Becca is a 16 year-old from West Palm Beach, FL. She loves to cook and travel, and she would like to study International Business in the future.
Last summer, I went on a group trip with 30 other teens to a foreign country, and this summer I went back with just one friend to travel solo. These questions and answers provide some insight into the benefits of solo traveling as compared to family trips or teen tours.
Q: Why should a teen travel without a group? A: Independent travel provides a great opportunity for teens to learn about responsibility. While the responsibility may seem to be too much to handle at first, teens will be forced to rise to the challenge. It can be the introduction to self-reliant living before the reality of life after school sets in. Solo traveling also allows teens to make decisions for themselves at all times. While this may be intimidating for parents, it gives teens experience and can help make them less dependent on adults.
Q: Is solo traveling safe for teenagers? A: Traveling in general can be as safe or risky as you make it. With careful planning, solo traveling can be safe. The U.S. Department of State provides travel warnings and alerts for countries it considers unsafe to visit. Many precautions have been taken to make traveling safer to help increase tourism worldwide. That said, there can always be risks involved when traveling, but teens, like any other traveler, can take precautions to help decrease that risk.
Q: How can I make solo traveling safer? A: One way to make solo traveling safer is actually to make it non-solo. Taking one or two friends has a wide range of benefits. It is still virtually independent traveling, as you do not have to worry about the constraints of a large group, but safety in numbers always holds true. Also, traveling with a friend ensures a constant companion and hopefully a reprieve to any potential moments of boredom. Having someone with you may also lead you to visit sights you would normally skip, which you may end up appreciating in the long run. Another way to make solo traveling safer is to do as much research as you can beforehand. If you go prepared with information, you’re less likely to get caught in a problematic situation. Q: Where should a solo teen traveler go? A: That entirely depends on the traveler. There are plenty of cool places to visit both in and out of the country. The first time a teen travels alone, it may be a good idea to visit a place where he or she has friends and family in case of an emergency. If you’re a teen who wants to make an independent trip, prepare a few possibilities to present to your parents for approval. Parents have different comfort levels, and this will play a large role in determining where the teen can travel.
Q: Why not go with a group? A: While going with a group may be easier than going alone, solo traveling allows teens to experience what they want to experience. In other words, teen tours often have strict schedules and don’t allow for the flexibility of solo traveling. For teens who like to be independent, solo traveling is definitely the best way to go. You can make your own itinerary and only go to sights that you’re interested in and skip those of lesser importance to you. While you won’t have the comfort of counselors, you have the freedom to make your own decisions.
Q: Is solo traveling different for a girl and a boy? A: As much as I hate to admit it, gender does make a difference in solo traveling, solely based on statistics. This just means that girls may have to take more safety precautions than boys and be more alert. One way to make traveling safer for a girl is to travel with a guy friend if the parents are comfortable with it.
Q: When should teens take their first solo trip? A: Some airlines consider teens unaccompanied minors through the age of 14 or 15, which is still young for a solo trip. With a planned trip, there is no reason why a 16 or 17 year old couldn’t have as good of a trip as an 18 year old, though there may be restrictions. Younger teens may need to stay with friends or family because most hotels have an age minimum of 18. However, younger teens can still go on great solo trips and have the opportunity of experiencing the maturity earlier on.
Q: How should we get started planning a solo trip? A: The first step in planning a solo trip is choosing the destination followed by the mode of travel and then accommodations. Research is important because travelers will have to rely on their own resources on the trip. Teens can either plan everything themselves or use a travel service for help. The planning is the first step in independent decision making for the teens.
My solo trip this summer was one of the best experiences of my life, and I highly recommend it for other teens. I learned many valuable lessons and feel more independent and self-sufficient. I hope that other teens’ solo trips leave them with as many amazing memories as mine did.