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 older teens in mind.
Begin your trip with an enriching service project improving a local school at a hill tribe in Northern Thailand. During your service work you will have the opportunity to interact with the school children and form meaningful connections with the people in the community. When our project is finished, you will feel a sense of accomplishment knowing your hard work helped make a difference in the lives of the children you grew to know and love!
You will embrace Thai culture as you meet saffron-cloaked Buddhist monks, bathe elephants in the 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.
Our Older Teen programs are carefully crafted with 11th and 12th graders in mind. Because as you grow, your interests and needs do too. These programs are designed to nurture older teens and teach them to be more savvy travelers. So get ready to explore the very best of this colorful southeast Asian country, connect with nature and local communities, and learn how to be an independent traveler!
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 caring for elephants at a sanctuary and rescue center, and building a new cafeteria for a kindergarten at a hill tribe school in northern Thailand
- Explore the incredible Night Bazaars of Chiang Mai, an ancient stop along the Silk Road journey
- Work the woks and pestles in an authentic Thai cooking class
- Learn the art of Muay Thai in a traditional martial arts lesson
- Kayak the tranquil freshwater lake of Mae Ngat Dam and mountain bike around its floating bungalow houses
- Spot monkeys as you zipline through the jungle canopy
DAY 1: GROUP FLIGHTS DEPARTS FROM LOS ANGELES (LAX)
As the group flight takes off, the program officially begins!
DAYS 2 – 10: CHIANG MAI & HILL TRIBE VILLAGE
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. We’ll cap off our time in Chiang Mai with a celebratory dinner where we sail paper lanterns into the night sky.
In the hills near Chiang Mai, we’ll give back to the indigenous hill tribe community by conducting a meaningful community service project to improve the facilities of the local school. Channel your inner handyman (or woman) as you see the direct impact of your hard work on the lives of these incredible people. This is a unique chance to immerse yourself in an enriching experience, where you’ll learn about a different way of life and about yourself.
DAY 11: 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 were awarded top youth travel organization in 2017.
"This past summer I traveled to Thailand on TFT’s Thailand Elephant Service and the Islands program. This trip was by far my favorite trip that I’ve been on with TFT. The combination of working with elephants, the breadth of activities, as well as the great counselors and campers made it by far one of the most memorable two weeks of my life. One of the highlights of the trip was the service we did with elephants. We volunteered with elephants at sanctuaries learning about proper elephant care, we got to bathe them, prepare food and feed them, cleaned their enclosures, and went on a walk with them. This trip as a whole pushed me out of my comfort zone, it helped me become much more comfortable with trying new things. Each day was filled with new activities which enabled us to experience and learn about the Thai culture. The activities included exploring traditional Thai markets, cooking classes, exploring Thai temples, and much more. Our counselors were amazing, they were always understanding, were easy to come to with any issues, and were just really fun to travel and hang out with. Not only were the counselors great but I met some of the best people on this trip. I’m certain that I will be friends with a few of them for the rest of my life. I’m so grateful to have been able to go on this trip and I wouldn’t trade this trip for the world."
"Traveling to Thailand with Travel For Teens was an experience I will never forget. The sites were incredible and every single day was filled with adventure and fun. The food was incredible as it was authentic and we even got to attend cooking classes. We cooked traditional food that was delicious. The language portion of the trip was really enlightening as we learned the basic of the beautiful language: Thai. The group I was with was filled with like minded individuals striving to see the world and truly experience what real traveling is like. We shared beautiful experiences with excursions like rafting down the Pai River and scuba driving Thai coral reefs. The counselors made everyone feel safe while being friendly and fun the entire trip."
"My trip to Thailand was one that I could have never imagined, from the days with elephants to meeting the most amazing people it was definitely a trip of a life time. This was the first trip I had ever gone out of the country by myself with people I had never met, and to be honest I was very nervous but when meeting the counselors they made us feel right at home and the campers soon after a couple nights of never have I ever’s/games established bonds that we knew could never be broken. Everyday we took on a new adventure, I remember when I first heard that we were going to be “hanging” out with elephants I thought it was going to be from a far little did I know we would be getting up close and personal feeding them, bathing them, and cleaning up after them. It was astounding how gentle the elephants were and how much they were just like big puppies with how they wanted to play with you. Saying goodbye to the elephants was definitely hard and sad but I know that someday I will go back and see them again. After we finished our community service hours with elephants we then went on a very windy 3 hour drive to Pai where we the most amazing massages. Over the trip two other campers and I got 3 massages and only ended up paying $11. Then we went on a 2 day trip to the jungle which was honestly one of the hardest things physically on this trip, the white rafting was long but the campers and the view make it all worth it. After returning to the hotels the first thing we all did was shower and let me tell you it was the best feeling. Now I was not able to stay for extra 7 days and explore the islands so at the final dinner it was very sad to say goodbye to everyone because even though I had only known them for 10 days we all felt like we had known each other for much longer. The kids I met are already planning on having a “reunion”. These trips not only open up your mind to new places and cultures but also to new people."
Frequently Asked Questions
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!
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.
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 exploring the Northern jungles of Thailand and participating in truly meaningful community service in a Hill Tribe village! Teens enjoy embracing Thai culture with a cooking class, Muay Thai lesson and traditional dance class, as well as enjoying zip lining amongst the monkeys, feeding elephants, biking through the rice fields, and exploring the vibrant markets!
What is unique about this program?
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. Seeing the appreciative smiles of the kids makes all the hard work so worthwhile and of course makes it that much harder to wave goodbye!
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 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!
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.
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!