New Zealand for Older Teens
$3,995 + Airfare
Jun 30 – Jul 12
|Who can go on this trip?||
Students from around the world!
|Places we visit:||
Christchurch, Lake Tekapo, Lake Pukaki, Mount Cook, Omarama, Queenstown, Milford Sound, Wanaka, Franz Josef, Hokitika, Arthur’s Pass, Castle Hill
|Optional group flight there:||
Los Angeles to Christchurch
|Optional group flight back:||
Christchurch to Los Angeles
New Zealand’s South Island is home to some of the purest natural landscapes you’ll ever experience. Snowcapped alps, glacial valleys and star-filled skies all merge together for an adventure tour that is entirely unique from its neighbor, the North Island. This New Zealand teen tour program is for travelers who are looking for an authentic, off the beaten path experience. Explore alpine lakes, hike to hidden glaciers, stargaze in a hot spring, explore a glow worm dell and cruise through dramatic fjords. There is no limit to the adventures you will have when you journey with us to New Zealand and discover that this country has so much more to offer than what you will find in the guide books!
On this trip you will:
- Discover one of the most impressive glaciers in the world
- Ride a helicopter to the top of a glacier and explore its natural ice formations- those brave enough will have the option to ice climb!*
- Spend an evening relaxing on a floating hammock in a hot spring soaking in the night sky at a UNESCO dark sky reserve
- Visit a world famous observatory and discover constellations, planets and the southern cross*
- Explore bustling and vibrant Queenstown
- Visit a glow worm dell at night and watch these tiny creatures light up the world around you
- Catch sunset from Queenstown’s best view points
- Cruise through the iconic fjords in Milford sound and spot seals, penguins, and dolphins
- Zoom through rock canyons in the world’s fastest jet boat
- Hike through forests, mountains, rivers, and glaciers
- Go summer skiing at one of New Zealand’s top ski destinations*
- Relax in a thermal hot spring overlooking a peaceful lake surrounded by snow capped mountains
- Scramble through clay cliffs and explore these stunning natural formations
- Hike in a glacial valley with an inspiring view of Mt. Cook
- Sample a variety of cheese and jams at an organic cheese farm
- Admire the turquoise water at Hokitika Gorge
- Climb across the uniquely shaped boulders at Castle Hill, “the spiritual center of the universe”
*This is an optional excursion.
Day 1: Group flight departs from Los Angeles
As the group flight takes off, the trip officially begins! We lose a day crossing the International Date Line.
Day 2: Cross the International Date Line
Day 3: Christchurch
Get ready to begin your New Zealand adventure! Get to know your fellow travelers while becoming acquainted with the most populated city on the South Island. Check out the Cardboard Cathedral, built to temporarily replace the city’s cathedral after the 2011 earthquake; relax in the botanical gardens; and even do some souvenir shopping at Re:START, a funky mall built out of colorful shipping containers!
Days 4-5: Lake Tekapo, Lake Pukaki, Mount Cook – Stargazing and hot springs
Admire the stunning Lake Tekapo and relax in thermal hot springs right on the shore of the lake while enjoying the mountain views. Lake Tekapo is far away from the lights and glow of cities, and is the largest dark sky reserve in the world. This means the stargazing here cannot be beat! As the sun sets, the sky at Tekapo comes alive, and you’ll be able to admire the constellations, meteor showers, planets, and glowing stars that make Tekapo such an otherworldly experience. We will enjoy a guided tour to learn about the Tekapo’s amazing night skies with a unique combination of astronomy and storytelling. The best part of the tour comes when we revisit the hot pools to star gaze while relaxing on a floating hammock. You’ll feel like you’re soaking in the stars!
There will also be the option to visit the Mount John Observatory where you will be able to look through a special telescope to see the galaxies and planets up close!
We will also visit Lake Pukaki. This glacier-fed alpine lake draws visitors from around the world to admire the snowcapped peaks reflected in its bright blue water, including the famous Mount Cook. We will visit a special hiking trail across hanging bridges and through the mountains to reach a glacial valley with an up-close view of Mount Cook. This trail is rated one of the top hiking paths in New Zealand and it is easy to see why!
Our time in this region will also involve a visit to the quirky “cheese man” of New Zealand, who produces his own cheese and jams by hand on a tiny farm. After getting your cheese fix, we will be able to sample some of the freshest salmon in the world directly on the shores of Lake Pukaki.
