Take the road less traveled and explore four of the culturally richest cities in Eastern Europe: Budapest, Krakow, Vienna, and Prague. There are hidden treasures around every corner in these imperial cities, from the thermal baths in Budapest, to the quaint streets of Krakow, Vienna’s elegant opera house, and the magical fairytale city of Prague. Learn the fascinating history of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and dive into more recent history to understand these elegant cities have been reborn after the Nazi and Communist occupations. Travel between your destinations on Europe’s modern trains. This program offers a unique and exotic experience to a stunning part of Europe for those teen travelers looking to venture off the beaten path!
During this program, you will…
- Explore the Buda Castle District and climb Fishermen’s Bastion for breathtaking views over the Danube River
- Take an adventurous climbing and crawling tour through the longest cave system in Hungary*
- Marvel at the beauty of Krakow–from the bustling Old Town Square to the charming side streets adorned with pastel buildings
- Learn how to make authentic Polish cuisine in a hands-on pierogi cooking class
- Experience sobering WWII history at the Auschwitz concentration camp
- Savor a slice of famous Viennese chocolate cake and take an authentic Austrian cooking lesson
- Visit the elegant Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna and go for a ride at the Prater, the world’s oldest amusement park
- Bike the streets of Prague like a local and visit the John Lennon Wall, Jewish Quarter, and Astronomical Clock
*This is an optional excursion
DAY 1: DEPART FROM NEW YORK-NEWARK
DAYS 2-4: KRAKOW
Our first stop on this incredible journey is the charming city of Krakow! Fall in love with Poland and enjoy all of the sights just a short walk from our hotel, including the largest medieval town square in Europe and the colorful Florianska, the main shopping street in Krakow. When wandering down the cobbled streets gets you hungry, prepare to indulge in some delicious cuisines. Of course, the pierogis will be plentiful, and we’ll even have a chance to make our very own at a pierogi cooking class! Visit the majestic Wawel Castle and go underground to the legendary Dragon’s Den. We’ll get a brief introduction to World War II history in Kazimierz, the Jewish District which was an independent city until the 19th century, and even stop for a snack at a cafe that was made famous by the movie “Schindler’s List.”
Then we’ll have a first-hand look at the Holocaust on our tour of Auschwitz-Birkenau, an experience that will surely stay with you for the rest of your life. This visit to the infamous Nazi concentration camps gives us an opportunity to reflect on a very dark chapter in history.
End your time in Krakow soaking up the sun in the town square, shopping for souvenirs in the Cloth Hall, and climbing St. Mary’s belltower for a fantastic view of the city.
DAYS 4-6: PRAGUE
Our next destination is the capital of the Czech Republic. Upon arrival in Prague, you’ll be transported into a fairytale city so magical you’ll feel like you stepped inside a story book! We’ll bike through the streets of this medieval city to the Old Town Square and famous Astronomical Clock, cross the river with a beautiful view of the Charles Bridge, sign the John Lennon Wall, and discover why this is one of the hottest destinations in Eastern Europe! We’ll enjoy delicious Czech food such as goulash and bread dumplings and even sample fried cheese at some critically acclaimed restaurants that have been featured on Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations. We’ll head up to the Prague Castle District to watch the changing of the guard, visit the impressive architecture of St. Vitus Cathedral, and wander down the adorable “Golden Lane,” a street of tiny, colorful houses dating back to the 15th century where goldsmiths and artisans once lived. We’ll float down the river on a jazz dinner cruise, allowing us to enjoy the view of Prague from a different perspective. Take a day trip to Cesky Krumlov, where we will climb the belltower for incredible views of the red-roofed houses, wander through the charming bohemian town, and even have the opportunity to kayak or raft the river that cuts through the village!
DAYS 7-9: VIENNA
Then it’s time to discover Vienna. Visit the elegant and decadent Schonbrunn Palace, which was the imperial family’s summer home. Be amazed by this lavish 18th century palace and get lost in its garden maze. Afterwards, enjoy some of Vienna’s famous chocolate cake for an afternoon snack followed by a walking tour of the city seeing all of the best sites, including Mozart’s famous Opera House. We’ll also enjoy a wonderful Austrian cooking lesson where we’ll learn how to make schnitzel and other local favorites! Our time in Vienna wouldn’t be complete without some time shopping on the upscale Mariahilferstrasse.
DAYS 9-12: BUDAPEST
This Hungarian capital may be one of Europe’s most understatedly beautiful cities. Dive into the rich cultural center of Budapest, from the communist history of Statue Park, to the Hungarian heritage and pride at the Parliament building. We’ll have a guided tour around the city’s charming castle district, enjoying some of the best views looking down on this stunning city split into two sides by the Danube River. Seeking some adventure? You’ll have the option to explore the multi-level labyrinth under the city by climbing and crawling through underground caves stretching almost 20 miles long!
