With graduation season in full swing, high school and college students are donning their caps and gowns and transitioning into an exciting time in their life and a new sense of independence. For parents, it may mean some anxiety about letting go – especially when it comes to allowing their young adult a popular graduation rite of passage – a summer trip to Europe.
If your recent grad wants to jet set across the pond, here are a few pro tips to make the experience more comfortable for both of you.
Set expectations for communication. Lengthy phone calls every day may not be realistic (or cost-efficient), but no parent, and probably no graduate, wants to go the whole length of a euro trip without at least a few check-ins. Make sure you and your grad download an international messaging app like Viber or WhatsApp on your smartphones so you can be in touch at no extra data charge when they are in a Wi-Fi zone. According to Lisa Goodmurphy of Gone with the Family, “Wi-Fi will likely be readily available in most areas, but parents may feel better if they also add an international texting plan to their child’s cell phone.”
If your grad doesn’t have a smartphone, emailing from Internet cafes is another option for correspondence. “For mom and dad’s well-being, we make sure [our kids] have an internet cafe nearby at least every other day to check in,” adds Dana Zucker of Traveling Mom, whose well-traveled twins happen to be planning a high school graduation trip this summer of their own. Let your grad know what your comfort level is when it comes to how much time can pass between check-ins. Chances are he or she will be excited to share photos and experiences with you along the way.
Know their itinerary. If check-ins with your grad are only every few days, being totally out of the loop on what city or even country they are in and when is sure to make you tense. Go over their travel plans, including train and flight details as well as accommodations, and have everything written down before they leave. Let them know to update you if something changes.
Go over personal safety and security measures. While the age-old “beware of your surroundings” tip is probably engrained in your grad’s head already, it’s always a good idea to go over valuable pieces of advice, such as always letting their friends know where they’re going if they head out somewhere alone, only carrying small amounts of cash at one time, making sure their passport and travel documents are always on their person and make sure they keep copies of all their documents in a safe place in case something gets lost or stolen. In case they don’t heed that last tip, Goodmurphy suggests you also keep photocopies of their important documents at home in case you need to scan and email something to them.
Look into cultural exchange programs. If you aren’t comfortable letting your high school grad take on Europe unsupervised with their friends, cultural exchanges through programs like Putney provide a great opportunity for teens to experience travel without their parents for the first time.
“Teens get the advantage of an independent travel experience, while parents are reassured by the knowledge that their teen is in a supervised environment,” says Goodmurphy. “My teenage daughter had her first solo travel abroad experience the summer following 10th grade when she enrolled in the International Summer School of Scotland program at the University of St Andrews. She had an incredibly positive experience. High quality programs such as these provide an opportunity to meet other teens from all over the world, do some exploring of the host country through weekend excursions and, in some cases, to also earn an academic credit.”
And if you really can’t let go… Plan a family trip, bring your grad and a friend or two and make sure they have the opportunity to do some sightseeing, dining and socializing on their own. If you book a Royal Caribbean European cruise, you and your grad can part ways onboard to participate in whatever activities you choose or head off on separate shore excursions – and then meet up later for dinner and perhaps a concert or show.
Your grad’s post-graduation euro trip could undoubtedly be one of the most formative and memorable experiences of their lifetime. Make sure you are both prepared for whatever form the trip takes and then say, “Bon voyage!”