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Ideas for independent UK travel for 15 year old

(24 Posts)
hoodiemum Fri 29-Jan-16 09:04:45

My DD (14, nearly 15) wants to go on a cycling trip with some friends this summer, without parents. With certain provisos (suitably sensible friends, cycle maintenance training prior to trip, etc) I'm happy for her to do this - she knows that I did the same thing at her age and loved it. But there seems to be nowhere for her to stay - even Youth Hostels, which I stayed in back in the day, don't take independent under 16s any more. Anyone have any ideas? Or any compromise solutions that aren't crazy expensive?

OP’s posts: |
Clare1971 Fri 29-Jan-16 17:36:11

Can't believe youth hostels don't take under 16's. Can you mobilise friends, or friends of friends in suitable locations who can let them camp in their gardens? I don't think you'll have any luck with camp sites for under 16's either.

leonardthelemming Thu 04-Feb-16 20:46:14

Firstly, I'm impressed! I think it's brilliant you're letting her do this - lots of parents would throw up their hands in horror and say she is too young, but I think it's fine and a really good experience for them.

The thing about Youth Hostels is, sadly, correct. They no longer truly cater for youth. I suspect it may have something to do with the staff needing a Disclosure and Barring Service check but I don't know and it doesn't help you.

My wife and I used to do Expedition training for the Duke of Edinburgh Award and we specialised in Silver level cycling trips. The participants - all girls - were aged 15 - 16. They had to camp, of course, and we insisted they book the campsites. It was their expedition, after all. They didn't usually have a problem, but then they were also booking a pitch for us... I think the only way to find out is to ring/email the site and ask.

Another possibility might be independent hostels - if you can find any. They might be more flexible. If the girls (boys?) are members of Scouts or Guides they might be allowed to stay on those campsites although I think again, adult supervision might be required. I share your frustration - how can young people be expected to grow up if they don't get a chance to practise?

I think hostels in France take a more sensible view although I suspect, especially if this is their first trip together, you would rather they stay in the UK. I certainly would, although we did have one DofE group who cycled from Granville (Normandy) to St Malo (Brittany). Obviously this was supervised, but remotely - they were on their own most of the time. They did this at the end of Year 11.

I presume your daughter and her friends are quite experienced cyclists. How is their route planning? Our DofE experience means we know quite a bit about this - especially how to keep to low-traffic roads and traffic-free paths. One of our groups cycled from Portsmouth to Watford (North London) and well over 50% of their route was traffic-free. We also cycle ourselves, of course, and in 2013 we cycled from Land's End to John o' Groats on folding bikes using a devious route of 2000 km, so feel free to pick our brains for information if you think it would help.

LaurieFairyCake Thu 04-Feb-16 21:00:20

Join Scouts, go with them. Or do a 'do it for real' adventure holiday.

It's not really a great idea for 14/15 year olds to go off far on their own. Could they not cycle ahead and you catch them up at the end of the day?

leonardthelemming Thu 04-Feb-16 21:46:57

Not sure why you think it isn't a good idea, **LFC. As I said above, teenagers benefit from doing things on their own. Do you anticipate difficulties? Can you be more explicit? When DS1 was 14 and a Patrol Leader in Scouts he took his patrol camping, unsupervised except for one vist before bedtime. This is similar to the remote supervision for DofE expeditions. These days, with mobile phones, they can keep in touch, anyway.

drspouse Thu 04-Feb-16 21:48:53

Guides, or at this age members of the Senior Section, can camp without adults. They'd be allowed to do this on Guide campsites. Some MAY allow them to stay in the indoor accommodation, but usually those are whole houses for Brownie pack holidays.

LaurieFairyCake Thu 04-Feb-16 22:23:49

It's a great idea for organised activities like the Scouts do (my own dd does this) not so much just going off on your own with your mates. Just my opinion though.

LaurieFairyCake Thu 04-Feb-16 22:24:50

And she did D of E too. There were still leaders contactable a few miles away. That's also quite different to just letting them go on their own.

