Teens' Unsupervised Trips

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Cancun for teens traveling alone?

Jan 2011

My daughter and two girlfriends want to travel to Cancun for a week following high school graduation. Two will be 18 and the other 17. They found a deal on Orbitz for flight, hotel and meals for $750. It sounds too good to be true, which is one of my questions. But the bigger question is, will they be safe traveling alone to Mexico? They do not plan to travel out of Cancun. Thank you for any advice! Concerned parents

You said that your daughter and her friends aren't planning on traveling out of Cancun. If anything, I'd think they'd be safer away from Cancun, like in Playa del Carmen which is down the road about 35 miles. Cancun is a major city, with all the normal major city problems, plus it has the huge tourist area. This can attract the element that goes after tourists. The area south of Cancun is much less developed and nicer, in my opinion. Jon
i would not let my daughters travel to mexico without a parent or parents. re playa del carmen -- we had our rental car broken into there, so theft is everywhere. my eldest daughter did go with girlfriends to cabo when she was 17, but another mother and a godmother accompanied them. i know these teen girls were easily able to buy booze when there. some people go to mexico to ''party''. alcohol is cheap and there is a lot of potential to get into a lot of trouble. judith
I'm a single woman fluent in spanish who travels to mexico often (and I'm 35 years old) and I've been nervous at times. You're seriously asking for trouble to let your daughter go there without adults. even if she's a good kid, there will be people who can take advantage of her. also, mexico is safer than a lot of people think politically but that doesn't mean it's safe. don't let her do it. mexico traveler
Are really considering sending your daughter to Mexico without a parent? Truly? From your post, your daughter will be 18, but there will be other girls who are 17. Minors in Mexico on their own? There is no way that I would allow my HS senior to go to Cancun, which is a big place for partying, alcohol will be available to say nothing about drugs. Then there is the issue of violence in Mexico. So, why exactly does an 18 year old need to go to such an extravagent trip to celebrate HS graduation? anonymous
I thought I'd respond from a different angle. I took a trip to Cancun when I graduated from HS in 1993, and it was every bit as crazy then. We were two couples, who snowed our parents into thinking we had a chaperone (we were VERY creative). I was still in full hell-raiser mode though I took calculated risks and had decent street smarts. Well, we had a fantastic time. We did a lot of drinking, but it's not like that can't happen here. We also had a great time at the beach, went snorkeling, etc. We all survived, and to this day I have very fond memories of that trip. It was a big confidence builder too. So there are upsides to all of that risk.

But I have a kid approaching his teen years, and I wouldn't let him go. It's a bit of russian roulette- things could go really well and it might be a fantastic experience. But if anything goes wrong, it's probably going to go really wrong. Now, if you can come up with a compromise that includes the presence of appropriate (but ''cool'' and somewhat distant) adult supervision, then go for it. former Cancun-er

17-year-olds' summer trip to Mexico

June 2007

Our 17 year old son and some friends want to have a significant adventure this summer to celebrate their friendship and graduation from high school. Most of them will not turn 18 until fall. They are lobbying to fly to a resort in Mexico where the laws and rules are more lenient, spending their own money for 5 days or a week of living it up before college. They are all excellent students and fairly mature, but we know there are some pitfalls they could fall into in Mexico and we'd like to suggest some alternatives. Some hotels here will not let them register if they are underage, and of course the drinking age here is 21. They'd probably like to do some drinking and also go to nightclubs. DOES ANYONE HAVE A BEACH DESTINATION TO SUGGEST THAT MIGHT BE APPEALING TO TEEN BOYS??? typical mom

My now 19 year old son also wanted to do something special with his closest high school friends before heading off to college. Five or six of them decided to go to the Sierras and take a 6 day back packing/camping trip. It was a terrific experience for all of them. They did a lot of advance preparation (food/supplies/maps/logistics, etc). I know they drank alcohol and smoked marijuana too, but the bulk of the experience was about being outdoors and being together. It was so great that they decided they'd like to do this every year as a way of staying close...... Kathi

Backpacking Trip

July 1999

My almost 16 year old son and 4 to 5 of his 16 year old friends are planning a backpacking trip in the Sierras next month. They want to go by themselves and are doing all their own preparations, buying their own supplies, taking a cell phone, etc. We have given him a tentative OK to go, depending on what we think of their plans and pending talking to the parents of the other kids involved. One boy has hiked this area several times with his family and is an experienced backpacker. The others, including my son, are not. One boy who may or may not get parental approval to go was planning to drive them all there. If he doesn't go, the parents of the experienced backpacker would drive them all and pick them up. I feel more comfortable having a parent do the driving, especially mountain driving. Has anyone had experience with teenage solo backpacking trips and know what we should be aware of and prepare for, or reasons why this is a bad idea? I am not a not a backpacker/camper and am not familiar with the Sierras.

