Those never-ending lines for check-in and security, the ever-changing regulations on baggage, and who can forget the hunt to locate your gate – yikes! Being a first-time solo traveler is an overwhelming endeavor, so just imagine how daunting it must be for a child flying alone for the first time!
But, don’t fret! We’ve put together a list of helpful tips to get your unaccompanied minor from gate to gate, with ease.
From booking the right airline tickets to pre-flight prep, here are Top 7 tips to help your kiddo get through their first solo flight!
#1: Do Your Due Diligence
Every airline has its own rules and regulations regarding unaccompanied minors. Age limits, assistance level, amenities…many things vary from carrier to carrier. So, the first thing you need to do once you’re ready to book your airline tickets is to do some thorough research on the airlines you’re thinking of putting your child on.
#2: Pick Up the Phone
In an age where we can order everything from toilet paper to Thai food with just a few finger taps and swipes, it might seem counterintuitive to book a flight over the phone, but trust us; when it comes to your child’s safety, pick up the phone to book those airline tickets.
Unfortunately, booking an unaccompanied minor ticket online is no easy feat; you’ll often find that airlines have minimal options and sometimes the specific instructions for booking are quite confusing. In fact, if your child is under the age of ten, you might even find that you can’t book through the website.
Not to mention, you’ll probably have many questions regarding the services offered for your child flying solo that you might not find answers to immediately.
By calling directly, not only are you able to relay all the details about your tiny traveler (age, experience with flights, dietary restrictions, etc.), but you’ll also be able to ask and clarify any of the questions you have with an employee in real-time.
#3: The Early Bird Catches The Worm
When it comes to choosing a flight for your kiddo, the earlier the better and stay clear of late night or red-eye flights. Early flights are less susceptible to delays than later flights and if the last flight of the day gets canceled, opportunities for rerouting will likely be limited.
Pro-tip: Speaking of early, if you plan on getting a Gate Pass (a pass that allows you to accompany your child through the security check and all the way to the departure gate), which you’ll likely have to pick up at the airport, be sure to ask for it at the time of booking your unaccompanied minor’s airline tickets on the phone. You’ll save yourself a lot of time (and a headache) by reserving this pass ahead of time.
#4: When Booking Round Trip Flights, Choose Nonstop!
When you’re booking round trip flights for your child/children, when it comes down to his/her/their flight itinerary, remember to K.I.S.S (keep it simple stupid!). Flight connections are confusing and stressful enough for frequent solo travelers, so for your unaccompanied minor, a complicated itinerary might be overly perplexing.
Not to mention, many airlines don’t even allow children under eight years of age to take connecting flights if they’re traveling alone. We recommend booking a nonstop, direct flight for your child, especially if they are under the age of twelve and/or this is their first time flying alone. The simpler the itinerary, the fewer opportunities there are for missed-flight mishaps.
#5: Talk About Their Flight-Fright
If your child has any fears when it comes to flying, remember that you won’t be on the plane with them to get them through the flight. For your child, leaving home and parents behind may be tough enough, but if that’s combined with other airborne anxieties, it could make for a nightmarish experience for your kiddo!
Take the time to chat about their fears well ahead of time, and while you’re at it, do your best to ease their worries by sharing stories of your own. Once you know which of their fears are a bit too serious to alleviate, take note of them and add these to the letter (mentioned below) for the flight attendant.
#6: Stuff Their Bags with Treats and Toys
Even if you’re someone deadset against spoiling your kids, that kid of yours is about to take a solo flight — something many adults are afraid to do! Snacks, digital devices, books, games…pack anything that you think would keep your child occupied through their flight.
Remember, not all airlines offer in-flight entertainment or meals, so they’re going to need something to do and something to eat! While most airlines offer small snacks to passengers for free, you don’t want to risk them eating too much, too little, or, if they have any allergies, something that would make them ill.
Additionally, many airlines don’t take cash anymore, so purchasing food onboard would be another struggle. So, go ahead and load up their bags with some of their favorites to make sure they’re not just eating but eating well (allergy-free!).
#7: Take Your Kids On An Airport Adventure
If your little one’s never flown before, hasn’t flown in a while or has a genuine fear of flying/flying alone, take a mini-field-trip to the airport! Show them around the airport, speak to a few airport employees, try and spot some departing planes outside and help them get a bit more comfortable (and maybe even excited) about the idea of coming back there in a few weeks to take a flight.
This will help acclimate them to their surroundings so that when they’re at the airport, instead of focusing on the fact that they’re flying alone, they’ll hopefully remember their airport adventure instead!
Can’t make it to the airport? Play a game by simulating a flight where you’re the flight attendant, show them air travel safety videos online, take some time to repeat and memorize some of the key rules (like stay seated when you’re told to) the way they do rhymes and multiplication tables — there are tons of ways to help your child shed their fear of flying while also helping them understand and remember the rules to follow on their flight.