Very soon many parents, particularly in couples where both work outside the home, will begin contemplating what their school-aged children will do this summer. Ideas for teens, who are too old for day care and most summer camps but may not have jobs lined up, can be particularly challenging. Clients in this predicament may want to consider travel programs, such as the ones offered by Rustic Pathways.

The 30-year old company offers 137 programs in 21 countries -- most in the summer months but some over spring break -- with the aim of not only enriching the lives of students but also benefiting the parts of the world that the students visit, giving many of the trips a socially responsible twist. Every summer thousands of students participate in their programs, which include trips to places as far flung as Australia, Laos, Tanzania, Fiji Islands and many more. For those who want to stay closer to home, there are choices in the United States.

The trips can involve community service or just adventure. One example: students 14 and up can travel to a conservation center in China to learn about, care for and study pandas for 10 days. Others might like the trip offering the chance to help children in an orphanage in Rajasthan, India. There's a surfing and swimming trip to Australia's Sunshine Coast, where the teens also work to help preserve the environment. Among the U.S. trips is one to New Orleans, where students enjoy the culture and help organizations repair buildings and the environment damaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. There also are strictly adventure trips, like one to the Fiji Islands where students spend time on beaches enjoying snorkeling and sunsets.

Brielle Friedman, an international manager for Rustic Pathways, says she herself became acquainted with Rustic Pathways when she went on one of their trips. "I was a freshman in high school, and I was very into community service in middle school and high school," she recalls. "I heard someone speak (from Rustic Pathways at school), and I came home and told my mom I wanted to go to Thailand and Fiji. I did a two-week program in Thailand and went to Fiji and did a service program down there. It was an incredble experience."

She says on every trip students are accompanied by Western and local guides. She adds the company has full-time local staff in all the countries in which it operates. The company takes the safety of its students very seriously and there has never been a major incident on any of its trips, Friedman says.

Trips can be fairly pricey, ranging from a couple of thousand dollars up to several thousand, not including airfare. Most trips vary in length from about one week to about three weeks, and some students string trips together to cover more of the summer. Most students are from affluent families who can afford the cost, but a significant percentage travel on scholarships, Friedman said. The company gives up to 100 grants a year and offers a number of financial aid options.

For more information on Rustic Pathways, visit