Sr. year my son and 5 friends (incl. 2 girls) went camping in Pt.Reyes for 3 nights. They had a fantastic time. I thought of it as pre-dormitory living where they had to figure out how to eat, clean-up, get enough sleep, etc. I sent them with a cellular phone w/ explicit instructions to use it only for emergencies (which there were none of). I'd be concerned about mountain driving, so thumbs up for the parent driver to Yosemite. Sunscreen and lots of water and water purifying tablets are essential. This, plus a good first aid kit and a long rap about safety (buddy system, water purification protocals, dehydration, bears) should suffice especially since Yosemite is a mob scene in summer- they're less likely to be stranded in the wilderness than they are to be over-crowded.
Regarding backpacking safely in the Sierra with a group of 4 or 5 teenagers--all I can say is, it all depends. There are safe places and unsafe places, and there are safe (i.e. careful) kids and unsafe kids. It's encouraging that they seem to be planning thoroughly and that you're reviewing their plans; you might want to get a more expert opinion, maybe from someone at REI or Wilderness Exchange. It would probably be good for the inexperienced hikers to put on packs and spend a few days hiking around the hillier regional parks, like Briones. Blisters are less of a problem close to home. -- John
As someone with 30 years backpacking experience in the Sierra Nevada and elsewhere, and as a Scoutmaster with 10 years of experience working with teenaged boys, I think a teen-aged backpack trip is definitely something that is doable by this group, pending answers to some questions I might have about the trek and the group.

What isn't clear here is the length of the backpack trip in days and miles. If most of the group is not experienced, I would not recommend more than 3 days and 15-20 miles, so that the inexperienced hikers can test their equipment (and personal mettle) without getting too far from civilization.

Has the group applied for (and received) a permit for the area they will be traveling in? Also, some areas are now requiring extra precautions to avoid bears feeding on backpackers' food, including the use of the Garcia bear containers.

I would also recommend some pre-trip training in the use of stoves, map and compass, and first aid.

I do not think that any of the boys should drive to/from the trailhead. In my opinion, a 16-year-old does not have enough driving experience to negotiate a mountain road while fatigued and possibly distracted by his carmates. The disadvantage of not having a car at the trailhead is balanced by having a cell phone for emergencies.

I will be happy to share a backpacking equipment list that we provide for our Scouts. I would also be happy to answer any other questions by parents or trekkers. YiS, Alan Scoutmaster, Troop 24, Berkeley, California

Re: Backpacking advice: I started backpacking extensively with other teenagers starting at age 15 and it was a great experience- but I had done hundreds of miles of backpacking before going without an adult, and went with other experienced teens. For this to be safe however, I think that the experienced teen needs to have enough experience to really know what he is doing in the wilderness, including handling bad weather (even in the Sierra's!), route finding, dealing with bears, and basic first aid. I would want to make sure his parents feel he has the experience and maturity to lead a trip with less experienced backpackers. I would also want to make sure the other teens were mature enough to show good judgment and responsibility without adult supervision. I never had cell phones, but this would make me feel safer as a parent. Whether this would really work depends on going to limited areas of the Sierra's (e.g Tahoe area) where cell phones actually work. -- Rick
There are a lot of closer, safer and easier places to backpack locally. I would look into some local areas and insist my teenager try them out first. It would also help them train for a subsequent trip to the Sierras. If it was my kid, I would just stay nearby wherever they went. -- Nita
Thanks to all who responded about the teenage backpacking trip in the Sierras. My son ended up not going because a death in my immediate family, so he stayed home to attend the funeral instead. Sometimes you wonder if you are getting through to your kids and then they do something that makes it worthwhile. Missing this trip was a major disappointment and expense since they had already purchased supplies. We did not get a single word of complaint from him. We voluntarily reimbursed him for his expenses because we were so proud that he did not ask or complain.

A word to the dads out there. Do not do the typical guy thing of avoiding doctors and toughing out symptoms and illnesses. You are too important to your families.

