Year 12 is wrapping up, exams are almost here and you can see the light at the end of the tunnel. We mean the tunnel that’s 13 years of schooling, not, you know, the tunnel of life. The point is, with that light comes C-E-L-E-B-R-A-T-I-O-N.
Yes, we’re talking about schoolies. Should you go? And more to the point, is schoolies actually worth it? It’s a bit of a loaded question, but we’re here to help you unpack it.
From how much it costs, to what you’ll actually do and how safe it is, here’s everything you should consider before making a call on whether schoolies is the right post exams celebration for you.
You’ve probably heard a bit about schoolies in the news – it gets a lot of press time, and rarely for positive reasons (we’ll get to safety in a minute). But let’s look beyond the media and get right down to what you can actually do at schoolies.
Firstly, it’s important to note that schoolies can be whatever you make it. There are, of course, the traditional notions of what schoolies is – a week on the Gold Coast partying hard with fellow high school graduates from around Australia. But many school leavers choose to have a quieter celebration of their own creation with their friends, family or even solo.
If you’re asking the question ‘what’s schoolies like?’, however, you’re probably wanting to know what to expect at the popular schoolies events and destinations. The main organised events are parties – we're talking music festivals, DJ sets at popular nightclubs, pool, beach and dress-up parties. So, in short, the main activities are dancing, drinking (if you’re 18+) and socialising.
What if you’re under 18 at schoolies?
All of the popular schoolies destinations run party packages and events for underage teens, so you can rest assured you won’t miss out on the fun. It’s best to enjoy schoolies with friends who are also under 18 however, as you may not be able to go all the places your 18+ friends can.
Some local businesses at popular schoolies destinations may run specials for underage schoolies-goers on activities such as laser tag, paint ball and escape rooms. Having fun and celebrating doesn’t need to involve drinking – whether you can legally or not!
How do you organise schoolies activities?
Purchasing a schoolies package
There are several private organisations like schoolies.com that provide popular schoolies packages offering the full schoolies experience, in the traditional sense of the event. They take care of accommodation and access to a week of parties and events. While it’s super convenient to have everything arranged for you, it does mean less flexibility when it comes to cost, cancellation and fitting in other activities you may want to arrange independently. You have to book for a full 7 days, within the specified 3-week schoolies period, so there isn’t really an option if you want a shorter or longer trip. These packages are organised for specific popular schoolies destinations such as the Gold Coast and Byron Bay.
You might enjoy this type of schoolies experience if: you want the convenience of having everything organised for you, and you’re keen to be in the thick of the parties and celebrations.
Organising schoolies independently
Like we said above, you also have the option to create your own schoolies celebrations. This might mean picking a quieter spot for a holiday, or going camping with a group of close friends, and organising a range of fun activities specific to your interests, or just using the time to chill out.
If you want to book accommodation for you and your mates independently during the schoolies period, be aware that some accommodation providers have restrictions or additional rules and fees for schoolies-goers. Be sure to read the terms and conditions of your booking carefully.
Many school leavers also choose to go on an international holiday rather than a week-long party – this could be with friends, family, or by yourself on a tour (Contiki, Topdeck and Intrepid all offer organised group tours targeted at young people travelling solo). This type of celebration provides much more variety and flexibility, though it does require a little extra effort on your part to arrange. Of course, you always have the option to pay for a travel agent or tour company to organise it for you.
You might enjoy this type of schoolies experience if: you aren’t as fussed about partying and socialising with people you don’t know, and your idea of celebration involves a little more variety in activities.
How much does schoolies cost?
Schoolies can initially seem like a pretty big expense, but there are ways you can cut costs depending on what you want to prioritise for your celebrations. Some of the more popular destinations will obviously be more expensive, and the cost of accommodation does also depend on how early you book. Accommodation is arguably the biggest expense to consider, but whether you plan to drink or not will also have an impact on your budget.
For these reasons and others, answering the question ‘how much is schoolies?’ isn’t exactly straightforward. You could get away with a budgetweek-long schoolies trip on the Gold Coast for around $1400 (think dormitory-style accommodation, hot chips for dinner and free beach parties) or you could choose a week-long destination schoolies package to Fiji for around $2700 (including flights, food, parties, activities and accommodation).
Comparatively, you could book a place on a 5-day group tour of Vietnam starting at $500 (includes accommodation, some meals, activities and transport, but doesn’t include flights to and from destination). Or you could book schoolies approved accommodation in a slightly quieter location like Casuarina (40 minutes down the road from the more popular Byron Bay) for a more chill beachfront schoolies experience with 9 other friends for just $83 per person each night (approx. $418 each for 5 nights of accommodation only – not including food and activities).
So, all in all, you can spend as little or as much as you like on a schoolies experience, though if you want to know specifically what a week of schoolies on the Gold Coast will cost, it’s going to be over $1000 once you factor in transport, accommodation, food, alcohol, parties and activities.
Remember you will need to pay a bond or security deposit for your accommodation, which will be refunded on check out if you do not damage the property. Check how much the bond is going to be per person for your accommodation and be sure to factor this into your budget.
How long does schoolies go for?
Schoolies typically runs for around 3 weeks across November and December, but you'll likely only attend 1 week of celebrations. If you book a schoolies accommodation and parties package, you’ll often have the option to elect to attend the week designated for other school leavers from your state.
2023 Schoolies dates
Week 1: 18–25 November
Week 2: 25 November – 3 December
Week 3: 2 December – 10 December
If you choose to organise your own schoolies celebrations, there isn’t really a restriction on when and for how long you choose to celebrate (though your parents may have something to say about it if you try to party all summer). If you don’t book a schoolies package but still want to take part in specific schoolies parties and activities with other Australian school leavers, you’ll want to book your accommodation for some time within that 3-week period.
Is schoolies safe?
Alright, it’s time to address the elephant in the room. You’ve seen the news stories and heard the warnings. Perhaps your parents have already voiced some concerns about the dangers of schoolies. There are, of course, risks involved with attending schoolies. But there are also ways to mitigate those risks and celebrate safely.
We aren’t here to tell you what you should or shouldn’t do while you party or regale you with horror stories of schoolies past. What we can do is point you in the direction of resources and information about safety at schoolies that may help you determine whether it’s the right kind of celebration for you.
Safer Schoolies is the Queensland government website dedicated to all things schoolies. It has a bunch of great resources for teens and parents alike, to help everyone enjoy a safe and fun schoolies period.
Reachout has some no-nonsense quick tips for looking out for your mates, having a great time and staying safe.
Smart Traveller provides essential, up-to-date advice for any school leavers considering travelling internationally for their schoolies celebrations.
Headspace serves up safe partying tips and their wider website has some useful resources for easing anxiety and looking out for your mental health at what can be an emotionally charged time.
You may have heard of Red Frogs in relation to schoolies. The Red Frogs team offers peer support to school leavers during schoolies celebrations. They’re around 24/7 at popular schoolies destinations to provide emotional support, help you get home safely at the end of a long night, fill you up with a pancake breakfast and visit your rooms for a chat when needed or even to help you clean up. They’re your non-judgemental support unit throughout schoolies.
Worried about what happens at schoolies? Talk through your concerns with your friends and family. You may even wish to seek advice from health professionals, counsellors and mentors. Don't be afraid to ask questions and seek answers.
Be aware of peer pressure when it comes to deciding whether you want to go to schoolies or not. It’s your decision to make, and you’re the one who will be looking back on this time of your life in years to come. Hopefully, this article has helped you make a decision that will lead to you remembering your end of school celebrations with fondness, rather than regret.
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