Keeping Your Teenager—and Your Money—Safe on Spring Break

From theft prevention to travelers insurance, how to prep your teen and your wallet.

I Heart Spring Break message in bold capital letters on a stretch of clean golden sand
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Travelers insurance typically costs about 5 to 7 percent of the entire trip, according to Carol Mueller, vice president of Travel Guard, one of the companies listed on the U.S. Department of State's website. Travelers insurance also covers expenses such as an overnight hotel stay if your teen's flight is cancelled and he or she can't fly out of the country the same day.

Don't give your kids too much money. This may seem counterintuitive since you don't want your teen or young adult to be stranded in a city without any money or resources, but remember, we live in an era of mobile and Internet banking. With banks offering more ways to transfer cash, as long as you have a quick and convenient way to get money to your son or daughter, it's becoming less important to stuff a teenager's wallet with cash and credit cards, either of which could be stolen or misused.

[Read: A Guide for Credit Card Newbies.]

Meanwhile, Seaman advises: "Don't lend your kid your credit card. Just don't."

If you want your teen to have some sort of plastic, you could consider a prepaid card, says Seaman, although she cautions that you need to do your research since many come with fees.

And yet another downside of most prepaid cards is that if your teenager loses it or it's stolen, it's like losing cash—you and your teen won't get your money back.

But there are some exceptions. For instance, both Visa and Mastercard offer prepaid travel cards that are refundable if stolen. Or you could go with old-fashioned travelers checks, which also will be replaced if they're taken or lost.

Still, another reason you may want to be careful about loading up a teenager with too much money on spring break is that money equals freedom, and while you want your teenager to be independent and have freedom, you may not want them to have too much. When Julie Talenfeld, president of Boardroom Communications, a public relations and marketing firm in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., financed most of her daughter Jackie Zobel's share of a two-night hotel stay over spring break in Key West, Fla., last year with her three best friends, she gave her $80 in spending money.

It was enough to have fun, but perhaps not enough to have the kind of wild night that is the stuff of parents' spring-break nightmares.

[See Dilly-Dally on These Financial Duties and It Will Cost You.]

Talenfeld, who worked out the hotel payment arrangements with her daughter's friends' parents beforehand and paid for the stay on her credit card, also made sure management was fine with the arrangement and worked it out so the young guests couldn't get incidentals beyond the two-night visit. There would be no ordering room service, for instance.

Of course, keeping your teenagers safe over spring break goes far beyond making sure the financials are in order. It's also about offering those priceless pearls of parental wisdom to ensure everyone comes home happy, which was the case for Zobel and her friends.

"I made sure to tell her to make sure everyone buckled their seatbelts and not to blast the radio and dance while driving," says Talenfeld, who managed to work in everything from stranger-danger to Ted Bundy into her mini-lecture. "Just because someone is in college," she says, "it doesn't mean he or she is a good guy or girl."