No trip to Budapest would be complete without an afternoon spent relaxing in the summer sun at the legendary thermal baths. Bathe in the largest thermal spa in Europe and marvel at the stunning Neo-Baroque architecture surrounding the grand outdoor pools. After our final dinner in Budapest, we will climb up to the top of Gellert Hill for a magnificent view of the city lit up below.
DAY 13: RETURN FLIGHT TO THE USA
Who can go on this program? What kind of teen typically goes on this program?
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 9th or 10th grade and approximately 14 to 16 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 Budapest we stay in a hotel centrally located next to the main train station. In Krakow we stay within 5 minutes walking distance of the Old Town Square and right off the main shopping street. In Prague we stay in New Town, a short walk to Wenceslas Square and easy access to main metro lines.
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 generally like most on this program?
Students love that they are able to explore three of the trendiest Eastern European cities. On this program, they are able to venture off the beaten path to discover cultures that are so unique and different from countries that most travelers visit in Western Europe.
What is unique about this program?
From an afternoon spent bathing at the thermal baths in Budapest to an up-close and personal look at the horrors of the Holocaust in Auschwitz and an opportunity to explore both the most popular Bohemian city of Prague and a smaller Bohemian town of Cesky Krumlov, this program provides unique insider access to the hottest destinations in Eastern Europe.
What is included?
Tuition cost includes ground transportation; accommodation; chaperones and guides; program-related activities and admissions; taxes and tips; all breakfasts and dinners.
Not included in cost (this is not intended to be an exhaustive list): airfare; lunches; visas and visa application fees; personal and medical expenses; activities and admissions that are not program-related or referenced in the itinerary; beverages other than filtered water at meals; participant expenses that are outside of the program description, such as excess baggage fees and damage to hotels; expenses related to unforeseen circumstances, such as transportation strikes and natural disasters.
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 should be an integral part of the travel experience and always make an effort to eat at authentic establishments when we can. What better way to immerse yourself in the culture of a place than by sampling the local delicacies, and we encourage students to do so whenever possible! Just as we stay away from Americanized hotel chains, we try to avoid restaurants with menus that cater only to tourists because every good traveler knows the best food is found wherever the locals are eating!
In Budapest, we will appreciate the delicious paprika seasoning that is used in typical Hungarian dishes. Goulash is plentiful in Budapest, which is similar to a beef stew or hearty soup. Many meals are accompanied with rice or small pastas on the side. And if you’re really interested in eating like a local, you will have a chance to sample the famous langos! This mouth watering snack is fried dough topped with sour cream, cheese, and any other delicious toppings you choose. Students will also have an opportunity to eat at the Central Market Hall, which has a number of different food stalls with delectable choices- something for everyone!
Polish cuisine is best known for pierogi- amazing dumplings filled with any combination of cheese, potato, meat, and veggies. Not only will we eat authentic pierogis, but we will learn how to make them homemade at a Polish cooking class. Another classic Polish snack is potato pancakes, which are similar to a latke or large, flattened hash brown and can be topped with anything from sour cream to goulash or mushroom sauce. Our time in this city wouldn’t be complete without a taste of something all the locals are eating, and in Krakow that’s “zapiekanka.” These open-faced toasted baguettes topped with cheese, meat, veggies, or all of the above are famous in Kazimierz! We will also enjoy a spectacular 3 course meal in Krakow at one of the city’s most famous restaurants on our final night there.
Last but not least in Prague, we will dine on the finest goulash, bread dumplings, and beer cheese in all the land! The goulash here is a hearty dish, differing from the soup version in Budapest, and often comes with a beloved ball of dough on the side to soak up the creamy sauce. We will try these Czech specialities at a critically acclaimed beer hall for an authentic dining experience in Prague. Last but not least, we will stand beside the locals in Wenceslas Square tasting savory Czech sausages and the famous fried cheese!
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 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 this trip?
Any US citizen that enters Europe is automatically granted a free 90-day tourist visa.
When joining a TFT trip from outside of the US, please be sure to check your country’s specific visa requirements.
Do I need to speak the language?
No, our skilled staff members will help you get around and even teach you a few fun phrases!
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 were awarded top youth travel organization in 2017
"I have been on four TFT trips now, and my passion for the company and what TFT has to offer would not have been possible had I not gathered the courage to travel overseas alone for the first time. My expectations for this trip were exceeded beyond imagination; these three cities are each highlights of Eastern Europe and each offer their own unique culture that I was lucky enough to explore. Aside from the delicious trdelníks in Prague (a must have dessert if you’re there), I met friends on this trip and made connections with people I still keep in touch with to this day, almost 5 summers later. This program is extra special to me as it is what got me hooked on TFT, and it was the perfect introduction to the experience of being a traveler, not a tourist."