Embark on the road trip of a lifetime on the stunning west coast of America. From Seattle to the Grand Canyon and everywhere noteworthy in between, this trip is the perfect combination of the Pacific Northwest and Southwest America.
In the Pacific Northwest, climb to the top of the Space Needle in Seattle. Explore quirky Portland and hike through Oregon’s stunning national park to hidden waterfalls and the famous crater lake. Adrenaline junkies can even try skiing or boarding on a volcano!
As we venture south, relax on the shores of Lake Tahoe, cross the world’s most iconic bridge into San Francisco, catch a wave in San Diego, and discover the vibrant city of Las Vegas.
There’s no “grander” way to end this road trip through some of the most famous places in North America than at one of the seven natural wonders of the world: the Grand Canyon.
So what are you waiting for? Come join us this summer to discover not only how the Pacific Northwest and Southwest differ, but also how they perfectly complement each other and make the ultimate North America roadtrip!
During this program, you will…
- Stand at the top of the famous Seattle Space Needle and have lunch at Pike Place Market
- Stand-up paddleboard, kayak, and relax on a sunset cruise on Lake Tahoe
- Bike San Francisco’s iconic streets
- Take the ferry to Alcatraz and imagine what it was like to be a prisoner there
- Stroll the Hollywood Walk of Fame and see the famous sign
- Live out your childhood dream of visiting Disneyland*
- Hang out at Venice Beach and relax at the Santa Monica pier
- Kayak secret caves and look for sea lions in La Jolla
- Visit the San Diego Zoo and Balboa Park
- Take in the wonder of the mighty Grand Canyon
*This is an optional excursion
This program is the combination of our two popular but shorter USA: Pacific Northwest Explorer and USA: California & the Grand Canyon programs. If you’re looking for a longer adventure, join us on our 33-day USA & Canada: West Coast Adventure program.
DAY 1: ARRIVE IN SEATTLE (SEA)
DAY 2: SEATTLE
Start this journey in the beautiful Emerald City. Seattle is a place full of character and endless entertainment for all ages. Ride the elevator to the top of the Seattle Space Needle 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.
DAYS 3-4: PORTLAND > MT. HOOD NATIONAL PARK
Then our adventure will head south to the hip city of Portland, Oregon! We’ll take the coastal route to Cannon Beach to see the iconic beach where the Goonies was filmed. Admire the unique rock formations that dot the shore and take in the stunning beaches of the Pacific Coast.
Then it’s time to “Keep Portland Weird,” where quirky PNW culture is thriving 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. Hike the Columbia River Gorge and try to photograph all of Multnomah Falls in one shot. Gaze at the reflection of Mt. Hood in Trillium Lake and even try your hand at summer skiing on the volcano itself!
DAY 5: BEND > CRATER LAKE NATIONAL PARK
Bend will be our jump-off point for Crater Lake National Park. Hike to stunning waterfalls hidden in 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 the United States 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.
DAYS 6-7: LAKE TAHOE
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 to Eagle Falls, 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
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.
DAYS 11-14: LOS ANGELES
Tackle the second-largest city in the US without feeling overwhelmed! Wander through “Tinseltown” to spot your favorite celebrity along the Hollywood Walk of Fame, window shop in Beverly Hills at Rodeo Drive and check out the Chinese Theatre. Spot the Hollywood sign on your way up to the Griffith Observatory where you’ll watch the city light up as the sun sets. Explore vibrant Venice Beach and shop in the famous Abbot Kinney neighborhood. Play on the Santa Monica Pier, or relax on the beach. You will even have the chance to go on an optional day trip to one of America’s favorite theme parks: Disneyland!
DAYS 15-17: SAN DIEGO
Our adventure continues in sunny San Diego. We’ll get a taste of the laidback Southern California lifestyle as we explore the neighborhoods and coastline that make this city so well known! Wander through Balboa Park and visit the world famous San Diego Zoo. Kayak through secret caves and watch the lazy seals in La Jolla. Take a surf lesson and learn to catch a wave in the Pacific. Absorb the history of the gaslamp neighborhood and enjoy colorful sunsets every night in the beautiful San Diego weather with your new friends.
DAY 18: LAS VEGAS
On our way to Arizona we’ll stop in the vibrant city of Las Vegas to stroll the Strip and check out some of the well known sites, including the dancing fountains at the Bellagio and the High Roller ferris wheel. We’ll hang by the hotel pool and catch a dinner show at one of Vegas’s top Casinos before heading to our next destination.
DAYS 19-21: FLAGSTAFF > GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK
Flagstaff is a perfect jumping-off point to both Grand Canyon National Park and Page, where you can find some of the best hidden gems of the Southwest. Discover one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, the Grand Canyon, and see for yourself what makes it one of the most incredible sights in the entire country! Page is home to both Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend. If you love traveling to natural wonders off the beaten path, this stop is sure to satisfy your spirit. A short walk takes you to the overlook of Horseshoe Bend where the Colorado River wraps around the canyon below in a literal horseshoe shape! Antelope Canyon is a slot canyon secretly tucked below the ground. You’ll wander through the canyon, gazing up at the bright orange walls that make you feel like you’re on another planet. If you’re feeling up for a swim, stop by the beautiful Lone Rock Beach on the shores of Lake Powell.
DAY 22: DEPART FROM PHOENIX (PHX)
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 9th through 11th and approximately 14 to 17 years old. Students living outside of the USA are welcome to join!
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 character of the places we are visiting. All hotels or dorms are guaranteed to be clean, safe, and equipped with 24 hour security.
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 do students like most about this program?
Students love that they are able to appreciate the natural wonders of the great outdoors while visiting six of the coolest cities in the America. Mixed into the itinerary is a different activity for every place that will provide both new and enriching experiences for all types of interests.
What is unique about this program?
While visiting the natural wonders of the United States, you’ll also have the opportunity to see some unique and hip cities along the way. Rather than purely sticking to tourist attractions, we’ll pepper in activities and meals that make your experience feel authentic.
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 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 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. In the Southwest, try the best Mexican food you’ve ever had!
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.
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.