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A Once In A Lifetime Opportunity with My Daughter Before She Leaves for College

Have you ever thought of taking a “collegemoon” with your kid? You’re probably thinking, “I’ve never heard of it,” which makes sense, because as far as I know, I coined the term. It’s sort of like taking a babymoon, but instead of going on a vacation before having a baby, you’re bonding with your child by taking a vacation together before they leave home to attend college.

I went on the Norwegian Cruise Line’s (NCL) Prima ship with my 17-year-old daughter before she goes off to college. This wasn’t planned, but it was the kind of opportunity you can’t pass up. NCL offered me, a freelance travel writer, a free eight-night cruise for me plus one. To make things even sweeter, Katy Perry was scheduled to perform a concert on the ship.

When I told my daughter about the voyage, she immediately said she wanted to go. She never willingly wants to spend time with me, so I was in uncharted territory (pun intended). Once the mother-daughter vacation planning began, she talked to me more than she had in the past five years. In fact, I had sort of forgotten what her voice sounded like. And she was so excited that I don’t think I saw one single eye roll from her — definitely a new record.

I realize that not everyone is able to go on an eight-night cruise with their teen. But after going on this trip, I’m confident that a collegemoon doesn’t have to be extravagant. It could be any fun parent-child vacation — a weekend camping trip, a road trip to visit a landmark, or a few days at the beach. The main idea is to spend quality time together, traveling somewhere fun for a few days — just you and your teen.

Here are some things I learned while traveling with my teen, and some reasons you might enjoy traveling with your teen too: 

Things I Learned On My Mother-Daughter Bonding Trip

1. Be silly with your teen. It’s fun!

My daughter wanted to go to a convenience store in every country we visited to sample local candy, food, and drinks. I don’t like shopping in convenience stores in the US, so I thought this sounded ridiculous. Plus, I didn’t know if I would ever get the chance to visit Europe again — did I really want to spend the limited time I had walking up and down the aisles of a glorified grocery store?? 

But, she had seen some YouTube videos about tasting foreign convenience store foods and besides seeing Katy Perry, this was really the only thing she talked about wanting to do. I gave in. And you know what? I’m glad I did, because she loved it! When we went into those convenience stores, she literally jumped up and down like she just won some type of award. Her excitement was so contagious, I actually found myself looking forward to what we would find in those stores.

At the first store in Ireland, there were so many different types of candy, my daughter couldn’t decide which ones to buy. To help her make this incredibly important decision she asked a local woman and her child what their favorites were and what they would recommend trying. Visiting a convenience store in every country ended up being a fun way to bond as mother and daughter, interact with locals, and try new types of candy, food, and drink items. Who knew?

2. Give yourselves time to hang out. 

If you go on a collegemoon, I highly recommend including downtime. I thought I should pack our days with excursions to Stonehenge, the Rouen Cathedral in France, and shopping in Kinsale, Ireland while we were in Europe, but looking back I understand why on those days my kid felt grumpy and upset. I had worn her out with all the walking, sightseeing, and lack of sleep. She recovered, but I wish I had planned for more down time. The best part of our collegemoon was spending time together, just the two of us. I think we both would have been happier with more time eating in a cafe or people watching in a park.

3. One special trip can bring you closer.

I can still remember the moment of stepping on the cruise ship, looking at each other, and feeling a shared excitement that continued throughout the whole trip. Every new experience, large or small — like singing together at a Katy Perry concert, or going down the ship’s water slide, or eating foreign candy — strengthened our bond. And now, since returning, we’re able to recreate the fun we had together by joking about our experiences and talking more than we have in years.

I know I’ll miss my daughter terribly when she leaves for college in August, but I have a plan in place for when I’m feeling sad: I’ll pull up a picture of the two of us posing in the atrium of the cruise ship about to go to a posh event in Iceland. I’m positive that I’ll be smiling within seconds remembering our mother-daughter trip. Maybe I’ll even start planning our next adventure together.

Cheryl Maguire holds a Master of Counseling Psychology degree. She is married and is the mother of twins and a daughter. Her writing has been published in The New York Times, Parents Magazine, AARP, Healthline, Your Teen Magazine and many other publications. She is a professional member of ASJA. You can find her at Twitter @CherylMaguire05

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