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How to Get Your Parents to Let You Travel with Friends
Yes, Children Can Travel Alone - Surprise!
In our hyper-sensitive culture, Americans are often surprised to learn that children ages 14 and up can travel to other countries alone, unchaperoned. In other countries, this is done all the time and is considered quite normal at that age. In the United States, there is a normal notarized letter process that is required. Many times, high school students do travel to other countries as part of organized groups that do have adult leaders and the organization often makes all the arrangements. Other times, teenagers travel domestically on their own.
While many teenagers want to do this, there are some safeguards put in place for the welfare of the young person in question. For example, is this someone with seasoned travel experience? Does he or she have the life-skills to manage emergency situations due to weather or lodging problems? Can he or she navigate an alternate route to their final destination.
It's common for many divorced parents to fly their child to the other parent or to allow that child to drive to another state to visit the parent. So, what is the difference between allowing this behavior and allowing two teens to travel together? Let's examine that a bit more.
Traveling With Friends
To travel with friends, your parents will want to know that they can trust you. If they do not trust you, the answer is likely to be no, no matter what you do. So, if you don't yet have their trust, it's time to earn it. To do that, you must do what you say you will - when you said you would do it. You must be trust-worthy. Volunteer to babysit your siblings to show that you can be trusted with larger responsibilities. Take over care of the dog, including taking it to the vet (if you have a car or access to one). This shows you can manage the appointment setting, the transportation, arriving on time (without reminders from your parents of the appointment), and that you can communicate the information the vet shared with you at the visit (you can write it down, if that helps you to remember it). Whatever means you use to show you are trustworthy, it's not enough to do that one thing and consider yourself trusted. You must show trustworthiness in all areas. Do you do your chores on time? Do you help your mother when she comes home with several bags of groceries or do you just let her carry them all in herself? Do you let you dad make your bed after you've left for the day or do you do it yourself without being asked? All these behaviors point to you being a person the family can count on. If they can count on you to make the right choices - without being asked - at home, every day, in an ongoing way, then they can begin to believe you will make these same choices out in the real world, far from home, with your friends, and on a trip... That's your goal, right?
Here's the must-do list:
- Know where you want to travel to. Research if it's safe to travel to.
- How will you get there? Your parents will want to know this. Consider organizations that take groups of teens to domestic or overseas locations. Find a group that you feel is a good fit for you. Look at their website and call them to get answers to questions you think your parents would have, like "How are the adult counselors screened before being hired?" This may help your parents with any fears that your adult helpers may have a criminal history.
- How much will it cost?
- How will this trip be paid for? See the reading section below if finances are an issue for you.
- What is the backup plan if you are separated from the group? What will you do?
- Do you know other teens that have already done this trip who would speak to your parents about the experience they had?
- Are there any family or family friends in the nearby area (within 4-6 hours drive time) that would be willing to be your emergency contact if things go wrong quickly and you need help - fast!
Are Finances An Issue For Your Parents?
If finances are an issue for your family, then you will have to be creative in eliminating finances as a potential obstacle to your goal to travel with your friends. It is becoming harder and harder for young people to find work that was traditionally easy to be hired to do at younger ages in the past. For example, when I was thirteen, I worked as a front cashier for McDonald's. I earned about $150 a week after school and on the weekends. Since I was a child, labor laws have changed that reduce the number of hours students can work, depending on their ages. Also, when I was young, not many employers asked kids for work permits. Now, most do. Additionally, insurance companies no longer want to insure teenagers who are under the age of sixteen. So, you may have to get creative and call your work "fundraising." Well, fundraising is work, kids.
You can raise funds by having a car wash with friends, after asking a local business to donate a corner of their parking lot to your cause. You can make cupcakes and sell them at school (you'll need a portable card-table to set up at school and a way to transport your cupcakes). You can go door to door and ask to take orders for home made cookies. You get the idea. There are many ways to fundraise. If you really are serious about fundraising, you can even contact companies (online websites abound) on how to get their brochures in order to sell their products (so you don't have to make anything) and then when you do, you get a percentage of the amount paid by the customer.
Recently, my teenager has been interested in certain trips that are expensive. He decided to make homemade ornaments, cupcakes and cookies and sell them at the holiday fair a local church puts on each year. If he makes enough money at this sale, he will be able to go. It also helps that his sisters assist him from start to finish, from making things to sitting at the sales table with him. Sometimes, just dragging your little sister or brother can really help your cause... It's that "cute" factor that some customers will spend on.