Worrying about your kids is par for the course when you’re a parent but send your little one on a plane trip by themselves and be prepared for your stress levels to go through the roof.
Flying solo can be a great experience for kids — they can learn independence, responsibility and enjoy a sense of adventure and exploration they would otherwise not be privilege to. However, it can also be a scary and stressful experience for you as well as for your child.
Plan ahead and follow these safety trips to make sure your child has a positive experience and makes it safely to their destination, not to mention letting you breathe a little easier while you wait to hear they arrived at their destination.
Start off with planning the simplest route possible, using only one airline for your child to reach their ultimate destination. Most airlines won’t accommodate unaccompanied minors that have to change airlines to make a flight connection.
Familiarize yourself with the specific guidelines of your chosen airline. Delta Air Lines and American Airlines, for example, only allow children aged 5–7 to travel on direct flights while children aged 8–14 are only allowed to travel on flights that connect through certain airports around the country. Specific documents are also required so make sure you’ve got what you need ahead of time.
Plan your child’s trip during daytime hours, as most airlines won’t allow an unaccompanied minor to travel on overnight flights.
Spend some time familiarizing your child with the plan ahead of time. Although you can’t account for unforeseen circumstances that may arise, you can go over what they should expect and answer any questions they may have. This will help alleviate stress en route for your child when they find themselves in a new situation.
Dress them comfortably and weather-appropriate and make sure they have a few creature comforts packed in their bag. If your little one has a favorite stuffed animal that helps put them at ease when they are nervous, make sure it goes with them to comfort them when they find themselves alone on an airplane. Send along a few favorite snacks so they don’t become hangry during their trip.
Make sure your child knows who will be picking them up at the end of their trip and make sure it’s someone they are familiar with. Add another level of security in case of emergencies by sending your child with a copy of their itinerary and emergency contact information.
Allow for plenty of time before the flight. Your child will feel more comfortable with the airline staff assisting them when they’ve had a chance to meet their assigned representative and will be more accepting of their help when you are there to help foster that relationship.
Whenever possible, take advantage of technology to add an extra layer of security to the experience. The Southwest Airlines app is a great example — it app allows you to track your child’s progress during the trip.
Adequately preparing your child and planning for their solo trip can not only eliminate potential problems, but make sure they arrive at their destination relaxed and ready to have fun. A successful solo trip as a child is a surefire way to prepare them for a lifetime of loving to travel.
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