Rail pass, check. Metro maps, check. Get ready to experience France, Switzerland and Italy with a small group of fellow adventurers. Sure, you’ll see the masterpieces and monuments but you’ll have ample time to discover that perfect café, browse the smaller galleries, eat great local dishes at authentic restaurants and interact with the locals. The trip allows for flexibility and spontaneity and allows for you to help be involved in the planning all within our well-planned European journey.
Participants on this trip have the option to fly overseas on our chaperoned group flight that leaves in the evening from the New York area to Paris. Our leaders greet you at the airport and are with you from check-in onward. For the many travelers from outside the New York area, you can choose to join the chaperoned flight and we are happy to assist you with arranging connecting flights at suitable times into New York. You may also choose to meet us in Paris and we will help coordinate your flight times and greet you upon arrival.
For your return from Rome, we offer a chaperoned flight to New York. For travelers from outside the New York area, we can help you arrange transfers at suitable times after the group has cleared customs and immigration; or you may fly home directly from Rome to your home city and our leaders help you to check-in and remain in the airport until flights in designated times have departed.
Bienvenue à Paris! After a warm welcome and orientation, view the city from atop the Eiffel Tower and listen to the chimes at Notre Dame. Dine in the artist colony of Montmartre and cruise down the River Seine at night. Smile back at Mona Lisa at the Louvre, and discover Rodin’s The Thinker. Browse along the Champs Elysees and take a photo next to the Arc de Triomphe. Marvel at Versailles’ majestic palace, Hall of Mirrors and elegant gardens of Louis XIV on your guided visit. After breakfasts of croissants, fresh baguettes at lunch, and crepes on evening visits to the Latin Quarter, you’ll leave the City of Lights with a new appreciation of la joie de vivre!
Summer ski* and snowboard* in the French Alps site of the ’92 Winter Olympics. Choose to canoe, swim or hike with gorgeous mountain views. Slide down the Acroslide on your back or belly and finish with an acrobatic jump into the lake. Stroll through the town and enjoy the breathtaking scenery of this great alpine village. (*Note skiing and snowboarding require intermediate level ability or better.)
Tour the United Nations, check out the famous Jet d’Eau shooting 132 gallons of water per second 459 feet into the air above Lake Geneva and sample mouthwatering Swiss chocolate or devour the best fondue!
A backpacker’s favorite, this Swiss resort village in the Jungfrau region is at the foot of Switzerland’s largest mountains and is home to all things adventurous. Master the T-grip for your roaring whitewater rafting excursion. Challenge yourself through the five progressive stages of the indoor climbing center! Dine on schnitzel on the terrace of a restaurant overlooking lakes Brienz and Thun and bid farewell to Switzerland and its glacial charm.
After saying goodbyes to our friends on the 14-day program, the incredible action continues onto Italy for more adventure that begins with a warm welcome to some new travelers who join us for our last 16 days. Part of the “Italian Riviera”, these five small, classic Italian towns are built into the cliffs and rise from the sea looking much like they did when they were first settled in the 17th century. Enjoy some chill time in these quaint fishing villages of the Cinque Terre. Hike from village to village, stopping for amazing coastal views and irresistible pesto (this is where it was born!). Soak up the Italian sun during a relaxing day at the beach and chill with a night of group activities and bonding overlooking the Mediterranean.
The city known for its canals! Explore this “maze” of over 100 islands connected by 150 canals and 400 bridges first by foot, then by gondola. Wander the shops of Venice filled with Venetian masks. Watch a demonstration of the 700-year-old craft of Murano glass blowing. Feed the pigeons in Piazza San Marco. Enjoy the Italian feasts of pizza, pasta, and parmigiana.
Ah Florence! Home of the Renaissance, the works of Boticelli, Da Vinci, and Michelangelo. Admire the David at the Accademia and check out the masterpieces at the Uffizi. Search the leather markets for the perfect gifts, then put on your apron and attend an authentic Italian cooking class. Savor Florence’s greatest treat – classic Italian gelato. Celebrate your time in Florence with a night out at the famous multi-floored international Space Electronic disco.
