Adults on holiday
Think about what you do when you’re away on holiday. An awful lot of adults see partying and alcohol as a natural part of their holiday. Once the bags are checked in, the airport bar tends to fill up pretty quickly, even if it’s only 6 a.m. And once you’re on the plane, spirits, wine and beer are on sale, and then, once you’ve reached your destination, how about a celebratory drink on the balcony? The norms in relation to alcohol that apply back home often disappear when you’re on holiday. Some adults will think nothing of having a beer with their lunch, or a few drinks in the afternoon, when they’re on holiday, but would never do that at home. OK, that’s not the way it is for everyone when they’re on holiday, but it’s very common, so it’s hardly surprising if teenagers think about alcohol when they think about travel. So think about what you’re doing and remember that you’re a role model for your child.
Everyone was drinking like crazy when we went on an All Inclusive. You could just go up to the pump and help yourself to beer. Even the kids were doing it. No one was keeping track.
Sasha, aged 15, Örebro
There’s no one to say, “enough”
A lot of organised trips are designed to appeal to party-mad young people. Alcohol and drugs are both widely available and there are no adults standing in their way. And as a result, the youngsters often pile into the first bar they see and get drunk. And this is equally true whether they head for ”Bar Street” on Rhodes, to a ski resort in the Alps, or to Malta to study English. Even if your teenager would rather not drink, travelling without adults is risky, so it’s up to you, as a parent, to weigh up the positive experience of independent travel against the risk of something going wrong.
Talk about the risks
You’re the parent, so it’s obviously you who decides, but you don’t have to automatically say, “No” without thinking about it. Travelling independently can be both exciting and educational. Discuss what might happen and how important it is that they take care of themselves. You also need to make it clear to your teenager that people from different cultures may have a completely different attitude towards alcohol and that the way they handle drunken youngsters might be a lot different from what they’re used to.
Most of the big language course travel firms have a total ban on alcohol and narcotics. Anyone caught with drugs will be sent home at their own expense and will not get a refund for the course. But it’s worth bearing in mind that the organisers can’t keep an eye on every single teenager, 24/7.
Most travel firms have an age limit of 18, but travelling unaccompanied when you’re under 18 is still possible if you can show a signed authorisation from your parents. That signature means that if something happens, it’s the parent’s responsibility, not the travel firm’s.
No, everyone else does not get to go
There’s nothing odd or wrong about saying “No” to a teenager who wants to go on holiday with his or her friends. You have every right to refuse. You’re not a cruel parent, even if your teenager’s friends are being allowed to go and you have said, “No.” Try thinking about how often that’s actually true – that everyone else is allowed to do something – and about how often that’s just what every child says to their slightly dubious parents.