Expanding Your Teen’s Horizons with International Travel
Travel is very important to a growing child and international travel doubly so. Exposing a child or teen to new cultures and experiences helps them learn and develop communication skills, critical thinking skills and more. Former U.S. Secretary of Commerce, Penny Pritzker, encourages her children to travel abroad “not simply for fun, but to develop greater cultural sensitivities and appreciation for the beautiful mosaic that is our world today.”
Properly Planning Your Teen’s Trip
When teens decide they want to travel internationally, it’s best to start looking into transportation options early. Encourage them to research the popular modes of travel and rules of the road, underscoring the difference in laws to the traveling teen.
Teens traveling in Japan will have to learn other kinds of signs for pedestrians while those taking public transit in the U.K. may be confused by the tram maps. Some countries have strict jaywalking laws. Before traveling abroad, it’s good for teens to understand pedestrian and driving laws within the U.S.
Make sure that teens also have easy access to information they will need, such as the location of the U.S. Embassy, numbers for insurance or health care, emergency contacts and more. They will probably not need them, but it’s better to have them than not.
Teens traveling with programs or tour groups will most likely be guided through public transit or private vehicles. These chaperoned trips allow teens to experience and explore the world safely. They are highly guided and good for beginner teen travelers.
Program travel may also include human interest components such as volunteering, exploring endangered species and more. These kinds of trips are also good for teens in their gap year between high school and college.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a gap year between high school and college can help teens take a break from education while also gaining practical skills for the real world. However, there are pitfalls such as not getting back on track academically.
According to a MetLife survey about preparing students for college and careers, 65 percent of Fortune 1000 executives identified global awareness as “very important” or “essential” in order to be ready for a career.
College-age teens on a study abroad program will not have the safety net of chaperones but will have an increased amount of freedom. Those living in Europe will be able to use their U.S. driver’s license to drive across many European Union nations or take the train to explore the EU’s rich culture and history.
An international driver’s permit (IDP) for those over 18 is a must even though many countries accept a U.S. license. The IDP is accepted in 150 countries and is low cost. They can be purchased from a AAA agent or by mail. For more information about an IDP, click here.
Traveling teens may find it hard to get a rental car since many companies do not rent to those under 21. If staying long-term, it may be prudent to purchase a vehicle. Car sharing services are an option, but a license is required.