Even though you may have the most responsible and trustworthy kid in the class, her BFF may be the type that finds trouble wherever she goes. It’s not hard for your young travelers to have a fun but safe vacation. To get started, just post this on their Facebook page.
Safety Begins at Home & Before Take-Off
If headed to an area with a current travel warning or travel advisory, register with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate, which you can easily do online at US State Department.
Ensure that all of the proper paperwork has been completed. U.S. citizens traveling by sea, air and land between the U.S. and Canada, Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, and Bermuda are required to present a valid passport. Some countries require visas, too.
Make sure that your passport is valid for at least six months after your trip dates. This isn’t just a good precaution, some countries require it for entry.
Make two copies of your passport, tickets, credit or debit cards, traveler’s checks, and any other important documents. Leave one set of copies at home with your parents, as well as a copy of your travel itinerary and contact information for those you are traveling with. Bring the other set with you and keep them separate from the originals, in case of emergency. Consider uploading one to a password-protected cloud-based storage like Dropbox.
Read the destination’s English-language publications before the trip, which are the best sources for local news. Many are available online.
Make sure all of your immunizations are up to date, and that you receive any necessary vaccinations or other treatments if there are risks in the country being visited. If taking a prescription medication, make sure it is in the original container and clearly marked to avoid problems at Customs. In addition, be aware of the medical facilities available to you in the destination country and their required means of payment; be sure to carry a photocopy of whatever health insurance coverage you have at home.
Decide with your parents upon a regular pattern of communication, whether it is phone calls, e-mails or texts. It’s a good safety measure for teens to keep their parents posted about where they are and what they’re doing on a regular basis.
If you are traveling with a cell phone, make sure prior to the trip that international calling has been activated and that you know how to make an international call or send a text. If your phone won’t work, it may be equally useful with an international data plan for internet and email usage. Plan ahead with your carrier to avoid outrageous bills.
Safety Tips after Landing or Settling In Abroad
Upon arrival, ask the hotel clerk what is and isn’t appropriate behavior. For instance, you might want to ask if it is safe to walk around a certain area at night, or if you should take a taxi instead. Ask about areas to avoid and keep a copy of your lodging address and phone number with you at all times.
Dress like the locals if possible, or at least dress conservatively. Don’t wear clothing or other items with corporate logos or insignias that identify you as an American. It is best to avoid the appearance of affluence (refrain from wearing conspicuous jewelery) and avoid standing out. Keep valuables such as cameras, smartphones, and iPods in a secure bag.
When you leave the hotel, know where you are going, how to get there, and how to get back. Carry the hotel’s business card with you always.
Avoid isolated and poorly lit locations, especially at night.
Do not go anywhere alone or leave the hotel with someone from the local area. If you must go somewhere alone, inform someone from your group or the hotel clerk.
If you are lost, don’t act like it. Have a sense of purpose and appear as if you belong where you are. Always keep the proper coins, tokens or calling card to make a local telephone call (have the hotel and other important phone numbers handy at all times), and know a few words of the native language so you can maneuver your way around.
If you sense any danger or feel uncomfortable in a situation, do not ignore your instincts. Immediately leave the area.
If you are in danger, yell and scream to attract attention.
If you are the victim of a robber, remember that your safety is more important than your possessions. You can replace your valuables, but not your life.
Do not invite people you do not know or have just met into your hotel room. Do not leave crowded public areas (such as a bar) to be alone with a local you’ve just met.
Keep all doors to your room locked securely at all times.
Lock valuables in a hotel safe if you have one or check them at the front desk. Do not flaunt large amounts of cash in front of anyone.
Always use the main entrances of buildings.
Parents Can Play a Big Role in Student Safety on the Road
Parents, before your teens go abroad or even away for a weekend, go over this list with them. If you have college students about to travel over spring break, ask them what safety tips their school has issued, as all of them do.
Have a serious discussion about possible dangers incurred while traveling, and the preventative measures they should take to ensure a safe, happy journey and return home. Talk to the students accompanying your child, especially those with whom she/he will be rooming with and make sure they understand the importance of establishing a “buddy system” and remaining vigilant while out and about.
If your child is hitting the beach for spring break, remember the stereotypes associated with teen travel to party destinations perpetuated by popular networks such as MTV or what’s hot on Instagram.
Anticipation and fear of having the perfect “beach-ready” body just in time for spring break may lead your child to extreme dieting and the consumption of diet pills. Make sure that your teen understands the dangers of such risky behavior, and the health benefits of eating nutritiously and dieting the right way.
Parents may want to purchase travel protection (read more about travel insurance) to complement the basic sickness and accident coverage provided by the student-travel company. Optional coverage protects against lost luggage, trip cancellation or interruption, medical care and even medical evacuation, which will hopefully not be necessary for any well prepared teen.
This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question, and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.