Crazy worry Wart Dad needs advice for kids
April 9, 2014 11:34 AM   Subscribe

Both my young adult children are going to France 1 for school the other just because. I need some advice?

So both of my Children are going to St. Etienne France (we live in Canada) and one (Male 20) will have accommodation and the other (Female 19) does not. They will be going the second week of May and staying for 11 weeks.
I have NEVER been abroad so I am not sure what the best way to find longish and affordable places to stay THAT are safe... this is for my Daughter?
What are somethings I can do to make it as safe as possible for them?
Any other advice would BE GREAT...

Also if you have been there or live there: Are there any places they should avoid/get to ASAP? What else can they do there?

What else do I/They need to know?
posted by mrgroweler to Travel & Transportation around Saint-étienne, France (21 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
First, you need to memorize Liam Neeson's speech from Taken. :-)

Next, try and figure out if you can arrange for an "exchange" boarding situation with a family, where the time during the exchange might not be simultaneous... or even reciprocated...? This is a google search I did. it says student exchange but you might find a place that will provide room & board for a fee. do you intend for it to be 11 weeks of vacation?
Consider a work-exchange for room & board situation too. How about a type of nanny job for your daughter?

Good for you for allowing your kids the opportunity to travel! Yay Dad!
posted by ChefJoAnna at 11:58 AM on April 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Tripadvisor has reviews for just about every kind of accommodation. I suggest starting there as you'll learn a lot just from what gets discussed in the reviews.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:03 PM on April 9, 2014

Your children are adults and perfectly old enough to travel abroad on their own without your permission or involvement. They should really be setting their own agenda, coming up with their own lists of things to see and do, etc.

France is a safe country.

It sounds like your daughter is tagging along on an organized trip your son is going on. Can she talk to other people going on the trip, or who are also tagging along, or maybe the trip organizers, about housing? Personally, I would feel absolutely comfortable just going on Craigslist (or whatever the more popular French option is?) and subletting a room for 2-3 months. She'll want to wait until she gets there to actually pay any money or make any firm commitments, but there's no reason this is any worse than some kind of student exchange setup, or getting a random room assignment in a college dorm.

As for what you can do? Dig out all the necessary documents for them to get passports, if they don't have them already.
posted by Sara C. at 12:05 PM on April 9, 2014 [9 favorites]

FWIW when I was only 16, I went on an international trip to Europe with only two friends of the same age. This was before the internet and cheap long-distance calling. No chaperones, no cell phones.

It was just fine. 19 is plenty old enough to take care of herself. Relax!
posted by Andrhia at 12:08 PM on April 9, 2014

The best thing you can do for your children is to let them figure this out for themselves. They can and should make all their own arrangements, free from any interference, including yours. Providing extra assistance at this point will hurt them more in the long run than help them.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 12:09 PM on April 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

My credentials: my parents sent me abroad for about a month when I was 14. My accommodations were lined up in advance but I figured just about everything else out on my own. It was a big success and a major confidence builder for me.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 12:10 PM on April 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

I went to France when I was 19 and my parents weren't involved in the planning of the trip whatsoever. I think you should ask your daughter to find a place she wants to stay and then give you the information about it. Hostels are rather typical places for people her age to stay. Other than that, just reinforce typical travel safety stuff - the same sorts of things you'd tell her for traveling in the USA.

Don't go out after dark alone to places you don't know, don't go out/stay at parties without a friend there (buddy system) especially if you will be drinking, keep valuables in a safe place (don't bring your passport out and about with you, keep it securely locked up), don't flash a lot of cash around, don't carry a lot of cash on you. Stuff like that. I also got caught up in an ATM scam when I was there, although I don't think that is common, tell her not to enter her ATM card code in front of anyone else's line of sight, even if they seem like a helpful stranger.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 12:11 PM on April 9, 2014

Best answer: Get them both unlocked cell phones that they can use in Europe (or pay for the carrier to unlock their current phones). Let them figure out where to stay themselves.
posted by jeather at 12:17 PM on April 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: If they have a debit or ATM card, they can use it to get money, and you can deposit money in an emergency and it will get to them quickly. The one going for school will have some contacts, which will be handy. They'll be fine. You'll worry, but you'll realize they're growing up, and you have to get used to that fact, and letting go is the best and only thing you can do.
posted by theora55 at 12:23 PM on April 9, 2014

Your kids are grown up. In the 1940s they would be heading to fight in a war in Europe. At this point it's up to them to use the decision making skills you instilled in them as their parent. Trying to run a 19 and 20 year olds lives is rediculous and keeps them from becoming adults; a far too common problem in the USA today. They are the ones who should be asking for advice. Let them figure it out. Otherwise they will never have the self esteem to feel they can make good decisions. They will learn to ask for advice next time if things don't go well. AND DON'T BAIL THEM OUT!
posted by Reflective Views at 12:29 PM on April 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

