Florida Keys Service Trip Overview
The Florida Keys are home to one-of-a-kind ecosystems and diverse wildlife and we will explore everything the sunshine state has to offer on this summer service trip! Visit Everglades National Park and the famous Florida Keys while participating in a variety of community service projects based on marine conservation including working with dolphins, sharks, and turtles!
Help heal the coral reefs off the coast of southern Florida by working with the largest reef restoration foundation in the world.
Learn about coral reef restoration and participate in hands-on programs focused on restoring the third largest barrier reef in the world!
Enjoy everything the beautiful Florida Keys have to offer with fellow middle school students. Kayak through the mangroves on an excursion to discover the unique flora and fauna found in this habitat—from Mangrove Tree Crabs to the Upside-Down Jellyfish, you never know what you’re going to see. You might even be joined by manatees, nurse sharks, and a wide variety of bird species!
Visit a turtle hospital dedicated to turtle rescue and rehabilitation. Meet the “patients” and learn about ongoing efforts and current research in the field. You may even have the opportunity to watch a live procedure if there is a turtle going through surgery during your visit.
You’ll have the opportunity to go on a snorkeling trip in part of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and discover a wide variety of colorful marine life. After learning about marine habitats and fish identification this is the perfect chance to test your knowledge and see how many different species you can identify. Finish your snorkeling adventure by relaxing on a stunning white sand beach and swimming in the turquoise water.
Complete your adventure in Southern Florida with some time exploring eclectic Miami and enjoying the famous Miami beaches. While in Miami visit the Miami Aquarium and meet a former TFT alum who is now a dolphin trainer! Get behind-the-scenes access at the aquarium and learn about its exciting conservation and rehabilitation efforts.
This program is perfect for middle school teens interested in marine conservation and exploring the spectacular world of the Florida Keys while meeting like-minded peers. Our other Florida Keys Service Trip is intended for 9th, 10th, & 11th-grade students.
During this program, you will…
- Earn up to 25 hours of service working with the largest coral restoration foundation in the world
- Visit a sea turtle hospital and learn about efforts to protect these majestic creatures
- Go on a classic airboat ride through the everglades and spot alligators, crocodiles, and colorful birds
- Survey coral reefs and complete marine wildlife surveys
- Enjoy a catamaran trip and snorkeling tour through colorful reefs
- Spot a variety of marine life, including colorful reef fish, whale sharks, manta rays, and more!
- Kayak through the mangroves and explore this unique ecosystem
- Relax at a beautiful beach and swim in the warm turquoise water
- Do you want more scuba experience? Already a scuba expert? Come scuba dive in some clear, blue waters!*
- Go behind the scenes at Miami Aquarium and learn about their conservation efforts and have some unique animal encounters
*This is an optional excursion for certified divers
DAYS 1-2: MIAMI AND EVERGLADES NATIONAL PARK
Arrive in Miami and meet your fellow travelers. Your TFT staff will be ready to go with fun ice breakers and group bonding activities so everyone can get to know each other and become excited about the upcoming adventures! Visit the beautiful Everglades National Park and be amazed by the nine different ecosystems that are found here! The variety of habitats found in this part of Florida supports a unique system of plants and animal species that cannot be found anywhere else in the world! Discover for yourself how this dynamic landscape lends life to the wide variety of wildlife. This is the only place on the planet where the American Alligator and American Crocodile coexist. Go on a classic Everglades airboat ride and try to see if you can spot both in the wild! The Everglades is home to a variety of endangered species including 16 species of birds, a variety of mammals, reptiles, and plants. America’s wetland is the perfect place for adventurous travelers and nature enthusiasts!
DAY 3-5: ISLAMORADA
Welcome to the Florida Keys! Turquoise water, incredible marine life, and a vibrant atmosphere make this the perfect place to spend the next few days.
We’ll begin our service project with the largest coral restoration foundation in the world by learning about their mission at their exploration center. We’ll blend classroom learning with hands-on time in the water visiting the reefs where the foundation has restored more than 130,000 critically endangered corals back to Florida’s barrier reef since 2007!
Even though the Florida barrier reef is the third-largest in the world, it only hosts two percent of the populations of the once-dominant staghorn and elkhorn coral that it had in the 1970s. The foundation we work with has developed a method of coral “farming” that involves hanging finger-sized fragments of coral on coral trees which are then outplanted in the reef six to nine months later when the colonies have grown large enough. This has resulted in the foundation restoring 17,500 acres of reef thus far.
DAYS 6-8: KEY WEST & MARATHON
Start your morning off in iconic Key West. Stroll the colorful streets and visit the famous bouy that marks the Southernmost Point and the lowest latitude land in the continental U.S.
