Planning Your First Independent Holiday: The Teenage Years

With exam season well and truly out the way, there’s finally breathing space to plan that well earned holiday. 

If this is your first independent break without the Parentals, then the prospect of traveling off on new adventures is even more appealing. You’ve probably been drooling over Instagram feeds of far-flung places (that may be just us), and although your family is pretty cool (at times) to hang out with, nothing beats the freedom of creating your own travel memories. We can pretty much guarantee that it’s the start of very beautiful friendship (Travel + You = BFF).

Yet, planning a holiday requires a little bit of work before you can hop, skip, jump onto a beach. If this is your first time, you may be thinking, where do I start? And if you are under 18, you are probably wondering what options are available for you. Well dear traveller wannabes, with a little bit of knowledge (and your parents thumbs up, sorry) the world is your oyster, so read on.

Top Teen Travel Picks

DIY travel

Are you wanting to explore your inner travelling spirit? Making all your own independent travel arrangements is exciting and gives a real feeling of control over your holiday. Before booking, check with the country’s embassy in the UK, as laws for solo under-18s can vary from country to country.

What about transport? Airlines vary in age limits, so check their policy. EasyJet allows anyone over 16 to travel as an adult, whereas British Airways is 12. If you plan on staying in more than one place climb aboard a train, covers global rail routes and Interrail makes getting around Europe easy.

When it comes to accommodation, hostels are a brilliant budget option and a large number accept those over 16, download the Hostelbookers app, which has reviewed hostels from all over the world, and head over to the Hostel Girl’s Blog for the inside track on hostel holidays. For those of you aged 18 and over, you lucky folk have the pick of the crop.

Teen tours

Some rather thoughtful travel companies have actually created tours that are teen only. A quick scan of the internet reveals lots of options and we’re not talking bus tours to Bognor Regis here. Is it sailing in Greece or cycling the Loire Valley that you fancy? Or perhaps you’ve got your sights set on the distant lands of New Zealand? STA Travel is one such company that has come up with an amazing range of tours. You’ll get to travel with a mix of people aged from 16 into their 20s. If you do go to New Zealand, please send us a picture postcard of you stood in Bilbo Baggins’ house.

Queenstown you are such a babe😍 #starttheadventure #statravel #newzealand

A photo posted by STA Travel (@statravel) on

Package holidays

Although you love the UK’s few sunny days (yes, they do happen), you can’t quite shake the Game of Thrones feeling that Winter is coming. Especially when one moment you’re parading in your shorts and the next you’re building an ark in the rain.

It’s no wonder that the call of a beach holiday is so strong - sand, sea and consistent sun. If Mallorca, Crete, and Croatia have your name on them, it is worth looking at a package holiday which will cover your flights, transfers, and accommodation all for a reasonable price. Thomas Cook, Thomson and First Choice holidays all have travel brands which cater for the teen market. Their policies vary from insisting a party member must be 18 or over, while others require a parent or legal guardian to sign the booking form in the presence of a sales consultant. We’d really recommend getting in touch with the companies for advice on what your options are.

Beauty 😍 #Zante

A photo posted by Club 18-30 (@club1830) on

Youth hostelling

There is a secret revival going on in the world youth hostelling. It’s the original first taste of backpacking that many a explorer started with. Not only can you discover the UK’s countryside, but you can also hit the cities. If dorms are not your thing there’s even the glamping option where you stay in yurts or cabins. Many youth hostels accept those aged 16 or over, and are dotted throughout the UK. In fact you could hike, bike, or train between hostels. If you want to stay on your own, you must be over 18, and 16 -17 must stay with someone of the same age or an adult.

Summer camp

For the more active of you out there, summer camp might be just what you are looking for. There’s a lot more to these than learning the camp song and toasting some marshmallows. They offer a chance to learn a range of different adventure activities, including canoeing, abseiling, and surfing. Plus the camps are split into different age ranges. If you are not adverse to a bit of mud, heights, or white water, then PGL, YHA Summer Camp, or the Outward Bound Trust may have something for you.

For those of you looking for a bit of work experience while also travelling overseas, then don’t rule out summer camp. There are plenty of opportunities worldwide if you apply well in advance – Europe, North America, Australia – for you to be a summer camp instructor. Check out BUNAC, who have been doing this for a long time.

Don't limit your challenges. Challenge your limits. #OutwardBoundUK #Skill4LifeAward #summeradventure

A photo posted by The Outward Bound Trust (@outwardbounduk) on

Tap into your network

If you have friends or relatives abroad, then spending the summer with them could be the perfect getaway. Ok, you may be thinking this feels a little home-from-home, and not very independent, but the pros far outweigh the cons. You’ll benefit from saving money on accommodation, have already built-in company, and there is no better way to explore a place than with someone with local knowledge. Don’t rule out relatives in the UK either, there’s lots of nooks and crannies to visit in old blighty


You may have picked what you are doing, and for some of these much of the arrangements will have been done for you. Travelling in the UK is a little bit easier, but for those of you who are international jet setters, we’ve put a little checklist together to help you on your way.

When you book

  • Visas and travel advice - Look into whether you need a visa and check for any advice on the country you are visiting
  • Travel Insurance - arrange your travel insurance and make sure you have an up-to-date EHIC. See our handy guide on insurance. There are policies specifically for under 18s, but you might be covered under your parents' policy even if not travelling with them
  • Vaccinations and medications - find out what the requirements are for the country and book in with your doctor
  • Passport - only book a holiday if your passport will be valid for the duration of your holiday, and meets your destination’s requirements

One month to go

  • Transfers and parking - if you are flying or going by train, make sure you have all the logistics arranged to get you to the airport or train station, and be clued up on where you need to be. Also think about what you need for the other end of your journey
  • Sights to see - plan what you want to see. We rely on researching on online, downloading useful travel apps or even good old fashioned guide books.

Two weeks to go

  • Money - order your currency, and try and opt for the best rate
  • Travel documents - make sure you have all your relevant paperwork including tickets, and give copies of your travel information, passports, insurance and contact details to a friend or relative

One week to go

  • Luggage - check what luggage weight your airline offers and what you booked, and make sure you stick to this when packing. Don’t forget the lovely Jurni meets hand luggage requirements If you are backpacking make sure what you pack is going to be possible to carry for long periods of time
  • Travel times - make sure you know what time you have to be at the airport/station for, and make sure you take into calculation any travel time there
  • Packing essentials - besides your clothes, make sure you pack travel adaptors, medicine, sunscreen. For flights, make sure sharp objects and bottles with any liquids over 100ml are not in your hand luggage

Day of travel

Set alarms if you are travelling anywhere early. In fact, set two!

  • Online check-in - if you are flying, and there are no known delays, you can check-in online 24 hours before departure. Here’s an handy guide on what to expect at airports.
  • Last minute checks - before you go out the door, make sure you have all your paperwork and passport, and relax you are on holiday!

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