Summer Travel Programs for Teens: Get Out and Explore the World
It's never too early to plan for next summer. In Reality Gold, one of the character's next adventure is a community service trip working with sea turtles in Costa Rica. That program really exists, and there are plenty more like it: hike Mt. Kilimanjaro, skydive in Fiji, work with elephants in Thailand, study whales in Australia…if only these things existed when I was younger. Well, I probably would have said no thanks and read a book instead, but still! It would have been nice to have the option. But if you're more adventurous than I was, and this sort of summer travel/service/adventure is for you, here are some great programs to look into. If you think cost might be prohibitive, don’t be discouraged. You might be surprised by some of the financial aid some of these programs offer—and they may also have outside scholarship or fundraising ideas.
When choosing a program, look into things like group size and number of group leaders, and find program reviews and scholarship opportunities on sites like Go Overseas.
Adventures Cross Country: This is a smaller company with a real hands-on approach. They offer service trips, language immersion and adventure-based itineraries, all planned down to every detail—often years in advance. They have a great safety record. They have a few trips for 7th and 8th graders but most are for high school students. No application, just enroll online.
Abbey Road: Abbey Road Programs is a boutique overseas educator that specializes in the experiential, individualized teaching of language immersion, the arts, history, business, journalism and cultural studies in Spain, France, Italy, Germany, England, Greece and Canada. They pride themselves on programs that offer learning + fun. You can learn more about their dates, tuition, and scholarship opportunities at www.goabbeyroad.com.
Rustic Pathways: All of their trips run several times each summer, so if flexibility is what you're looking for, there are a lot of dates and programs to choose from. Some of their trips are centered at base houses, which allow the students to settle in. These programs are for high school students, and they also offer college gap year trips. They offer discounts to alumni that can cut the cost of a second trip in half.
Moondance Adventures: Group sizes are small, and intentionally limited to keep the student to staff ratio manageable. They work hard to get to know their students, even before the trips begin. Acceptance is first come, first served based on availability.
Putney Student Travel: For 65 years they’ve been leading tours for 6-8th grade students and high schoolers, helping them become "travelers, not tourists." They’re a small, family-owned company known for their personal attention. There’s an application process, with a 150-300 word statement why you want to go, plus 2 teacher references. They've teamed up with National Geographic too, offering some unique trips within that partnership as well.
National Geographic Student Expeditions: This well-regarded program runs "authentic and meaningful" trips for middle grade and teen students ages 13 and older. Kids follow in the footsteps of National Geographic's photographers, writers and scientists. Trips run once per summer and there's an application process, requiring a demonstration of maturity, enthusiasm, motivation, and two teacher recommendations.
Where There Be Dragons: This company has a 4:1 average student to staff ratio, with 12 students and 3 leaders. Each trip is offered once per summer and there’s a deep commitment to experiential learning and involvement.
Amigos De Las Americas: Since1965, this company has been inspiring teens to become lifelong catalysts for social change through their language immersion program. Trips last 6-8 weeks and students live with host families.
Global Leadership Adventures: This program has expert staff, and each trip offers home base lodging. They have a small 6:1 student/staff ratio.
Experiment in International Living: Founded in 1932, this program offers homestays with language immersion. They have different program lengths and several dates.
Visions Service Adventures: This company has a strong commitment to community service, and when you go on one of these trips, you know you’re doing authentic work for the host communities. Student staff ratio is 4:1 and they return year after year to the same communities.
Broadreach: Broadreach has been in business for over twenty years offering trips to middle schoolers, high schoolers and college students. They aim to provide fun and adventure with growth and leadership. They also have their own foundation offering scholarships. Click here for more info.