There’s always a story or seven doing the rounds in the long lead-up to Schoolies week.
There are the little stories about the partying, drinking and sex and more partying, drinking and more sex. And then there are the bigger stories that give parents the sweats even more and cause them to blow into a paperbag when no-one is looking: the boy falling asleep on the wrong side of the high-rise apartment balcony, the girl in a car accident after accepting a lift with a Toolie (an adult who gatecrashes schoolies), the “sweet daughter” arrested for assaulting a police officer.
While the stories do the rounds and make some parents (known as Poolies) decide it’s a good idea to go on schoolies with their 18-year-old to “keep them safe”, we thought on the eve of this year’s week-long soiree we’d leave the wild anecdotes to the wild kids and instead deliver some straight Schoolies week information.
Jot Lynas, has worked with 15,000 students over 10 years as the director of Unleashed Travel, a leading provider of overseas travel packages for school leavers, and he shares his inside knowledge of Schoolies week with Debrief Daily.
Where are the most popular schoolie destinations?
The most popular destinations for Schoolies are the Gold Coast, Victor Harbor, Fiji and Byron Bay as well as regional Australian towns like Terrigal and Lorne. Europe, South East Asia and Vanuatu are on the rise, with the popularity of these destinations increasing annually. Bali used to be a big Schoolies destination, but it is no longer as popular for school leaver travel.
What has changed about schoolies in the last 10 years?
We have seen a shift from the binge drinking culture Schoolies trips had 8-10 years ago, with students now favouring a trip they won’t forget. School leavers are looking for experiences in new locations with their friends – going beyond drinks and a hotel room. I have seen a 98 per cent increase in bookings for Europe trips and a 56 per cent increase in adventure-themed trips since last year. We’ve also had a 15 per cent increase in volunteering trips which demonstrates that school leavers are looking to engage with local cultures and give back.
What are schoolies looking for in a destination?
Schoolies are looking for sunshine, the beach, a nice hotel and lots of things to do. They want a place that gives them the freedom to enjoy themselves, but also a place with facilities to help them and their friends if they need it.
What are parents looking for in a destination?
Safety is the number one priority for parents but beyond that they look for a graduate trip that is more of an experience, something that will give their child an experience they wouldn’t get otherwise. Parents also get peace of mind knowing their child is in a resort closed off to those not participating in Schoolies, with crew and security around, and with phone and Wi-Fi connectivity.
Even if they’re not paying, parents look for value for money and can help influence their child’s decision or identify a better deal.
Who pays for the week
We are seeing students becoming much more independent, with half of recent graduates paying for their trip without help from mum and dad.
What's the average cost of Schoolies week?
You can pay anything from $300 all the way up to $5000 and that’s the difference between a camp-site at your local beach versus 21 days in Europe. The average is around the $2200-3000 mark for flights, meals, activities, etc.
Are parents checking in on their children during the week?
We encourage Schoolies to keep in touch with their families a few times a week and they do. They might not speak to them on the phone very much over the course of their trip but see them keeping in touch via Facebook and other forms of online messaging. Students have access to free Wi-Fi at their hotels in most destinations outside Australia, or are in a position where they can get to free Wi-Fi easily.
How do Schoolies avoid some of those bad situations we hear about?
I think that for a Schoolie to be alone and surrounded by Toolies that they don’t know would be a cause for concern and a situation my company Unleashed Travel works hard to avoid. In this situation, risks can include drink spiking, sexual or physical abuse and being pressured into doing activities a Schoolie is inexperienced to participate in.
What does the ultimate Schoolies entail?
Most Schoolies would say the best situation they found themselves in would involve a group of friends on a private island with the sun shining, and I couldn’t agree more. For them, it’s the trip of a lifetime – soon they go off to university and start their working lives, making it a less opportune time to travel with friends.