If your inbox is full of Scott’s Cheap Flights updates. If you’ve ever said, “Alexa, play Wanderlust by Bjork.” If you pride yourself on your passport stamps, your second language skills, and your ability to thrive in unfamiliar situations, you might be the perfect job candidate for a summer travel tour guide. At TFT, travel tour guides are called trip counselors.
Alex Peppard is a full-time TFT staff member and has been a trip leader for four years. He’s traveled to—big breath: Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Philippines, Singapore and Indonesia—phew! Recently, he sat down to tell us a little more about what it truly takes to be a travel tour guide!
What does a typical day look like for a travel tour guide?
Every day, and even every year, looks different, because trip itineraries are crafted to create authentic travel experiences for teens. One day, your trip group might volunteer at a local elementary school or at a wildlife animal sanctuary. The next day, you might lead your group of teens to hike a mountain or explore a quaint shopping district. “Trip days are long, exciting, and busy,” Alex says, “so they almost always begin with much-needed coffee!”
When teens get downtime during their trip to rest, counselors do most of the administrative work that’s required to keep a trip running smoothly. “Behind the scenes, we’re confirming travel reservations, managing transportation changes, communicating with TFT headquarters, and emailing parents,” says Alex. “If we do our job well, the teens barely notice all of this work and are none the wiser.”
At the end of the day, after teen travelers have eaten a delicious dinner of local cuisine and have gone to bed to catch some well-deserved Zzzz’s, counselors craft a daily review. “We put together an email that details that day’s events and upload photos for parents,” explains Alex. After expense reports are filed and submitted too, counselors can, at last, call it a day.
What are the perks of being a travel tour guide?
“When it comes to travel,” Alex says, “everything is a perk.”
“With Travel For Teens, I have the opportunity to explore the most picturesque corners of the world and participate in some of the most diverse cultures. I get to share all of these experiences with first-time travelers and get to see their eyes light up every day.”
TFT also provides a weekly stipend, room and board, transportation, and all work-related expenses for counselors.
How many trips do you lead in one summer? Do you get to pick where you go?
In general, summer travel guides will lead 2-3 trips per summer, depending on the region. Typically, counselors don’t choose the trips they lead. Staffing is a logistics puzzle and decisions are made based on the best experiences we can give to teens.
“If you have previous travel experience in a certain country,” Alex says, “you’re more likely to lead a trip in that area,” because TFT pairs teens with local experts. TFT’s goal is to teach teens to be savvy travelers so it’s important that their counselors can lead the way!
“I love sharing my favorite places in the world with young people—it’s the most rewarding feeling!” says Alex.
Leading teens is a big responsibility, how does TFT prepare you for that?
“Two words: organization and enthusiasm,” says Alex. “Every summer trip counselor must have both in spades.”
In addition to thorough background checks and lifeguard and first aid certifications, Travel For Teens holds mandatory, intensive training for its counselors before the start of every summer.
“We cover detailed emergency policy standards, group dynamic strategies to create positive, social environments, and how to coach teens through culture shock and homesickness,” explains Alex.
New and old summer counselors come together from all over the United States and the world for training. These days are fun! You get to meet your fellow summer travel guides and prepare for the best summer ever.
How does a job as a summer travel tour guide benefit your resume?
A summer trip counselor is a strong leadership position that involves the safety and security of teens. It requires a high level of organization, communication, and teamwork.
“You develop the skills to live and work with diverse cultures and people, and often have to navigate around language barriers. All of these skills must be carried out on a daily basis without ever losing a positive attitude or enthusiasm,” says Alex. “Employers are always looking for individuals who can display these high level problem-solving skills that only a trip counselor is able to demonstrate.”
Once you’ve spent a couple of summers with Travel For Teens, you’ll be able to call yourself a leader and true people-person!
What’s the best part about traveling with teens?
“There’s a moment that occurs on every trip that stands out in my mind,” Alex recalls. “It’s the instant a teen’s passion for travel is ignited. I’ve seen it occur on the tallest volcano in the world while overlooking the vast milky way, in the jungles of Costa Rica surrounded by roaring Howler Monkeys and while giving an Elephant a mud bath in Northern Thailand. It is these moments that will stand out as the first domino in a series of unforgettable travel experiences.”
Ready to be a Summer Travel Tour Guide?
If you have a passion for experiential learning and travel, and have experience working with teens ages 13-18, we want to hear from you! Check out our employment page for more information about how to apply to be a summer trip counselor with Travel For Teens.
Curious to learn more about the TFT staff behind every program? Meet the team here!