Days 6-7: Queenstown & Milford Sound – Adrenaline activities and dramatic views
On the road to Queenstown we will stop at the stunning Clay Cliffs of Omarama. These cliffs are completely off the tourist track and every traveler who discovers them appreciates the natural beauty of this hidden gem. You will be able to scramble and climb through them, exploring every nook and cranny at this naturally formed “playground.”
After the cliffs we will continue on to Queenstown. Queenstown is famous to travelers all over the world for its stunning location and wide variety of adventure activities. We’ll cruise through the spellbinding Milford Sound, where you’ll take in dramatic vistas composed of high mountains and rugged fjords, spot penguins and seals on the rocky shores, and watch dolphins playing in the waters around the boat. For a real adrenaline rush we’ll zoom through rock canyons in the world’s fastest jet boat! To cap off our time in Queenstown you can hike or take the gondola to the top of the city for stunning views and an incredible sunset, and check out some favorite local eateries and hot spots of this bustling ski town.
Day 8: Wanaka – Summer skiing and hiking
The next stop on our adventure is Wanaka, Queenstown’s quieter little sister. Wanaka is a tiny ski town directly on a crystal clear lake surrounded by mountains. You will have the option to ski or snowboard at Treble Cone, one of the best ski spots in New Zealand. If skiing isn’t your thing you will explore Wanaka, admire the famous “Wanaka tree” perched in the center of the lake, and take advantage of the many hiking trails in the area.
Days 9-10: Franz Josef Glacier – Helicopters and Ice Caves
Franz Josef Glacier is widely regarded as the gem of the west coast and one of the most impressive sites in the world! We will go on a trek through the valley for some of the best views of this incredible glacier, marveling at its bright blue ice formations.
The glacier itself can only be accessed by helicopter. Those who would like to get in on the action will have to option to take a quick helicopter ride to the top of the glacier to explore the crevices and incredible ice formations. If you are feeling extra adventurous, you will even have the option to try ice climbing! Spending the day on a glacier is a truly unique experience and is a must do for anyone visiting New Zealand’s South Island. After a day of adventures we will relax in glacier hot pools surrounded by rainforest.
Day 11: Hokitika – Glow worms and gorges
We will continue driving up the west coast of New Zealand and visit the stunning Hokitika Gorge. We’ll enjoy a leisurely stroll to the viewpoint overlooking a dramatic granite gorge with milky blue-green pools, surrounded by cliffs and lush forest. Hokitika is also a historical beach town with an artsy vibe home to plenty of local shops and restaurants. We will have time to explore the town and go for a walk along the beach, keeping an eye out for Little Blue Penguins!
At night, we will be in for a special surprise when we visit a glow-worm dell! The glow worms light up this small fern grotto and you will feel like you are surrounded by thousands of stars. It is a truly surreal and one of a kind experience!
Day 12: Arthur’s Pass – “The spiritual center of the universe”
For our final full day we will begin our journey into Arthur’s Pass, famous for being one of the most scenic drives in New Zealand. We will stop at several viewpoints and make friends with the friendly keas (New Zealand’s parrot) along the way! One of the highlights of Arthur’s Pass is Castle Hill. Castle Hill is home to amazing limestone rock formations and boulders. Castle Hill has a tangible energy, and we will explore and climb across these formations and discover for ourselves why the Dalai Lama named it “the spiritual center of the Universe.”
After Castle Hill we will come full circle and arrive back in Christchurch, where our journey first began. We will celebrate with one final dinner while reminiscing on all of the amazing memories we made together in New Zealand.
Day 13: Return flight home to the USA
Who can go on this trip? What kind of teen typically goes on this trip?
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 only for students who are currently in 11th and 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 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.
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 by themselves?
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 are formed along the way. If you travel by yourself, you 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 BFFs on another TFT trip the next summer!
Can I bring a friend?
Absolutely! We just ask that if you come with a friend, you and your friend(s) are still open to meeting new people and sharing this special experience with the entire group.
What do students generally like most on this program?
Students love that this program provides an authentic adventure for teens their own age. This program is perfect for nature and adventure lovers!
What is unique about this program?
This program explores hidden gems on New Zealand’s South Island that are off the beaten path and undiscovered by most tourists.
What is included?
Ground transportation, accommodations, all breakfasts and dinners, chaperones and guides, trip related activities, trip related activity admissions, taxes and tips.
