Advice for Parents – What to do when your Daughter wants to Travel Alone
What to do when your daughter wants to travel alone? Here parents will find lots of advice and information to help them learn what to do when their daughter plans to travel alone.
Travelling alone or solo travel is a significant travel trend and young adults are travelling on their own all over the world. How do you know what to do when your daughter says that she is going travelling after graduation? What is your first reaction when your daughter tells you that she is making plans to travel the world alone? How is it possible to trust a world of strangers to look out for your child and if needed, to help your daughter when you aren’t nearby?
I am a solo traveller and have been for decades. I am also a mom of a 25 year old and she is everything to me. It is not easy to let go and trust that I have done my job as a parent.
- Have I taught her how to make good decisions?
- Does she know how to take care of herself?
- Does she have the life skills to keep herself safe?
- How can I protect her when she’s so far from home?
What do you do when your daughter wants to travel alone? How do you respond? Are you excited? Do you admire her courage? Or are you just scared? We all want our children to be safe and protected so that first emotion that you might feel is fear. As a parent, it is difficult to accept that your daughter is becoming an independent adult and has the ability to make good and safe choices.
Honestly, your daughter will make choices that are different than yours, she may make mistakes or make the wrong choices but she could also make awesome choices. The consequences of making good and not so good choices are important lessons to be learned by our children, this is how they grow into strong independent adults.
Here’s a real story from a daughter:
“I need help. I’m going to South America next month and backpacking the north half for about 3 months. My family is being REALLY annoying with their “that’s a dangerous country”, “what about your valuables” and “you’re going to get kidnapped” comments. How do I make it stop?!?! Also, if any of y’all have posts specific to backpacking there, feel free to drop them below!
What is the message that these parents are giving their daughter? I think the main messages that might be heard by your daughter are, “You are not capable” “I’m scared for your safety” “You are irresponsible” “You are not allowed” and probably many more messages depending on your family dynamics. “Is this how you want to make your daughter feel?”
I absolutely agree that there are dangerous countries and areas in the world that must be avoided. But safe travel in the rest of the world can absolutely be achieved. Planning, communication and education are the tools to use to ensure a life changing and an awesome travel experience.
Your Daughter wants to Travel Alone – My Top Advice for Parents – Just LISTEN!
My top piece of advice for parents is to listen and my advice for your daughter is to talk and share your solo travel plans. The art of communication is the exchange of information, listening, talking, asking questions and doing this over and over.
This is a real opportunity to build your relationship with your daughter and to provide support during her travels. First of all, she is an adult and by law she can make all of her own decisions.
As much as you want to protect her from all the bad things in the world and keep her close to home, it’s important to let her go and to let her make her own choices. Making informed choices, both good, different and not so good are the only way our children are able to grow up into awesome and independent adults.
What should you do? Listen, and listen some more. Ask questions and be curious about her ideas for solo travel. Ask her how you might be able to help. Let her know that no matter what, you are there to support whenever and wherever help is needed.
In order to manage your own fears, write a list of your concerns and do some online research to gather ideas on how to mitigate those concerns.
If your daughter doesn’t ask for help, then continue to do your own research about the country(s) that she is planning to visit, again be curious and learn, so that if an issue arises, you will already be prepared or at least know where to start in order to resolve a situation.
Message to your daughter:
The fear is real for your mom and dad.
- All parents want to protect their children. There are bad things that are happening out in the world, drugs, human trafficking, kidnapping, theft and so much more etc.
- It is unfortunate that bad things happen, they happen close to home too but it’s different when you are far from home and it’s so much harder for your parents to help/protect you.
- We live in a time where news is immediate and sadly mostly negative and so it creates fear in people. People including your mom and dad are afraid and want to protect those that they love.
- What can you do to help alleviate your parents worry?
Share your travel plans and ideas and keep talking.
- Sometimes it really is hard to keep sharing especially if it feels like your parents are so negative about your solo travels.
