Graduating from high school is a milestone that should be celebrated somehow. But with a $2,000 Hawaii vacation?
Yep, thanks to mom and dad, and all that cash enclosed in those congratulatory cards.
Take for example, Lodi High graduate Elizabeth Dils. To take a seven-day trip to Waikiki, she had to help her mom cut costs. She borrowed a friend's prom dress and went without separate graduation and birthday gifts (she turned 18 within two days of graduating).
After raising the funds, Dils joined seven other girls and eight guys from Lodi High on package trip, which included hotel rooms, airfare and a shuttle ride to and from the airport, and cost $1,025 per person (not including spending money, meals and activities). Dils said she knew of several other groups of Lodi and Tokay graduates in Waikiki.
Area travel agents say Waikiki continues to be the No. 1 senior trip destination, though cruises, with siblings, parents and even grandparents, are gaining popularity.
"It just depends on how close they are to mommy and daddy," said Joan Simpson, a travel agent for about 30 years with Lodi's B and J Travel.
With graduation gift money burning a hole in their pockets, the no-parental-supervision vacationers rented mopeds, shopped, went to a luau and club-hopped on the "Pub Crawl" bus (on which IDs were checked and alcohol rules were strictly enforced). Some of the girls caught a male revue at the 17-and-older club, The Cellar.
"I'm a party girl so it was fun. I'm very social," said Dils. She loved the fact that Waikiki's buzz of shops, tourists and street performers didn't stop, even after 11 p.m. - very much unlike Lodi.
While she was in Hawaii, Jenyn Aebi didn't go clubbing, but she did sneak into a lifeguard tower with some friends - a la TV's "The O.C." Her parents paid for the trip and the activities, while she spent graduation money for clothes and jewelry for herself and gifts for family at the open-air International Market Place and Ala Moana Center, the world's largest outdoor mall.
Aebi and several friends also visited the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor.
"The last day there, there (were) a lot of things we could have done. But we decided to make sure and see that," Aebi said. "It was something that I really wanted to do."
Kathy Beckman has been a travel consultant with Stockton's Segale Travel for about 30 years. In the past 10 years, senior trips have gained in popularity, she said. This year she booked trips for about 100 teens, most in groups of 10 to 20 - all without parents.
"A senior trip used to be Disneyland or a trip to Santa Cruz. It's evolved into something much more extravagant," Beckman said.
Beckman, however, won't book trips to Mexico for teens without an adult chaperone. The health and safety risks aren't worth it, she said.
Simpson, the Lodi travel agent, says Puerto Vallarta, Cabo San Lucas and Mazatlan in Mexico are favorites because of their Americanized resort culture. Waikiki, though more expensive, remains a top choice because of its activities and teen-friendly atmosphere, she said.
Stephanie Diehl, a Lodi High graduate, and her mom Nancy take a trip every summer and said this year's trip was special because it was her last before going off to college. They relaxed during a five-day Mexican cruise - going zip-lining, horseback riding and snorkeling. Then they acted like "big little kids" at Disneyland and California Adventure Park. It all cost her parents about $4,000.
In a few weeks she'll be cherishing a "real" senior trip: Camping in Santa Cruz - but she'll be paying for it herself.
First published: Saturday, June 24, 2006