Not included (not intended to be an exhaustive list): Airfare, rail passes, lunches, visas and visa application fees, beverages other than tap water, activities and admissions not referenced in the itinerary or deemed not trip related such as movies, clubs and the like, expenses incurred by the participant that are outside the trip description such as damage to hotels, excess baggage fees and the like, expenses related to unforeseen circumstances such as transportation strikes, natural disasters and the like, personal and medical expenses.
How do the optional group flights work?
Upon registration, you will be contacted by our International Logistics Team to discuss this trip’s flight details. You are not required to take the group flight, although there are several advantages to doing so. The group flight is chaperoned by TFT staff, it offers an opportunity for the students to get to know each other before the trip starts, and we get preferred group flight prices on trips that have group contracts (ask for details). Parents are responsible for arranging for participants to get to the group flight airport. Travel For Teens staff are at the airport, greet arriving participants, and help them get to where the rest of the group has assembled. For more information about Flights, visit our Flights page.
Who are the counselors on the trip?
The Trip Director for every trip is a seasoned teen travel professional with extensive TFT experience. Trip Directors often live or have lived and worked in the destination country. Extensive knowledge of the language and culture of the destination is crucial. Our Senior Counselors are experienced, responsible and fun-loving individuals who our participants can share experiences with and look to for guidance and support. At Travel for Teens we pride ourselves on our rigorous staff application process and the professionalism of our full time and summer staff.
It is the job of the counselors to keep the trip fun and exciting, the learning and the laughter in good balance, and to oversee the safety of the participants. Minimum ratios are on average one staff member to every seven participants. Trips may also include one or two Junior Counselors, who are college students with a history of TFT travel, and one or more Counselors in Training (CIT’s) with limited responsibility. CIT’s are not counted in staff-participant ratios.
What are the safety qualifications for our staff?
All of our staff members attend a week-long training session every May to prepare for the upcoming summer and go over safety precautions and protocols. Likewise, every counselor is CPR/First Aid certified and Trip Directors are Lifeguard certified. All staff undergo a rigorous interview process and thorough background check.
What is the average group size?
Group size is important! A smaller group size provides unique opportunities that a large group cannot accommodate. Think of your favorite local restaurant; could it easily accommodate a group of 50 teens? Probably not! Our group sizes average between 14 to 21 students, which means that we are able to comfortably use local transport, enjoy local restaurants, and have a more authentic experience overall! A smaller group size also eliminates the likelihood of cliques, meaning that our groups all tend to bond as a cohesive unit. We guarantee that you’ll have enough people to meet some new best friends, but not so many that you feel like “just a number” or lost in a crowd.
How does this program connect to other programs?
This program can be connected to programs in Asia, Fiji, and Africa. At the end of the New Zealand program, your counselor will escort you to the airport and help you get to your next destination where you will meet up with your new counselors and group.
What is the food like on this trip?
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!
New Zealand is a very multicultural countries with an incredible array of cuisines from around the world. Each with large migrant populations the food is as authentic and delicious as you would find in the original country. Greek, Italian, Thai, Indian, Chinese, the choice is yours!
We also love to have picnics al fresco, and do this whenever possible, which is a great way to taste some local food while sitting out in the fresh air taking in the sights and sounds of our surroundings.
As always, we are willing and able to accommodate vegetarians, vegans, gluten allergies, and other dietary restrictions.
Do I need any vaccinations for this trip?
We recommend that you check with your family doctor regarding vaccinations and medical advice for the areas you will be visiting. For more information, please check out the World Health Organization’s website www.who.int/en/.
How much free time do we get?
Our counselors are with the group almost always. Every day we will break up into smaller groups to give our participants some choices and flexibility in their itinerary. At our accommodations, students will have a good amount of free time to enjoy the facilities but will not be able to leave the grounds without one of our staff members. Our time in Christchurch, Tekapo, Queenstown, Wanaka, Franz Josef, and Hokitika will be fairly regimented to maximize the activities we can enjoy during our time, however there will be some free time to go shopping. Additionally, a lifeguard certified counselor will be supervising the students any time that they are involved in water activities.
What kind of visa do you need for this trip?
Any US citizen that enters New Zealand is automatically granted a free 90-day tourist visa. If you are coming from somewhere outside the US, please be sure to check your country specific visa requirements.