Australia & New Zealand Service Program Overview
Cross the International Date Line and arrive in the Land Down Under! Our journey to Australia and New Zealand is a Travel For Teen’s favorite, combining outdoor adventure with cultural exploration and major travel destinations with little-known gems. Feel a deeper sense of cultural connection when you take part in our community service program in Australia!
In New Zealand, experience the country’s famed natural beauty with a boat cruise on picture-perfect Milford Sound nestled in the mountains. Make sure you keep an eye out for penguins, seals, and even dolphins! Take an exhilarating ride on the world’s fastest jet boat zooming through rock canyons and enjoy a local Maori ceremony to learn more about the unique culture and traditions New Zealand has.
After New Zealand, we’ll hop on a short flight to begin our ultimate Australian experience. Here we will enjoy the best of Australia’s wildlife all while completing service work with local organizations dedicated to protecting the country’s unique and diverse wildlife and natural habitats on land and water. Participants will become Great Barrier Reef advocates as part of this multifaceted program that facilitates Great Barrier Reef research, education, and conservation. Service will include a classroom component — training with marine biologists and developing the skills necessary for our work out on the water. Our hands-on work will involve trips with marine biologists to Fitzroy Island and the Great Barrier Reef to survey reefs, collect data, and visit a turtle rehabilitation center. Over the years, our summer service program has had a huge impact on the community and our former students were even featured on the local news!
The adventure doesn’t stop there — when traveling with TFT, you can be sure that you will cuddle with koalas, pet kangaroos, spend time adventuring in the outback, explore Sydney, discover the Great Barrier Reef, and of course, immerse yourself in the Australian culture and relaxed lifestyle!
During this program, you will…
- Earn up to 20 hours of community service working with Australia’s unique wildlife and flora
- Volunteer with marine biologists in the Great Barrier Reef surveying reefs, collecting data, and visiting a turtle rehabilitation center
- Cruise through Milford Sound, one of the most gorgeous places on Earth
- Journey into Middle Earth on a Lord of the Rings scenic tour*
- Experience aboriginal and Maori life and history through a traditional Maori ceremony
- Spot platypus and wallabies, hold a koala bear, and pet a kangaroo!
- Scuba dive* or snorkel the Great Barrier Reef
- Visit the iconic Sydney Opera House and explore the neighborhoods of Surry Hills, Manly and Bondi
- Suit up and climb to the top of the Sydney Harbor Bridge for incredible harbor views*
*This is an optional excursion
DAY 1: DEPART FROM LOS ANGELES (LAX)
DAY 2: CROSS THE INTERNATIONAL DATE LINE
DAYS 3-5: QUEENSTOWN
Arrive in Queenstown and hit the ground running — the action is packed in right from the start! We’ll zoom through rock canyons in the world’s fastest jet boat and check out some favorite local eateries and hot spots of this bustling ski town. Come to understand the cultural practices that link New Zealand’s past with its present as we attend a traditional Haka ceremony and learn about the culture of the Maori. Then we’re off to cruise through the spellbinding Milford Sound and take in dramatic vistas composed of high mountains and rugged fjords, spot penguins and seals on the rocky shores, and watch dolphins playing in the waters around the boat. While in Queenstown, you’ll have the option to journey into Middle Earth with a Lord of the Rings scenic tour, or the option to paraglide high above the ground!
DAYS 6-7: BRISBANE > MORETON ISLAND > TANGALOOMA
Hop on a quick flight and land in Brisbane. After exploring downtown, we’ll catch a high-speed ferry to the third-largest sand island in the world, Moreton Island. Choose how to spend your days — maybe feed wild dolphins, sand-board down giant dunes, snorkel through shipwrecks just off the shore, or spend some time relaxing on the gorgeous beaches of the island. Explore the outback on your morning desert safari, then embark on either a whale watching cruise or snorkeling through a shipwreck!
DAY 8-13: CAIRNS > GREAT BARRIER REEF > FITZROY ISLAND > KURANDA RAINFOREST
We head back to Cairns which will be our home base for the next few days during our service in the surrounding communities with the organization Reef Teach!