- The only way to reduce the negative talk is to answer their questions, give them information and show them that you have a plan. Talk about safety issues and discuss how you plan to deal with different scenarios.
Give your parents the tools to help you.
- Work through potential scenarios. Share your plan for checking in, have a code word to be used in case of a dangerous situation. Create a Travel Support Team and create a safety/emergency plan and work with your parents to explain how they might help in a time of crisis.
Create a “Travel Support Team”
Your daughter has decided to travel during a gap year after high school or university. What do you do when your daughter wants to travel alone? I understand that it might be scary for you and cause you to worry but the best thing you can do as a parent is to listen and become an integral part of their travel support team.
What is a travel support team? A travel support team is a group of people providing a variety of support to the traveller. Any traveller would appreciate knowing that they have a supportive team back home. Being supportive is the act of giving support, providing sympathy or encouragement along with providing help or information. The opposite of being supportive is disapproval, discouragement and creating hindrance.
I can guarantee you that your daughter is looking for a supportive travel team that encourages her to explore, learn and discover and a team that builds her confidence.
Your daughter’s travel support team can be anything that she wants it to be, as a member of the team, it is important to remember that the team is about the traveller not about you. The help that may be required depends on what type of travel your daughter is planning. Is she travelling solo and planning to meet people along the way? Volunteering? Group travel with a tour company? Or maybe a combination of all three.
What might a travel support team do?
- Listen to your daughter’s excitement, discoveries and all about the amazing sights she has seen.
- Listen to your daughter’s fears or frustrations about what she has experienced.
- Provide relevant news on current events in the city or country she is visiting.
- Purchase tickets, do research on accommodation, train travel etc.
- Encourage and coach her through non-life threatening situations.
- Provide assistance in case of emergencies, then it’s all hands on deck.
- If you are able, set aside an emergency fund for getting out of an unsafe situation.
- Use encouraging words over and over again. “You’ve got this” “I’m so proud of you” “I’m learning so much from you” “You know what to do” “Follow your intuition.”
- Or maybe there is nothing to do.
The goal as the parent is to keep the communication lines open, to let your travelling daughter know that you are available to assist and to help without judgement or unsupportive behaviour. You want your daughter to call you rather than to feel alone if they are in a difficult situation.
How do you become a trusted Travel Support Team member?
Another strategy for what to do when your daughter wants to travel alone is to become a trusted travel support team member.
Six ways to become a member of your daughter’s solo travel support team
1. Be Curious – Ask Questions to Learn about your daughter’s solo travel plans
My #1 recommendation for parents is to listen and for adult children is to talk. Learn about the who? what? where? why? when? and how? of her solo travel plans. The art of communication is the exchange of information both listening, talking, asking questions and doing this over and over.
Asking questions is an opportunity to learn about your adult child. Ask a question with the intent to learn or to indirectly encourage your daughter to think about something. This is not the time to tell her what to do. It is easier for most of us to think about an answer to a question rather than to listen to being told what to do.
Write a list of potential questions to ask. Take a look at a list of my 20 questions at the end of this blog for ideas. This is not an interrogation but rather a listening and learning opportunity.
2. Communication – More Listening and Less Talking
This trip is not about you, the parents, it’s about the traveller. Ask questions, talk about current events or travel articles in the newspaper or travel articles that you have found online. There is a generation gap between us and our children, this is a great opportunity to learn something new from your daughter’s generation.
Be honest. It is okay to say,
I’m scared/nervous about you travelling on your own but I want to be supportive and assist where I can. I believe in you and know that you are smart, strong and capable.”
Ask more questions as per #1 above and then respond with non-judgemental responses like, “That sounds interesting” “Tell me more” “Is there more?” “It sounds like you want to experience adventure/freedom/learn something new/find a path in life/connect with the world (people/environment/culture).”
These are all non-judgemental responses and are comments/questions that encourage additional responses from your daughter. I think you’ll be surprised how much she will share if she feels that you are encouraging and interested in her plans.
