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Children Flying Solo

Other Considerations
money dollars wallet fees expensesAlthough many airlines offer discounts for minors under normal circumstances, if your child is flying unaccompanied, it is practically a certainty that you will pay a full adult price for the ticket. The good news? The fee you pay for an escort generally covers an unlimited number of related children traveling in the same party (except on Alaska Airlines, which will charge for more than three children). Hence, if you are sending your three children together, you pay only once.

On international flights, age restrictions are more stringent. Additional fees may apply for flights longer than six hours.

Some airlines may not allow unaccompanied minors to fly on the last connecting flight of the day, or on so-called "red eye" flights between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. Be sure to read each airline's policies carefully before booking.

After filling out some paperwork and paying the appropriate fees at check-in, one parent or guardian will receive a special pass that will allow him or her to get through the security checkpoint. The parent or guardian must accompany the child to the gate and wait there until the plane takes off.

Tips For Smooth Sailing
  • Never wait until you have reached the airport to inform the airline that you have a minor traveling unaccompanied. Always provide this information to customer service over the phone, and have them inform you of all your options, fees and so forth.

  • If you can help it, buy your children nonstop tickets only. If a change of planes is necessary, use a small, less intimidating airport for the transfer, if possible.

  • Make sure your child carries plenty of emergency information. For example, leave instructions on how to handle flight delays or cancellations, including emergency contacts and a means to pay for necessities, such as overnight accommodation.

  • Familiarize your child with his or her itinerary and make sure all travel documents are kept in a safe place -- especially if they'll be needed for a return flight.

  • Try to book a morning flight. If it is delayed or canceled, you have the rest of the day to make alternate plans.

  • Small children may have trouble with checked baggage. If possible, stick with a single carry-on bag and a personal item. If not, check your child's checked bag stubs carefully to be sure that the luggage claim ticket and luggage tag match your child's final destination.

  • Get to the airport early to ease check-in and get children accustomed to their surroundings. If possible, show them where help desks are located and teach them to recognize uniformed employees.

  • Give your child a picture of the person meeting him or her -- with the full name, address and phone number written on the back. You will need to provide this information to the airline as well.

  • Make sure the adult meeting your child at the destination airport is carrying photo identification.

  • Pack some snacks for your child: chips, sandwiches, trail mix or other finger foods like grapes or berries. You may also want to purchase juice or water for your child after you pass through the security checkpoint.

  • Make or buy young children a travel pack to keep them entertained while in flight.

  • children little boy girl pay phone telephone airportGive your child a little cash to cover incidental expenses and phone calls in the event of an emergency.

  • In addition to being sure your child knows how to place a collect call, you may want to provide a calling card to use in an emergency, as well as a list of numbers to call if necessary.

  • Just because a 5-year-old is permitted to fly solo, that doesn't mean that your 5-year-old will be able to handle flying alone, especially if your child hasn't flown before. Parents should use common sense and make a decision based on their own child's level of maturity.

    Airline Policies
    Click on the link below to find your airline's policy on children flying alone.

    AirTran * American * Continental * Delta * JetBlue * Southwest * United * US Airways

    Don't see your airline? Check out our full list of airline contact information.

    For more family travel tips and ideas, see our sister site, Family Vacation Critic!

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