We will continue our service efforts in the land down under by becoming Great Barrier Reef advocates as part of a multifaceted program facilitating Great Barrier Reef research, education, and conservation. Service will include a classroom component where we are training with marine biologists and developing the skills necessary for our work out on the water. Our hands-on work will involve trips with marine biologists to Fitzroy Island and the Great Barrier Reef to survey reefs, collect data, and visit a turtle rehabilitation center!
We will spend a full day in Kuranda, learning how to throw a boomerang, practice playing the didgeridoo, and we’ll enjoy a traditional Aussie BBQ lunch. You’ll also have the chance to cuddle a koala, feed a kangaroo, and immerse yourself in a greenhouse full of butterflies!
On our final day in Cairns we spend a full day cruising the turquoise waters on the incredible Great Barrier Reef where we’ll have the the opportunity to snorkel or scuba dive* with sea turtles exquisite sea life.
DAYS 14-15: ATHERTON TABLELANDS > YUNGABURRA
Next up is our service adventure where we’ll head inland to the Yungaburra. During the next few days we will work on a variety of local projects all related to the care and rehabilitation of native wildlife and flora. Get to know this part of rural Australia with incredible natural landscapes and stunning wildlife. See agile Wallabies living happily in suburbia before climbing the Great Escarpment onto the Atherton Tablelands where you will visit a huge strangler fig and look for the smallest and most primitive of the kangaroo species.
Some service hours will be spent working at the TREAT nursery, a cooperative approach to revegetation involving government and community resources. At the display center, you will be able to see all of the work of the last 35 years made by this remarkable community group and how you will help contribute to this work! Take a break from your service work for relaxing walks to beautiful waterfalls in a secluded part of the park.
DAYS 16-19: SYDNEY
We round out the trip in Australia in Sydney, where you will explore the urban and cosmopolitan excitement of the capital city, with its splendid harbor and world-class metropolis. Visit the Botanical Gardens, discover the history of the famed Sydney Opera House, check out a movie on the world’s largest IMAX screen, stroll down Bondi and Manly Beach, enjoy the city’s fantastic shopping in Surry Hills, and explore Sydney’s world-famous fusion food scene. To celebrate the life-changing adventure we’ll enjoy our final dinner with 360° views of this stunning city.
DAY 20: RETURN FLIGHT TO THE USA
What kind of teen typically participates in this program? What are the requirements to join?
Teens from all over the world join this program! Typically, our participants are culturally curious individuals who are excited to make new friends, experience something unique, and interested in stepping out of their comfort zones and expanding their horizons.
This program is exclusively for students who are currently in grades 9th through 12th and approximately 14 to 18 years old. Students living outside of the USA are welcome to join!
Where do we stay?
Our hotels are chosen specifically in safe areas and are well suited to facilitating group supervision. We stay in centrally located accommodations, usually within walking distance of the main attractions. We do not use large, impersonal chain hotels on the outskirts of cities; we prefer to select smaller, family-run hotels where we establish personal relationships with the owners.
In Queenstown we stay a short walk from Shotover Street along the waterfront. In Cairns we stay in the center of town a few blocks away from the Esplanade. In the Yungaburra we stay at a lakeside retreat that is similar to a traditional summer camp, complete with spectacular wildlife and campfires under the stars. On Moreton Island near Brisbane we stay in resort-style accommodation. Finally in Sydney we stay in the heart of bustling Surry Hills, centrally located within walking distance of all the major attractions.
For safety reasons, we do not publish the names of the accommodations we use. We do not feel it is safe to publish the name of a hotel where a group of teenagers is staying abroad. After registering, participants and parents are given access to our secure parent website where you will be able to see the names of all of the accommodations for the program.
Do most travelers go on their own?
