USA for Middle School: Hawaii & Alaska Service Trip Overview
This summer experience fire and ice as we journey to Hawaii and Alaska, two starkly different states with dramatic natural beauty. Our adventure will include a variety of service projects focused on wildlife conservation. In Hawaii, we will work up close and personal with injured sea turtles on the road to recovery while in Alaska we will switch from tropical turtles to wildlife that prefers colder temperatures, including the endangered wood bison, moose, and black bears!
In addition to our service work, we will experience the best each state has to offer, from the waterfalls, volcanoes, and beaches of Hawaii, to the glaciers, mountains, and ice fields of Alaska. So grab your bathing suit and your winter cap and join us on the adventure of a lifetime!
On our Younger Teen trips, you will find smaller group sizes, outstanding staff who connect on the same level with this age group, and itineraries that perfectly inspire a passion for travel and a greater understanding of the world for all who join us!
*This is a combination of our USA for Middle School: Aloha Hawaii and USA for Middle School: Alaska Service & Adventure trips.
During this program, you will…
- Earn up to 40 hours of service credit volunteering with multiple wildlife conservation projects
- Learn about sea turtle conservation and protect the endangered hawksbill sea turtles
- Learn to surf on the famous shores of Waikiki Beach
- Kayak through the pristine waters of the Pacific Ocean
- Enjoy a traditional Hawaiian feast at an authentic Hawaiian luau
- Take a step back in time and visit Pearl Harbor Memorial
- Hike through lava tunnels to the top of Diamond Head Crater for stunning coastal views
- Spend time playing with the local children of Oahu
- Zoom over the lush jungle canopies on an adrenaline-pumping ziplining tour
- Try scuba diving and explore the world under the ocean’s surface*
- Catch the sunrise from the top of Haleakala Volcano and bike down through the clouds*
- Play beach volleyball, swim in crystal clear water, and enjoy life under the Hawaiian sun
- Whitewater raft up to Class IV rapids in two stunning canyons
- Strap on crampons and literally “walk on water” as you hike across a glacier
- Spend time in Kenai Fjord National Park
- Stargaze and, if we’re lucky, even see the Northern Lights!
- Channel your inner musher as we visit an Iditarod training camp and take the sled dogs out on a run!
- Hike to a glacially-fed alpine lake filled with icebergs
- Explore the charming town of Girdwood, hike, play disc golf, and adventure to your heart’s content
- Visit the Anchorage Museum and gain insight into the Inuit way of life
- Enjoy delicious seafood fresh from the Pacific
- Kayak in a glacial bay and keep an eye out for seals and other wildlife
*This is an optional excursion
DAY 1: DEPART FROM LOS ANGELES (LAX)
DAYS 1-6: MAUI
Maui is truly a Hawaiian paradise with pristine white sand beaches, colorful coral reefs, lush vegetation, and turquoise ocean. Lucky for us, our hotel is right across the street from some of the best beaches on the island! We can hop over any time we like for beach volleyball, relaxation, and a refreshing swim.
Maui is also home to our sea turtle service project. We partner with a local organization dedicated to protecting and researching this endangered species. We’ll learn all about the hawksbill sea turtles and will participate in a variety of projects dedicated to sea turtle conservation. Some of these projects include beach cleanups to protect the turtle’s natural habitats, watching over basking turtles on the beach, and educating tourists. At the Center, we will work first-hand with injured turtle patients–tending to wounds, taking fluids, and whatever else these gentle friends need on their road to recovery.
Our service work will be complemented with plenty of fun activities, including a boat trip to snorkel in famous Molokini crater, sea kayaking, scuba diving (optional), and ziplining!
There will also be an optional excursion to catch the sunrise from the top of Haleakala Volcano and bike down through the clouds. For those who don’t feel comfortable biking, don’t worry, there is the option to ride down in a vehicle too!
DAYS 7-10: WAIKIKI
Oahu is the perfect island for a little bit of adventure! We will take a surf lesson on the famous shores of Waikiki with professional instructors who will have you riding waves in no time. Our hotel is just steps away from the beach, so we will have plenty of time to relax, swim, and enjoy some quality time in the summer sun! For a truly unique experience, we’ll hike through a lava tunnel to the top of Diamond Head Crater for breathtaking views of the island.
No visit to Oahu would be complete without a journey to the past in order to pay respects at the USS Arizona Memorial and Pearl Harbor Memorials. Accessible only by boat, this memorial is one of several sites in Hawaii commemorating the attack on Pearl Harbor and honoring those who lost their lives as well as the few remaining survivors.
We will cap off our time in Hawaii with a special Luau, complete with hula dancers, music, and a delicious spread of traditional Hawaiian food. After ten beautiful days soaking up the sun in Hawaii, it’s time to say goodbye, but we’ll never forget our Hawaiian Ohana!
DAYS 11-13: ANCHORAGE > WILDLIFE CONSERVATION CENTER > GLACIER TREK
After we say aloha to Hawaii, we will travel to the other non-contiguous state: Alaska! We’ll fly to Anchorage, known as the hub of Alaskan culture and heritage. Enjoy a delicious first night dinner and get ready to set off on an incredible adventure!
We’ll spend time volunteering at Alaska’s Wildlife Conservation Center. We’ll have a walking tour of the property with a naturalist guide and immerse ourselves in the natural history of the 13 species of Alaskan wildlife housed here. Working alongside staff and naturalist interns we’ll work on projects to better the lives of the animals through husbandry, maintenance, and enrichment projects. We will even get to feed moose and make “toys” for wolves and bear cubs! Not only is this a fantastic opportunity to give the animals unique experiences, it is a once in a lifetime chance to see Alaskan wildlife exhibiting natural behaviors up close and personal!