It's pretty easy to travel in Europe, a passport, a visa card and a cellphone will get you far. Your daughter has a lot of options, like youth hostels, couchsurfing, airbnb, friends, and the university will also have access to further options.
posted by Tobu at 12:32 PM on April 9, 2014

Best answer: Hi, I kind of live near there! I can offer that St. Etienne is a smaller industrial city near Lyon and not that interesting in itself. But Lyon is an easy day or weekend trip and is super fun, so I would encourage them to plan on going into Lyon and exploring when possible! They can take a train into Lyon, and once there Lyon has an extensive and easy to use public transit system. I would even recommend that they do a weekend and stay at a cheap chain hotel - the B&B at Monplaisir Lumiere for example is right near a busy metro stop and is safe, clean, and affordable. That will let them enjoy the restaurants and nightlife without having to worry about a late night train back.

They will also be close to the Cotes du Rhone and Beaujolais and Burgundy wine regions. Wine tasting in France is a great way to explore the more rural areas, there are castles(!), and it is usually much cheaper and less formal than tourists expect. The tastings are almost always free and at everywhere but the highest end producers you can buy a bottle of wine (if you enjoyed the tasting) for less than 10 euro, often less than 5. If they can borrow or rent a car for a weekend it is a great thing to do with friends to get out of the city. They just should remember to be polite, and if they spend a lot of time somewhere and/or do an extensive tasting they should buy at least a bottle or two!

The French equivalent of Craigslist is, your daughter can look there for rooms. Only in French, but she can figure it out with a French speaking friend if necessary. I would agree to treat it like you would something similar in the US or Canada. Don't send money ahead of time, try to go visit with a friend the first time, etc. if you/she has the money to spend she might also try negotiating a weekly or monthly rate at a bed and breakfast. That way she would not be alone, if she's worried about that. The key word to google is "chambre d'hôte."

As someone who did similar things at that age, I really appreciated that my dad let me figure it out for myself, but also extended an unconditional offer of emergency help if I needed it for any reason. So I found my own place and made my own travel arrangements and had my own money, but my dad had all the details. He also gave me all his credit card info and trusted that I would only use it if really necessary. So I had the independence and adventure, but felt like I wasn't alone if something went wrong. Good luck and I hope they have a great time!
posted by ohio at 12:44 PM on April 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Have your daughter check out 9flats, which is the more Euro-centric version of Airbnb (which also may have listings) for potential lodging solutions.
posted by melissasaurus at 12:49 PM on April 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

Help her figure out her budget, and be willing to take a look at the options she comes up with and offer advice, but really make her figure out where to stay on her own. She will be just as safe there as wherever she lives in the US.
posted by amaire at 12:51 PM on April 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Good for you for allowing your kids the opportunity to travel! Yay Dad!

He isn't. They're adults who don't need Dad's permission to travel or to do anything else.

They'll be fine.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 1:25 PM on April 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Hey everyone my kids are adults that was not really the question, nor is my permission etc part of the question(though I am helping bankroll parts of it)... It may be because I said I am a worry wart that I am getting answers like that. What I want to know is advice for them regarding travel etc and for my Daughter, who does not have the option to stay with her brother so a "perfect" buddy system is not going to be possible and she has no friends that can go ATM.

Ohio that was great advice and thanks for the heads up what kind of place it is (google street view only gives so much). Though I could use advice for my own worry it has nothing to do with their trip I am "Only a consultant... with NO Experience"

So for a young female is there any concrete advice for traveling "alone" that is welcome as well as her brother will not always be right there.
posted by mrgroweler at 1:53 PM on April 9, 2014

It's not so much that she needs a "perfect" buddy system wherein someone she is already friends with now (or a sibling) can be with her 24/7 in all situations.

But, if she's going to a party, she shouldn't go completely alone. Bringing her brother along to vet potential apartments would be a smart idea.

I'm sure she'll meet new friends on the trip and during her time in France, and those people can obviously be incorporated into this concept of the buddy system. It's more about some other person having your back, and less about stranger danger or never going anywhere unaccompanied.
posted by Sara C. at 2:06 PM on April 9, 2014

Best answer: Part of being an adult is understanding just how much other people love and care about you. I'm in my mid-thirties, married, have been all over the world, and yet nothing worries my mom more than my traveling abroad alone simply because a) she's never done it and b) in the awful event something were to happen, she might have to suddenly figure out how to do it. Fear of the unknown can be an awful thing that gnaws at us.

