Adventure through Europe with us and get the real backpacking experience as we navigate our way from Italy through Switzerland to Paris! Our approach is rooted in the classic backpacker strategy – get a railpass, explore cities with a wide variety of daily choices, and leave ourselves open to the spontaneous possibilities that every day brings.
Our Older Teens programs are specially designed with older high school students and students about to enter university in mind. They are all about a hands-on approach to travel where we go beyond the casual tourist experience, take public transportation, and learn how life really is in each place we visit. They provide a unique and carefully crafted itinerary that allows for more challenges and independence. We encourage teens on these trips to learn how to use a Eurail pass along with other handy travel skills so that they become confident and able to take on even more of the world in the future!
This is one of our most popular Older Teens trips and combines a great mixture of classic European cities, mountain adventure, and Mediterranean beaches. Those looking to discover a nice mix of European cultures will love experiencing the best Italy, Switzerland, and France have to offer. We will begin in the buzzing student city of Florence which is popular with both travelers and locals! In Florence, we will experience the masterpieces of the Renaissance, incredible cuisine, delightful cobblestone streets, and the city’s laidback charm. After Florence, we will head to the seaside and enjoy the beauty of the Cinque Terre. This is a lesser-known tourist destination and one that should not be missed! After enjoying the sea and incredible hiking trails, we will head to Switzerland for some alpine adventures in the classic backpacker haven of Interlaken. After feeling refreshed from the mountain air and scenery we will be ready to hit up our final destination: the City of Light, the one and only Paris!
During this program, you will…
- Stroll across the famous Ponte Vecchio, gelato in hand, and experience Florence lit up at night
- Enjoy a private invitation to a famous local leather shop for an introduction to the Italian leather market
- Stay in the heart of the Cinque Terre and hike between five tiny fishing villages
- Relax on a pristine beach in the Italian Riviera and swim in the Mediterranean
- Cruise across an Alpine lake at sunset while enjoying a delicious barbecue dinner
- Fly high over the Swiss Alps on a once-in-a-lifetime paragliding adventure*
- Pay a visit to the Mona Lisa at the world’s most famous museum, the Louvre
- Take a bike ride through Paris’s off-the-beaten-path alleyways and explore the artsy neighborhood of Montmartre
*This is an optional excursion
DAY 1: DEPART FROM NEW YORK (JFK)
DAYS 2-4: FLORENCE
Welcome to Europe! We’ll kick off this trip of a lifetime in Florence. Here, in the center of the Italian Renaissance, artists such as Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, as well as writers like Dante and Machiavelli completed some of their most famous masterpieces. We’ll stand in awe of Michelangelo’s gorgeous David at the Accademia gallery, and we’ll tour the Uffizi, the world’s best collection of Italian Renaissance art, marveling at paintings by Botticelli, Caravaggio, and others. Art and culture are not all that is in store for us in Florence, however; we’ll also enjoy an amazing pizza dinner, challenge ourselves to complete a tasty nighttime tour of some of the best handmade gelato places in the city, and even enjoy a special invitation to a leather shop for an introduction to the Italian leather industry. No trip to Florence would be complete without a visit to the Duomo, the magnificent Gothic-style basilica. We’ll climb to the top of the famous terracotta dome for a breathtaking view of the city. And don’t forget a sunset stroll over the Ponte Vecchio, Florence’s oldest and most iconic bridge that crosses the Arno River. Before you know it you will truly understand the meaning of “la bella vita!”
DAYS 5-6: THE CINQUE TERRE
We leave Florence for the Cinque Terre, which is one of Italy’s hidden gems! Often referred to as the Italian Riviera, this region is home to five idyllic fishing villages with pastel colored houses perched on dramatic cliffs that plunge into the crystal-blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea. We stay right in the center of one of the villages (Monterosso) just steps from the beach! We do not stay outside the towns in La Spezia which is not technically part of the Cinque Terre. Instead, we are right in the middle of everything and able to walk just a few steps to the beach or charming shops. In Monterosso we have established strong relationships with the locals from some of the service projects we have done there in the past, and you will see you are treated like family during your stay here!
The Cinque Terre is known for its spectacular hiking trails that connect the towns and we will have the opportunity to hike them for ourselves! On the hike we will enjoy spectacular views of the sea and the vineyards that line the cliffs and be inspired by the natural beauty in this region. During our time here we will also sampling local specialties like pesto and focaccia. We’ll dine on fresh seafood and relax on the beach in our seaside paradise.
