors about the expectations for these trips.
What happens if a student gets sick or injured while on trip?
The health and well-being of our students are Apogee’s top priorities. In the case of an illness or injury, Apogee staff members are trained to follow treatment protocols specific to the injury or illness. If the injury or illness is minor, Apogee’s field staff will treat as necessary and contact the Directors (field staff are equipped with cell phones and, when necessary, satellite communication devices). The Directors will contact the affected student’s family to inform them of the situation if care given goes beyond basic first aid. If possible, the student will continue with the group and be closely monitored over the next few days or until any symptoms have subsided. In the case of a more serious illness or injury, Apogee staff will contact emergency medical personnel, treat the illness or injury as necessary (within the staff member’s level of medical certification), and inform the Directors. In turn, the Directors will contact the affected student’s family immediately. Apogee staff, our Directors, and the student’s parents will work with medical personnel to ensure that the best course of action is taken. In general, we will contact parents any time non-routine medical treatment is needed.
My child takes daily medicine? How will it be administered?
Pursuant to applicable laws, Apogee collects, maintains, and administers all over-the-counter and prescription medications. We will work with parents ahead of time to make sure we are aware of all medications a student takes, as well as the dosage and the time of day the student must take the medication. Apogee students are permitted to carry their own properly-prescribed inhalers and Epi-pens.
My child has a dietary restriction / food allergy. Can Apogee accommodate this?
We do our very best to accommodate food allergies and dietary restrictions, including vegetarian, Kosher, and gluten-free diets. The more information about a student’s dietary restrictions we have ahead of time, and the more the student is able to participate in their meal preparation on trip, the more successful the student will be. Because some of our programs take place in remote areas with limited access to a wide variety of foods, we may suggest a different trip for students with severe food restrictions or allergies. We are not able to accommodate a vegan diet on all of our trips at this point. Please contact the Directors for more information.
What exactly is a “bicycle touring” trip?
A bicycle touring trip is one on which students move from point A to point B over the course of their trip, travelling by bicycle all or most of the time. Students will have a rear rack attached to their bikes that will allow them to carry personal and group gear in two panniers (saddlebags). Most of our cycling groups camp most nights.
I’m worried about my child cycling on the road – how does Apogee minimize risk while biking?
Managing risk while bike touring requires, first and foremost, good common sense and awareness on the part of Apogee’s staff and our students. We expect students to faithfully adhere to our policies and practices for bike touring. These include paying attention during daily pre-ride briefings, proper attire and equipment, use of high visibility gear (including lights, reflective wear, and flags), proper riding techniques, and, most importantly, staying attentive on the road. We also require all of our cyclists to sign our Responsible Riding Pledge demonstrating their familiarity with, and commitment to, Apogee’s risk management and biking policies.
Additionally, we plan our routes to take advantage of secondary roads, dedicated bike lanes, and bike trails where prudent and possible. Our cycling routes are scouted ahead of time and we are in daily contact with our trip leaders to check in about conditions on the road.
Are bike trips van-supported?
Once we submit our application with Apogee, what are the next steps?
We do our best to notify applicants of their acceptance status within two weeks of receiving their completed application (please note that applications are considered complete only after we have received the names and contact information for the applicant’s two references). This process can take longer if we have difficulty contacting an applicant’s references. Once the student has been accepted, we will provide general trip information and a packing list. Well ahead of the trip, we’ll provide more detailed trip information including an itinerary, a schedule of pre-trip preparation and training, travel information, and a number of forms that we will ask you to complete and return in a timely fashion.
What gear will my child need to bring on their trip, and what will Apogee provide?
We will provide all group gear – including equipment such as tents, group cooking supplies, and first aid kits. We provide a detailed packing list for each trip, but in general, students must provide their own personal gear such as backpacks, sleeping bags, and hiking boots. Apogee offers bicycle and pannier / saddlebag rentals for most biking trips, please see below for details.
Does Apogee rent bikes or do we need to provide our own? What are the rental bikes like?
Students on biking trips other than Maine Coast Junior (MCJ) must provide their own bicycle and panniers / saddlebags (bike rental is included in the tuition for MCJ). Rental bikes are available for our Cape Cod & the Islands, Vermont to Montréal, Pacific Coast, and Southwest Singletrack trips. Rental bikes are maintained by certified bicycle mechanics. Students enrolled in our America Coast to Coast and Europe Coast to Coast trips must provide their own touring bike and panniers. Please contact our Directors for details.