Soak up the street carnival atmosphere in this cliff-side town overlooking the Bay of Naples. Cruise to the Isle of Capri stopping to hop off and swim in majestic green waters and grottos. Ride the funicular to the town of Capri and take in the cafe scene near Piazza Umberto. Spend the day at the chic beach resort town of Positano.
Explore the ruins of Pompeii buried in the volcanic ash when Vesuvius erupted 1,900 years ago. These excavated ruins offer fascinating and unforgettable view of history.
Imagine gladiators in the Colosseum and people-watch at the Spanish Steps. Dine in the celebrated Piazza Navona, discover the ancient treasures of the Pantheon and Forum and visit Vatican City and enormous St. Peter’s Square. Try to picture Michelangelo painting the famous ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, attend an authentic Roman Toga Party and don’t forget to toss three coins in the Trevi Fountain – to guarantee your return to the Eternal City! Enjoy a final night of laughs before you say “arrivederci” to your new friends and your summer of a lifetime!
The ibis Paris Cambronne Tour Eiffel is located in the heart of Paris just a few minutes from the Eiffel Tower, the Bateaux Mouches sightseeing boats and the Champs-Elysées. Stay connected with free Wi-Fi!Visit Website
Set on the edge of the slopes in Espace Killy, this cozy hotel is perfectly located for our sojourn in Tignes.Visit Website
Hotel Royal is a 4-star luxury hotel in the heart of the Geneva city center. The hotel includes a fitness center and sauna for the guests to enjoy during their stay.Visit Website
The City Oberland Hotel is situated in the center of Interlaken. From here you are able to reach all the essential sites and locations in town on foot.Visit Website
The hotel, which has been completely renovated throughout, is located in the historic center of the town La Spezia. It is within minutes of the train that connects the “five towns” of Cinque Terre.Visit Website
The Hotel Belle Epoque is located in the centre of Venice just a few minutes from St. Marco Square. All its rooms have private facilities, satellite TV, direct dial telephone, air conditioning and are furnished in a typical venetian style. A panoramic elevator will take you to your room. It is within walking distance the train station Santa Lucia.Visit Website
Hotel Savoia is located in the heart Sorrento, a short walking distance to all of the nightlife in Sorrento and a perfect hub for exploring the Island of Capri and the beach of Positano.Hotel Savoia
While in Florence you will be staying at Hotel Cellai, located in the heart of downtown Florence, just minutes from the Duomo, Ponte Vecchio and famous leather markets.Visit Website
Best Western Blu Hotel Roma is surrounded by Rome’s famous monuments and landmarks, such as the Roman Forum, the Colosseum, the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain.Visit Website
At Westcoast Connection nothing else comes first. From our extensive trip planning department through our management team and our leaders, it is our single biggest priority! Safety procedures, equipment – we’ve got it covered. All Trip Leaders and Directors are certified in First Aid and CPR. We are extremely proud of our safety record and welcome all questions you may have in this area. Please see more under Safety First.
Once your action packed day is over, you’re going to need a place to sleep. You will enjoy terrific, centrally located, simple hotels where every participant gets his or her own bed to ensure a proper night’s rest. This trip does not stay in hostels or go camping. Once you are in a city, you leave your backpack in your hotel room. Your backpack is your luggage and used to move your clothing and personal belongings from city to city. While these trips include some great adventure, despite the “backpack” name they are definitely not camping wilderness trips. “Backpack” refers to the style of travel similar to how many college age students travel in Europe or while studying abroad. For more detailed information on lodging, visit the section marked Where We Stay.
Once you are on your trip, you will have sensitive leaders that are caring, approachable and always there for you. Your Trip Director and Trip Leaders are people with incredible backgrounds including teachers, guitar players, IRONMAN triathletes, SCUBA divers, volunteers, and so much more.
