School's out for moolies too

The kids aren't the only ones looking forward to schoolies week, with mums planning their own escapes to celebrate the end of year 12.

It could be the next big thing for schoolies week ... but school-leavers need not apply.

It's not just students who breathe a sigh of relief when year 12 is over - parents all over the country will be saying, "Thank goodness for that".

So why should it be only the teenagers who get to have a trip away?

So went the thinking of Sydney businesswoman Sue Gleave who is promoting "moolies", or end-of-year trips away for the mothers of schoolies.

The majority of hard-partying schoolies rated their experiences as negative.

Gleave, who is a partner in a Hunter Valley accommodation-booking business, Stays in the Vines, had plenty of experience in organising women's weekends and saw an opportunity to cater for groups of school-leavers' mums.

She floated the idea to a small section of her customer database and says there was a big response. Bookings for seven groups are already being finalised.

The reaction has motivated Gleave to work on a more structured moolies package, to be released closer to the HSC exam period.

"Now that we've got the bit between our teeth, we're really going for it," she says. "We'll be doing it every year."

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Gleave herself is planning to take part in a moolies break after her only daughter sits her HSC exams later this year.

Gleave has booked a house in the Hunter and, together with six friends, will indulge in a short break including a degustation dinner prepared by a visiting chef, trips to wineries and champagne makers, and a visit to a spa.

"It's [celebrating] surviving the HSC," she says.

"The HSC is a tough time for the kids, no doubt about it ... but it's a tough time for parents, too.

"I can't wait for it to be over, I'm counting the days. It will be a well-deserved holiday."

Gleave, who says she can also cater for dads wanting to do their own trips (doolies?), says an end-of-year trip away is a good method of cementing friendships to ensure they survive after the school connection is lost.

She expects demand to be largely for short breaks, as many parents will have work commitments and other children to worry about.

The online travel agency travel.com.au says it has also seen demand from mothers of school-leavers who want to get away at the end of the year.

"We receive quite a few calls from women inquiring about where to head away with their group of friends around late November, early December," says the company's consultant, Sarah Brown.

"It's interesting when chatting with these women that many have teenagers finishing up at school and have decided to plan their own mothers' break while the kids are off at schoolies."

Brown says after the "long haul of year 12", many mums think they, too, deserve some time away.

Meanwhile, with HSC exams just 12 weeks away (apologies for the reminder), school-leavers will soon be turning their attention to their own trips away.

Many will be heading to the Gold Coast and other traditional schoolies hot spots to party until they drop, but others are turning their backs on schoolies as we have known it.

The travel industry is reporting growing demand for "schoolies without the hangover".

Teenagers are signing up for adventure trips, sporting holidays and other alternatives. The Scripture Union-backed SU Schoolies, for example, has about 300 school-leavers booked on a five-night sailing trip in the Whitsundays in November this year, with an active schedule of water and beach sports.

Another 250 are heading to the Sunshine Coast for activities including water-skiing, surfing, horse-riding and go-karting.

All SU Schoolies trips are alcohol- and drug-free, and the organisation says it has seen strong growth in demand over the past few years.

A leading adventure travel operator, World Expeditions, has also launched into the schoolies market this year, with options on offer under the World Youth Adventures brand including an eight-day trip to Vietnam and a 12-day hiking and wildlife adventure in Nepal.

The company says there have been very few alternatives on offer for the school-leavers that don't want to spend their schoolies week simply partying.

The World Youth Adventures schoolies trips were launched in response to demand from parents, as well as a study that found the majority of hard-partying schoolies rated their schoolies' experiences as negative.

The 2011 report, which was funded by the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) and prepared by the Centre for Health Initiatives at the University of Wollongong, makes for disturbing reading.

A survey of 512 schoolies found that the majority intended to drink more than usual during their schoolies break, with "usual" being an already-high eight to 12 standard drinks a session for males and four to eight drinks a session for females.

About 43 per cent of males and 12 per cent of females were expecting to have sex with multiple partners, and about 28 per cent of males and 16 per cent of females were expecting to have intercourse without protection.

When interviewed after the event, seven out of 10 respondents who had engaged in behaviours such as heavy drinking rated their experiences as negative.

Coast still gold

Demand for alternative schoolies trips might be on the rise, but traditional offerings are certainly not going out of fashion.

Unleashed Travel, which specialises in "schoolies only" holidays in overseas destinations such as Bali and Fiji, recently sold 1300 packages in just 12 minutes, for schoolies trips next year.

The managing director, Jot Lynas, says schoolies are planning their travel well in advance and those who leave it to the last minute have limited options.

Leading schoolies operator schoolies.com is also enjoying healthy bookings, with 26,000 school-leavers booked with the company for this year's schoolies period, which runs from late November until early December.

Another 10,000 have already booked for next year.

The chief executive of schoolies.com, Matt Lloyd, says the Gold Coast remains by far the most popular destination, accounting for 90 per cent of all bookings.

The remainder is made up of Byron Bay, Lorne, Airlie Beach, the Sunshine Coast and Magnetic Island.

jane@janeefraser.com.au

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