Teens' Unsupervised Trips

Parent Q&A

Select any title to view the full question and replies.

  • Road Trip for 18-y-o with Friend?

    (11 replies)

    Hello Wise Parents,

    My 18-year-old daughter just graduated from high school. She a trust-wrothy and responsible young woman. She and a friend who is also a trust-worthy and responsible young woman would like to take a road trip to Santa Monica, stay in a hotel for a couple of nights, and explore the area. This would be the first time either of them have done anything like this. My daughter has participated in summer programs in New York City where she was allowed open access to explore the city with friends in the program outside during their free time. She made good use of the privilege.

    My questions are these:

    1. I'm inclined to say yes, and give her a small budget that she will need to supplement with her own money (due to the pandemic, her earning potential has been limited this year). Does that sound reasonable to you?

    2. Any particular ground rules I should put in place or things I should consider as part of agreeing to and partially funding the trip?

    At 18 she’s an adult ... she really doesn’t need your permission and personally I think the time for parent rules has passed. Whatever you’ve taught her has clearly worked well! The one request I think you can fairly make is, please check in once during the trip, for safety. My family is English, and it is incredibly common for 17-19 year olds to travel for MONTHS as part of their gap year, with occasional check ins and no parent imposed rules. They are adults. A 2 day trip is not a big deal.

    I think this sounds like a well-thought-out trip and a nice way to celebrate the end to an unusual high school career for our recent graduates - I'd be inclined to say yes if it was my kid (I have a son the same age, but not a daughter). Make sure they research the area a little so they have some ideas of what they want to do and what areas they might want to avoid. And make the hotel reservations with them in advance - on a similar trip with some girlfriends at that age years ago, I learned the hard way that 18 wasn't old enough to make a last-minute hotel reservation (maybe that's changed now in the internet age, but it's something to consider - there may be other things they aren't yet legally old enough to do on their own). And maybe get them some kind of roadside assistance plan (I like Better World Club) if you don't have one already, to cover any towing/flat tires/etc. just in case. Have a plan with her about when and how she'll check in - a daily text once they're back in the hotel for the night or something - for your own peace of  mind. I bet they'll have a great time!

    My daughter is in the same situation doing the same trip right now with 2 friends - the main risk in my view was long driving times, so she flew to Socal and has a friend down there driving around. It's the best summer of any kid's life and we're trying to let her enjoy it without too many strings. Funding depends on your situation but you're only 18 once and I'm happy to support her having a good trip.

    What fun!  If she is a responsible and trustworthy young woman, I would say yes.

    One thing to be aware of is, many hotels will not allow an 18 year old to check in - their minimum age is often 21.  But there are hotels that will allow it.  Best Westerns often allow 18 year olds, and the La Quinta chain generally allows it as well.  They will need to call around to confirm the individual hotel's rules.  (We run into this all the time when my daughter drives across the country to attend college).  

    I hope they have a wonderful time!  

    She’s 18. Your days of setting ground rules are pretty much done - especially if she’s off to college in the fall. I’d give her some money and tell her to have fun. 

    Kids deserve to have their independence and we can help by making sure they know how to keep themselves safe while exploring the world. We teach theM how to swim tO be safe near water, and it’s also important to teach them “people safety” skills like how to be aware of your surroundings and those in them, how to set clear cheerful respectful boundaries, how to leave if something feels unsafe or where to go for help. I highly recommend Kidpower.org as a resource for teaching your daughter the street smart skills she can use throughout her life as she does these things independently. My son and his girlfriend took a class together before heading off to college and it really helped them!

    This is kind of a classic, and seems relatively safe. The one thought I had was to consider having them take the Coast Starlight train to LA and use transit when they are there. Santa Monica has a very good bus system which they can supplement with Uber/Lyft at night. When kids run into problems on these trips it is almost always from the driving. I think it is fine for you to subsidize the trip as a graduation present, if you have the resources. 

    Prior to reading others' responses about the current crime issues in Santa Monica, my biggest concern would have been a relatively new driver navigating an unfamiliar area. GPS navigation makes it easier than it used to be, but it's still harder to juggle navigation with all the other things your have to pay attention to while driving, and LA is not a particularly easy city to drive in. I saw another response was concerned about the long distance drive down to LA, but seemed blasé  about driving around LA; I'm the opposite. I find distance driving is pretty easy if you watch out for fatigue, and the girls could switch off driving. I'd be encouraging my daughter to get around mostly on foot and public transportation and to minimize driving around her destination city. That presuming a relative level of safety in the destination city--hopefully she and her friend can find a destination that satisfies their goals and is safer.

    I would say yes, but go over various emergencies, so if one comes up she knows what to do. What if the car breaks down, what if there is a hotel fire, what if her purse gets stolen. Emergencies will eventually come up, we just need to know how to deal with them. 

    To everyone saying 18 is an adult... the science actually says that your brain hasn't entered adulthood until 25.

    The prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain that handles rational thought and judgment. This part of the brain isn't fully developed until 25. One of many sources

    So 18 being the point of adulthood/maturity is purely a legal (and not a biological) construct. Just FYI.

    In theory I would say yes, this sounds ok for an 18 yo to travel with a friend. My biggest concern, though, would be the driving - both going there on the highways and in and around LA. There are so any reckless, rude, impatient drivers who are not paying attention. The last time I visited LA (3 or 4 years ago) I was shocked at how aggressive the drivers are now compared to when I was growing up there in the 1980s. I think an 18 yo still does not have the driving experience required for such a trip. Flying to a big city like Manhattan where no car is needed sounds like a safer option IMO. 

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Cancun graduation trip 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

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.