Venture out in the mangroves on a kayak adventure and spot a variety of wildlife. Keep your eyes peeled for manatees, nurse sharks, and other exciting creatures!
Visit the turtle hospital in Marathon and learn more about their rehabilitation and rescue efforts. Meet the turtles, and If you are lucky you may even get to witness a live procedure!
Take all of your new knowledge out to the reefs on an exciting snorkeling adventure. Spot a variety of colorful reef fish and see how many you can identify. After spending the morning snorkeling relax on Sombrero Beach, the prettiest beach in the Keys with soft white sand and turquoise water.
DAY 9-10: MIAMI
Relax on Miami’s stunning white sand beaches and go for a refreshing swim. Visit Miami Aquarium and enjoy special behind-the-scenes access to the aquarium to learn more about their conservation and rehabilitation efforts.
DAY 11: RETURN HOME
After experiencing some of the best diving in the world, volunteering with an important marine conservation project, and bonding with your fellow travelers it’s time to say goodbye to paradise. The memories and friendships you made will last a lifetime!
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 year after year!
"After traveling with TFT last summer to France, Italy, and Switzerland, I thought nothing could top the memories I made on this whirlwind trip. Traveling to Thailand this summer as a CIT gave me a whole new level of appreciation for TFT and the impact the staff has on shaping the campers' experiences. I loved the balance between community service, cultural exploration, and exhilarating adventures. Everyday brought something new and different especially as we traveled across the country to experience the natural beauty, bustling cities, and breathtaking islands Thailand has to offer. I can't recommend this trip enough and am so excited to continue working with TFT in the future!"
"I went on the Bali Ultimate Service and Adventure trip. At first, I was hesitant to sign up for this trip as it was 10,000 miles from my home and it was 21 days long. However, once I arrived, I knew that I had made the right decision. The counselors, other campers, and I immediately all clicked and we became so close that we called ourselves a family. On top of the close relationships that I formed, the trip and all of the activities that we did were amazing. TFT did a really good job of creating a schedule that was a perfect mix of fun, service, and immersion in the culture. When asked what day or activity on the trip was my favorite, I couldn’t choose. Every day was filled with amazing activities. Apart from the fun and adventurous activities that we did such as white water rafting, we also participated in life-changing service. One service activity that we did was tutoring children at the local schools. It was amazing to see the impact that just a couple of English classes had on those kids, it was truly a life-changing experience that I will never forget. I was able to check off Bali from my bucket list, while getting service hours, and making some of the best friends that I have ever had!"
"This summer I went to the Costa Rica for Younger Teens: Hola Costa Rica trip. It's a very big step to go out of the country with people you don't know. Trust me I was very hesitant. It takes a lot of courage to sign up for something so far out of your comfort zone, but I assure you, you will NOT regret it. I had the time of my life. Everything was perfect. The food was wonderful. The other kids were great. The counselors were very professional and experienced. It was truly a life-changing experience that I was lucky enough to be a part of."
Travel with us and discover why we are consistently winning awards for Top Youth Travel Organization.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is unique about the Florida Keys Marine Conservation For Middle School trip?
Students love that they are able to have a hands-on volunteer experience that makes a huge difference! Florida Keys Marine Conservation For Middle School allows for close group bonding! Our counselor’s infectious admiration for marine life uniquely complements the curiosity of our marine-loving participants. You will have the opportunity to build a close bond with your counselors, your fellow participants and even with your community service leader! Come join our Floridian adventure!
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 7th to 8th grades and approximately 12-14 years old Students living outside of the USA are welcome to join!
What do students like most about the Florida Keys Middle School Service trip?
Our environment-loving participants truly enjoy the layout of our trip! Florida Keys Middle School Service trip gives our participants the opportunity to explore Florida’s hidden treasures while also being able to give back to the community.
Our service projects are centered towards working with local conservations, volunteering at marine conservations and helping maintain local beaches. This provides an immersive experience and allows students to discover all of Florida’s beauty!
Where do we stay?
For this program, we stay at a boutique hotel in Miami, Key Largo, and Islamorada.
Accommodations are all clean, safe, and comfortable.
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 a 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, some lunches (3), and dinners.
Not included in cost (this is not intended to be an exhaustive list): lunches, 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.
Travelers will also need to provide their own wetsuit, mask, and booties.
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.
What is the food like on this program?
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 than 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!
Of course, we are always willing and able to accommodate vegetarians, vegans, gluten allergies, and other dietary restrictions.
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?
When joining a TFT trip from outside of the US, please be sure to check your country’s specific visa requirements.