As excited as any teenager is to travel without parental supervision, a trip abroad can be nerve-wracking for parents left at home anxiously waiting to hear whether their teen is safe. Here’s a hint for those parents: you’re gonna wait a long time before you’ll get a phone call from a teenager who’s traveling.
As a parent, you have a couple of options to keep track of your kid:
Better yet, you can do both!
Now that you’ve figured out how to keep track of them, and assuming you’ve verified the country-specific details and updated their vaccinations as necessary, here is a list of additional steps to keep your traveling teen safe abroad.
The travel documents for any traveler headed abroad include the following:
You’ll need a copy of these in case your teen goes missing, or their passport is stolen, or they get robbed. The teen should have a copy, you should have a copy, and if your teen is traveling with a group you should consider giving it to someone else in the group as well.
See the 4 Best Backup Methods for Travel Documents for some hints about how to travel with them.
Even if your teen is healthy as a well-fed racing horse, they will be encountering germs and viruses, mosquitoes, and exposed to all sorts of common risks. The last thing any parent wants to hear is that their child is sick and needs something when they’re far from you.
Be sure that your teen has the basics so they can treat a sunburn, a headache, traveler’s diarrhea, and other minor medical ailments. Make sure they know how and when to use them too!
See What’s in your travel medical kit? for a list of the necessary items.
As an adult, you may feel resistant to letting the federal government have information about your travel whereabouts. As a parent, however, we’re willing to bet you’re happy to waive your kid’s privacy rights in order to have the extra support in an emergency. The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) is a free service enacted by the U.S. State Department to help travelers going abroad Stay Informed, Stay Connected, and Stay Safe (that’s their slogan).
Essentially, it gives the State Department information about where their citizens are traveling and a way to get in touch – either by email, phone, or text message – with the latest relative travel warnings and alerts to dangerous situations. It also gives them a way to contact you in an emergency situation.
Take a look at the program online and if you like the idea, enroll your teen in STEP.
Once that kid is out of sight, everything they do is out of your control so it’s time to have a discussion about personal safety. Remind your kid of a few basic personal safety rules:
These are the basics, but of course any parent can think of about a hundred more: lock your doors and windows at night, wash your hands, put on sunscreen … the list goes on. You know your kid and their most likely weaknesses, so customize the list accordingly.
Sure, you know your kid’s childhood diseases, recent illnesses, and allergies, but will they remember the list? What if your kid is lying on the ground unconscious and can’t speak to the emergency medical team? Having a simple travel medical portfolio can communicate those details when you’re not there to protect your kid.
See 4 Tips to Create a Simple, Effective Travel Medical Portfolio and be sure your kid packs it along.
While it’s likely that your teen won’t be carrying a lot of cash, having a spare credit card, their travel medical portfolio and travel documents (on a USB drive), and the majority of the current cash on hand in a money belt strapped around their waist and under their clothes means they’re far less likely to lose everything in case they’re robbed, mugged, or attacked. A money belt remains the single most effective way to carry cash, bank cards, and important documents – it’s true for adults and teens too.
See why safe travelers love money belts and strap one on your teen.
Even if your teen is traveling with a group, check the options for travel insurance. If the group doesn’t have a travel insurance plan, or the plan they offer won’t work for your teen (one with a pre-existing medical condition, for example), get your own protection.
Mandatory summer school, a sports injury, and family emergencies can all affect a teenager’s life – and their travel plans – so teens are not immune to the need for trip cancellation coverage. Coverage for travel medical emergencies is a must, especially since your health insurance plan may not cover your teen when they’re traveling away from you and abroad.
If your teen is traveling to a destination that’s currently experiencing some social or political upheaval, be sure that the plan will cover travel to that region and have non-medical security evacuation coverage to get your teen out of trouble if the situation warrants it.
Use our travel insurance comparison tool to compare prices and coverage from a number of travel insurance companies.
Damian Tysdal is the founder of CoverTrip, and is a licensed agent for travel insurance (MA 1883287). He believes travel insurance should be easier to understand, and started the first travel insurance blog in 2006.