Advice: When a Child Travels Solo.
I have been traveling on airplanes since I can remember. When I was little I was afraid of the bathroom on the plane. I also didn't like to put headphones on to listen to the music, but I always had my mom or dad nearby.
Sometimes on trips we would get cool flight wing pins or crayons from the stewardess and on special trips we often got to meet the pilot, but I was always with my family.
Finally I visited my cousins in Tampa and I got to fly all by myself. I knew for a few months that by choosing to go to Space Camp in Florida that my Dad wasn't going to drive me. I was going to get to fly alone and even before my sister got to do it. Cool!
They let me board with my Mom and find my seat. The steward took my ticket. I didn't like that idea much because what if he forgot it was mine, but that is the way they do it for kids who are not yet twelve. As we entered the plane I tried to see the pilot but everyone was rushing and I couldn't see without asking permission so that was that.
Traveling alone was different from what I expected. I got a pillow and a blanket along with a window seat on each plane I took. The people who sat next to me were nice and it wasn't scary like I thought it would be…and the plane did not crash. The time went quickly and even when our plane had engine trouble the stewardess explained what we were going to do and nobody got confused. We had to change planes and some people had to get new seats but not me.
The neatest thing about traveling alone was how nice everyone was to me on the plane. The flight attendants made it easy for me by making sure I was comfortable and had everything I needed. I felt special. The only thing I did not like is the food was not too great. I really should have had my own snacks to eat on the plane. Actually, traveling alone was great; anyway I met another child also traveling alone. We shared our books and played tic-tac-toe.
Kid's Advice: If your child will be traveling alone you just have to trust that they will be fine. Here are some ideas to make things better.
1. At least one terrific book to read.
2. An activity book or game.
3. If the child is younger give them a stuffed animal or favorite toy.
4. They need to have pencils and markers.
5. It is a good idea to take a deck of cards because airlines do not have them except on overnight flights.
6. Give them their own list of important phone numbers, just incase they need them.
7. Some of the kids I met had their own money incase they needed to buy a snack or call home.
8. Tell your child who is meeting them. Even though parents have to fill out forms for the airline and all of that is supposed to be on those papers, it makes kids feel a little more secure if they also know the answers.
9. Make sure they know where the bathroom is before you leave the plane. And explain about how to lock and unlock the door. It is a horrible feeling to think you have locked the door forever and it is worse when there is a sign or a voice saying return to your seat.
As the holiday-heavy time of the year approaches some of you may be considering whether or not to let your child fly alone. I avoided this situation for eleven years but last June, as my 11-year old departed for Space Camp, I stood heart-in-my-throat as the plane left the gate with my child but not me.
As we were making the plans I learned about many more situations than I had ever imagined. The "what if" list could really go on forever, luckily airlines staff can answer questions you may not have thought to ask.
There is an escort charge for children under the age of 12-years of age. It varies by airline and destination. I was impressed with the care from the airline. I have talked to parents who still pay for the service even though their child is twelve. What is the price peace of mind?
During our daughter's flight there was an unscheduled plane change. She told us it was no big deal and that the stewardess was very nice and helpful. I am glad that I did not know at the time.
Things to do to for your child so that you will have peace of mind.
1. Check with the airline of your choice to make sure of the services provided. This one time when a family-friendly travel agent will know about the best options. Hint do not start their trip late in the day because if delays occur there will be less options.
2. If two siblings are traveling together make sure each knows the rules and what is expected by each.
3. Divide snacks or entertainment items ahead of time.
4. Agree who gets the window seat and for how long. If need be write it down so when they are on their way no squabbles occur mid air.
5. Give them their own copy of important information.
6. For plus 10-year-olds a phone card may be the only way to ensure that they call when they arrive. It might also be useful should delays occur and your child wishes to talk to you.
7. Ask any and all questions as soon as you think of them. Non are dumb. Once you have been assured put the rest of the stuff out of your mind. "What ifs." Will make you crazy.
Content and images by FTF. Written By Jule Nelson-Duac at age 11 and updated 2008.