LaurieFairyCake Thu 04-Feb-16 22:26:02

Our local Scout camp lets groups who aren't scouts do this too - OP, call your local scout campsite

Travelledtheworld Fri 05-Feb-16 06:43:21

Just a thought. Would the CTC (cyclist touring club) be able to advise on campsites who may be friendly towards teenage campers ?

Great that they are doing this. My brother and his mates used to cycle and go camp in a field belonging to a friendly farmer uncle.

But if my kids were doing this I would be worried about road traffic on rural roads. ( except they won't get off the sofa).

leonardthelemming Fri 05-Feb-16 09:53:07

LFC - the DofE supervisors can be more than just a few miles away. Within an hours travelling time, so the groups have to be self-sufficient. But then, the supervisor wouldn't sign them off and forward their proposal to the DofE office otherwise.

Traveled - CTC! Why didn't I think of that? I am a member, after all...

But the traffic thing. This is why I offered the OP advice on route planning. With our DofE groups we checked their routes and did a route-specific risk assessment before submitting the proposal to the office. More time spent in planning means fewer problems on the trip, in my experience. We told the girls before they started planning that there were certain things we would veto. So, our advice went like this:

Big scary dual carriageways - forget it (and only cross them on a bridge).
Other A roads - also off-limits (and cross them in villages where there is a speed limit).
B roads - maybe, but only for short distances where there is no alternative.
Minor roads - wider than 4 m are OK; less than 4 m are better.
Off-road tracks - best of all. Bridleways, converted railway lines, canal towpaths, purpose-built cycle paths... And there are a surprising number of these about.

We have never had a traffic-related incident in all the DofE trips we were involved in. I'm not saying the danger isn't there, but that by careful planning the risk can be minimised. And part of growing up is learning to manage risk.

hoodiemum Wed 24-Feb-16 00:03:16

Guys, thank you SO much for all your advice. Sorry for the extended radio silence - I've only just discovered that I'd got any replies.

Leonard, incredibly useful ground rules re. choosing routes - thank you. They have been adopted forthwith. What kind of distances did your teens find realistic in a day, if they were doing 2 or 3 days back to back? DD and gang all do lots of sport and have good fitness levels, but I'm not sure how much time they should factor in to deal with mechanical problems, getting lost, etc so that they can safely get to their overnight stop.

Traveled - CTC is my next port of call. Good thought!

Laurie - yes, it's a big step, and DD1 would never have been capable at that age. DD2 is a different kettle of fish, and I do think she'd be sensible IF she had the right friends with her. I'll get her to try some scout camps - thanks for the suggestion. Shame she's never had time to be a Scout, but she's got DofE coming up soon, which I'm sure she'll love.

OP’s posts: |
houseeveryweekend Wed 24-Feb-16 00:12:04

what about airbnb?? it can be very cheap if you are travelling in a group and you can find all sorts of properties some more hostel style places that would be suitable.

AndNowItsSeven Wed 24-Feb-16 00:47:31

There is a good reason why children shouldn't be travelling and staying overnight alone.
At 15 you are responsible for your daughters welfare. It's not even like she would be nearly 16 at the time.
It is irresponsible and child services would hold you accountable should anything happen.

hoodiemum Thu 25-Feb-16 10:51:16

Seven - yes, I know a lot of people feel that way. But a lot more kids are allowed to go to party islands in the Med the minute they turn 18, and drink themselves stupid. My feeling, and I feel this quite strongly, is that there's more danger in giving kids sudden and total freedom at 18 than in giving them a taste of freedom at a younger age, when things like alcohol and clubs are less accessible to them. There's no magic switch on a birthday that turns irresponsible kids into responsible adults. Responsibility is largely something that grows on you with experience. If you're never given the opportunity to be responsible for yourself, you won't learn to be responsible.
Nor is the tiny chance that something bad might happen in a hostel going to disappear after a birthday - and again, bring alcohol into the mix and the odds of disaster striking are higher. My daughter doesn't drink and wants to cycle a long distance to raise money for charity. She won't have any energy left for doing stupid teenage things. She could get hit by traffic and she could get lost (as she could if she were a couple of years - or decades - older). These are risks that I'm concerned about, but with sensible route planning, gps and mobile phones, I don't think the risks outweigh the advantages of letting children experience standing on their own two feet.
And yes, maybe I'd be in trouble with social services if something bad happened, but to be honest, if something bad happened social services would be the least of my concerns.

