International travel often inspires a little bit of trepidation due to the unknown variables travelers will face. So imagine if you’re a teenager embarking on an international trip without a parent or guardian. The trip may be led by adults experienced in helping young people travel to foreign countries, but that won’t entirely ease the concerns of everyone involved.
Parents are understandably more worried about such adventures than their children are. In fact, teens may not understand what risks may be associated with traveling abroad. That’s why it’s important to talk to your teen about safety when studying or volunteering abroad.
Getting a passport
Anyone under 16 years of age will be required to apply for a minor’s passport. These passports are only good for five years before expiring, unlike adult passports that are good for 10 years. If your teen already has a passport, make sure it will be valid throughout the dates of her travel.
Apply early for a U.S. passport to avoid late-application fees and to make sure the passport arrives well ahead of your child’s departure date. If your child will be traveling in a group led by adults, ask if there are ways you can ensure protection of the passport while traveling, such as having adult chaperones store the important documents in a secure place.
Making duplicate records
When it comes to visas, birth certificates and other documentation, it’s worthwhile to have multiple copies of those records on hand. This also goes for proof of health insurance and travel insurance. Parents may want to keep copies themselves just in case they need to tend to any problems back at home. Kids may want to provide a duplicate copy to one of their group leaders while holding onto the records themselves. Losing important records can lead to traveling hang-ups and other problems.
Assuring contact while abroad
In today’s technologically rich world, there’s no reason you have to be cut off from your child while he’s overseas. Any place with an Internet connection can serve as a portal of communication. The key is finding out beforehand what services will be available to kids, and at what point during their travels. If computers will be available, talk to your child about sending email updates and – if possible – calling you when a phone is available. You might also set up video chat accounts and use those when and where the technology is available.
Inform others of your child’s medical needs
If your teen is traveling with a group led by adults, make sure those adults are aware of any medical needs your child has. Discuss any allergies and medical conditions your child has, as well as what medications your teen needs to be healthy. Your kid may be trustworthy enough to handle these situations on her own, but with so many unknowns surrounding such a trip, it’s worth your time to have others in the loop.
Unfortunately, no amount of preparation can entirely alleviate your fears about your child depart being in a foreign country, without your supervision. Such fears are normal, but you’ll be more relaxed knowing you’ve done all you can to prepare. It’s not easy watching children grow up and venture off into the world, but seeing them blossom because of those experiences will make the rewards well worth the sacrifice.
Photo Credit Visions Service Adventures