I wrote this when my teenage daughter went travelling with a friend for the first time:
Right now, I’m a fretful mama bear. For no good reason. Except that my daughter, aged 17, has finished her exams and is currently InterRailing her way around six European countries with a school friend. Which is brilliant, and should not be a cause of fretting.
I’m actually really proud that my girl is off exploring the world independently, and I know that she’s having fun and visiting some amazing places…but I’ll be glad when she’s back home, safe and sound and telling us all about her adventures. She’s been travelling with us since she was a baby, but this is the first time that she’s travelled abroad without an adult. I found that waving her off on her journey was really tough, both because she seems so young and vulnerable, and because I did the same thing at her age, and I remember all of the dodgy situations which I encountered. I survived all of those situations, obviously, but my heart wants to shield my children from danger, for ever, while my head tells me that I can’t, and shouldn’t, do that. It’s time.
So, here are my tips for protective mama-bear parents of travelling teens.
Before your adventurer sets off, get them to put together a detailed itinerary and share it with you. This should include details of dates, routes, accommodation (with addresses and phone numbers), flight numbers and times, booking references etc. My daughter was reluctant to do this, but I insisted. Because I’m annoying like that. If something goes wrong and your child calls you to help, your job will be much easier if you have all of this information to hand. It’s also good to know where they are – we have a copy of my daughter’s route stuck on our fridge, and it’s a nice daily reminder of which city she’s in.
Make copies of your teen’s passport, cash cards, tickets etc, and keep them in a handy place, just in case they are lost or stolen and you have to help sort things out.
Make sure that your teen can use their mobile phone while they’re travelling – you’ll feel a lot better if it’s easy to keep in touch. My daughter has a phone contract with Vodaphone which lets her use her UK allowance in Europe for an additional payment of £3 a day. We’ve been messaging each other regularly while she’s away, and she’s phoned for a chat a couple of times.
Travel insurance is vital – make sure that they have adequate cover. Insurance is the only element of the trip which I arranged for my daughter. It didn’t look like she was going to arrange it for herself, and I decided that I’d quite like the peace of mind of knowing that she was adequately covered in case anything went wrong. We have an annual family travel insurance policy, but it didn’t cover her for this trip, so I took out a separate policy for her. Both she and I have a note of the policy reference and emergency phone number, just in case.
Make sure they have a means of paying for stuff while they’re away. Currency cards work well – they can be preloaded with cash before a trip and then used as debit and cash cards abroad.
Find My Friends app
If you and your teen have iPhones, you can use this free app. It’s a location tool which allows you to see where someone is, on a map, as long as their phone is switched on and they’ve accepted your request to share their location. I’ve found it really reassuring to be able to see where my daughter is while she’s away.
(I’m working on this one). Don’t fret. They’ll be fine. They’ll have a great time, and even if things don’t go quite to plan, that’s good too, because it will help them to grow up and learn about the wider world. They’ll be back home before you know it, with a pile of dirty laundry and a ton of stories to tell you, ready for their next adventure.
Over to you
Do you have any tips to add? Have your kids travelled independently?