House every weekend - Yes, good thought. I think officially you have to be 18 for AirBNB, but individual home owners may be prepared to take them.

OP’s posts: |
lljkk Thu 25-Feb-16 11:28:02

She could stay in some German hostels from age 14, not sure how to get to Germany (not Ryan Air, but maybe other airlines or ferry with permission?). Or check situation for Netherlands & Denmark.

Could check hostel situation in Eire, too. Lots of indie hostels there IIRC.

AndNowItsSeven Thu 25-Feb-16 12:55:26

Hoodie I understand what you are saying , my eldest dd is 17 and her independence has happened gradually. It's just there is a legal difference between a 15 and a 16 year old.

leonardthelemming Fri 26-Feb-16 21:17:28

Seven I agree there's a legal difference between 15 and 16 - that's why 16th birthdays are worth celebrating. But I'm not aware of any law which prohibits parents from allowing younger teens to be independent and do more adventurous things. I'm reasonably sure the SS thing is just a guideline.

lljkk Interesting point about German Hostels. Similar to France, I think. And, having cycled in both countries, my experience suggests Germany is more cycle-friendly than France. But for a first trip, staying in the UK might make the OP and her daughter feel more comfortable. On the other hand, if she did want to go to Germany...

With folding bikes - Eurostar to Brussels; Thalys to Cologne. Non-folding bikes; Ferry from Harwich to Hook of Holland, then normal trains. They would have to use the daytime sailing on the ferry though, because under-18s cannot travel unaccompanied on the nighttime crossing. (Some international regulation thing - really annoying.)

hoodiemum they did about 200 km over the three days, so about 60 - 70 km each day. And they weren't even tired! They could easily have done more, had they not had to spend time on their project work. Actually, one group did manage to convince the DofE office that their project should be to raise money for the Teenage Cancer Trust. It wasn't just a matter of collecting donations though - they had to do a lot of background work to arrange licences, etc.

Open Cycle Map is a good resource for route planning, btw.

annandale Fri 26-Feb-16 21:25:40

For this age I would look at Sustrans paths, fewer road miles and fantastic maps.

I wonder if speaking to individual B&b places might work. Or perhaps camping barns - less equipment to care than pure camping.

We have had trouble finding airb&b that would do one night only, but there must be some out there.

leonardthelemming Fri 26-Feb-16 21:54:19

hoodiemum you asked about time lost for mechanical problems and getting lost. In all the expeditions we were involved in we only had two incidents the girls couldn't reasonably resolve themselves. One was a broken pedal and the other was a simple puncture but the wheel nuts were so tight the girls couldn't undo them. Neither could I!
After that we organised cycle maintenance classes at a local cycle shop. (It helped that the shop owner's daughter attended the same school as the cyclists!) Then we encouraged them to do their own maintenance so they knew, ahead of time, how to take things apart and put them together again. No more breakdowns - apart from the occasional puncture. But very few of those once we introduced them to a proper tyre pump with a pressure gauge. They were all amazed at how under-inflated their tyres had been. But we made sure they had all repaired a puncture in advance of the trip.

Getting lost? Hardly ever happened. The girls planned their route using Memory-Map on a PC, then printed it out. They used mostly Ordnance Survey 1:50000 mapping. We found there was at least one good navigator in each group.

OldandHorny Mon 07-Mar-16 08:42:19

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Joanne123 Mon 07-Mar-16 09:46:11

Alfriston campsite usually has teenagers on their own when we go there, and its in a lovely spot.

heron98 Mon 07-Mar-16 16:01:26

I think this is a great idea.

What about them staying in air bnbs? Some can be very reasonably priced. You may need to book as they'll need a credit card but they would not be subject to the same restrictions as a hostel.

Bluelilies Mon 07-Mar-16 18:07:57

If she is thinking of travelling abroad, Easyjet will take unaccompanied teens from age 14.

English is widely spoken in Germany. I've no idea what it's like for cycling, but if you could find good cycle maps it might be an option. Or Holland is very good for cycling, but I don't know what the rules are on age limits for hostels.

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