Why we offer Custom International Programs to High School and University Groups

Experiencing a different culture and learning to adapt to alternative ways of living greatly contributes to personal development and global awareness in students. While traveling abroad, students learn about themselves, their own cultural lens and biases, and the society, history and environment of their host country. Additionally students learn how to overcome challenges, be flexible and consider multiple perspectives. Through this, students return home refreshed and inspired with a deeper sense of purpose.

Pacific Discovery offers customized educational travel programs for high school and university groups. These programs are experiential: learning is hands-on and tangible. For example, students will learn about a country’s history and culture by immersing themselves in it – meeting local people and hearing stories and perspectives first hand – and if you choose, being involved in a community-initiated service learning project.

To encourage learning from experience, our Program Instructors facilitate opportunities for participants to regularly reflect upon their experiences, and provide historical, cultural, geographical and environmental background so that personal experience can be connected with a broader understanding of place.


The educational component of our programs is multi-disciplinary and can incorporate:

  • Host country specifics: history, politics, culture, geography, environment, relevant social issues
  • Global themes: globalization, development, conservation, religion, ethics, sustainability
  • How to travel: what to take, how to plan, how to keep safe, socially and environmentally responsible travel
  • Outdoor education: soft and hard skills of a number of outdoor activities such as backpacking, mountain biking, canoeing, climbing, sailing, snorkeling
  • Group skills: how to work with a group, effective communication
  • Development of personal leadership skills for students
  • Special focus: sports science, entrepreneurship, counselling, photography, architecture, meditation, language, service-learning, conservation (these are all examples of what we've run previously)4

Why travel with Pacific Discovery?

Since 2001, we have been developing and running international educational travel and service learning/volunteer programs for high schools, universities (under-graduate and postgraduate), and special interest groups. To date, we have run more than 50 custom programs, on top of our regular semester and summer program departures.

When designing a custom program we work with you to develop an itinerary tailored to your group’s focus, interests, and requirements. Our custom programs can go anywhere, for any length of time, and are always developed with great care.


The benefits of our custom school programs

  • Proudly New Zealand owned and operated: We are a Kiwi travel organization that has more than 20 years of experience in creating educational student trips.
  • Personalized programming: We will develop a program to highlight your focus and goals and we will be available throughout the process.
  • Local knowledge: Up to date, on the ground information; we know what is new, what is possible and what is overrated.
  • Full-time support 24/7: One of our Program Instructors will be with your group at all times in the host country/s and we will provide you with a 24/7 emergency free-call number for your school and students' families.
  • Professional and personal attention: We pride ourselves on being professional with a great response time; we are easily contacted and always available for assistance and help.
  • Affordable programs: Our local connections and business ethics enable us to provide programs that are of exceptional value.
  • Travel with a purpose: Give your students the opportunity to not only have an educational and insightful adventure, but to also feel that they have made a contribution to their host communities.

Custom Travel Programs

Where do you want to travel to?

We have run programs to a myriad of destinations all over the world. These are just a few of our past educational travel programs: Costa Rica, Hawaii, Peru, Ecuador, New Zealand, Australia, Indonesia, Fiji, Nepal, Tibet, Belize, Guatemala, Mexico, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand.

What we offer you

  • An itinerary and experience tailored to your group's interest and needs.
  • Exceptional value and transparency with regard to the program cost. You accompany the group (if you wish) and faculty travel costs are typically built into the program fee.
  • One of our experienced Program Instructors accompanies your group to facilitate their experience, provide insight, handle logistics, deal with local operators and manage group safety.
  • Comprehensive pre-travel information for your group to prepare them for their program. This includes health and safety considerations, cultural and environmental education, gear lists, and recommended reading.
  • We provide each participant with a program handbook which has a detailed itinerary, background information to every destination, maps, excerpts from literature relating to the itinerary, and guidelines around culturally sensitive and environmentally responsible travel.
  • We handle all logistical arrangements including: visas, international and in-country flights, overland travel, meals, accommodation, activities, entrance fees, excursions and special visits with community organizations, local guides and in-country support.
  • For faculty/staff who choose to offer their own classes/credit on our programs, we can support you with itinerary suggestions, site visits and curricular content.

What we need from you

  • An enthusiastic contact person who will liaise with us and your group throughout program development.
  • Sufficient time, preferably 6-12 months prior to anticipated departure, to enable us to work with you to develop an itinerary, recruit students and implement logistics.
  • All group members (students and teachers/chaperones) to complete a registration/medical form, a liability waiver form, and to be covered by an international travel/medical assistance insurance policy for the duration of the itinerary (we generally arrange a group travel insurance policy as part of the program service).

How it works

We can develop an educational travel program for your students based on one of our existing itineraries, or we can work with you to develop an itinerary specifically tailored to your focus and interests.

Once we have agreed upon the program content (itinerary and focus), dates and cost, we produce an informative registration and pre-travel booklet for you to circulate to your students and their families, or to use to assist with recruitment.