Will my child need to get a physical before their trip?
Yes. A Physician’s Exam form will be included in your child’s Trip Forms & Information Packet (available in the spring). This form must be completed and signed by a licensed physician, and will confirm that the student is in good physical and mental health. You’re welcome to send a copy of your child’s most recent physical instead of using our Physician’s Exam form as long as the physical was completed more recently than July 1, 2019.
What is the makeup of a typical group?
Apogee groups are all small, co-ed, and organized by age. An Apogee group will never have more than twelve students. Additionally, we generally limit enrollment to two-thirds boys or girls – in other words, a group of twelve students will not have more than eight girls or eight boys. Groups are always led by two qualified leaders.
What are meals like on an Apogee trip?
Meals are a highlight of every Apogee adventure! Because our groups are so active, students can expect to eat a lot – three big meals a day and plenty of snacks. Given the nature of our travels, meals are generally simple (think stir fries, burritos, and pasta dishes), though we do our very best to ensure that they are plentiful, nutritious, and delicious. Meals are often different from what students eat at home. For that reason, it’s important for students to arrive with an open mind, eager to try new things. We plan our itineraries to maximize access to good fresh food while on the trail or on the road. With the exception of those groups in the true backcountry, each of our trips enjoys near-daily access to grocery stores. Students share in the responsibilities for planning and preparing meals – under the supervision of their leaders, of course. Leaders will also instruct their students on the proper hygienic cleaning procedures for both group cooking gear and their personal dining ware.
Where will we spend our nights?
Accommodations vary by trip, but generally speaking, we’ll be camping in Apogee-provided tents on most nights on most trips. We do stay in hostels for several nights on a number of trips, often at the end of a trip in a destination city (e.g., San Francisco, Venice, or Boston). The only trips without any camping are our America Coast to Coast, Caribbean Service, Costa Rica Language & Service, Costa Rica Mountains & Coast, Maine Coast Photo, and our Maine Coast College Essay programs, where all nights are spent in a variety of indoor accommodations. We’re happy to speak with you in detail about the accommodations on a specific trip.
How often can we expect to shower and do laundry?
We’re happy to tell you that hot showers are available just about every night on most trips. The only significant exceptions are the backcountry portions of our hiking trips, such as those on our Maine’s Downeast Explorer, California Mountains & Coast, Alaska Mountains & Coast, and Northwest Explorer trips. Students will typically have a chance to do laundry about once a week.
Once on trip, what are Apogee’s rules?
Apogee has a number of expectations in place to help foster a safe, welcoming, and wholesome environment – an environment where peers and staff are respected. Our expectations include firm rules regarding risk management practices and zero-tolerance policies regarding the possession or use of alcohol, drugs, and tobacco on trip. And because they can really detract from the group dynamic and a student’s appreciation of their surroundings, we ask that students avoid exclusive relationships. Additionally, we do not allow cell phones, iPods, or any other electronic media devices to be used during our programs. Finally, we ask our students to adopt a level of personal responsibility and ownership for their trip. A positive attitude and a willingness to try new things are essential attributes of an Apogee student. We ask our students to sign a pre-trip Responsible Trip Living Pledge that outlines these expectations.
What does a typical day look like on trip?
The specifics of any given Apogee day are going to vary considerably by trip type, location, and age group, among other things – but there are some universal components to every Apogee day. Generally, Apogee groups will wake up and get going relatively early in the morning. We’ll pack up camp and prepare our bikes or backpacks for the day before eating breakfast. Hiking and biking trips will spend the majority of their day on the trail or on the road with frequent rest and meal breaks. We’ll be eating a lot – students can count on three big meals and ample snacks throughout the day. Arriving at camp initiates a flurry of activity, including setting up camp, cooking dinner, and taking showers. Students are assigned to a rotating chore group with two or three peers – on any given day, students will help out as members of the “Cook Crew,” the “Clean-up Crew,” the “Journal Crew,” or the “Miscellaneous Crew.” After eating a hearty dinner, evenings are often filled with fun games or activities for the whole group. Days will always conclude with an Apogee & Perigee Circle (“A’s & P’s,” for short) – our opportunity for each student to reflect on the day’s best parts and its challenges, as well as providing a chance to give “kudos” to other members of the group.