Yes! In fact, over 75% of students who travel with us choose to come independently. This encourages teens to step further outside their comfort zone and make new friends. We believe that one of the most rewarding and exciting elements of travel is the new friendships that form along the way. When we travel by ourselves, we are bound to make new friends from all over the country and even the world. The best part is, you can travel again with your new friends on another TFT program the next summer!
If you are thinking about joining a TFT program by yourself but you are feeling unsure, please let us know! We have plenty of references from solo travelers who had great experiences and would be happy to chat with you about it.
Can I bring a friend?
Absolutely! We ask that if you do come with a friend, you and your friend(s) maintain openness to meeting new people and sharing this special experience with the entire group.
What do students like most about this program?
Students love that they are able to explore two different but equally wonderful countries, Australia and New Zealand. The varied locations and activities throughout the program give the teens a wonderful overview of this amazing part of the world. In particular, the teens relish the opportunity to make a direct, visible difference to the local community they are giving back to. During this incredibly enriching experience they form strong connections and lifetime memories helping rehabilitate indigenous Australian wildlife.
What is unique about this program?
Swimming with sea turtles on the Great Barrier Reef, performing community service helping Australia’s indigenous wildlife, cruising through Milford Sound, and gazing over Sydney from the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge to name just a few! This program is chock full of unique experiences with something for everyone.
What is included?
Tuition cost includes ground transportation; accommodation; chaperones and guides; program-related activities and admissions; taxes and tips; all breakfasts, lunches during the service portion, and dinners.
Not included in the cost (not intended to be an exhaustive list): Airfare, visas and visa application fees, beverages other than filtered water at meals, lunches, activities and admissions not referenced in the itinerary or deemed not program related, such as movies, expenses incurred by the participant that are outside the program description, such as excess baggage fees and damage to hotels, expenses related to unforeseen circumstances, such as transportation strikes and natural disasters, as well as personal and medical expenses.
How do the optional group flights work?
Upon registration, you will be contacted by our International Logistics Team to discuss the program’s flight details. There is no requirement to take the group flight, but there are several advantages to doing so. The group flight is usually chaperoned by a TFT staff member, and it also offers an opportunity for the students to get to know one another prior to the start of the program. Parents are responsible for coordinating transport to the departure airport – however, the logistics team will send out instructions detailing the exact meeting spot and airport point person. For additional information about flights, visit our dedicated flight page.
Who leads the program?
Our staff is a cut above the rest! We seek out two main characteristics in our counselors – extensive knowledge of and experience in our destinations, and a passion for working with teens. Our staff’s backgrounds include living abroad and working in summer camps or other educational settings. Team members are proven leaders and role models, who connect easily with others and form genuine friendships with each student – all while bringing each destination to life.
We celebrate diversity! Our staff represents 49 different nationalities, speak a combined total of 21 languages, and visited 142 countries. Additionally, 80% of our staff lived or worked abroad in their lives. With so many unique experiences to share, you are sure to gain a global perspective.
Our average minimum ratios are one staff member to every seven participants. Each program has one Trip Director with several support staff, depending on the group size. Directors must be at least 25 years old and have prior experience working with TFT.
What are the safety qualifications for our staff?
Our staff members undergo a rigorous hiring process. They receive the same background check as school educators, an extensive training process to go over all safety precautions and protocols, and are required to be certified in CPR and First Aid. We exclusively hire responsible, multi-talented individuals who are safety-minded and are as passionate about teen travel as we are.
What is the average group size?
We pride ourselves on small group sizes to create a more authentic and personalized experience. Our group sizes fall between 14 and 21 students – the perfect size to facilitate new friendships without feeling lost in a crowd! We believe smaller groups eliminate the likelihood of cliques, and allows for a well-rounded, healthy group dynamic.
How does this program connect to other programs?
Our program dates are designed specifically so that participants can opt to combine trips throughout the summer. When connecting to another program, your counselor will escort you to the airport on the last day of the program and assist you in meeting your next group at your new destination.
Families who sign up for more than one program will also receive a 15% discount on the lesser-priced program.
What is the food like on this program?