Your school will have a program approval procedure which we are happy to follow. We take care of all program logistics, including international flights (if you choose), and we work closely with you to ensure students and their families are comfortable with all aspects of the program and addressing any questions raised.

Custom Travel Programs

For your Peace of Mind

Pacific Discovery is a registered New Zealand education organization. In utilizing our services, you are working with an organization that emphasizes social and environmental responsibility and has a proven record of giving participants outstanding and rewarding international experiences.

We maintain a robust risk management system and emergency contingency planning, and we hold comprehensive public liability insurance and require all participants to hold a travel or international medical insurance policy for the duration of the program.

We maintain:

  • An independently audited safety plan.
  • An independently audited sustainability policy.
  • Public liability insurance.
  • Global medical and security evacuation insurance for all group members.
  • Experienced Program Instructors who hold relevant post-graduate qualifications, wilderness first responder certification, and are trained in our risk assessment and safety management systems.
  • We have undergone and maintain comprehensive accreditation’s with:
  • Additionally:
    • All payments are held in a bank trust account until disbursement.
    • We have a database of alumni and alumni families as well as university and gap year advisors, who are happy to be contacted to discuss their experience with Pacific Discovery.
    • Alumni and faculty references can be supplied on request, or reviewed here.

If you are interested in a customized educational travel program, please contact us. We can provide you with sample itineraries and references.

Michael Ferrier
Michael and his students at Machu Picchu

“Over the past five years, Pacific Discovery has taken our students on transformative learning experiences abroad. Rachel and Scott, along with their team, are wonderfully responsive to our school's needs, tailoring each trip to our global curricular goals and curating an itinerary that emphasizes immersion, deep learning, and connections to local communities.” Pacific Discovery's focus on sustainable and ethical travel aligns closely with our goal to teach students to be responsible global citizens who are committed to changing the world. On the ground, the trip leaders are consummate professionals--skilled experts in risk management and their respective regions of the world. More than any other travel partner that we have used, Pacific Discovery allows our students to gain critical understanding of global and regional issues and provide meaningful opportunities to see in real time what communities are doing to address these challenges. I recommend this company with the greatest enthusiasm.” Read more Michael Ferrier, 2019
Director of Global Programs
Springside Chestnut Hill Academy

Mary Greenland
Mary and students getting blessed by monks on an annual pilgrimage

“I have no hesitation in recommending Rachel, Scott and Pacific Discovery. Their organisation of my school program to Cambodia was faultless. I was consulted and kept up to date at all stages of planning. We had no difficulties at all because of the high standard of organisation and leadership. Any small glitches within Cambodia were dealt with swiftly by Scott. Our program this year was so successful that we are planning a second one.” Mary Greenland, 2019
HOD Social Studies
Nayland College

Kathie Carpenter
Kathie in Cambodia

“I was so impressed with how well planned the whole trip was, with such a good balance of challenging experiences such as the orphanage and hospital visits, of important educational experiences such as the bird sanctuary, and of just chill time and bonding time, like swimming and eating! When I look back on how much you packed into the two weeks, I am just astonished. Thanks so much to you and Rachel for helping make it happen. I had a wonderful time, both as a travel adventure and also as a good way to really understand what you are doing and how deeply it affects the students. Every one of them felt it had been a life-changing experience.” Kathie Carpenter, 2019
Associate Professor
Department Head - International Studies
University of Oregon

Catherine Hawkins
Catherine at school in Cambodia

“I have known Scott and Rachel for several years, and I can recommend them in the strongest positive terms. In my opinion, they run the most impressive student-oriented programs available anywhere. I have led numerous study abroad programs and worked with many other companies over the years, so I am most confident in this assessment.” I worked with Pacific Discovery extensively in the planning, development, and implementation of a Texas State School of Social Work study abroad program to Cambodia and Thailand in winter 2007-2008. This was a three-week in-country program involving fifteen students. I was immediately impressed with Pacific Discovery by their excellent, extensive website, and their quick and professional response to my initial inquiries. They were very attentive to the details of the trip as well as responding to my needs. They gained my full confidence very quickly. Our planning time was shorter than desirable, but they were able to make it all happen very efficiently and effectively. They handled every aspect of the program from start to finish without any problems of any kind, and I truly enjoyed their pleasant, friendly attitude.

Scott was our tour leader, and the students really loved him. I appreciated that he not only managed the logistics of the program so well, but also greatly enhanced the academic quality with his extensive knowledge of Southeast Asia, particularly the history and contemporary culture of Cambodia and Thailand. In addition, Pacific Discovery arranged for several very unique learning opportunities, such as staying with a wonderful family in a village, visiting local schools to interact with students and donate books, volunteering at non-governmental social service agencies, and touring an ecologically-based nature preserve.

I can say that Scott and Rachel changed our lives through this amazing adventure.”
Read more Catherine Hawkins, 2019
Professor of Social Work
Honorary Professor of International Studies
Texas State University-San Marcos