Thailand is an earthly paradise full of incredible contrasts, untouched beauty, and adrenaline-charged adventure. Our all-encompassing program showcases the best parts of this country, designed with the high school student in mind.
Travel to a new part of the world and explore Northern Thailand while you work with the magnificent Asian elephants at our partner elephant sanctuary. You will be directly involved with their care, spending all day with them forming wonderful bonds and lifelong memories while learning about the conservation of these gentle giants.
From the hustle and bustle of the ultra-modern capital of Bangkok, to the picturesque white sandy beaches of Koh Phi Phi and Krabi, you’ll experience it all on this TFT favorite! Swim with sharks and dive world-class reefs in the world’s bluest waters, meet saffron-cloaked Buddhist monks, bathe elephants surrounded by jungle, gaze in wonder at golden Buddhas and temples adorned with mother-of-pearl inlay, try local delicacies and learn how to cook your own mouth-watering cuisine, all while enjoying the warm hospitality and gentle smiles of the Thai people.
Please note, we do not ride elephants on any of our programs. TFT is very proud to be one of the only teen tour operators to take this stance and support ethical tourism.
During this program, you will…
- Earn up to 20 hours of community service working with elephants in the jungle at a sanctuary and rescue center in Chiang Mai
- Hunt for bargains at the incredible night markets of Chiang Mai and Bangkok
- Snorkel with majestic reef sharks off Koh Phi Phi
- Immerse yourself in breathtaking underwater worlds as you snorkel and scuba dive incredible coral reefs*
- Gaze upon the famous Emerald Buddha, Reclining Buddha, and the Royal Palace in Bangkok
- Get your adrenaline pumping whitewater rafting as you navigate rapids on the Pai River.
- Take a cooking lesson and learn how to make your own Thai food
- Catch a longtail boat over to Railay Beach and admire the limestone cliffs
- Take a Thai culture and language lesson
- Watch a traditional fire show
*This is an optional add-on
DAY 1: GROUP FLIGHTS DEPARTS FROM LOS ANGELES (LAX)
As the group flight takes off, the program officially begins!
DAYS 2 – 9: CHIANG MAI
We’ll hang out in Chiang Mai, a hip university town in the northern hills of Thailand, taking ample time to explore the world-famous Buddhist temples and vast outdoor markets, a tradition left over from the caravans that stopped off here from the nearby Silk Road. Meet Buddhist monks and participate in a question-and-answer session, try out Muay Thai boxing, bathe elephants in the jungle, and learn Thai cooking and dancing. Complete fun and meaningful service at two different elephant sanctuaries, feeding, bathing and caring for injured and rescued elephants. We’ll cap off our time in Chiang Mai with a celebratory dinner where we sail paper lanterns into the night sky.
DAYS 10 – 13: PHI PHI ISLANDS
Coming out of the jungle, we’ll jet down to the Phi Phi islands in the Andaman Sea for a taste of tropical nirvana. Snorkel and dive in the crystal-clear blue waters and relax on the most beautiful beaches you’ve ever seen. For the adventurous traveler, snorkel the reef with harmless reef sharks! The picture perfect sunsets will leave you with memories to last a lifetime. Get in touch with nature as you hike gorgeous scenic trails and take a longtail boat to a beach featured in movies.
DAYS 13 – 15: KRABI
Continue the adventure in paradise with a couple of days in Ao Nang, exploring the best of Krabi. Head inland to relax in the the stunning hot springs of the Emerald and Crystal Pools of Khao Phra-Bang Khram Nature Reserve, before climbing to the the top of the the Tiger Cave temple, one of the most sacred Buddhist sites in the region for jaw-dropping views. Catch a traditional longtail boat to nearby beautiful Railay beach, playing soccer with fellow travelers, hanging off the limestone cliffs that rise right from the sandy beach or simply relaxing in the sunshine.
DAYS 15 – 16: BANGKOK
Next you’ll be safely led through bustling Bangkok where we complete this incredible journey. During our tour of this thriving, full throttle city full of energy and life, you’ll marvel at the Emerald Buddha, Reclining Buddha and the opulent Royal Palace, plus take a ride on a traditional tuk tuk, before catching the unsurpassed sunset over Wat Arun. Fill your suitcase for the trip home as we canvas the best shopping in the city, hitting up the famed floating markets, Khao San Road and night markets. Close out the trip with an unforgettable final night celebration. Come experience the magic of Thailand with us this summer!
DAY 17: Return flight back to the USA
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.
"TFT was a fantastic experience for our son in every part of the process. He had a life-changing, super fun trip. It was filled with a variety of active and cultural activities at a great pace. The group of kids as well as the leaders were fantastic. The communication from TFT leading up to the trip was thorough and easy. The travel itself was seamless - he was able to travel to and from the meeting group spot by himself without difficulty. There was regular communication from the leaders during the trip as well. There is nothing that was missing nor would we have changed. Thank you TFT!"
"WOW!!!!! What an amazing trip. Thank you so much Athena and Jordan for your fantastic leadership, for giving them such wonderful experiences, for your relaxed, highly organised approach, and for giving them enough freedom to feel they could really grow. Hope had a truly wonderful time, and says she could have stayed for at least another six weeks!!!"
Travel with us and discover why we are consistently winning awards for Top Youth Travel Organization.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is unique about the Southeast Asia for Older Teens: Thailand Service and the Islands trip?
At TFT we are most proud of our ongoing community service initiative with the local school near Chiang Mai. Every year we build upon the efforts of previous groups to create a bright future for the children of the school.
Our Southeast Asia for Older Teens: Thailand Service and the Islands love seeing the appreciative smiles of the kids. This especially makes all the hard work so worthwhile and of course makes it that much harder to wave goodbye!
What kind of teen typically participates in this program? What are the requirements to join?
We have teens join this program from all over the world! They are typically culturally curious teens who are excited about making new friends, stepping out of their comfort zone, expanding their horizons, and trying something new.
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!
What do students like most about the Southeast Asia for Older Teens: Thailand Service and the Islands trip?
Participants of Southeast Asia for Older Teens: Thailand Service and the Islands love that they are able to explore all the different major parts of Thailand in one unforgettable program–it provides everything with an amazing service experience, time in the jungles of Northern Thailand, the white sandy beaches of the South and the glistening-yet-gritty metropolis of Bangkok.
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 Chiang Mai we stay at a locally run non-profit with apartment style housing and excellent communal facilities. In Krabi and on Koh Phi Phi we stay in luxurious resort bungalows a stone’s throw from the beach. In Bangkok we stay in a modern-three star hotel in close proximity to the main attractions and best parts of the city.
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 is included?
Tuition cost includes ground transportation; accommodation; chaperones and guides; program-related activities and admissions; taxes and tips; all breakfasts, lunches, and dinners.
Not included in cost (this is not intended to be an exhaustive list): airfare; 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 within the calendar year 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 13 and 24 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.
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!
Thai cuisine is bursting full of flavor, aromatic smells and vivid color, with lots of attention paid to balance, detail and variety. You’ll savor the best Pad Thai of your life and that’s just to start. Take your pick from hundreds of incredible dishes featuring mouth-watering combinations of rice, noodles, seafood, meats and fresh vegetables. What will your new favorite be?
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 this program?
Due to the nature of our service being outdoors, please be sure to bring clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty, waterproof shoes, and a hat.
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. 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 Thailand does not require a visa. Instead you will automatically receive a 30-day stay in the country.
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!