Teen Travel Tip #1: Fly less, drive more.
Flying is expensive – very, very expensive. Unless you take advantage of travel deals, it’s often hundreds of dollars for a single ticket; if you’re traveling overseas it’s even more (Chicago to London, depending on the time of the trip, can cost upwards of $1,200 – those on the east coast have it even worse). Bus tickets, whether it be Greyhound or another company, are still fairly expensive but are usually considerably cheaper than flying. Even more than that – traveling on a bus gives you a greater sense of involvement with the places you visit as you’re looking at the scenery from the perspective of a person. I’m sure a fair amount of us have flown over states and never thought twice about them, but when you travel through on bus you see and notice things that you would have never been able to see or notice from a mile up in the air.Teen Travel Tip #2: Find the right people – and the right amount.
Traveling extensively with someone often puts about as much stress on your relationship with people as living with someone; in fact, it can be more due to the fact that you’re visiting unfamiliar places with ample opportunities for stressful situations. Think about Jack Kerouac’s On the Road (which will be talked about later) – the narrator travels with a huge amount of people and usually ends up alone, deserted, broke, and miserable. Make sure you’re traveling with people you are absolutely confident you can stand being around 24/7 for however long you’re traveling. If you’re going to Europe for a month, you’d better be great friends with your companions. If you’re just going on a weekend road trip, you don’t have to worry about it as much. Also related is the amount of people you wish to travel with: it varies with the type of trip you’re going on. For a road trip, are you going in a van (where you can fit six or seven people comfortably) or a regular-sized car (where it’s a stretch for three plus baggage)? If you’re backpacking through Europe, do you want someone to split the hotel costs with, or do you prefer being independent and not having to argue with others about where to go and what to do? These are all considerations you must make.Teen Travel Tip #3: Bring your parents in the picture.
I’m not talking about actually going on a trip with your parents, but certainly involve your parents in the decision-making process. They’re older and probably have traveled more than you, and as a result have valuable experience that you don’t have. Maybe if you’re going to Italy, your parents have friends (or friends of friends) who live in Venice and are willing to let you stay a few nights for free. Maybe not. Still, it’s worth talking about. Parents are also important for a more pragmatic reason – if you’re nice to them and show responsibility, they might contribute to your travel fund.Teen Travel Tip #4: Don’t move around too much.
I know quite a few teens who, upon arriving at Heathrow in London, will get the desire to take a bus up to Ireland, then back down to London, then to Paris, then to Barcelona, then to Marseille, then to Rome, then to Venice… which sounds wonderful to me and probably to anyone. Then, upon discussing their trip in further detail, I’ll find out that they’re only going to be gone for a week. 7 days is barely enough time to actually travel that distance, let alone stop and smell the roses, enjoy the atmosphere, and “vivre la vie européenne”! In fact, I’ll bet you could easily spend a month in just London and never run out of things to do. Besides the obvious downside of going too many places in too short of a time, you have to take into mind that every mile you travel costs extra money. If you take a trip to San Francisco and then go down to Mexico, you’re spending money in that last trek that could be spent better appreciating and enjoying San Francisco. When your funds are as limited as they will be when traveling as a teen (and in this economy), I highly recommend only traveling to one particular city, or if absolutely necessary one particular region (for example, just London, Sussex, and Kent instead of the entirety of Great Britain).Teen Travel Tip #5: Know what you want out of your trip.
As fun as mindlessly roaming around can be, it costs more money than you think and usually has vast unexpected variables in expense because you never know how many bus trips you’ll have to make, what kind of restaurants you’ll be able to eat at, how much the hotels will costs, et cetera et cetera. It will probably kill you a little inside, you little freedom-loving vagabond you, but you need to have a set plan regarding what you’re going to do and why. If you’re going to New York, what do you want to experience? Do you only want the touristy sightseeing or do you want to delve deeper? Do research about the place you’re going. Go on the internet and find someone who lives there and talk to them – what can you do to really get an authentic taste of what the place is about? Read a book, fictional or non (as long as the setting is real, obviously) about a region. I highly recommend On the Road by Jack Kerouac for those who are interested in traveling through North America. It’s wonderful for getting inspired about your trip (even though it takes place more than 60 years ago) and there’s always the option of taking a road trip following Kerouac’s footsteps. Hopefully without all of the hitchhiking and near-starvation, though.Teen Travel Tip #6: Get money.
This is simple enough to understand. Go get money! Now! Work at a grocery store or a restaurant, do things around the neighborhood, be frugal and don’t be picky regarding employment because in this economy you’re lucky to find a job at all. The sole reason companies will hire you is because they know you’re desperate and that you’re willing to work for minimum wage, so be aware of that and don’t expect to make much more. Sell things on the internet – design t-shirts for Cafepress.com (a great website where you pay no money upfront and can get a delightful amount of cash sent to you in the mail after people buy your t-shirt designs), write articles for Associated Content (the website you’re on now), sell things on eBay and Craigslist (assuming you have permission to do so), ask for travel money instead of Christmas/Hanukkah/Birthday/Graduation gifts, until you amass a small fortune that you’re comfortable with. Honestly, as a member of society with limited income you’ll probably never be comfortable with the amount of money you have saved on your trip, but you can limit the amount of stress caused by money-related woes by planning ahead – how many hotels will you stay at? How much do you plan to spend on food? Plane or bus tickets? How about discretionary spending on things like souvenirs, t-shirts, or whatever? Add all of that up then add anywhere from $500 to $1000 depending on the type of trip you’re taking. Remember, if you overestimate your costs, then you have money left afterward, or more money to spend on things like shows, museums, or whatever tickles your fancy. It’s always good to, after coming back from an expensive trip, discover that you still have money left in your bank account.I hope that these tips have been helpful for prospective teen travelers and parents of said travelers. Above all, remember that although you’re going to be on a very limited budget, don’t be overly concerned with money. If you don’t enjoy your trip because you’re too busy obsessing over the costs, then the entire trip itself is one giant waste, isn’t it?