Teenagers Abroad – The Holiday Every Parent Dreads

Teenagers Abroad – The Holiday Every Parent Dreads

There are two significant rites of passage in a teenager’s life.  The first is the festival following the completion of their GCSE’s, the second is the holiday abroad with their mates after their A’levels.  The use of the words teenagers and holiday in the same sentence are guaranteed to strike terror into the hearts of most parents but it is an inevitable event.

Despite being aware of this milestone ourselves, now only six months away from our eldest teenager leaving college and embarking on a new life chapter, the reality of the “Teenagers on Tour” holiday is no more palatable now than it was this time last year.

As a mother of course it is the territory of nervous breakdown.  He is proudly wearing the badge of having survived unscathed a five day festival in Cornwall last year so equally I have experience of surviving the mental anxiety of possible sunstroke, excess alcohol, swimming in the sea under the influence and falling off a cliff, so what more is there?

Well there is as much as your mind allows.  But inevitably, excess alcohol is still there along with jumping off a hotel balcony, being mugged or worse still being drugged by those who make a living out of targeting vulnerable teenagers or even being arrested and thrown into a foreign jail to rot.

We have all been teenagers of course but parenting one is a whole different ballgame.  The discussion as to where to go has been an interesting one to say the least and has occupied many a conversation around the dinner table for a few weeks now.  Magaluf, Ibiza, Malia, these are all touted openly to teenagers as the place to go.  They are cheap and come with a guarantee of fun and no imagination required.    As each of the teenagers in my son’s group started to suggest a destination I was behind the scenes contacting mothers I know that have been through this already with their older teenagers to canvas their opinion.

In hindsight it probably wasn’t a wise move as of course the more you dig the more worms you will find and I found them in bucket loads.  “Oh no he doesn’t want to go there.  That’s where they film “Brits Abroad”!”  “He wants to avoid that island it is just organised chaos!” As you can imagine trying to feed this back into the group chats without appearing to influence their decision was not easy and there were a few fiery moments along the way.  Desperately I turned to my husband for help who had been quietly ignoring everything from his armchair for days. Forced into the front line his question to our teenager was “What are your criteria for choosing somewhere?”  Seriously??!! They are a bunch of 18 year olds.

It is not sightseeing, it is not regular mealtimes, it is not being nagged to “get up and get a move on!” or “have a shower!”  Essentially it is absolutely not about following rules especially your parents’, it is about doing what the hell you like when you like, it is about hanging out with your mates who get you 100%, who you love and adore for all the right reasons before you all disperse to different parts of the country, it is totally about having a ball … and that quite frankly needs no explanation to anyone that has been a teenager.

My first holiday away was InterRailing which was the go-to option back in the 80’s.  For a month we jumped on and off trains across Europe, hyper-ventilating on the whole sense of adventure and complete unfettered freedom.  We visited some spectacular sights but we also slept in some really dodgy places and ultimately begged our way home from Southern Spain to Dover as we ran out of money and had to survive on eating left over sandwiches and packets of abandoned biscuits and all without a single mobile phone in sight!

A three month tour around Asia whilst at university, involved hiring a Harley Davidson and cycling pillion through the mountains of Northern Thailand without a helmet – of course I would go ballistic if one of mine did that! In the style of Thelma and Louise, we drove an open top yellow jeep around the whole of Bali and got a buzz on being girls in arms together.  We sat on the roof of a train through the paddy fields of Malaysia because there was no room inside.  We risked our lives on a daily basis on the unlicensed Phut Phut’s in Bangkok to visit such sights as the Temple of  the Golden Buddha.  We got drunk on Singapore Slings in Raffles Hotel because there was a monsoon going on outside.  We bought beautiful silk on the street markets and had it made into fabulous dresses for less than a tenner and dreamt of being the best dressed girls back at Uni.  We slept outdoors on the beaches in Koh Samui.  We ate well, drank alot, met fabulous people, soaked up the culture and created 100% A1 star memories.

I am under no illusion that our son will make any of these kind of memories on his first holiday abroad but it is the first step to real independence and experiences that will shape him as a young man and after working so hard I want him to enjoy being with his mates one more time.  In the meantime of course it is all about safety! Despite the horror stories, the reality is that most teens have a great time and return home in one piece if not a little bit worse for wear and smelly!

The parents have set up a group chat of their own to confirm a location everyone is happy with, to exchange emergency contact details and ultimately to agree on a line of fire for the boys.  Preaching to them is no good at all and nagging is totally off limits or they will push those boundaries even further.  They have all been away together before so they know each other’s weak spots and how to look out for each other. Parenting teenagers is a battle between letting them go and wrapping them in cotton wool.  We have to let out that rope now and trust them on the next stage.  In addition, we have passed on our own words of wisdom as “has-been teenagers ourselves” and hopefully they will adhere to our advice even whilst having fun!





