Traveling Alone: How to Tell If Teens With Executive Functioning Issues Are Ready

By Kate Kelly

How can you tell if teens with executive functioning issues are ready to travel on their own? Kids who struggle with flexible thinking, impulse control, organization, and time management may have some challenges. But they can often handle the demands of travel—especially with some extra planning.

Use this list to help think through if your teen is ready, and consider ways to prepare teens for travel:

  • Has your teen been on an airplane before? It’s probably not a good idea for teens to fly solo if it’s their first time ever on a plane.
  • Can your teen keep track of belongings? A travel clutch or pouch to hold a passport and tickets can help traveling teens stay organized.
  • Can your teen stay calm and come up with solutions if something goes wrong? Talk through potential scenarios, like what to do if a phone or passport are lost.
  • Can your teen do OK with time management? For instance, will your child leave enough time to get to the train station or airport? Help your teen get in the habit of setting a phone alarm with reminders of where to be and at what time.
  • Can your teen stick to a budget? Work with your child to come up with a system. For example, maybe your teen will use a debit card for food and other necessities and will use cash for fun extras.
  • Can your teen adapt to new circumstances or ways of doing things? As a traveler, it’s important to be flexible. Talk about how people in different states or countries may have different rules, customs, and expectations.
  • Can your teen keep track of vital details, like the destination address or the name of the point person for the trip? Make sure this information is stored in your teen’s phone. Print out copies to put in your teen’s backpack and suitcase, too.
  • If going abroad, can your teen remember differences in how things work, like using country codes when making phone calls? Suggest going through a travel book or blogs and taking notes on key points. Store the information in a smartphone notes app or in a small notebook.
  • Can your teen handle foreign money? Can your child do the mental math to figure out what a can of soda costs in another currency? Together, look up exchange rates before the trip. A smartphone calculator or a foreign exchange app can be useful.
  • Can your teen adapt to differences in everyday living? How will your child react if familiar foods taste different or if there’s no cell service in certain locations? Talk about these issues ahead of time. If food is an issue, see if your teen can bring certain items from home.
  • Will your teen think to call, text, or email you if there’s a major problem? Remind your teen that you’re ready to help no matter what time it is and no matter where your teen is located.

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    About the author

    About the author

    Kate Kelly has been writing and editing for more than 20 years, with a focus on parenting.

    Reviewed by

    Reviewed by

    Jenn Osen-Foss, MAT is an instructional coach, supporting teachers in using differentiated instruction, interventions, and co-planning.