New Zealand’s South Island is home to some of the purest natural landscapes you’ll ever experience. Snowcapped alps, glacial valleys and star-filled skies all merge together for an adventure tour that is entirely unique from its neighbor, the North Island. This New Zealand teen tour program is for travelers who are looking for an authentic, off-the-beaten-path experience, especially designed for older teens! Explore alpine lakes, hike to hidden glaciers, stargaze in a hot spring, explore a glow worm dell and cruise through dramatic fjords. There is no limit to the adventures you will have when you travel with us this summer to New Zealand and discover that this country has so much more to offer than what you will find in the guide books!
During this program, you will…
- Discover one of the most impressive glaciers in the world
- Ride a helicopter to the top of a glacier and explore its natural ice formations- those brave enough will have the option to ice climb!*
- Visit a world famous observatory and discover constellations, planets and the southern cross*
- Explore bustling and vibrant Queenstown
- Catch sunset from Queenstown’s best view points after exploring the bustling winter town
- Cruise through the iconic fjords in Milford sound and spot seals, penguins, and dolphins
- Hike through forests, mountains, rivers, and glaciers
- Relax in a thermal hot spring overlooking a peaceful lake surrounded by snow capped mountains
*This is an optional excursion
This exciting adventure can begin by joining our Australia for Older Teens program. Check it out if you are interested in traveling for the full 25 days!
DAY 1: DEPART FROM LOS ANGELES (LAX)
DAY 2: CROSS THE INTERNATIONAL DATE LINE
DAY 3: CHRISTCHURCH
Begin your New Zealand adventure–get to know your fellow travelers while becoming acquainted with the most populated city on the South Island. Check out the Cardboard Cathedral, built to temporarily replace the city’s cathedral after the 2011 earthquake, relax in the botanical gardens, and even do some souvenir shopping at Re:START, a funky mall built out of colorful shipping containers!
DAYS 4-5: LAKE TEPAKO> LAKE PUKAKI > MOUNT COOK
Admire the stunning Lake Tekapo and relax in thermal hot springs right on the shore of the lake while enjoying the mountain views. Lake Tekapo is far away from the lights and glow of cities, and is the largest dark sky reserve in the world. This means the stargazing here cannot be beat! As the sun sets, the sky at Tekapo comes alive, and you’ll be able to admire the constellations, meteor showers, planets, and glowing stars that make Tekapo such an otherworldly experience. We will enjoy a guided tour to learn about the Tekapo’s amazing night skies with a unique combination of astronomy and storytelling. The best part of the tour comes when we revisit the hot pools to star gaze while relaxing on a floating hammock. You’ll feel like you’re soaking in the stars!
There will also be the option to visit the Mount John Observatory where you will be able to look through a special telescope to see the galaxies and planets up close!
We will also visit Lake Pukaki. This glacier-fed alpine lake draws visitors from around the world to admire the snowcapped peaks reflected in its bright blue water, including the famous Mount Cook. We will visit a special hiking trail across hanging bridges and through the mountains to reach a glacial valley with an up-close view of Mount Cook. This trail is rated one of the top hiking paths in New Zealand and it is easy to see why!
Our time in this region will also involve a visit to the quirky “cheese man” of New Zealand, who produces his own cheese and jams by hand on a tiny farm. After getting your cheese fix, we will be able to sample some of the freshest salmon in the world directly on the shores of Lake Pukaki.
DAYS 6-7: QUEENSTOWN > MILFORD SOUND
On the road to Queenstown we will stop at the stunning Clay Cliffs of Omarama. These cliffs are completely off the tourist track and every traveler who discovers them appreciates the natural beauty of this hidden gem. You will be able to scramble and climb through them, exploring every nook and cranny at this naturally formed “playground.”
After the cliffs we will arrive in Queenstown. Famous to travelers all over the world for its stunning location and wide variety of adventure activities, we will cruise through the spellbinding Milford Sound, take 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. For a real adrenaline rush we’ll zoom through rock canyons in the world’s fastest jet boat! To cap off our time in Queenstown you can hike or take the gondola to the top of the city for stunning views and an incredible sunset, and check out some favorite local eateries and hot spots of this bustling ski town.
DAY 8: WANAKA
The next stop on our adventure is Wanaka, Queenstown’s quieter little sister. Wanaka is a tiny ski town directly on a crystal clear lake surrounded by mountains. You will have the option to ski or snowboard at Treble Cone, one of the best ski spots in New Zealand. If skiing isn’t your thing you will explore Wanaka, admire the famous “Wanaka tree” perched in the center of the lake, and take advantage of the many hiking trails in the area.
DAY 9-10: FRANZ JOSEF GLACIER
Franz Josef Glacier is widely regarded as the gem of the west coast and one of the most impressive sites in the world! We will go on a trek through the valley for some of the best views of this incredible glacier, marveling at its bright blue ice formations.
The glacier itself can only be accessed by helicopter. Those who would like to get in on the action will have to option to take a quick helicopter ride to the top of the glacier to explore the crevices and incredible ice formations. If you are feeling extra adventurous, you will even have the option to try ice climbing! Spending the day on a glacier is a truly unique experience and is a must do for anyone visiting New Zealand’s South Island. After a day of adventures we will relax in glacier hot pools surrounded by rainforest.
DAY 11: HOKITIKA
We will continue driving up the west coast of New Zealand and visit the stunning Hokitika Gorge. We’ll enjoy a leisurely stroll to the viewpoint overlooking a dramatic granite gorge with milky blue-green pools, surrounded by cliffs and lush forest. Hokitika is also a historical beach town with an artsy vibe home to plenty of local shops and restaurants. We will have time to explore the town and go for a walk along the beach, keeping an eye out for Little Blue Penguins!
At night, we will be in for a special surprise when we visit a glow-worm dell! The glow worms light up this small fern grotto and you will feel like you are surrounded by thousands of stars. It is a truly surreal and one of a kind experience!
DAY 12: ARTHUR'S PASS
For our final full day we will begin our journey into Arthur’s Pass, famous for being one of the most scenic drives in New Zealand. We will stop at several viewpoints and make friends with the friendly keas (New Zealand’s parrot) along the way! One of the highlights of Arthur’s Pass is Castle Hill. Castle Hill is home to amazing limestone rock formations and boulders. Castle Hill has a tangible energy, and we will explore and climb across these formations and discover for ourselves why the Dalai Lama named it “The Spiritual Center of the Universe.”
After Castle Hill we will come full circle and arrive back in Christchurch, where our journey first began. We will celebrate with one final dinner while reminiscing on all of the amazing memories we made together in New Zealand.
DAY 13: RETURN FLIGHT TO THE USA
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.
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 this program provides an authentic adventure for teens their own age. This program is perfect for nature and adventure lovers!
What is unique about this program?
This program explores hidden gems on New Zealand’s South Island that are off the beaten path and undiscovered by most tourists.
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 trip?
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!
New Zealand is a 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!
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 New Zealand 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!