Flying Solo – When Can My Kid Travel Alone?

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Dan & Ange

When Can My Kids Travel Alone?

When deciding if your children are ready to fly unaccompanied on a plane, ask ourselves the following questions.

Can my child read directions? In case of an emergency, will my child ask for help? Can my child take care of his or her backpack without loosing it? Will my child misplace his or her DSI or iPhone? Can my child manage his or her temper and moods on a flight? Can my child handle a transfer and a possible three-hour layover waiting for the connector flight? Can my child properly take care of his or her bathroom needs independently? Can my child understand the concept of flying to a destination and retuning a week later without abandonment issues? Does my child have the emotional capacity to make it through a flight alone? Can my child manage eating on a plane without making a huge mess, able to cutting it his or her food themselves and without complaining about it? Can my child control his or her  impulses and not kick the chair in front of him endlessly on a flight? God knows that last one is hard for me!

Some good advice I found online was to ask yourself, would you leave your child home alone? If so, he or she may be ready to travel alone.

Daniel is nine and Angelina is seven. While both occasionally stay home on their own when Alfonz and my shifts overlap, Daniel behaves when left to his own devices, however Angelina left for more than an hour, often raids the chocolate bin and empties the pop stash. Coming home to her, she usually ends up crashing from her sugar high and in need of a nap. I could only imagine what Angelina would get herself into left for four hours. She would probably make herself food and end up burning the house down. On a flight, my mischievous daughter could end up in Japan when her planes heading to Vancouver. Just saying she is definitely not ready.

Daniel is a good example of a child ready to travel alone. He schedules bakery deliveries on his bike three-five times a week and more often when we have summer tenants. He handles all parts of his business, from orders, deliveries and more importantly the money end of it. It shows maturity when a child can count back money and save for something important.

Daniel also obeys road signs, uses hand signals and practices what we call ‘road sense’. That’s when you predict the behavior of vehicles and other bikes on the road using all your senses.

It was Daniel that said, ‘Mommy I hate electric cars.’

‘Why?’ I asked.

‘Because you cannot hear then when they turn the corner.’

‘Are you only nine? Smarty pants!’

I can also give him things to do while I am out of the house. An example of this is to clean his room. He has a list of chores each week and shows responsibility for his personal belongings, many of which he has purchased with his own money from his business.

When Daniel first asked us to go back alone to Hungary to visit my cousin Zsolti, I said no. After the 20th time he asked, I seriously considered it. I researched different options online, found out what other parent’s were doing and how they came to their own conclusions about when the time was right for their kids. After the 30th time Daniel asked, Alfonz and I sat him down and explained the ins and outs of travelling alone. Then and only then, after feeling confident that Daniel could handle the experience did we call my cousin to ask him, ‘Would it be ok if Daniel stayed with you for part of his summer vacation?’

Two years ago, Angelina and Daniel stayed with them in Bakonysarkany for over a week while Alfonz and I explored real estate options in the Languedoc region of France. We did a very bad job of communicating with the kids in Hungary during our whirlwind house hunt.

Our Skype was always down, for some reason every country we went to we had to reload our account, while the phones were impossible to navigate in French as of course we didn’t know a word yet. In retrospect, it should have been our priority. Both kids had a hard time adjusting to a new family, even through they love and know him, when we got back to Hungary to pick them up, they were very disappointed in us. My cousin told us they behaved poorly, feared we would never return and gave them a run for their money. Not my best parenting moment.

The children went between clinging to me and not speaking to me for nearly two weeks. Then it was all a distant memory.

However, Daniel is almost ten, mature for his age and ready for this experience. Who knows maybe next year he will be ready for an overseas trip to see the Grandmas in Canada.

We booked the tickets yesterday; he leaves in two weeks for ten days. We paid an extra 40€ each way for a chaperon. Every airline has a different set of rules revolving around children travelling alone.

At first when we called the lady at Customer Service for Air France, she said there are no direct flights and that they did not offer the service for children under 12. Children older then 12 are allowed to travel alone. However, online it said different. HOP is a new branch of Air France. We called their customer service line again and luckily got another representative. He set it all up for us within 30 minutes and called us back with a quote. We got the best price available and we added a bag to Daniel’s flight for under 400€.

Some airlines do not allow kids to fly alone period after 9-11. Others say they require children 5-12 be accompanied only it is is a non-stop flights. While others require a chaperon no matter the type of flight but not with transfers and others will do anything for a substantial fee, between 75€-150€ each way. Check your airline and talk to their customer service representative to find out exact details.

HOP was a good deal, even through you can find 19€ flights, by the time you get there and back it is close to 60€ and that is without baggage or connector flights. Add on 80€ for your chaperone, an additional 60€ for transfers and then 40€ each way for luggage for an extra bag each very- quickly adds up. For the extra 120€ we got exactly what we needed without an 8 hour overlay in Paris, which we tried to avoid at all costs. Ryan Air has a doozy connector Beziers Paris- Budapest, where we flew to Paris in the am, waited all day for our evening flight and unable to leave with rush hour impossible to predict. On the way home, we would have to stay the night in an airport hotel and leave in the am to come back to Beziers. Far too difficult for a 9 year old or even myself to navigate through. There must be an easier way.

Call us crazy, but this one was Daniel’s call. He wanted to visit my cousin so badly, telling us home fun it will be to play with baby Borika and her big sister Anna and to see the tractor and farm animals again. The boy was convincing. We weighed out our options and decided he is in fact ready. I will post on Daniel’s first solo flight come time.

It will be hardest on me, I am certain. My baby boy is so grown up.

Daniel is ready at nine and Angelina is not ready at seven.

‘When can my kids travel alone?’ The answer is, ‘They can travel alone when they are ready.’

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