How to prepare when your child is traveling alone
Traveling can be very stressful for parents with their children, but what do you do when you are unable to be with your kids when they fly? Whether your child is going to camp a few states away, or visiting family and friends, you should be aware of your options as a parent of an unaccompanied minor.
Almost all airlines offer services for children flying solo. In fact, most airlines require unaccompanied minors who are between the ages of 5 and 15 to use its UM services. If you choose to not use this service, your child will not be permitted to fly. If your child is being accompanied with a sibling or friend over the age of 16, they do not have to use the airlines UM services (this differs for each airline, so be sure to research the exact terms and conditions for the specific airline you are flying) . Also, be sure to check the airlines individual guidelines for what is permitted in their age group (ex. 5-7: only non-stop flights, 8-14: may still fly if connecting flight is needed etc.) .
Be prepared, if your child is flying out of the country, to have a letter of consent from one or each parents if you cannot be there to give a verbal consent at the airport. Purchasing a plane ticket is not cheap, and if your child is having to fly as an unaccompanied minor there is usually a fee as well. Southwest Airlines charges $50 each way to escort your child to and from the plane, its connections, and to the individual picking them up at their destination . Southwest is one of the cheaper airlines for UM fees; American and Delta both charge $150 each way [1,2] so check to see which would be the best for your unique travel plans.
When arriving to the airport for the flight, be sure to arrive early. Many airlines ask that you arrive earlier than the usual two hours. This is especially vital if you will be filling out paperwork and completing identification procedures for your child and the person who will pick up your child at their destination. You will need to stay at the airport until your child's plane has taken off, and be sure that you and the person picking your child up are always available by phone. Whoever is picking up your child at their destination must provide proper identification at the gate.
Delta Airlines suggested to have the following prepared when your child is traveling alone :
- Documents they may need for the flight
- Contact information for you and the person picking them up
- Remind the child to only ask for assistance from uniformed representatives of the airline
- Pack carry-on baggage lightly and be sure to have tag on the bag
- Snacks for the flight (be sure they are TSA approved)
- Materials to keep your child entertained while traveling
- Arrive at the gate before your scheduled time
- Never leave the airport alone unless with specified airline escort
- Plan for necessary medical needs as the escort cannot administer medication to the UM
 Unaccompanied Minors, American Airlines  Unaccompanied Minor (UMNR) Service, Delta Airlines  Unaccompanied Minors, Southwest Airlines
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