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A question for parents of teens who travel solo

A question for parents of teens who travel solo

Old Aug 2, 15, 5:21 pm
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A question for parents of teens who travel solo

Have you ever let your travel experienced teen make their own way to the airport and get to their flight independently?

No, I'm not completely crazy.

Situation: I will be flying transcon to attend a conference, and my son will be following me 2 days to spend time looking at colleges. From our house to the airport is a 5 minute walk to the train station, and the train goes directly to the airport. My son will be staying with a neighbor for two nights before he flies out. However the neighbor literally has less travel experience than my cat. I'm not sure having her accompany him to the airport would solve any problems, especially she's very stressed at the idea. I'm thinking if the kid has a notarized letter from me stating that he has my permission to fly solo to meet up with me, does online check-in at home, and has no checked bags, will anybody at the airport actually know or care that he is a minor traveling alone?

Note: this kid has been flying since he was 4 months old, and has flown unaccompanied several times before. My concern is not with his ability to manage the trip, but rather the airline or TSA spazzing out over his age.
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Old Aug 3, 15, 7:56 am
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I'm thinking if the kid has a notarized letter from me stating that he has my permission to fly solo to meet up with me, does online check-in at home, and has no checked bags, will anybody at the airport actually know or care that he is a minor traveling alone?
This would be my main concern. The answer is "probably not", but if they do notice and he is denied boarding, then you're stuck.

Can you just bring him with you?
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Old Aug 3, 15, 8:08 am
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Unless your son is below the age requiring UM services on the carrier you are using, there is no reason for him not to go it alone. It is pretty routine.

TSA has no say in this. Carriers only care that he is above UM age and he should only know what to do if things go sideways. That would mean making sure he's got a working cell phone, cash and a CC.

You know your son, we don't You know what's needed to navigate his departure airport and you can judge whether he's ready for it. If you think so and he's up to it, I can't imagine what an adult adds to the mix.

Don't let fear-mongerers scare you off. He can hit trouble on the train or riding a bicycle too.
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Old Aug 3, 15, 8:34 am
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Originally Posted by CDTraveler View Post
Have you ever let your travel experienced teen make their own way to the airport and get to their flight independently?

No, I'm not completely crazy.

Situation: I will be flying transcon to attend a conference, and my son will be following me 2 days to spend time looking at colleges. From our house to the airport is a 5 minute walk to the train station, and the train goes directly to the airport. My son will be staying with a neighbor for two nights before he flies out. However the neighbor literally has less travel experience than my cat. I'm not sure having her accompany him to the airport would solve any problems, especially she's very stressed at the idea. I'm thinking if the kid has a notarized letter from me stating that he has my permission to fly solo to meet up with me, does online check-in at home, and has no checked bags, will anybody at the airport actually know or care that he is a minor traveling alone?

Note: this kid has been flying since he was 4 months old, and has flown unaccompanied several times before. My concern is not with his ability to manage the trip, but rather the airline or TSA spazzing out over his age.
Assuming a normal capability American teenager who is older than 15 years of age and traveled plenty of times before? Then he can get by easily enough as long as you are comfortable with his abilities and he has the means of payment and communication covered appropriately.

One of my first trips alone as a teenager was to go to a place to which I had never been before, all while taking some means of travel which I had never done before on my own. The most disturbing part of the trip was in the area closest to where I was being dropped off by a relative to commence the trip; and the disturbance was only encountered on the return home in an area where my family felt comfortable dropping me off and picking me up. On my return, on a street corner in NYC, while waiting for family to pick me up after my trip, some strange weirdo wanted to pick me up and take me in his car for who knows what. I walked away rather perturbed that I was being solicited by a guy looking for prostitutes, no less so when it was rather obvious that I was a minor. I took shelter in the closest store, one that happened to be operated by those whom I presumed were some immigrant African Muslim people. A few minutes later, while waiting in the store entrance, the weirdo got out of his car, went into a nearby building and came back with two very young-looking East Asian women whom I and -- soon thereafter -- the NYPD suspected to be prostitutes. The NYPD officer warned the weirdo that he knew what he was up to and not to come around again. I chalked it up to being one of those times where a child knows he is no longer a naive child; and a sign that my family knew enough about me not to be worried about sending me off as they did. I had a means for paying for what needed to be paid and knew how to communicate what needed to be communicated; I also knew what I needed to do to get to where I needed to get to my destination and back. This trip was a walk in the park relative to my first last-minute business trip as an adult in an era before cell phones were in the hands of the majority.
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Old Aug 3, 15, 10:58 am
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Originally Posted by Often1 View Post
You know your son, we don't You know what's needed to navigate his departure airport and you can judge whether he's ready for it. If you think so and he's up to it, I can't imagine what an adult adds to the mix.
He's the youngest fully certified lifeguard working for a very large pool management company. I know he can handle the trip, I'm just not sure the airline can.

