If traveling alone as an adult is challenging, doing so as a kid is even more so. It is going to be difficult to have to carry your bags, plus deal with other things when flying domestically or abroad. However, it can still be an enjoyable experience even when it is daunting to travel alone for the first time as a kid.
At what age can you travel alone? Airlines generally allow children ages 5 to 14 without their parent or guardian to fly, considering them as “unaccompanied minors.” Children ages 15 to 17 can also travel alone, which has optional unaccompanied minor service. It’s the typical rules for the youngest age to travel alone, although airlines may differ slightly.
If you are a kid flying as an unaccompanied minor or a parent who has to let your child travel alone, ensuring their safety is essential. Millions of children fly alone every year, and they are generally safe. However, something could still happen, which makes it crucial to come fully prepared for any trip.
How Old Do You Have to Be to Travel Alone?
If it is only traveling, perhaps the ideal age is around teens. But even children can be capable of going on a trip on their own, and that includes flying. As for flying, the age allowed for traveling alone depends on the airline. But as mentioned before, the general policy is that children age 5 to 12 can fly alone if you make use of the accompanied minor service.
However, this is subject to availability. In some airlines – often the low-cost ones – children may travel alone if they are 16 years or more. If not, you will most likely be denied boarding the plane. That’s why it is advised that before booking a flight, check with your airline first. It will help you not to waste time, money, and effort going to the airport when you are, in fact, not allowed to fly on your own.
General Guidelines for Unaccompanied Minors
As you already know, the rules and age guidelines for unaccompanied minors vary from airline to airline. But here is what you can expect:
- Ages 1 – 4: Can fly by plane, but only when an adult accompanies them. It means that a person must be at least 5 years old to travel solo when it comes to flying.
- Ages 5 – 7: Children of this age can board a flight to a single, direct destination. However, they cannot take connecting flights in most cases.
- Ages 8 and above: Those of this age range can take a direct flight and connecting flights. Airline personnel will usually escort them to their connecting flight. They can also change airplanes on some airlines.
- Ages 17 and below: Children below 17 years of age can fly alone on an international flight. However, they must provide a signed letter of consent from their parent or guardian.
These ages reflect the age of the passenger at the time they boarded the plane, not at the time of booking. Make sure to contact your airline first to know about the age specifications for unaccompanied minors since the guidelines may be a little different for every carrier.
Are Children Allowed to Change Planes?
Children age 7 or below cannot make any connections, which is what most airlines do. Children who are old enough may change planes can do so with the assistance of airline personnel. On the other hand, some airlines don’t allow any minor to change planes or connections. Some of them don’t even allow unaccompanied minors to board international flights, although most airlines do.
What Do You Need to Do to Send an Unaccompanied Minor to Fly Alone?
For parents or adults who need to send their minor children by plane alone, they will have to fill out some papers. Mainly, they need to provide their children with a form with relevant information about them, such as name and age. When the child arrives at their destination, an airline representative will escort them from the plane and release to the adult the parent named before the flight.
Essential Tips on Preparing Your Child to Travel Alone by Plane
Now you realize that you can travel alone young as you are. But that, of course, can be a little dangerous. Children flying alone, any parent would be worried that something could happen during the flight. Fortunately, airline policies make sure that your kids will be safe from the moment they boarded and the minute they landed. You can ensure your child’s safety by following these guidelines.
From the very beginning, don’t wait until you are at the airport before letting the airline know you will be sending an unaccompanied minor. When you first booked the flight and talked to the customer service, always give them this information. Similarly, ask them about all options and other information about unaccompanied minor service.
If possible, buy a nonstop ticket, so there’s less possibility of any delays or mishaps. It is better this way even if the unaccompanied minor can already make connections. If it’s necessary to change planes, best to use a small airport with less traffic for the transfer. Also, make sure that you only choose connecting cities that permit children to fly alone.
If you can, book a flight in the morning. This way, it is possible to make alternate plans in case the flight is delayed or canceled. It also helps if you check in early, so you can get your child more accustomed to the airport surroundings. Similarly, you can take this time to show your child the airport personnel who can help them and where the help desks are.
Make sure that your child knows what to do in case of an emergency. Let them carry information such as emergency contacts, instructions if they have canceled or delayed flight or means for travel payments. The unaccompanied minor should also have an ID or a copy of their birth certificate. Don’t forget to let know they can ask for airline or airport assistance if necessary.
Ensure that all their travel documents are safe, while also helping them get familiar with their itinerary. Also, pack them some finger food or snacks such as sandwiches, chips or fruits like grapes. Once you pass through the security checkpoint, you should also get them water or juice for the flight. Letting them bring some books or games will help to keep them entertained.
Give your child some cash for the trip. They need it to cover any expenses they might have in an emergency. Even if you have taken all necessary preparations for the trip, incidents may happen. In that case, you want to make sure your child has the means to get to where he or she needs to go.
Checked baggage would be a hassle for small children to bring. It’s probably better to choose a carry-on bag. But if they need to bring a checked bag, make sure the luggage tug and claim ticket match their destination. With that, there’s less risk of their personal belongings getting lost.
At the airport, ask for a gate pass from the ticket counter if possible. This way, you can accompany an unaccompanied minor through security up to his gate. It will comfort your child when he or she flies alone for the first time. On the other hand, you might not be allowed to pass through security if your child is already old enough to fly on their own, but it depends on the airline.
One of the essential tips for a child traveling alone is to ensure they have a photo of the person who will pick them up. It should also include the full name, contact number, and address of that person. Besides making sure your child has this information, you must also provide it to the airline. This way, it will be easier for the airline personnel to assist in identifying the person at the destination airport.
You ask, what age can you travel alone? A child as young as 5 years old can already do so. They can even fly on their own, but that doesn’t mean they can handle it, or that you should let them. In this article, we’ve provided you with some knowledge on how you can keep an unaccompanied minor safe from flying alone. But it’s only the parent who can decide if that’s okay or not.
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