  1. January 27, 2017 / 8:10 pm

    I can understand how you feel about this, even though my daughter is only 18 months old. I am already terrified of when she wants to go on a holiday by herself, with friends. Obviously that’s a long way off. I remember my first holiday abroad with friends after doing A-Levels, before going to uni. It was a crazy week in Zante. I loved it, and had a great time. I also been travelling around the world for 6-months, where I did nothing but sunbathe in Thailand, Bali, Oz and Fiji. I think that every teenager has to go through it. Thanks so much for linking up at #fortheloveofBLOG. Claire x

    • Jo
      January 28, 2017 / 7:07 am

      Wow Claire you sound like you have had some great travelling experiences, which will no doubt to help prepare you for your daughter heading off in the future. Thanks for commenting. #fortheloveofBLOG

  2. January 24, 2017 / 3:46 pm

    Ah that quote at the end reminds me of one of my vlogs about Fear. Anyway, although I finally ‘broke away’ and have had some fun times and holidays, sadly I never experienced any of the teen trips you did or your son is about. Uber strict miserable Indian upbringing 🙁 You sound like a great mum from whom I could learn a lot (because I swear I’m sick of the sound of my own nagging). I hope whatever he chooses or where ever he goes, he is indeed safe.

    • Jo
      January 26, 2017 / 1:38 pm

      Thanks Prabs that is sweet of you. I do try as we all do to be a good and even understanding mum, it is hard at times and I for sure don’t always get it right as my teens will definitely verify but my intentions are good. Thanks for your comment as always. x

  3. January 20, 2017 / 7:35 pm

    Oh gosh a fair few years for me to go on this score… my first holiday was at 16 to Tunisia! Yup I got out the country under age!! To be fair though it was just me and my very sensible friend and we didn’t touch a drop of alcohol while I was there, I was very rock and roll! Lol.. Thanks for linking up to #familyfun

    • Jo
      January 23, 2017 / 9:14 pm

      Fantastic story Karen, well done. I don’t suppose it would be that easy now. Glad to hear you behaved too! #familyfun

  4. January 20, 2017 / 4:28 pm

    I remember my first holiday with friends – it was booked and paid for before my parents even knew about it. It sounds like I saved us all a lot of arguments and stress lol (and we came back in one piece!)
    Thanks for linking up to #BloggerClubUK 🙂

    • Jo
      January 23, 2017 / 9:12 pm

      Oh Debbie that was a wise move, very quick thinking indeed. #BloggerClubUK

  5. January 20, 2017 / 10:12 am

    Oh no I remember by first holiday abroad was a French exchange and you don’t even want to know what happened! I know that karma is going to come round and bite me on the bum that’s all I can say! Thanks for linking up to #coolmumclub lovely xoxo

    • Jo
      January 20, 2017 / 11:02 am

      Ha ha oh yes I had forgotten about those “exchange” trips – what fun they were! At least you will be well prepared. #coolmumclub

  6. January 19, 2017 / 8:12 pm

    Omg this scares the livin daylights out of me. I went on my first teen holiday aged 16! I still can’t believe we were allowed to go. We were relativel sensible but not a Chance would I let my 16 year old go. I know my time and theirs will come but for now I can rest in the knowledges it is many many moons away! Good luck lovey, I hope the week isn’t too stressful!! Thanks for joining us at #familyfun x

    • Jo
      January 19, 2017 / 8:49 pm

      16! Wow you had seriously cool parents as my teen would say! You were/are clearly well trusted! Enjoy those many many moons… Thanks for commenting. #familyfun

  7. January 19, 2017 / 1:25 pm

    Oh wow, my eldest is 12 and this has just made me realise that all too quickly I’ll be in the same boat! I went on a girly holiday when I was 18 but like to think we were quite sensible. #ablogginggoodtime

    • Jo
      January 19, 2017 / 1:37 pm

      Holidays at 18 are inevitable and some are definitely worse than others. I am hoping my teen and his mates will fall into the sensible camp whilst celebrating. Thanks for your comment. #ablogginggoodtime

  8. January 19, 2017 / 11:47 am

    Woah you had some amazing teenage travel experiences yourself. Very few of my friends went interrailling in the 80s. After A levels we rented a Welsh cottage and spent a hot week hiking and swimming in rivers. However my teen is thinking about a third world charity trip. At least it will be led! #BloggerClubUK

    • Jo
      January 19, 2017 / 1:36 pm

      Yes all way too long ago now but still fresh in my mind. The third world charity trip sounds amazing, that’s something I would like mine to do at some point as it is takes them out of their comfort zone and is so rewarding. #BloggerClubUK

  9. January 19, 2017 / 1:28 am

    I was quite the chicken as a teen and I don’t remember going on any trips alone (without parents/ chaperones) until I was in college and then it was always my (now) husband and I. I’m not sure how I’ll handle it if my teens ask to take off on a holiday; I guess smile, worry and hope for the best?! I just can’t imagine and thankfully I have at least a few years yet!