What happens if it rains on my child’s trip?
We’re not daunted by a little rain! In the event of rain or inclement weather, we will most likely continue with the day’s planned activities. Students should bring appropriate foul-weather gear, including a rain jacket and rain pants, to be prepared for such instances. In the case of severe weather or any lightning in the vicinity, our field staff will find a safe place for the group to take shelter until the weather passes. Rainy nights are just a part of camping, particularly in the northeast, but in the event of extended rain (more than one or two days), we will often secure indoor accommodations; usually at a local church or community center.
Can I use my phone/smart watch/e-reader/other electronic media device during my trip?
In a word, no. Our trip leaders work very hard over the course of your trip to create a cohesive group, and we’ve found that phones and other electronic media devices distract significantly from that dynamic. Students flying to their trip start may bring phones*, but our staff will collect all cell phones and other electronics at trip start and hold on to them for the duration of the trip. Students who would like to take pictures should bring a digital camera or several disposable film cameras as you will not have access to your phone to take pictures. Enrolled students will sign our Electronics & Personal Property Agreement to reflect their understanding of our electronics-free policy. *Please note, however, that Apogee is not responsible under any circumstances for loss or damage to any cell phones,any other electronic “contraband,” or personal property, brought on a trip.
Where will we meet Apogee staff on the first day of my child’s trip?
We will provide specific information for each of our trips, but in general:
- New England trip starts:
- Drop-offs for New England trips will often be at easily-accessible, centralized locations that can accommodate large groups of people, i.e. church or library parking lots. Apogee office and field staff will be on hand to welcome students and parents and to help students get organized for their trip. Students flying into New England will be picked up at the airport by an Apogee staff member and shuttled to their trip start.
- Non-New England trip starts (including international trips):
- Trips located outside of the Northeast typically start at the airport most convenient to the trip’s activities. We will provide details in our Travel Information document. Apogee staff and trip leaders will have a detailed flight itinerary for each student and will be there to greet them on arrival. Once students are with their leaders, each will call home to let their parents know they have arrived and are with their group. Please see below for information regarding students flying as Unaccompanied Minors. Please contact Apogee with any specific questions or concerns regarding drop-offs and/or pick-ups.
My child will be flying to this trip start. How will they connect with their leaders?
Please note that Apogee staff members do not travel with students; our trip leaders will already be at the trip start location on arrival day and will remain after the trip ends. Apogee staff and trip leaders will have the flight itinerary of each student flying to the trip start and will be at the airport to greet them on arrival. Once students are with their leaders, they will call home to let their parents know they have arrived and are with their group. Please see our blog post for specifics regarding students traveling as Unaccompanied Minors. Further, we encourage you to coordinate travel with other students; we’re happy to put you in touch with other enrolled families from your area. We will provide enrolled families with a Travel Information document covering details specific to traveling to and from the trip start and end location, including airport information, arrival and departure time windows, and suggested flights. Please contact Apogee with any specific questions or concerns regarding drop-offs and/or pick-ups.
My child is flying to their trip start. Can we coordinate arriving and departing flights with other students?
Yes! We are happy to connect families from the same area in order to coordinate flights.
My child is flying as an Unaccompanied Minor. How will this work?
As every airline is different, please check your airline’s specific policy regarding students flying as Unaccompanied Minors well in advance. In addition to checking with your airline, see our blog post for an overview of the Unaccompanied Minor process. Regardless of the airline, parents will need to inform the airline of the Apogee staff member who will be picking up their child. Call us in May or June and we can give you the information you’ll need to give your airline.
Communication on Trip
Will I hear from my child over the course of his or her trip?
Yes. We believe that parents and students are both happier when they have a chance to check in with each other during an Apogee program. As such, students will typically have a weekly opportunity to call home and communicate with family. In addition to phone calls, every trip has at least one mail stop where students can receive mail from family and friends. We also maintain a daily blog during the summer season that contains updates and pictures from every trip. Please note that Apogee does not permit the use or possession of cell phones and other electronic media devices by students while on trip, see Trip Life above for more information.
How do leaders keep in touch with the office during trips?
All Apogee field staff have cell phones (and satellite communication devices, if necessary) and use them to communicate with the office daily. Read more about our field communication on our blog. If you have any questions or concerns about your child once on trip, you are welcome to contact us at anytime and we can reach out to our staff in the field in short order.