Every staff member takes part in and must complete our extensive training weekends that review our philosophy and procedures to provide a well-supervised and fun-filled program.
Our Trip Directors, the individuals responsible for overseeing each itinerary, take on the roles of teachers, coaches, camp counselors, mentors, concierges and hosts. They’ve been trained to provide individual attention and create an all-inclusive family atmosphere (our EACH & EVERY philosophy). There’s a definite art to building dynamic groups, and we’ve worked hard to master it! We want you smiling on day one right through to a teary goodbye at your farewell banquet.
Our leaders are non-smokers. To learn more about our staff, please visit our Summer Leaders section.
We can’t say it too many times, this is a really incredible group experience. This small group experience greatly enhances development of a warm and welcoming family environment. A great dynamic starts with our secrets for group bonding. Our bag of tricks goes way beyond traditional ice breakers. Imagine people hunts, Rock, Paper, Scissors championships, Ninja tournaments, flash mobs and so much more. We work hard to get everyone moving beyond first impressions and creating an atmosphere of total acceptance. Our staff hiring and training emphasizes social safety and establishing an inclusive culture. Many of our travelers come as individuals and we have a geographically diverse enrollment. This mix helps eliminate cliques at the outset and establish an open environment that benefits you. We take great care in assembling groups to create an unforgettable social experience.
Your summer of a lifetime starts with us carefully crafting the perfect program. Our team is dedicated year round to creating exciting, meaningful experiences! You have a detailed itinerary, but not one that is so rigid that you lose chances for spontaneity! Our Trip Planning Department pays painstaking attention to detail, sweating the small stuff so that your summer experience is stress free. Our trips are designed with a very logical flow: action, adventure and excitement balanced with structured downtime and relaxation. There is a reason our itineraries are known to be “Perfectly Planned. Perfectly Paced.” Our year-round team has 499 summers combined working with teenagers and we understand what you’re looking for. We describe our trips in as much detail as these web pages allow, but to truly appreciate the flow of a particular program, please speak with us to review the trip of your choice.
Planning teen trips is of course a science. But it is also an art. We know when to pick up the pace to get the adrenaline flowing. We also know when it’s time to chill on the beach or have a sleep in. As you review our European itineraries, know that we have worked year after year to make every minute of every day just right.
If we’re not seeing the sights, eating like there’s no tomorrow, or resting up because there is a tomorrow, we’re out there playing! Skiing or snowboarding the French Alps, swimming near the grottos off Capri, or whitewater rafting in the Swiss Alps. Cultural and historical sites include the Colosseum, Sistine Chapel, Pompeii, Versailles and the Louvre. Nightlife ranges from modern dance clubs in Florence, a boat cruise down the river Seine in Paris and even a Roman toga party. Your European Backpack program will take you “off the beaten path” and allow you to experience Europe!
But “active” also means you get to play a big part in how the summer turns out. We want you engaged and are interested in what you have to say. You have a role in this trip and how it gets molded.
There is so much more to a teen travel experience than just traveling. Summer after summer we love nothing more than the feedback from parents sharing with us that their son or daughter has matured, has become more confident and outgoing, is more poised, more responsible and more worldly having had not just the summer of a lifetime, but a life changing experience as well. It’s amazing how much growth can occur when you are traveling and sharing the experience with incredible people in a warm and welcoming environment.
As you travel overseas and experience other cultures and customs first hand, your perception will change as your understanding of and empathy for citizens of other countries naturally grows. Whereas prior to your travels media headlines about a foreign government may have led to generalized conclusions, your new interactions with locals and firsthand experience will enable you to see we often share more in common with others than we may have known.
Imagine seeing first hand all you’ve learned about in a global studies class when you are staring at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, walking through the Ancient Forum or listening to the history of Pompeii.