Senior Graduation Trip to Mexico

March 2000

I would appreciate hearing people's experiences with non-school sponsored senior graduation trips. If anyone has any thoughts or experiences about the particular type of trip (see below) that my daughter's class of 2000 is planning, I'd love to hear them! Thanks.

Sr. Trip Particulars:

  • Organized by the student governement reps through a company called USA Student Travel (http://www.usastudenttravel.com).
  • Fly to Puerta Vallarta, Mexico.
  • Cost is $479 (includes roundtrip airfare, 7 nights in the Westin Resort Hotel, ground transportation, hotel taxes and gratuities)
  • No chaperones (that I know of).
  • Brochure states The drinking age in the Republic of Mexico ... is 18 years and is seldom enforced.
    Sounds pretty fishy to me. What happened to going to Marine World for a senior trip? Or a cruise on the Bay? When did it turn into a 7 day affair, anyway? My first question is: Who's paying for this trip? If it's you, then you have every right to say no. If it's your child who's paying, it's far less clear. Another thought: most seniors are about to go off to college anyway, and I don't know of many colleges with chaperones these days. Is your child mature enough to handle this on their own? Have you had sufficient discussion about the birds and bees and viruses? It's a fairly good bet that they don't know how to handle liquor, and the combination of liquor and swimming or boating can be deadly. At the very least, I would talk at length with your child about the trip. Otherwise, you might try arranging another trip for your child less filled with potentially serious dangers. Good luck on this!
    Re: senior trip to Mexico
    I think that by the time our children graduate from high school we unfortunately don't have a lot of say in the choices they make (unless we hold the purse strings). My 15 year old son went with a friend and the friend's father to Mexico last year during spring break and I just wanted to alert you to the one of the things that he encountered---since I hadn't thought of all of them. The alcohol age limit is definitely not enforced. My son says he had a drink---but I don't really see evidence of that on an on-going basis so that didn't worry me too much. However, I think that the tenor of a group of seniors could really change with free access to alcohol. The more worrisome (to me) thing my son did was to rent and ride an ATV. He came through unscathed but his friend's tipped over and I think he was lucky not to have been hurt. Perhaps you could talk to another parent and cook up an alternative? (Just by the way, I asked my son if he were a parent if he would let his child go on this trip. He said as a parent, no, but as a kid he'd really want to go. There's the rub I guess.)
    Some additional thoughts on that senior trip to Mexico. I would say no, unequivocably. However, as the parent of two current teens (including a high school senior), one of the things I've thought a lot about (although only sometimes been able to act on successfully) is how hard it is to maintain communication among the parents when these issues come up. Surely there are other parents out there who feel ambivalent (at least!) about the trip. I wonder if there aren't other parents out there intuitively uncomfortable about it, but needing some support, reality checks. How do we create a structure for on-going communication? I think that saying about needing a whole village to raise a child certainly includes adolescence. And beyond.

    I do trust my almost-18 year old's judgment. She's going far away to college, she was an exchange student for six months in a country with quite a different culture (and very little English). However, if she told me that she wanted to go to Mexico on an unchaperoned group trip that cost XX dollars (even her own XX dollars), I would figure that her judgment wasn't so great after all. Mexico is a wonderful place, but sometimes difficult to visit: public safety, illnesses, drinking and driving and water (as others have pointed out). And then, why such an elaborate senior trip? What's going to be left for our kids if they have so many experiences so early? No wonder they get jaded!

    As a person who graduated from high school not so long ago, I thought that I would add a few comments to the discussion of the senior trip in Mexico. My high school also offered the senior trip to Mexico. I choose an internship, in place of the trip. When my former classmates returned from the trip, I heard several horror stories of excessive alcohol consumption & casual sexual encounters. However, intermingled with the horror stories, there were people that maintained their civility despite the absence of chaperones. Thus, in my opinion, if you are confident that you have raised your child well with the proper morals (and common sense) then (s)he should be allowed to attend the trip. As has been mentioned by others, your child will be leaving for college soon. There are just as many horror stories (if not more) about college campus' as there are about teenagers in Mexico.
    Reminds me of a very bright student from my church, an eagle scout, a good student, who had earned a scholarship to college. He and his buddies drove his car to Mexico for a week long graduation celebration. Unfortunately he never made it back. Attending his funeral with our sanctuary packed to standing room only attested to the popularity of this wonderful young man who died needlessly.