Can My Teen Travel Solo Abroad?
A Checklist to Measure
Your Child's Readiness
Updated 1/2015 by Transitions Abroad
|Determining if your teen
is ready to travel solo abroad.
When I address the eager and excited
audience of potential junior ambassadors I see their
parents nervously sitting next to them trying to stifle
the question: "Can my child manage international
travel without me?" My job is to select students
for international educational tours on criteria that
include maturity, positive attitudes, health issues,
possible homesickness, and learning capacity. Parents
can use these same criteria to measure their child's
readiness for a trip abroad.
- Is my child mature
enough? The key question is can the child
handle new situations safely and effectively? If
separated from the group, could he or she develop
a plan of action? Would he know to find the proper
authority and request assistance? Would he panic?
Would he be able to keep himself safe?
- Does my child require
medicines or eyeglasses? If so, pack the
primary set of medications in a carry-on bag and
a duplicate set of medications and a copy of prescriptions,
including eyeglass prescriptions, in different
pieces of luggage. Educate travel companions about
the symptoms of serious conditions. Include your
insurance company's coverage information and form.
- Does my child have
a positive attitude? Travel is uncomfortable.
I remind my students that you will begin your adventure
jet lagged and exhausted; you will not sleep in
your own bed. On a tour you will go wherever the
bus takes you and your mother will not be around
to make sure things work smoothly.
- What about pre-existing
health issues? Is a rigorous schedule
with limited sleep damaging to your child's condition?
Would your child be better served traveling with
a group that includes medically trained staff?
- What if my child gets
homesick? Most children miss their parents,
but severe homesickness can immobilize a child.
Occasional homesickness can be managed by using
more commonly available Internet tools such as
or by using an inexpensive
international cellphone plan. The sound of
Mom's voice is often the trigger for an inconsolable
flood of tears. Rooming with a nurturing friend
or comforting sibling who will give occasional
hugs is another way to manage the sadness that
hits hardest at bedtime. One mother explained how
she carefully instructed her son to take Tylenol
for headaches, Ibuprofen for muscle aches, and
Imodium for diarrhea. "What do I take for
homesickness?" he asked innocently. "That
is why I packed the M and Ms, she responded. Eat
a package and know that I love you."
- Is my child old enough
to appreciate it? Appreciation builds
in direct proportion to enthusiastic preparation.
Encouraging research in advance of the trip enhances
a traveler's understanding immeasurably.
- Am I pushing my child
before he is ready? Occasionally, parents
are more enthusiastic about the child's trip than
the child is. As I interviewed a young man for
a trip to Australia and explained the itinerary,
the mother could not contain her excitement. Her
son weakly smiled in return. In the planning meetings
he acted silly, behaviorally begging me to reject
him from the trip. I did.
Parents commonly express amazement
at their son's or daughter's increased maturity level
following a trip. The kids knew they could do it all