    • Jo
      January 19, 2017 / 9:01 am

      You maybe lucky enough to escape this particular rite of passage, in the meantime you can sit back and relax. Thanks for commenting.

    • Jo
      January 18, 2017 / 4:36 pm

      Thanks Lucy, glad to hear you came back for a second helping. #familyfun

  10. January 16, 2017 / 11:47 pm

    Wow! You’ve been on more adventures during your teenage years than I’ve been on in my entire life. I’m not looking forward to the holidaying teens stage, or the stage when they don’t want to come on holiday with us anymore! You sound like you have a sensible plan, though, and other mums to share the ‘worry’ load! #MarvMOndays

    • Jo
      January 17, 2017 / 8:20 am

      I travelled alot which is probably why I am content not to do as much now. It is odd this year planning for a holiday for three rather than four and think my youngest teen is feeling a bit bereft at the thought of her big brother going off. Another new chapter in our lives for sure. #MarvMondays

  11. January 16, 2017 / 8:13 pm

    I have two girls, 3 and 7 months so we are way off this stage but I still dread it especially as I have girls. Sounds like you had great fun travelling as a teenager. I was ill a lot during my teenage years so unfortunately missed out on most of the typical teenager fun. I hope this doesnt make it even harder for me to parent teenagers. It sounds like you are doing a good job of walking the fine line. #marvmondays

    • Jo
      January 16, 2017 / 9:19 pm

      Claire you have so much more fun to come yet with your two girls, they are at a great age too – I loved that whole pre-school time. We all do the best we can with each stage and none is any easier than another. Thanks for commenting. #MarvMondays

  12. January 16, 2017 / 3:21 pm

    Another brilliant post!! I love your honesty, and the fact that you had loads of very dangerous fun, and know that it’s inevitable that your teens will do the same! But it must be a whole different ball game when the boot is on the other foot, as I can see you are quite painfully feeling right now… In fact, I really can’t think about my boys doing this, and as it won’t be for about 14 years, I’ve filed it in a place in my head where I won’t have to think about it, because I just can’t bear it!!! My first holiday with my friends was to Zante-and it was loads of fun! I’d hardly been abroad as a child, so it was exciting, nerve wracking, but ultimately, we just had a really good time. We did drink too much, but not every night! Some nights we chilled around the pool, or even in each others rooms, and did do some sight seeing! In the following years I did go to Magaluf (really chavvy,) and Kavos (gross, just gross.) I’ve also been interrailing, twice, and that remains some of my best memories ever! I really hope your teens enjoy it, and that your nerves survive it!! x

    • Jo
      January 16, 2017 / 6:22 pm

      Thanks Lucy for your lovely comment. I had a ball as a teenager and sometimes it helps to remind myself of what I did when I am dishing out the orders to my two. The world is very much a different place now but those experiences – like yours – shaped me and have made my life richer as a result. If my teens can achieve the same, safely and not give me too many more grey hairs I will be happy with that. Watch this space. #bigpinklink

  13. Kerry
    January 16, 2017 / 3:15 pm

    Wow, what fabulous experiences you had while you were a student! My first holiday abroad with my friends was to Ibiza when I was 19 and it was amazing. I would highly recommend it as a destination as, believe it or not, it’s actually quite a chilled out spiritual place, and everyone looks out for each other. Yes there is the main crazy strip in San Antonio, but I don’t think it’s as bad as Magaluf or Malia. It sounds like you and the other parents have done all you can, I’m sure they’ll be fine and will have the time of their lives! I am absolutely dreading this stage, but luckily my daughter is only 2 so I’ve got a long way to go yet! #MarvMondays

    • Jo
      January 16, 2017 / 6:25 pm

      Aah, Kerry it sounds like you know your party spots. I agree about Ibiza, it gets a bad press but there are some beautiful spots and if their budget can stretch I think it is the preferred option at the moment. Fingers crossed it all works out ok. Thanks for commenting. #MarvMondays

  14. Mummy Times Two
    January 16, 2017 / 1:47 pm

    Oh goodness, as a very boring teenager – interested in only passing exams and reading books – I’m sure I have any great pearls of wisdom. Except to say that even though Number One is only nine, I am already looking forward to this with what can only be described as dread. That said, with my teacher hat on I have seen more than my fair share of rebel teenagers over the years and I think your approach is spot on. It’s a fine line between wrapping up and letting go, and I’m sure it’s one that’s hard to learn. I shall look forward to following your blog and leRning those lessons in advance of needing to know them. Thank you so much for linking up this post to #PostsFromTheHeart

