Kids off on their first parent-free holiday? Here's 12 things you need to know 

5 minute read

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Whether your child's first holiday without the family is one to remember for the right reasons, or the wrong, depends on your preparation.

We talked to the travel experts about what holidaymakers and their parents should know before taking that big trip.

  • Don't show the soles of your feet in a Thai restaurant
  • The benefits of meeting up with distant relations
  • Venture off the beaten track, but only if you feel comfortable

Preparation is the key to your first trip away from the family.

1. Make sure everyone has the important paperwork

‘Before you set off, make copies of your passport, tickets, cash cards, insurance details and any other documents you will be taking with you for your parents,’ advises travel blogger Gretta Schifano of Mums Do Travel (@grettaschifano). ‘Parents, keep these copies in a handy place so you can help to sort things out if the originals are lost or stolen.'

2. Travel insurance is a must, regardless of destination

‘Always take out travel insurance,’ says Sean Tipton, spokesman for travel trade association ABTA (@ABTAtravel). ‘Young people sometimes don’t consider insurance, but you're much more likely to need it abroad if things go wrong.’

Even if you’re just travelling in the UK, travel insurance can help protect your possessions if they get lost, stolen or damaged.

3. Get the right inoculations for your destination

'A volunteer project in the natural world, such as Borneo to see Orangutans, can be a dream come true as a first holiday without the family,' says Max Sinclair, founder of ecocompanion (@MnSinclair). 'But inoculations might be needed, so check out FitForTravel by the NHS for up-to-date travel health advice.'

4. Preparation is key, particularly for first-timers

‘My teenager is going off to her first festival this summer with friends. I got them a five-person tent and made them practice putting it up in the garden,' says parenting blogger and author Emma Bradley (@emmaand3). 'They managed it with help from a YouTube video, and this has given them, and me, confidence that they can do it in a field.’

For more tips on preparing for a festival, read our festival-goer's guide to keeping your stuff safe this summer.

5. Read the dos and don'ts on travel advisory websites

'Look at the Foreign Office website for advice on destinations you are travelling to,' suggests Sean. 'You might be doing something illegal or socially unacceptable in that particular country without realising it.
'For example, in Thailand showing the soles of your feet to someone is incredibly rude, so by taking your flip flops off and putting your feet on a chair, you could be insulting your waiter.'


Stick to the budget and stay in touch

6. Your budget is there for a reason

'I recall the overwhelming excitement of my first parent-free trip. As soon as I left the house, all the sensible advice went out the window, including the importance of budgeting each day,' says Adam Coulter, UK managing editor of Cruise Critic (@CruiseCriticUK).
'When you have a fresh wad of euros in your pocket, it's easy to forget they're not self-replenishing. If I had my time again, I'd avoid that awkward mid-holiday call to my parents to request another loan, and try to make my budget last the duration of my trip.'

7. No one should be left out of pocket when travelling in a group

'If you're the lead passenger of the booking when travelling with friends, make sure you have received everyone's money upfront, or that they pay their deposit or balance direct to the travel agent,' says Angela Scott, senior travel consultant with Pettitts Travel (@Pettitts). 'Many a friendship has been broken when someone has not paid you back or decides not to go.'

8. Have a 'check-in' schedule with family back home

‘I travelled aimlessly through Asia and on one occasion it was exactly one year between calls home,' says Sheila Manzano, managing director of Three Little Birds PR (@3lilbirdspr). 'I'm sure I worried my parents sick, so have a window of dates when you expect to call/be in touch.'

When you're there

9. Meet up with friends of friends and distant relations

'Your parents or relatives may give you the contact details of friends in faraway countries who you 'must visit'. You may feel too proud, or embarrassed, to get in touch with Aunt June's old backpacking buddy who now lives in some outer borough of New York City, but "you must," says Tasmin Waby, destination editor at Lonely Planet (@lonelyplanet).

'Most people love overseas visitors. You bring something to them: your enthusiasm, your joie de vivre. Plus, a night's accommodation, a meal, or even the opportunity to do some laundry might be a welcome relief. But mostly visit for the people, as you never know what you might learn about them - or about Aunt June and her adventures on the 1970s Hippie Trail.'

10. Going off the beaten track is often better than the path well-trodden

'Go to where the locals go. You'll eat better food and meet some very interesting people,' says Sean Tipton from ABTA. 'And learn a few words of the local language – people will appreciate you making the effort.'

11. It's okay not to follow the crowd

'Parents, talk with your child before they go about what to do if they feel under pressure to do things they don't want to,' says best-selling parenting writer and broadcaster Liz Fraser (@lizfraser1). 'Make sure they feel very confident to play things their way, and not get swept along.'

12. Some sacrifices will be necessary

'It's going to be almost impossible to cram everything into your stay,' says journalist Richard Trenchard (@RichardRTComms).

'Remember, this is supposed to be a holiday. Make the most of what you have time to do properly, and then save the rest for another visit.'

A holiday without the family means newfound freedom, but it also means you'll be facing new challenges - especially when it comes to planning and financing a trip. By preparing beforehand, you can focus on having a holiday to remember.

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