While in Anchorage we will take a day trip out for a surreal experience literally “walking on water” as we trek across the Matanuska Glacier. Those who are looking for an adrenaline-pumping experience will have the option to ice climb instead! Our expert guides will help us navigate the glacier to discover stunning formations and bright blue ice.
DAYS 14-16: HOMER
Time to explore Homer, the halibut capital of the world. Our group will go on a stunning hike in Kachemak Bay State Park to an iceberg lake and explore the town of Homer, including the unique Homer Spit, a 4.5 mile piece of thin land jutting into the bay where the harbor, restaurants, hotels, and some of the more historic areas of Homer are located.
DAY 17-19: SEWARD
Seward is considered one of the best adventure capitals in the state. During our time here we will get our adrenaline pumping while whitewater rafting down Six Mile Creek between two stunning canyons. We will sea kayak in Resurrection Bay and learn about the history of the area, discover wildlife, and check out the coastal rainforest. We’ll also visit the Alaska Sealife Center to provide a close up look at many of the species that make up the waters.
To top off our time in Seward we will experience what many people call the most beautiful hike they have ever done, heading up to the Harding Ice Field at Exit Glacier.
DAYS 20-21: GIRDWOOD
What better way to end a dream trip than channeling our inner Iditarod dog sledding champion? We will visit a camp for the dogs, get to know the team, ride on a circuit, listen to some incredible Iditarod stories, and to top it off, get to cuddle some pups who will someday be racers themselves! Spend the rest of the day hiking, playing disc golf and soaking in the beautiful sights of Girdwood before returning to Anchorage for the final night in Alaska.
DAY 22: RETURN FLIGHT TO SEATTLE (SEA)
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 awarded top youth travel organization year after year.
"Thank you, Kevin! She was really hesitant to try something like this before the trip, so we are so happy she participated and delighted she managed it well. Thank you again for your leadership and for doing such a thoughtful and wholehearted job!"
"Totally blown away! From day 1 to day 11! Breisen and Kristina are two amazing people. I don’t know how else to express my complete gratitude to & for them. I am just blown away and have been since the beginning. The funny thing is, from the get go, I saw it in the pictures that were posted on Waldo. They were amazing, fabulous, wonderful pictures that really told a story (as far as I am concerned). What I saw was a group of strangers that truly appeared comfortable, respectful of each other and appeared to really get along with each other. Part of that is just the group itself but the main reason, I believe, is that these amazing people made that happen & ARE TRULY EXPERTS AND AMAZING IN DOING WHAT THEY DO! They nailed it! I had basically no fear throughout this trip and when I did have a concern, there was an explanation immediately. All I can say is that I would send my children on a trip, (almost) anywhere in the world, with Breisen and Kristina! Throughout the morning at the LAX airport they happily and enthusiastically got every child either safely on their flight or at the very least, safely to their gate destination. I saw it! That is a HUGE feat! I flew into LAX because I was just nervous about my daughter in LAX by herself but I TOTALLY didn’t need to do that. This is one happy momma!!"
"With this being Owen's first time away from home in quite some time, we have been so grateful for the level of care and attention that you and the team put into every single detail of the trip. Even with the flight issues at the beginning you managed everything smoothly and ensured they had the time of their lives. It was so great to be well informed every day with emails and photos so we didn't even feel like we had to text Owen at all during the trip. I know he appreciated this independence! Owen had an unforgettable trip to Hawaii, met new people and had new experiences, and for that we can't thank you enough!"
Travel with us and discover why we are consistently winning awards for Top Youth Travel Organization.
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 grades 7th & 8th and approximately 12-14 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 Oahu, we stay at a great hotel right in the center of vibrant Waikiki that is walking distance to all of the shops, restaurants, and best of all, just a few blocks from Waikiki Beach! In Maui, we stay at a centralized hotel right on the beach. There are swimming pools at both hotels perfect for cooling off after a fun day spent under the sun.
In Alaska we will stay at the University of Anchorage, a waterfront hotel, and even have the unique Alaskan experience of staying in yurts!
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 the Hawaii & Alaska Service trip?
Participants love that this trip is the perfect combination of two very different, yet awe-inspiring states. Not sure if you want beautiful beaches or snowy scenes? On Hawaii & Alaska Service you have both!
The dual experiences are effortlessly tied together with the common theme of wildlife conservation coupled with plenty of adventure!
What is unique about the Hawaii & Alaska Service trip?
Hawaii & Alaska Service provides two incredibly unique service experiences. In Maui, our work with our service partner allows us to get up close to the amazing sea turtles of Hawaii!
You will work first-hand with turtle patients, assisting the team with bandaging wounds, fin massages, and anything else the turtle may need. In Alaska, working with the Wildlife Conservation Center provides special access to a wide variety of Alaska’s native wildlife.
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 cost (this is not intended to be an exhaustive list): airfare; lunches; 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.
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 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.
Our Hawaii & Alaska Service program is an exciting combination of our 11-day Hawaii Sea Turtle Service & Adventure program and our 11-day Alaska Service & Adventure program. The flight between programs is not covered in the cost of tuition and is considered part of your airfare. TFT will have a set group flight path from Hawaii to Alaska. You can choose to book this on your own, but we recommend booking through our office as we usually are able to get better flight deals.
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.
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!
The food in Hawaii involves plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, and of course, seafood! Some typical foods we will have the chance to try are Poke bowls, Acai bowls, poi, and breadfruit. In Alaska, gorge yourself on salmon and sample the delicious king crab!
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?
US citizens do not need passport or visa for this program, but a form of government-issued identification is needed for airport security.
When joining a TFT trip from outside of the US, please be sure to check your country’s specific visa requirements.