Pacific Northwest Travel Program Overview
Dive headfirst into the beautiful, quirky world of the Pacific Northwest. From the mountains to the sea with countless forests in-between, this will surely be a teen summer adventure trip for the memory books. There’s plenty of places to visit and things to do in the Pacific Northwest! Join us and explore the best-kept secrets of the USA.
In Seattle, dive into the coffee culture at the first Starbucks at Pike Place Market, visit the Troll Under the Bridge in Fremont, and learn about the unique Scandinavia and Japanese influence on the city. Head south to Portland, one of America’s quirkiest cities, and dive head-first into the culinary scene of food trucks and Voodoo Donuts. After discovering how to “keep Portland weird,” we’ll hit the road for some of Oregon’s best national parks. Enjoy Crater Lake National Park where you’ll take in the stunning views shaped by a sleeping volcano.
Then we’re off to our next state to discover: California, where we will adventure around stunning Lake Tahoe before we head off to our final city on our tour: San Francisco! In groovy San Francisco, take the ferry to Alcatraz and see what it was like to be an island prisoner. Cross the Golden Gate Bridge on your way to marvel at giant trees in Muir Woods. Discover Ghirardelli chocolates and wander through the waterfront Ferry Building Marketplace, picking up local delicacies along the way!
On this journey through every nature lover’s favorite corner of the USA, we will explore the urban cities while hiking, kayaking, and skiing through some of the country’s most beautiful national parks. So, what are you waiting for? From starry skies to famous skylines, this Pacific Northwest travel adventure has it all!
During this program, you will…
- Stand at the top of the famous Seattle Space Needle
- Have lunch at Pike Place Market and check out other Seattle hot spots like the Fremont Troll
- Soak in hot springs and jump into bright blue pools hidden in the forests of Oregon
- Experience stand-up paddleboarding in Bend*
- Try Voodoo Doughnuts in quirky Portland
- Spend the afternoon kayaking or relaxing on Lake Tahoe
- Try your hand at sports fishing*
- Bike San Francisco’s iconic streets
- Stand under the great redwoods in Muir Woods National Monument
*This is an optional excursion
DAY 1: ARRIVE IN SEATTLE (SEA)
DAY 2: SEATTLE, WASHINGTON
Start this journey in the beautiful Emerald City. Seattle is a place full of character and endless entertainment for all ages. Take the elevator up the Seattle Space Needle to see the city below and look for Mt. Rainier in the distance! Enjoy a fresh seafood lunch in Pike Place Market, visit the quirky Fremont Troll and add your piece of gum to the infamous Gum Wall!
DAY 3: PORTLAND, OREGON
Next, our adventure heads south to the hip city of Portland, Oregon! It’s time to learn just exactly what “Keep Portland Weird” means–we’ll experience the quirky PNW culture in this West Coast city. Famous for having over 500 food carts celebrating a wide variety of cuisine, we’ll grab lunch from and then hit the town to discover all the fun, interesting things Portland has to offer!
In addition to enjoying Portland’s amazing cuisine we will experience all of the incredible outdoor activities on offer. As we drive towards Bend, we will stop along the mighty Colombia River and see the beauty of Mt. Hood.
DAYS 4-5: BEND, OREGON > CRATER LAKE NATIONAL PARK
Bend will be our jump-off point for Crater Lake National Park. Hike to stunning waterfalls hidden in a lush forest, including an epic basalt column waterfall, before reaching the ultimate view: Crater Lake. You’ve never seen a lake quite like this! The result of a volcanic eruption almost 8,000 years ago, Crater Lake is the deepest lake in America and one of the most pristine lakes in the world. As you gaze from the rim down at its splendor, you can imagine the 1,949 feet (594 meters) of crystal clear water that fills the caldera.
DAY 6-7: LAKE TAHOE, CALIFORNIA
The third state on this action-packed adventure is sure to not disappoint. Your first view of Lake Tahoe will leave you speechless. The massive pool of bright blue water beneath the peaks of the Sierras is unlike anything in the world. Kayak, hike, and take a sunset cruise around this magnificent landscape. We’ll even ride the Heavenly Gondola to get a bird’s eye view of the lake in all its splendor. By the time we leave Tahoe, you will have experienced all of the action this area has to offer!
DAYS 8-10: SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA
Leaving the adventure haven of Lake Tahoe behind is hard, but not when you’re headed for the greatest city in Northern California! Cross the iconic Golden Gate Bridge into San Francisco and get ready to live it up like a local. Bike or walk through the famous neighborhoods and stop at sights like the Painted Ladies and Lombard Street. Go out for dinner in Chinatown and indulge in a chocolate sundae from Ghirardelli Square for dessert. Take the ferry to Alcatraz and imagine what it was like to be a prisoner on this island less than 60 years ago! Before leaving California, hike through the iconic mighty redwoods in Muir Woods National Monument.
DAY 11: DEPART FROM SAN FRANCISCO (SFO)
Ready For Your Next Adventure?
Space is limited, reserve your spot! Then get ready for an authentic teen travel experience this summer!
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.
"My first TFT trip was incredible. I got to see the various types of beauty found along the pacific west cost from national parks to vibrant cities. Not only were the destinations wonderful but so were the TFT staff. They were immensely caring and fun people to be around. Some of my fondest favorite memories came from those friendships. One of my favorite aspects of this trip was that we were taught to be travelers, not tourists. Where we are encouraged to seek and explore all corners of the earth. I loved my TFT trip and I hope to never stop traveling."
Frequently Asked Questions
What do students like most about USA: Pacific Northwest Explorer?
Students love that they are able to explore three of America’s greatest states. On USA: Pacific Northwest Explorer, you get a taste of the best cities from Seattle to San Franciso in the Pacific Northwest while stopping at all the natural wonders along the way.
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 9th through 11th and approximately 14 to 17 years old. Students living outside of the USA are welcome to join!
What is unique about the USA: Pacific Northwest Explorer?
USA: Pacific Northwest Explorer is a road trip designed with teens in mind. Intimate-sized groups make this an incredible experience for everyone on board. You’ll see cities and spend time outdoors in some of the greatest places the Northwest has to offer while building lifelong friendships with like-minded peers.
Where do we stay?
Our hotels are specifically chosen to be in safe areas and well-suited to facilitating group supervision. We stay in centrally located accommodations, usually within walking distance of the main attractions. This means 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.
All accommodations on this trip have been selected to ensure quality while still maintaining the character of the places we are visiting. In Seattle, Portland, and San Francisco, we’ll stay in hotels in proximity to downtown in order to fully take advantage of the food and entertainment scene. In Bend, we’ll opt for a unique lodging experience to feel closer to the outdoors. In Tahoe, we’ll stay in South Lake Tahoe in a boutique hotel designed to feel like you’re camping indoors in bunk-style dorms.
This program does not involve camping.
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 trip.
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?
Ground transportation, accommodations, all breakfasts and dinners, chaperones and guides, program related activities, program related activity admissions, taxes and tips.
Not included in cost (this not intended to be an exhaustive list): airfare; visas and visa application fees; lunches; 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 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.
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.
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!
Seattle is famous for its seafood but plenty of options will be offered for those who aren’t a fan. Pike’s Place Market is a perfect spot to have lunch and for coffee lovers, there’s no better city for a cup of joe! Portland is known for its many food carts (over 500!) and the famous Voodoo Doughnuts, both of which we’ll indulge in. While in California, we’ll have seafood and food influenced by the neighboring continent of Asia.
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.