Our experience lends itself to trying new things and stepping just outside of one’s comfort zone. With a taste of age-appropriate independence, and a healthy reprieve from the usual pressures associated with school life, we want you to be empowered and we provide you with an opportunity to grow.
Living, experiencing, and learning together, you will be afforded the chance to interact with other teens who share both similar and different backgrounds and interests. Everybody grows in their social acceptance of others. By the end of the program we hope to have lit a spark – to travel, to learn, to meet new people, to try new things and to explore. With new friendships, new memories and new life skills on which to build, our teen travel experiences are truly unforgettable.
There really is a difference in how different summer programs operate! Motivated teens going away with qualified leaders is a given. But what sets us apart is the depth of our qualified personnel that allow us to perform with the greatest consistency at the highest level.
Your Trip Director and Trips Leaders are with you throughout your program. They have daily contact with one of our two 24-hour Communication Centers and are in regular contact with our Company Directors. Our Company Directors are the most seasoned veterans who each oversee specific programs providing support to trip staff and to assist with any situations that may arise. Our Company Directors alternate between traveling to visit programs and being reached in the office.
Program visits enable us to provide ongoing support and development to our Trip Directors, allows trip staff to have a sounding board for their own progress in reaching trip goals, helps us to identify any challenging areas for improvement while it still has relevance to your summer rather than as a mention on your end-of-summer survey, and helps us to identify the future Directors from the current crop of all-star summer staff. These visits are by Company Directors along with our Regional Supervisors, who are former Trip Directors with further experience out in the field. Collectively our planning, supervisory and management team is an incredible resource with 499 summers of combined teen travel experience. This way, we can lend a hand wherever and whenever a little extra effort is called for. Last year, we had 212 scheduled supervisory trip visits to make sure all was running well, provide ongoing support to our staff in the field and have fun! This investment in depth of personnel is unrivaled in teen travel and is a critical element to achieving consistent, excellent program quality and surpassing client expectations!
Included in the trip tuition are all activities and entertainment described, breakfast and dinner daily, lunches as indicated on your specific program, gratuities, taxes, land transportation, accommodations, and fanatical customer service from our full-time team and summer Communication Centers. This can add up to tremendous value!
A big part of a journey’s success depends on how well you eat. We are proud of the fact that year after year we are complimented for our quality, quantity and choice of food! Breakfasts in Europe are eaten at our hotels and served buffet style with a variety of options. For dinners, either the whole group goes to the same restaurant or we divide into smaller groups of your choosing with our staff. For lunch, you will enjoy eating in smaller groups and choosing from local cafés, bistros and other restaurants. Are you ready for fresh pasta and pizza in Italy, warm fondue in Switzerland and crispy baguettes in France? The food in Europe is terrific, so get set to eat extremely well!
We have satisfied the choosiest of eaters and gladly accommodate most special dietary requests including vegetarian, anaphylactic food allergies, lactose intolerance, celiac disease and kosher style. We welcome discussing your individual requirements with you and have extensive personal experience in this area. Please speak with us to review your needs.
Rail pass and metro maps in hand, you will be using public transportation between and within cities. We travel on public transportation as a group. You are only carrying your backpack when moving between cities. Within cities, it is whatever you need for the day!
You only need to bring one week’s worth of clothing as outlined in our packing list. Every week you may drop off your laundry at a local wash and fold service and then pick it up clean, folded and ready to go.
While you’re out having the summer of your life, your parents should feel like they are in on the action as well. We post updates to our blog and Facebook page and e-mail photos approximately once a week so those at home can be in on the fun. Parents also have access to our dedicated office Trip Monitors 24/7 for any questions and/or concerns. We’re as in touch as any trip operator could possibly be via smartphones with e-mail and text. The goal is uncompromising safety and peace of mind, day after day, hour by hour, minute by minute. Participants may bring their personal cell phones.
In last summer’s surveys, 98% of responding teens and parents said they would recommend us to others. We must be doing something right!