In a word – delicious! At TFT, we believe food is an integral aspect of the travel experience, and we make an effort to eat at authentic establishments whenever possible. There is no better way to immerse ourselves in the culture of a place then through sampling the local delicacies. We stray away from westernized restaurants and chains that cater to tourists, because every true traveler knows the best food is found where the locals are eating!
Australia and New Zealand are very multicultural countries with an incredible array of cuisines from around the world. Each with large migrant populations the food is as authentic and delicious as you would find in the original country. Greek, Italian, Thai, Indian, Chinese, the choice is yours! For the adventurous eaters there is also kangaroo, crocodile and emu to try.
Of course, we are always willing and able to accommodate vegetarians, vegans, gluten allergies, and other dietary restrictions.
Do we ever get time to go off on our own?
Our staff and teens are nearly always together, but we do provide the opportunity to break up into smaller groups to allow for flexibility and customization within the itinerary.
We offer free time in defined safe areas – for example, shopping in a market or exploring a museum. During these times, students remain in groups of at least two and are given no more than an hour. Of course, the counselors remain nearby and available. Additionally, a lifeguard-certified counselor supervises the campers any time they are involved in water activities.
Do I need to bring anything special for the community service portion of the program?
Due to the nature of our service work outdoors with habitat restoration and local wildlife, all you’ll need are clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty and a water bottle to stay hydrated. A more detailed packing list will be provided upon registration.
Do I need any vaccinations for this program?
We recommend checking with your family doctor regarding vaccinations and medical advice for the destination you are visiting. For more information, please check the World Health Organization’s website. Upon registration, we provide a list of recommended vaccinations that can be discussed further with your doctor.
What kind of visa do you need for the trip?
Any US citizen that enters New Zealand is automatically granted a free 90-day tourist visa.
All US citizens will need to obtain an Electronic Travel Authority visa for a fee of $20 USD prior to traveling to Australia.
When joining a TFT trip from outside of the US, please be sure to check your country’s specific visa requirements.
Authenticity is engrained in everything we do. Eat, stay, and travel like a local.
Check out what past travelers have to say about TFT and discover why we are consistently awarded “Top Youth Travel Organization” year after year.
"For my graduation present last year, I was grateful enough to travel to Italy with TFT! I was a bit nervous about traveling across the world without knowing anyone beforehand, but the staff and my peers were all so friendly and welcoming! Everything about this trip was so FUN, exciting, and very well organized. From the airport designations to the travel itinerary, everything was smooth sailing. There was always something new for us to do/see which was my favorite part of the trip. Although relaxing, it was fulfilling to be kept busy with a new culture to explore. I highly recommend not only the Amalfi trip, but any trip with TFT! They are an extremely trust worthy company and my parents were confident that I was being left in good hands. This trip was hands down one of the best trips I have been on and am excited to be traveling with TFT again soon!"
"I went on the Costa Rica Adrenaline trip this past summer and it was amazing! I have never gone on a trip by myself before and I was very nervous. But after meeting with everyone at the airport, I knew that I made the right choice booking the trip! The staff were so helpful and very resourceful throughout the trip, and everyone in my group were super nice and welcoming! I really enjoyed the adventures we did, such as: tubing, ziplining, snorkeling, and canyoning! But one of the best memories I had was being able to surf for the very first time!! It was so surreal and an incredible feeling! I was said to say goodbye on our last night, but I still stay in contact with some of the friends I made to this day! I would totally recommend this trip to anyone who loves adventure!!"
"I had been wanting to go to Japan for years prior and getting the chance to go and be fully immersed was amazing! We got to walk through a national forest and see a beautiful waterfall that I wouldn't have even thought to do. We also went to the Studio Ghibli Museum and got to experience city life but also get out of the crowds and go to towns farther out. I got pushed so far out of my comfort zone that I wouldn't have allowed myself to do if I decided to go to Japan by myself on my own terms. I would go back on this trip in a heartbeat. It was so much fun and I got to meet such amazing people. Truly is something that you should do if given the chance."