Not in front of the parents
How can we ensure Teenagers learn their limits on post-Leaving Certificate holidays
There are some things parents are better off not knowing – or even imagining – and the antics of post-Leaving Certificate holidays definitely fall into that category.
In the era of cheap travel and teenagers’ burgeoning sense of entitlement, it has become a rite of passage.
For many 18 year olds, it’s their first holiday abroad without their parents. And the relief at the exams being over adds to that sense of freedom and craving for a good time .
Magaluf (affectionately known as Shagaluf) in Mallorca is the “in” destination for the class of 2013, while last year it was Ayia Napa in Cyprus. However, no matter what the backdrop, the scenario is much the same: being young, Irish and over there means, almost inevitably, that copious amounts of alcohol are consumed, with all the associated risky behaviour that fuels.
Parents just have to hope their teenagers don’t pay too high a price for learning their limits and that the worst souvenir they come home with is a discreet tattoo. (And no, getting your school’s motto tattooed down from your armpit, as at least one group from a private boys’ school in Dublin reportedly did in Magaluf, is not discreet – even if the loyalty to their alma mater is touching.)
For the parents of the one in 10 who, according to a survey published last month by Gohop.ie travel agency, were not allowed to take a post-Leaving holiday abroad, the whole prospect was non-negotiable.
However, for the rest who wave their teenagers off, it’s a matter of “keeping fingers crossed and hoping for the best”, says one Dublin mother.
“Maybe I’m naive but I really don’t think they are having sex all over the place. Listening to the stories of the girls in the house, I don’t think they are.
“The boys are so immature at 18, the girls just chew them up,” she says. The girls are more concerned about looking glam for each other.
She recalls that when she went out to the airport to collect her daughter after her post-Leaving holiday in Ayia Napa last year, she couldn’t believe she had been in the sun for a week.
“She was paler coming back than she was going because they party all night and don’t get up during the day.”
However, despite the bad press these holidays get, she believes young people look out for each other very well. “They are not stupid.”
Often a group of friends will take turns to stay sober one night and take responsibility for making sure everybody else is okay.
It is not just a matter of trusting your teenager – but your own parenting too. The ground work for their first holiday alone comes many years before the last-minute pep talk on the way to the airport. And the ones who go wildest usually have “form” back in Ireland.
The immediate, post-exams wave of holidaying teenagers has gone out and back at this stage, but other departures are staggered through July and some leave it until after the results, expected on August 14th.
Just how the shoal of Leaving Cert students determine the summer hot spot more than six months in advance is not clear but early bookers pave the way for others – and word travels fast in social media.
Sunway is one travel operator that was able to spot the trend early on and it was one reason it organised packages to Mallorca from Kerry and Knock this year, as well as Dublin.
One 18 year old from south Dublin explains how he and a dozen friends booked flights and accommodation in Magaluf as far back as last October, when they heard people from neighbouring schools planned to go there. “Soon enough many people followed suit as the idea of going to Magaluf spread.”
Even at that stage, direct flights to Palma were full or expensive, so they opted to go via London. The two return flights and a week’s accommodation worked out at just over €400 for the week – with close on the same again needed for food and spending money when they got there.
He thinks the image of these sorts of holidays is fairly accurate, “although I did not experience the horror stories associated with binge drinking, and so on”. While nearly everyone drank every night, “most people I know were responsible enough to drink within measure and within their own limits”.
However, he concedes that the combination of post-Leaving celebrations and the holiday atmosphere may have caused many of them to be rowdier than normal.
The worst incidents that he heard about was the theft of hundreds of euro in cash from a room after a balcony door was left open; some people needed hospital treatment after, allegedly, having drinks spiked and there was some damage to the hotel, such as broken doors, that had to be paid for.
He found bringing two forms of finance, for example, cash and credit card, a good idea as it reduced the chances of having it all stolen.
Also keeping an eye on your drink is always very important.
“If you keep your wits about you,” he adds, “I believe there is no reason for anything to go wrong.”
One drawback to teenagers booking flights and accommodation separately is that there is no tour operator’s representative on the ground to help out if there is a problem.
That is why, says Tanya Airey, managing director of Sunway, parents often get involved with the booking process to make sure it’s a package through a travel agency.
“If there is an issue, there is somebody there to look after them,” she points out.
King Travel in Malahide, Co Dublin is typical of a local travel agency that each year has a few groups of Leaving Cert students from local schools walking through the door in early spring and putting down a deposit.
Managing director Matt Corcoran says they will always ensure the teenagers are taking a package that incorporates good reps at the resort.
When full payment is due six weeks before departure, he usually hears from a parent or two who say they didn’t even know their teenager had booked a holiday . . . and they’re certainly not paying for it.
The loss or theft of passports is probably the most common reason young Irish holidaymakers seek consular assistance, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs. However, at the time of writing, a spokesman says it is not aware so far of any requests for consular assistance from post-Leaving students in Mallorca.
Local travel agent
Sheila Naughton, who did her Leaving Cert at Cross and Passion College in Kildare, knew a lot of people were going to Magaluf but she and three friends were guided by their local travel agent, who offered a package to Malia in Crete, which they booked before Christmas.
The eldest of two girls, she says her father was “not as happy as my mother” about it but he reasoned that she would be off on her own to college a few months later anyway. And they were pleased that at least she saved up her pocket money to pay for half of it.
Departing just nine hours after her Leaving music exam, Naughton was “wrecked” but too excited about the trip to feel the tiredness.
She believes the excesses of holidaying teenagers portrayed in the media are a bit exaggerated.
“Our first night, we all got very drunk and we went mad,” she admits, not coming in until 5 or 6 in the morning. “But the next day we were like ‘Okay that is the only night we are doing that’.”
Although they drank every night, they came in earlier and slept later. “It takes a toll on you by the end of the week.”
The only bad experience they had at the hotel was being charged for damage that they didn’t do.
Two of her friends had to pay for a chip in a chair that was there beforehand and she and her roommate were told they had broken the glasses in their room but they never had any glasses.
“They had our passports and they wouldn’t give them back until you paid,” says Naughton who advises people to report any damage they see in the room when they arrive.
Other guests did damage rooms, she acknowledges. “I know there were a lot of young people in the hotel who did awful things, like throwing chairs off balconies. It was mad. But we were good.”
Making a friend of the hotel security guard is also a good tip, she says. “We felt very safe because we knew the security man so well and it was the same one every night.”
The trip was great from the point of view of independence, she explains.
“I am really bad – I can’t cook or clean. Over there I was forced to because we had a little kitchen – things even like putting noodles on.
“By the end of the week,” she adds, “as much as I loved it, I texted my parents and said, ‘I’m looking forward to coming home’.”