“It is a personal decision between parents and their children if they allow them to travel without an adult,” said Amanda Cecil, assistant professor at the IU School of Physical Education and Tourism Management. “It should be openly discussed what expectations they have for their children if they allow them to travel on spring break with a group of other teens.”
If parents decide to allow their teens to travel, here are a few tips to make sure the trip goes smoothly:
- Do your research. If you are sending a group of teens unescorted, most hotels will require a person over the age of 24 to secure a room. The hotel industry has gotten stricter on age requirements, and if something happens, the adult booking the room might be liable for damages. Try setting rules and consequences for the teens so they remember to be respectful of the property.
- Secure transportation. If your son or daughter is going on a cruise or leaving the country, plan far enough in advance to obtain a passport. It will often take a few weeks to receive a passport after the application has been processed. If your son or daughter is planning to travel in a vehicle during the trip, remind them that in many places you must be 25 years old to rent a car. Some exceptions will allow younger travelers to rent, but generally that will come with an extra cost. Look at your options for public transportation, such as taxis, trains and buses, because these could be cheaper and safer.
- Be educated. Many destinations are known to attract high school and college students. Educating your son or daughter on underage drinking and drug use is important. Go through the basic tips: Don’t walk alone at night, stay with a group of friends, and most importantly, don’t stray off with strangers. Mixing alcohol and a late night is often the biggest concern for parents. Look at the property area beforehand, view reports on safety and security, and contact the local convention and visitors bureau with questions or concerns.
- Plan. Always have a Plan B. If travelers require medical attention or get into legal trouble for some reason, make sure they know how to reach their parents/guardians, and what to do in the meantime. Food handling and water treatment can be different, so there is a possibility of getting sick. In another country, a U.S. insurance card might be useless. Informed, pre-travel discussions between parents and their children can make all the difference.
- Be aware. Be aware of the local laws. Some places in Mexico do not allow you to drink at the age of 18, which many people are not aware of. Also be aware of the sanitary or health concerns in that region. There are still cases of swine flu and other diseases circulating.
- Communicate often. Most kids in high school have a cell phone. Beforehand, parents or their children should research an international calling package with their providers if the children are traveling outside the U.S. Cecil encourages parents to touch base with their travelers frequently, finding out where they are, if they need anything and whom they are with. They also have access to instant communication through a number of channels (Facebook, Twitter, email).
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