Planning for a family vacation means paying attention to a great many details. Obviously families want to have fun and parents want to keep their kids safe. Parents of teens looking to travel abroad should also consider the legal drinking age in the destination they are looking to visit.
Here in the U.S. our legal drinking age is 21 but the minimum teen drinking ages are different for each country. In Canada and Mexico, just across the border, it's legal for teens to drink at age 18. Jamaica doesn't have any minimum drinking age but teens do have to be 18 to buy liquor. On board cruise ships, the legal drinking age is 21 but teens may be able to drink in port depending on the laws of each individual country that you visit during your cruise.
Along with different minimum drinking ages, responsibility and liability laws differ from country to country too. In addition to the legal differences, families may encounter foreign cultural norms when it comes to young people and drinking. Alcohol plays more of a prominent role in many cultures than it does here at home. Parents and teens need to be prepared for different attitudes about drinking and peer pressures that they may encounter while traveling.
Here are some very important points to help parents keep their teens safe....
Great Expectations - Have a candid discussion about the rules and behavior you expect from your teens while traveling. This needs to happen before you ever leave home. Do not leave this conversation to the heat of the moment. It is important that guidelines are discussed, rules are made, consequences are understood and that everyone is on the same page.
Set A Good Example - Yes it's a vacation and parents want to have fun too. There's nothing like a hot beach and a cold cocktail when it's time for a little grown up fun. Still, you need to be responsible and remain in control. You can never take a vacation from the responsibility of being a parent when your kids are around. If you want to party like it's 1999, then leave the kids at home with a responsible care giver and take a drown up vacation.
Make Staff Aware -Some resorts are more family friendly while others are more liberal with their alcohol policies. Many resorts and cruise lines can identify minors with specific color arm bands or micro chips in their ship board cards. Other resorts have a policy of no wrist bands to identification of minors can be a bit trickier. Even with the most responsible parenting, some teens may not want or listen to your guidance. If you have any feeling or indication that your kids may try to get served then be sure to speak to the manager and bar staff. Speak up and bump up the parent patrols otherwise you could be held responsible for your teen's irresponsible actions.
Independent Responsiblity - As kids get older they crave independence but it is also very important to give them boundaries. Never let your kids wander alone. Set appropriate check in times and updates either by cell phone, walkie talkie or face to face. Your children may be the most responsible teens on the planet but you still have to worry about the behavior of others they may encounter.
Have a Real World Discussion - If your teens are of legal drinking age while your on vacation make sure they understand cultural differences and bar safety. Make sure they watch their drinks being made and never leave their drink unattended. Sadly, even though you may be vacationing in paradise unfortunately bad people can be found everywhere.
Know How To Get Help - Here in the states, we dial 911 for emergency medical or police help. It's good for both parents and teens to know how to call for help worldwide.
Drinking & Vacation Activities - Everyone agrees that drinking and driving is dangerous. Then people go on vacation, have a few drinks and think drinking and parasailing is a great idea. If your teen is old enough and does plan to party on vacation, make sure they are in the company of a non drinking friend or "designated walker" who is present on safety patrol.
This article is not about being a kill joy. I appreciate that their may be many parents out there that may not agree with the opinions here. I welcome their comments. Bottom line, it's about keeping our teenagers safe and healthy so that they can enjoy many more years of fun family vacations.