The packing blueprint to help your teen’s travel dreams come true
Traveling abroad for many teenagers is like turning a dream into reality. The promise of being independent and embarking on a new adventure, discovering new cultures and lifestyles beckons to the “streetwise” teen. But to a teen, taking on that challenge also means being ready to be self-accountable for their own welfare. They need to be prepared for whatever lies around the corner. Traveling newbies need to learn how to react quickly and adapt to new circumstances and situations in foreign lands.
Before your teen boards the aircraft, you as a parent will want to be assured that your son or daughter has everything that he or she might need for the circumstances they may find themselves in. But beware of overthinking it. Don’t lose sight of things like excess baggage fees and the limited storage space that your young traveler is likely to encounter when staying at youth hostels. You need to find a happy medium.
That’s why we’d like to share some top tips with you so that your young traveler is able to be ready for anything, but can still travel light and deal with whatever lies ahead.
Being totally familiar with the journey
In order to get a good handle on what your teen should pack, knowing the journey he or she is about to venture forth on is essential. It will be dependent on which countries your young traveler will be visiting and how long he or she is likely to be there. As an example, say the teen is going to Mexico during spring break. Packing the Patagonian ski jacket won’t be very appropriate.
More often than not, teens tend to forget taking all of the various outcomes into consideration when trip planning because of the framing bias. This refers to teens thinking in a confined way that doesn’t allow for the unexpected things that may happen.
When pondering the country our young traveler will be journeying through you need to think about the likely weather conditions, the local customs and culture, and what your teen hopes to do. Ensure he or she packs accordingly. It might stretch your brain al little, but it’s better than finding out in hindsight that they doesn’t have what they need.
Always pack the basics
Whatever the destination, your teen will need certain essential basics. Things like deodorant, shampoo, soap, a toothbrush, and toothpaste will cater for their personal needs. A driving license, passport, insurance documents, a decent watch, a universal plug adaptor, and a sturdy combination lock are also necessities.
Environments vary wildly from country to country, so you will also want to consider things like insect repellent, sun protection cream, sun or snow glasses, and any other items the climate they will be in dictates. Yes, okay, many of these things can be purchased on arrival, but you never know, so it’s always pays to think in advance what to pack.
But taking a look at the flip side of the coin, there will be items your young traveler won’t have to pack. One pair of decent sneakers or trainers or walking boots will probably negate the need to pack any other shoes. Posher clothes probably won’t be needed. Casual should be fine. Laptops can be left at home unless absolutely necessary. Most countries today have free internet access capabilities in public libraries, bars, and cafes, etc.
Take advantage of modern technology
Once-upon-a-time, items such as address books, maps, travelers’ checks, boarding cards, and cameras, all had to be individually packed. Now, however, they can be stored or are built into smartphones. But that also begs the question of capacity. Does your teen’s phone have the right data plan? Will he or she have to buy a local SIM card on arrival at the destination? All these things must be taken into account.
Today’s smartphones are pieces of technological genius that can be loaded with all sorts of different apps to cover almost any occasion. The only thing you might want to watch out for is that all of this gadgetry can run up huge international fees, so perhaps you should think about installing some safeguards.
Bearing that in mind, it might be advisable to research the most popular and useful travel apps. Take a look at CityMaps2Go. It’s a free app providing access to interactive maps of various cities. It’s really cool, as your teen would say. Then there is WikiCamp; an excellent tool for those trekking in Australia or New Zealand. Here are many others too. A quick online search will reveal all.
With the smartphone being such a vital lifeline, its vital it can be recharged when necessary. Make sure the young traveler has packed a universal power adaptor, as mentioned earlier. Better still, buy him or her a portable charger to use when needs must.
Consider alternatives to heavy clothing
Don’t let your teen pack heavy clothing. It takes up too much space. Instead, suggest that your young traveler wears it to the airport. On the journey, it can be taken off and used as a blanket or a pillow or both during long flights or bus rides.
If your teen is going to a country where cold weather conditions are a significant factor, it’s a good idea to have three top layers of clothing available. Layering is a very effective way of keeping warm. Also, think about packing a hoodie with a good fleece lining and a quality snow or waterproof jacket. Staying dry is crucial.
Another good idea is to include an oversized pair of sweatpants that can be sleeved over jeans, or shorts or leggings. The idea should be that the teen traveler can stay dry and warm whether he or she is just having a vigorous morning walk, or is caught by surprise when an unexpected, torrential downpour comes out of the heavens.
Pack one week’s worth of clothing
Not having a huge choice of what to wear isn’t much to forfeit when it comes to taking the trip of dreams. It doesn’t matter how long the traveler is going to be away. One week’s worth of clothes should be more than enough. It means that he or she will have enough surplus to get things regularly laundered.
Pare things back to a couple of pairs of pants, some shorts, three or four shirts, a small quantity od vests and jumpers for layering where appropriate ,and one pair of rugged shoes. Allow for a few extras in terms of underwear and socks; enough for seven days of the week plus two extra days. They don’t take up much room and can prove to be a blessing.
All systems go
That just about covers everything. With the packing all sorted, taking the tips suggested above into account, it’s all systems ready for take-off. Your teen traveler should be covered for very foreseeable eventuality, and the stories he or she will relate to you on his or her return won’t be tales of woe, but tales of the joys of their travels.
Andy Earle is a researcher who studies parent-teen communication and adolescent risk behaviors. He is the co-founder of talkingtoteens.com, ghostwriter at WriteItGreat.com, and host of the Talking to Teens podcast, a free weekly talk show for parents of teenagers.