DAYS 7-9: THE SWISS ALPS
Backpackers in the know head for the green valleys and dramatic alpine mountains of Switzerland. We’ll hop on the train in the Cinque Terre for our next destination, the breathtaking Swiss Alps. The backpacker mecca of Interlaken, nestled in a valley between two large lakes in the mountains, is our base to explore this elegant country and culture. Outdoor sports and activities abound for those who wish to breathe in the fresh mountain air. We will go on a hike in the alps to discover breathtaking scenery and views and spend plenty of time getting to know traditional Swiss culture and history in the nearby towns. We will take a trip out to the larger lake for a sunset cruise and barbeque and the opportunity to relax on the shores of its fresh alpine water. We will also have optional excursions to visit one of the highest peaks in Switzerland, and to fly high above the Alps while paragliding!
DAYS 10-12: PARIS
In Paris we’ll experience the best of French culture as we marvel at priceless masterpieces and stunning architecture, stroll along the quintessential Parisian boulevards, and eat our way through the different arrondissements, or neighborhoods. You’ll see Quasimodo’s home at the Cathedral of Notre Dame, where famous artists used to live and be inspired in Montmartre, and shop ’til you drop on the Champs-Elysées. You’ll have the chance to visit the Palace of Versailles and learn about the rise and fall of the French Monarchy, as well as stroll through Marie Antoinette’s gardens and go for a rowboat ride on the lake. Take a bike ride through Paris’ hidden alleyways with our local guide and learn interesting aspects of the city’s long history. Explore the Luxembourg Gardens or Père Lachaise Cemetery, take in the best of Impressionist art at the Musée d’Orsay, and relax on a sunset river cruise down the Seine. Try some of your favorite recipes at authentic restaurants, such as crêpes, fondue, and omelettes, or maybe taste something new–escargot anyone? Finally, let’s not forget the experience of a lifetime going all the way to the top of the Eiffel Tower!
DAY 13: RETURN FLIGHT TO THE USA
Frequently Asked Questions
Who can go on this trip? What kind of teen typically goes on this trip?
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 11th or 12th grade and approximately 16 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 Florence we stay in a great 3-star hotel right by the Duomo. In the Cinque Terre we are in beautiful, clean hotel in the center of town just steps from a private beach. In Switzerland we will stay in a hip backpackers villa right in the center of town where you will see paragliders flying through the valley outside your window every day. In Paris we stay in a gorgeous 14th century mansion right in the heart of the Marais neighborhood, next to the Cathedral of Notre Dame.
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 the most about this program?
Students love that this is an older teen trip that caters to their age group. They appreciate the additional independence they are given and that the trip puts a focus on helping them learn to be confident travelers. They love using the Eurail pass and having the classic backpacker experience traveling Europe by rail.
What is unique about this program?
This program provides the best combination of dynamic cities and outdoor adventures. Touring and sightseeing in large cities can become overwhelming, so we include fun activities to keep the trip engaging and exciting! Whether it’s attending an event at a leather shop in Florence, taking a French cooking class or hiking the trails of the Cinque Terre, each day is sure to leave you inspired and having a blast!
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 Paris, we’ll have many culinary delights such as crepes, pastries, gourmet food, and for those who are brave enough, escargot!
No trip to Switzerland would be complete without a Swiss fondue night! In addition to fondue we will enjoy other tasty swiss treats including authentic Swiss cheese and chocolate!
In Italy you are in a treat for some world famous Italian food! Mouthwatering pizza and pasta and incredible seafood are all on the menu during our time here. And of course we will enjoy plenty of delicious gelato!
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!
Do I have to bring a backpack?
No–the bag you bring is up to you, but we strongly recommend a smaller lighter bag, preferably one with rolling wheels to make your travel a bit easier. Larger “backpacker-style” backpacks are also appropriate. Please keep in mind you will be responsible for your own bags throughout the duration of the trip so packing light like a true traveler is key!
How will we travel from city to city?
In the backpacking spirit, we’ll be catching trains from Florence all the way to Paris. You’ll learn how to navigate the trains and how to use public transportation systems in general in Europe. Pack light!
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 wanted to say THANK YOU! I am so grateful that Ally had all of you there to help and take great care of her. She was so far from home and I appreciate that you all made her feel comfortable. It would not have been possible without the help of you and your thoughtful and caring team! Thank you again with the greatest appreciation!"
"WOW! This has been an amazing adventure for Allison and Grace. The opportunities, the pictures, the friends, the culture, the food, ...I could go on. We have enjoyed every update and all of the pictures. I don't think I got anything done the past 2 weeks because I was checking the computer, instagram, and snapchat. And then of course I couldn't help but start a bucket list for me for places that I want to see. I felt like the girls were always safe and having fun. They were encouraged to try new things and step out the box. I feel like this trip has instilled confidence in Allison to try new things that she didn't have before and is also a step in preparing her for college. This has been something that she will always remember. Thank you for everything you have done to provide such a fantastic experience for these kids!"
"Thanks for the great updates and pictures! The trip looks amazing. Nicole looks like she is having a great time!"