Lots of us have kids who are away at school and who will be traveling home for school break or kids who will be traveling away from home for the holidays. Either way we are concerned when they travel alone especially when it involves air travel. Here are some ideas I have used to help to make the process easier.
Identify a Place for The Child to Store Travel Documents
If the child is away at school perhaps the school makes provision for storing these important documents. If not, ensure that your child places the documents in his room in a box or a bag under lock and key. Even on the day of travel, I let my son store his documents in a see through container in a specified enclosed area of his bag so that it is easily accessible by him and clearly visible. This is especially important for kids who have to travel abroad and need to have not only passport but also school forms for immigration purposes.
Make Arrangements for the Child to Travel as Unaccompanied Minor
Under this program the child is chaperoned by an airline official who makes sure that the child boards the plane, meets the flight attendant and locates the appropriate person on arrival. The airlines have different policies as to the age limits of those who MUST participate in the unaccompanied minor’s program, for example for Northwest it is ages 5-14 while on United it is 5-11 so check with the respective airline. In the case of older teens some airlines, not all often offer them option to travel as an unaccompanied minor. Many teens (like my son) hate this, especially if they are tall and ordered to wear that bright airline button. Nevertheless, it is recommended that you take this option particularly when traveling overseas or when the weather is bad as this can lead to cancellations, lost baggage and delays. Remember many hotels do not accept minors alone.
This can be a life saver so don’t let him or her leave without it. All the numbers of appropriate persons must be stored including the airline numbers. If he is delayed and can’t make a connection or having problems with immigration you need to know. This of course brings to mind another important tip.
Make Sure Your Child Has Cash
Remember depending on the length of the flight, most airlines now offer only a beverage service so you child will need cash to purchase food. One never knows too with the airlines nowadays if he will need to pay extra for a change of flight, taxi or other mode of transport. You can deal with the airlines later but you need to get him home so let him go prepared.
Try to Avoid Checking Baggage
This is not always possible but if you can, try to have him travel with carry on alone. This avoids the lost baggage drama which many of us have endured and allows him to get out to see you early. If he is traveling with carry on luggage any at all ensure that it is not too heavy as sometimes he will have to climb stairs or walk long distances. You will also have to instruct him on the allowed items as mandated by the Transport Security Administration (TSA). Another benefit of the carry on is that he can carry an extra item of clothing, toothbrush and other essentials in case checked baggage gets lost.
Secure Himself and His Bag
Discourage him from engaging in conversations with strangers especially those who want to get personal. Tell him not to give out personal information like name, address and telephone number. Also, and this is very, very important, your child must always watch his bag. He must never let it leave his sight and never agree to carry something for any stranger. If he agrees to take something for a friend he must know exactly what it contains or else just say no.
Hopefully if you can manage to apply these, your experience will be a little less nail biting and your child will reach home safely.