3. How is your daughter paying for her solo travels?
Who is paying for the trip? Where will the money come from? Assuming your daughter is a recent graduate, maybe she received graduation gifts of money or has been saving for travel or maybe mom and dad are paying for the trip.
If you are paying for the trip, the money does not provide you with the right to control the travel choices that your daughter will make and once she is travelling, she will be responsible for making her own decisions.
As I mentioned earlier, talk about an emergency fund for getting out of an unsafe situation. For example, new accommodation or a flight home. Decide a head of time what kind of situations are considered an emergency.
4. Plan for Emergencies
How do you plan for emergencies or challenging situations? The best plan is to avoid a challenging situation but there are always times when stuff happens outside of our control. Talk about potential situations and make a plan.
Homesickness is not necessarily an emergency but a worsening of mental illness could be an emergency. This is exactly like have a fire escape plan, we hope we never need to use the plan but we know exactly what to do if a fire happens.
What could go wrong? Personal safety, political situations, demonstrations, financial crises, medical issues, scams, natural disasters, terrorist attacks or lost or stolen phone/laptop/credit cards/money. All of these things could be unsettling and scary. We definitely don’t want our child to be caught up in any of these things but if they do, you want to have a plan that you both understand and will follow “in case of emergency.”
As a support team member, your job is to stay calm and follow the agreed upon plan. The traveller will work towards staying calm and following the plan as best as possible with a goal of contacting you as soon as possible.
For more resources on planning for emergencies, check out my “In Case of Emergency Travel Toolkit” which includes a Travel Information Form, priority steps in case of a travel emergency and straight talk about travel safety and planning for emergencies Click here for Toolkit
5. Be Amazed and Excited to hear about your daughter’s travels
This is so important, be amazed and excited about the travel experiences that your daughter is having. Listen to her adventure and be in awe with how capable she is out in the world.
6. Plan your own Solo Travel Adventure
Be inspired by your daughter’s adventurous spirit and plan your own solo travel adventure or with her permission, meet up with her during her travels. Let her show you the world through her eyes.
20 Questions to ask when your daughter wants to travel alone
There are so many questions that you could ask your daughter about her travel plans. Her answers will help you understand how you can be involved and answer your own question, “What to do when your daughter wants to travel alone.” Keep your questions to ones that require more than a YES/No answer. Here’s a short list of question to start with and definitely change them or add your own questions too.
- How long will you be travelling?
- What countries do you want to see?
- Are you planning to travel slow and stay in fewer places for longer periods of time?
- Are you wanting to see as many countries as possible?
- How will you pay for your travels?
- Can we discuss safety and emergency planning so we can both be prepared in a time of crisis?
- When will you be going?
- Why are you choosing to travel on your own?
- Will you be meeting friends along the way?
- What kind of research have you done so far? Do you have a favourite guidebook or blogger that you follow?
- Are you going to work during your travels?
- What kind of experiences do you hope to have?
- Are you going to write a blog or post on IG?
- I know the government has warnings about most countries in the world. What does the government’s travel website say about this country?
- Will you learn to speak the language?
- What is your main interest? Food, culture, history, natural landscapes, archeology or animal encounters?
- Do you have your documents in order? Passport/visas/travel insurance/
- Tell me about the countries that you want to visit.
- How will you travel once you are there?
- How can I help?
The iconic Tower Bridge across the Thames
More Solo Travel Resources
I hope I’ve been able to provide you with lots of ideas on how to enjoy this exciting time in your daughter’s life.
Send me an email! I would love to hear about your conversations with your daughter about her travel plans. Any questions please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Take a look around the Solo Travelz website for lots more on solo travel planning, safety and inspiration.
Solo travel planning tips are here: BEST SOLO TRIP EVER
And safety tips that will make a difference SOLO TRAVEL SAFETY TIPS
*This article is for both daughters and sons, as a blog writer, it was too difficult and repetitive to include both as I was trying to communicate my thoughts. I’m not sure that the worry is as strong for boys as it is for girls.