I don't have any advice concerning France, but one thing I do when I travel is to carry a laminated business card on my person with all of my emergency contact information. (Frankly, I keep it in my bra to prevent identity theft and related concerns.) I also create a spreadsheet for my parents (and husband if he's not with me) with a rough itinerary, flight information, hotel/hostel address/phone, etc., my cell number, a copy of my passport ID page, and copies of all the documents I would need for a replacement passport, my DL, numbers of the nearest embassy/consulate (I carry that with me, too) and any other information that is pertinent. If I travel somewhere else I let someone know. I'm not talking day to day but just general stuff.

I also "check in" once a week. Of course, these days that's really easy with the internet. (I really don't need to do it since I email so much now, but the younger you are, the less you may think about home, right?) I've learned that the phone or skype is best. (I love and worry about them, too!) I don't like doing this stuff sometimes, and of course I've questioned the value of it from time to time - really, I have a better chance of getting in a car wreck driving down my own street than having something really bad happen while traveling - but it makes my loved ones feel better.

The most probable dangers/concerns are what everyone has to worry about, regardless of gender and in some respects regardless of place - i.e. pick pockets, stolen passports, lost wallets & phones, and, when I was a younger American, carelessness around alcohol. As a lone female, I have to admit I've felt safer in most places in Europe than I have in many parts of the US and Canada, and I follow most of the same rules (i.e don't sit next to lone men on trains and buses, be careful about how much personal information I let out in conversation with strangers...basic street smart kind of things, nothing special. Awareness, not paranoia.) If I have multiple credit cards, I like to keep one separate from the others in a safe place. While traveling (not day to day while staying in one place) I prefer a neck passport holder which I keep under my shirt, and I keep most of my money and other cards in there as well. Your kids might not be aware they exist, so a gentle nudge to get them to investigate might not be a bad thing.

If you're bankrolling part of their trip, you might "guide" them into making sure any credit/debit cards they use won't be hit with massive fees from international use. If there are fees, and they might not see credit card statements with that kind of information, consider setting up a Mint account they can use which everybody can log into, and make them responsible for checking it (i.e. setting a limit to how much TOTAL you will give them, which will include shocks from the exchange rate and those fees). (Or just give them the money and make them go through the process of figuring out exchange rates, etc.) As a side note, your daughter trying to figure out where to stay on her own can help her become more familiar with the area where they will be staying.

There's a saying that when you travel, you pack your fears*. At that age, your kids probably don't have many, and of course you want them to create and learn from their own experiences, including mistakes. You don't want your kids to pack your fear, either. But there's nothing wrong in asking them to have respect for your love and concern, and act appropriately by giving you the details of what they're doing and checking in once in a while.

*As a lone female traveler, looking at my preparations and my average suitcase, it's obvious that what I fear most is losing my passport and the weather. And sadly, what's driven my fear of losing my passport isn't an actual experience of losing it, but the fucking American air travel security system.
posted by barchan at 4:47 PM on April 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

As to the young female bit - young females travelling in western countries need to be mindful of the same kind of things they need to be mindful of living in western countries. The only additional consideration would be language barrier and the fact that [emergency] cash may be more important in small town rural France than at home because plastic may be less universally accepted for small day to day stuff.

Take a step back and let her figure it out. She'll be much better prepared for the trip if she has to do the research and figure out accommodation etc herself because that in itself will help her think things through and get her making better choices. Offer yourself as a sounding board for her plans but let her make them.
posted by koahiatamadl at 4:49 PM on April 9, 2014

Sorry, just back to say that as female and someone who travels a lot both for work and pleasure I've never used one of the neck passport holders suggested. When I embarked on my first big trip I tried a money belt and hated it. These things are good in theory but difficult to conceal under most summer clothing and just nasty when drenched in sweat. In the summer months most young women are unlikely to be wearing anything that would conceal these items. So by all means highlight the need for keeping your relevant papers/cards etc safe. And suggest they prepare a couple of copies of each, one to take along and keep separately, and one to leave with you should they lose any and need to replace them.

Let them work out how they are going to achieve the keeping with an keeping safe bit.

For your daughter my suggestion would be that she identifies what purse/backpack/shoulder bag she actually plans to take with her and use as her day to day bag and to make sure that that has internal zipped pockets to store such items safely. And to figure out what she plans to do when she doesn't want to use that bag e.g. for going out.

My personal solution for leisure travel is a smallish shoulder bag like this, which is doesn't look massive, is light weight but will accommodate camera, water bottle, sun screen, sun glasses, snack, book, wallet, travel documents and even a change of light weight summer clothing that folds small and has enough pockets to separate stuff out. And a wristlet type thing for the going out times, when I want to limit myself to cash/card/ID.
posted by koahiatamadl at 5:27 PM on April 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

I used a money belt when traveling rough through rural India completely on my own.

I wouldn't even consider it for a trip to France. Surely she's visited a city before, in the US?
posted by Sara C. at 5:45 PM on April 9, 2014 [5 favorites]

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