    • Jo
      January 16, 2017 / 2:42 pm

      Yes I have had this conversation with my son alot over the last couple of years about boundaries and allowing him to grow and learn by his own mistakes and he always says the boys at his school that rebel the most are those that are confined by their parents. It is such a difficult balance to get right. Watch this space for the post holiday report! #PostsFromTheHeart

  15. January 16, 2017 / 10:56 am

    Oh my goodness, this made me a bit teary. You sounds like you so completely have your head screwed on and i just hope i can encourage the same sense of independence and adventure in my two. It’s jsut hard to imagine at the moment with them being 3 and 4 months! But it will fly by i know. Hope it all goes swimmingly and your son has the fun time it sounds like he deserves post a-levels x #bigpinklink

    • Jo
      January 16, 2017 / 2:37 pm

      Oh wow Lucy you have a whole journey of wonderful pre-teenager milestones to get through first. He knows my anxieties as I tell him often enough so hopefully he will behave and return in one piece. Thanks for reading. #bigpinklink

  16. January 16, 2017 / 9:27 am

    oh wow, my daughter is 12 and will be 13 this year, I want to keep her little right now as it scares me. But I know we are giving her good values and I jus have to accept that she is growing up. My first independent holiday was when I was 17, I went away to the beach with a few girlfriends and one of my friends boyfriends. We were a little silly, but nothing too crazy. I think we have to trust our kid, but yes the urge for cotton wool is high. #bigpinklink

    • Jo
      January 16, 2017 / 2:47 pm

      Instilling good values and a relationship of trust between us and our children is such a vital building block and I can see from your posts that you have a great bond with your children and that is half the battle as they will respect your anxieties and even if they don’t agree with them, hopefully they will go some way to accommodating them. It’s worked for me so far….touch wood! Thanks for commenting. #bigpinklink

  17. January 16, 2017 / 9:17 am

    Oh I could have written this Jo! My husband and I have been having the exact same conversation this morning as my 17 year old (who is the youngest in the year) wants to holiday this summer with friends all over Europe after A levels and all before she is 18 – I’m not ready. Im not coping. I am stressed and I’m really not quite sure how to progress with this at the moment – arghhhhhhh! Oh and you’re so right – being a teenager is so different to parenting a teenager – feeling permanently sick – where’s the wine?!!! #BigPinkLink

    • Jo
      January 16, 2017 / 2:55 pm

      I can feel your angst and the thing is Helen I think unfortunately it is worse when it is a girl – I don’t want to even think yet about my daughter doing any of this. I can see her watching and absorbing everything I say to her brother and storing it up for later! The Europe travel thing is so tough too. It’s different from when I did it. There is so much strife everywhere that it makes you feel naturally uneasy. I totally get how you must be feeling. Could you gently suggest a holiday with less travelling as a compromise maybe? Let me know how you resolve it all. Good luck and sending parenting teen hugs! #bigpinklink

  18. January 16, 2017 / 9:15 am

    Well done your ten for showing such initiative. I’m guessing that Cornish festival was Boardmasters? My boys loved it and are going back this year. They’ve not yet done abroad on their own through lack of organisation, I have encouraged them as I did it from age 16 cycling all over Europe and had the most amazing times. #BigPinkLink.

    • Jo
      January 16, 2017 / 2:58 pm

      Ha ha yes Fiona that’s the one. Apparently it is THE festival to go to according to him and his mates. I think if he could he would wangle a return trip but as we are already up to two holidays away I think he knows not to push his luck as he needs to earn some cash at some point to pay for it all. It’s good to encourage them to travel too as you say the experiences are incomparable and last a lifetime. #bigpinklink

  19. January 16, 2017 / 9:11 am

    I don’t think we Americans have similar rites of passage. At least not that I’m aware of. If we did I bet my mom would have been a wreck with worry. #bigpinklink

    • Jo
      January 16, 2017 / 2:38 pm

      Yes and I am sure if my mother ever read some of my stories she would be aghast too. What is that lovely saying …. “Do as I say not as I do.” It may be an English expression, in which case you heard it hear first. #bigpinklink

  20. January 16, 2017 / 5:39 am

    My son’s after the A levels was to Ballito near Durban (we were living in South Africa then) we drove the 7 hour trip to drop him at the apartment and then drove the coast line to Cape Town, where after 10 days the son flew down to join us for 5 nights and we drove back over 2 days to Johannesburg. he had an amazing time, we only had to pay a share of the apartment and he used christmas and birthday money for his spends. Every bit of beach we visited during that trip was full of students, partying. Totally the wrong time for us to have planned a road trip….lol

    • Jo
      January 16, 2017 / 3:00 pm

      Wow that does sound like a fantastic way to celebrate post A’levels and I am glad to see it is a rite of passage in SA too. Hope you managed to find some areas that were “student free!” x

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