What better way to spend your summer vacation than by exploring Europe’s spectacular Iberian Peninsula? Spain and Portugal are two of this year’s trendiest travel destinations, and with good reason!
Let Portugal’s vibrant culture and eclectic architecture wow you as you stroll the hillside neighborhood of Alfama in Lisbon. If you listen carefully, you’ll even hear the sounds of traditional fado music being sung as you explore the hidden alleyways and hip boutiques. Take a day trip to the estate town of Sintra, where you’ll visit two hilltop castles with views that extend all the way to the Atlantic Ocean. Soak up the sun and sand at Lagos’ world-class beaches as we kayak through hidden grottoes, snorkel in crystal-clear waters, and watch the sunset at the End of the World!
Cross over the border into Spain, where you will wander the quaint cobblestone streets of the Andalusian cities of Seville and Granada before exploring the capital city of Madrid in all its royal glory. You’ll take traditional dance classes in Seville, tour the gardens of the Alhambra Palace, and even have the chance to get a massage and soak in a traditional Arab bath-house in Granada! Between ancient cities, gorgeous mountains, and marketplaces beyond your wildest dreams, you’ll see all the ways that these two countries have influenced each other over the centuries.
Our Older Teens trips are specially designed for any teen who wants to gain a global perspective before leaving high school and heading out into the “real world”. Because as you grow, your interests and needs do too. We are all about a hands-on approach to travel, where we go beyond the casual tourist experience, take public transportation, and learn how daily life really is in each place we visit. We 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 international public transport, along with other handy travel skills, so that they become confident and able to take on even more of the world in the future.
During this program, you will…
- Climb the Moorish Castle and explore lagoons at a mansion in Portugal’s gorgeous mountain estate town
- Try the famous Pasteis de Belem at the original Portuguese bakery where they were invented
- Tour the home of Real Madrid Football Club at the massive soccer stadium where they play
- Go for a relaxing soak and get a massage in a traditional Arab bath-house
- Take a traditional dance class in the south of Spain with a local teacher
- Kayak through the incredible rock formations of Portugal’s Algarve coast
- Walk in the footsteps of the ancient Moorish kings at the spectacular Alhambra Palace
- Go on a tapas tour through downtown Madrid, plus try paella and churros con chocolate
Want to cross another incredible country off your bucket list? Most travelers choose to extend their trip by joining the longer Europe for Older Teens: Spain, Portugal & Morocco program.
DAY 1: DEPART FROM NEW YORK (JFK)
DAYS 2-4: LISBON > SINTRA
Our journey begins in Lisbon, Portugal’s vibrant capital city. Here we’ll visit the San Jorge Castle, from which you can see all of Lisbon; eat famous Portuguese pastries in the bakery that invented them (the recipe is still a secret); and explore the best shopping areas and nightlife of the city. We’ll listen to traditional Portuguese fado music as we dine on local specialties that include codfish, potatoes, and chicken. We will also visit the nearby mountain estate town of Sintra, where we will climb the Castle of the Moors and the Pena Palace for phenomenal views of the landscape and Atlantic ocean, and explore the gardens of a mansion that includes a spiral staircase leading into tunnels and lagoons.
DAYS 5-6: LAGOS
Our next stop is the fun resort town of Lagos in Portugal’s famed Algarve region. Here we’ll spend an afternoon snorkeling and soaking up the sun on the pristine beaches, as well as take a sea kayaking tour of the grottoes and caves of its stunning coastal cliffs. You can even hike up to the lighthouse!
DAYS 7-8: SEVILLE
We then cross the border to southern Spain and the region of Andalusia. Sunny Seville, a fantastically romantic city rife with history and culture, attracts thousands of study-abroad students a year for good reason – it typifies quintessential southern Spanish life. Visit Columbus’ tomb in the world’s third largest Cathedral, go for a paddleboat ride on the Guadalquivir River, and even take traditional Sevillanas dance classes! We’ll also see a spectacular flamenco show and enjoy tapas in a typical Spanish taberna.
DAYS 9-10: GRANADA
Our first stop in Granada will be to explore the majestic Alhambra palace. We will learn about the history of the Moorish people who lived here for several centuries, and how they defended the city of Granada from the “reconquering” Spanish Catholics from this point. You’ll next have the chance to explore the Arab marketplace, where you can find all sorts of treasures, like spices, weavings, ornate lanterns, and carpets. This is just a preview of what the incredible Moroccan souks will be like! We’ll see the tomb of the Catholic Monarchs who united Spain, enjoy a wonderful tapas dinner at a bodega, and, to top it all off, you can even go for a massage and a soak in a traditional hammam, or Arab bath-house.
DAYS 11-12: MADRID
For our final stop on this trip of a lifetime, we’ll head up to Spain’s bustling capital, where you’ll get a sense of a more metropolitan Spanish lifestyle. We’ll explore the Puerta del Sol (and do some major shopping!), learn about the bullfights and beheadings in Plaza Mayor, and go to a churrería so good it’s even where the king enjoys his churros! You’ll gaze in awe at the massive Santiago Bernabéu soccer stadium, home to Real Madrid, and go for a fun rowboat ride in el Parque del Retiro, Madrid’s version of Central Park. We’ll see original works by Dalí and Picasso, including his masterpiece Guernica, and feast on a wonderful paella dinner. To top it all off, we’ll go to an upscale Spanish restaurant for a fancy final dinner to reminisce on our journey.
DAY 13: RETURN FLIGHT HOME
Frequently Asked Questions
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 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 Lisbon, we will be staying in a fantastic hostel just off one of the main shopping boulevards. Our Lagos accommodation is a beach resort, just steps from the beach and the bustling town center. In Madrid, we will be staying in a 3-star hotel right in the Puerta del Sol, the very center of Madrid (and of Spain). Metro lines 1, 2, and 3 stop here, as well as numerous buses and taxis. In Granada, we will be staying at a 3-star hotel right in downtown, just a few blocks from the Cathedral, Arab Baths, and main pedestrian plazas. Our Sevilla hotel is in the city’s oldest neighborhood but is a modern and spacious 4-star hotel with easy access to all of our activities. It’s just behind the Cathedral and Alcazar, and a few blocks from the Flamenco studio. It also has a rooftop pool and a breakfast buffet.
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 the incredible variety of activities on this trip, from exploring hidden lagoons in Portuguese estates, snorkeling and sea kayaking in the Algarve, learning about Moorish history in the South of Spain, and shopping in Madrid’s trendiest neighborhoods.
What is unique about this program?
Between the mix of adventure activities and cultural exploration, the opportunity to have a soak in a traditional Arab bath house, and our local connections who give us off-the-beaten-path experiences, this program provides unique insider access to the Iberian peninsula.
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 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 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!
The Portuguese love their fresh fish and seafood, as well as pork and chicken; Spaniards can’t get enough ham and cheese. Many of the foods might look unfamiliar to you, so we encourage you to be adventurous, step out of your comfort zone, and try something new!
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. For Specific questions pertaining to the COVID-19 vaccine, click here.
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!