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Independent teen day trip to Europa-Park


Jan 6th, 2016, 04:23 PM
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Independent teen day trip to Europa-Park

Hi, and thanks for your continued advice on our (hopefully) upcoming trip to UK and Hesse.

I *think* we've got everything pretty well planned out at this point -- thanks in part to your help -- but I had an idea for our last full day in Germany and I wanted to get some feedback from the pros here.

We are a family of four: mom, dad and two 17-year-old kids. This will be our second trip to Europe as a family (third trip for a couple of us).

By the time of our last full day of this trip, we will have spent three days in the Frankfurt area, including one full day just exploring the Rhine and, I hope, spending the night in Burg Stahleck as a topper. We're planning to take a short Rhine cruise, ride the Loreley bobsleigh and tour either Marburg or Rheinfels castle, too.

Originally I was planning to spend our last day in Heidelberg, but I started thinking that the kids might be "castled out" by then and a little independence might be good for everyone before we board the plane the following afternoon for the long trip home.

Meanwhile, I really really REALLY want to visit Strasbourg. It's the ancestral home for both me and my husband, plus it's a place that my dad has wanted to visit his whole life. His age and health now make that impossible, and it would mean a lot to him to know that one of us made it there.

I don't know how much the Strasbourg trip would appeal to the kids, but I saw that Europa-Park is only 1.5 hours south of there.

What do you think of the family taking the train to Offenburg together, then the old-timer parents splitting off to Strasbourg while the teens continue to Europa-Park on their own for the day? They're major coaster fans and I think they'd really enjoy it. One daughter speaks intermediate German, the other basic German, and they're both sensible travelers. We'll have cell phones for texted check-ins, and of course they'll have enough Euros for admission, food, etc.

European teens do things like this all the time, right? Now that I see it in print, it looks perfectly reasonable and I sound like an overprotective fearmongering American mom (which I probably am).

What are your thoughts? Have you done anything like this before? Any tips?
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Jan 6th, 2016, 04:25 PM
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*Marksburg Castle, not Marburg. Apologies!
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Jan 6th, 2016, 06:07 PM
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>>European teens do things like this all the time, right? Now that I see it in print, it looks perfectly reasonable and I sound like an overprotective fearmongering American mom (which I probably am).<<

You aced it

Let them go

My only slight suggestion . . . is it at all possible to rearrange the days and not do these two day trips (yours and the girls' ) the day before you fly out? A long day trip followed directly by a loooooong travel day back home back-to-back would wear me out.
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Jan 6th, 2016, 06:47 PM
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Thanks. We could probably flip this day with the Rhine travel day. That would mean our last full day in Germany would be spent on the Rhine, and our last full night would be in a castle hostel. Not such a bad end -- and with an afternoon departure, a chance to sleep in.
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Jan 6th, 2016, 08:59 PM
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My teens really enjoyed Strasbourg. Remind them they can go to amusement parks at home, but not Strasbourg, and there is a lot to see there. However, if your teens would enjoy the park more after the other touring, it should be possible for them to do it.

Have to say, I would not feel as comfortable with it as I would have at one time. Wish I did, but I would worry.

So, depends on their experience.
Have they done this sort of thing at home - taken a train or bus and spent the day doing something like that on their own? If so, all good.
They should have working cell phones and be able to call you easily.
They should have numbers for local authorities.
They should stay in touch with you until they are in the park and let you know when they leave the park, and again when they are on the train. Not being silly. It is such a simple thing to do and provides assurance to all of you.

You would think no one would need it, especially mature teens, but guys can be charming, so they should not respond to young men who strike up a conversation. Probably perfectly innocent, and fun, but take no chances.

Can you buy tickets and charge them ahead? Make it easier when they get there.
Decide how they will carry money or a credit card.
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Jan 6th, 2016, 11:11 PM
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We're an ex-pat family with two teens (14 and 19) living in Austria since 2012. The expectation for self-management and personal responsibility by youth is much greater here than in the US, and our teens have fully embraced it. As a general courtesy, both teens are required to "check in" as they move about Vienna with friends; this has worked well for everyone. This summer they spent four days in Paris by themselves and loved it. We gave them general (safety) guidance and spending limits; they planned their itinerary and carried out their holiday independently.

As others have commented, though, it all depends on your teen's experience, maturity, and confidence.
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Jan 7th, 2016, 12:37 AM
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I think castled out might be right, but given your family connections they might miss " the Strasbourg visit "in later life, so check with them.

Yes of course at that age they should be up to a train journey and day in a park. Do get them to text in on arrival, at lunch on departure etc.

Don't worry, at the park they will find English speakers.
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Jan 7th, 2016, 08:37 AM
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For us Europeans, this question is almost ridiculous. We have done our first independent trips to foreign countries with 15 or 16.

Getting to Europa-Park is fairly easy. They take the regional train to Ringsheim and get into the bus. There will be dozens of people doing the same thing.

Once in the Park, it is like Disneyland. You cannot think of a place that is safer.
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Jan 7th, 2016, 09:07 AM
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- We don't really have public transit here, but they've taken day-long school-related trips before. We've traveled to cities that do have public transit and they're very comfortable using it and figuring it out (probably more intuitive than either of their parents, honestly)
- We'll buy their train/bus and admission tickets ahead of time, and we'll make sure they have enough Euros to get through the day. They're actually really frugal for teens.
- They'll have working cell phones and will check in with us periodically. Good tip about having numbers for local authorities (and knowing how to make those calls if necessary)!

@Fourfortravel and @Traveller1959, thanks for your comments. I agree, it *seems* overprotective, but the US is...different. We've traveled to Europe before as a family, and I look at this as another step toward their independence.

@Bilboburgler, I agree, but their minds are not "there" yet re: family heritage. I'd say one daughter has about a 90% chance of going to Europe again, and the other probably 75% (mostly because of her more enthusiastic sister). I'll find a way to offer them the option of some time in Strasbourg, though. Europa-Park closes at 18:00 so an evening there won't take any time away from their fun.
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Jan 7th, 2016, 09:57 AM
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The US is different since so many people live in places without any viable public transit - so until kids have licenses and cars it's difficult for them to get places on their own.

Agree that is has the tendency to make the kids young for their age. Our kids spent from tween years on up in NYC - so we had no problem with them getting around London and Paris on their own during the day when younger - and at night when older teens, including going to teen clubs/pub.
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Jan 7th, 2016, 10:46 AM
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I am not quite sure who the "local authorities" are supposed to be - but in case you think of police or ambulance or any kind of emergency assistance, the EU-wide "9-1-1" equivalent is 112.

It can be dialed from any mobile or landline phone anywhere in the EU.

Also helpful if seasoned adult travelers knew it ;-)
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Jan 7th, 2016, 11:45 AM
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Kandace, it will be a good experience. Teens can be so different, depending on where they live, etc.

We lived about an hour outside of Boston when mine were mid-teens. They used to take the train into Boston by themselves and skate all over Boston. They were driving around in the car at 18 and one backpacked for months in Europe at 20. However, they had already lived in Germany for three years and visited at least half a dozen other countries.

When I took some of my students to Italy, many had never flown before. Some had never been on an escalator. They had not ridden a train or any kind of subway, so had no idea how to figure out those kinds of maps. They learned quickly, but needed a little help. Yet, they could all drive a car. Some could drive a truck or tractor. Some took care of younger siblings, even babies. So American kids are young in some ways, but very mature in others. Different opportunities, different responsibilities.

You know what your kids are capable of and ready for.
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