Based on info from the UA forum, I did reroute his trip so that he's connecting in a city where he has relatives in case of delays/missed connection.

Originally Posted by Often1 View Post
Don't let fear-mongerers scare you off. He can hit trouble on the train or riding a bicycle too.
He plays ice hockey. Fear-mongers not welcome at our house.

Originally Posted by SRQ Guy
Can you just bring him with you?
That would mean him missing an additional 2 days of school. The PITA school policy is that if your student misses more than 3 days of school for "unexcused" reasons they mark down his grades. He's starting his junior year - which is why we're looking at colleges - so grades matter and I don't want him marked down for two days spent sitting in a hotel room while I'm in meetings.
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Old Aug 3, 15, 11:40 am
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I don't mean to be a scaremonger, either. I say you know your son's abilities better than anyone here, and as such you can make that judgment. As a junior that means he's 16, right? I'd have no issue letting my own child take such a journey when she reaches that age, but you just need to make sure with the airline that they're not going to throw up any flags. If he's older than 15 he's not able to travel as an official airline-escorted UM, so that would lead me to believe that they don't have an issue with a 16 year old traveling alone.

Edited to add: your logic is sound but I hate that schools try to take over what should be a parent's decision anyway, in terms of attendance.
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Old Aug 3, 15, 8:24 pm
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My 15-yr old nephew traveled to Germany from Detroit to meet up with his father there and then back. He navigated the airport in DTW and FRA on his own just fine.

It sounds like your kid is experienced enough to be just fine.
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Old Aug 3, 15, 8:36 pm
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I also have a 16 year old soon to be junior and would have no problem having her do this alone. We are college shopping in a few weeks and some of it will be with us, but one a couple of days she's going to be navigating public transit in a strange city alone. Like yours she's traveled a lot and really, with a cell, if they need help they can call you or another trusted adult.
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Old Aug 3, 15, 8:53 pm
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the missing school tidbit reminds me of this story...

In my wanderlust youth, I worked in National Parks. I'd generally start in early Spring. One April, a family with three kids, aged eleven to thirteen, spent several mid-week days touring the park. The family was on a road trip cross country from 2,000 miles away.

Dad said anytime the school gives him crap about pulling his kids out for a 10-day stretch, he just makes a speech in front of the school board. It would generally go something like this:

"Can you name the Presidents on Mount Rushmore in left to right order?"

"My kids can."
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Old Aug 3, 15, 9:05 pm
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It would help if the OP would give the kid's exact age and specify the airline. UM policies differ greatly even from one USA legacy carrier to another. Also, the kid might have an easier time with TSA if he has a government photo ID even though it's not required. This would help if the airline demands that he prove his age.
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Old Aug 3, 15, 9:09 pm
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Originally Posted by MSPeconomist View Post
It would help if the OP would give the kid's exact age and specify the airline. UM policies differ greatly even from one USA legacy carrier to another. Also, the kid might have an easier time with TSA if he has a government photo ID even though it's not required. This would help if the airline demands that he prove his age.
Kid is not quite 16, carries a passport, cellphone, cash & plastic when traveling, and I'm trying to decide between UA (fare sale) and Southwest, which I know will let him travel sans headache.

Based on the UA website, kids 15+ can travel solo, but some on the UA board seemed to think not.

Also, kid when dressed up can pass for 18.


/rant on: I started traveling solo on transcons to youth conferences at 14, no cell phone, no plastic and it wasn't nearly as complicated as it is now!
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Old Aug 3, 15, 9:14 pm
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There's no airline that won't let a 15 year old travel. How odd they would tell you that.

PS VickiSoCalJr is also a life guard and swim instructor :-)
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Old Aug 3, 15, 9:16 pm
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Originally Posted by VickiSoCal View Post
There's no airline that won't let a 15 year old travel. How odd they would tell you that.

PS VickiSoCalJr is also a life guard and swim instructor :-)
Ironic, isn't it, that a teen can be trusted with the safety of a pool full of small children yet can't ride Amtrak solo at all, and has to go through all sorts of nonsense with airlines.
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Old Aug 4, 15, 7:58 am
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Originally Posted by CDTraveler View Post
Also, kid when dressed up can pass for 18.
As long as he can convince TSA he's under 18, and UA that he's 15 (assuming he'll still be 15 at time of the trip, but he should bring a passport to prove his age at the ticketing counter just in case).

http://www.united.com/web/en-US/cont...s/default.aspx

And for the record, kids aged 12-17 can travel without accompaniment on UA:
Children ages 12 to 17 can use United's unaccompanied minor service for travel on nonstop flights operated by United or United Express, or they can travel as adults on any flights without using United's unaccompanied minor service.
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Old Aug 4, 15, 9:21 am
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Originally Posted by gobluetwo View Post
As long as he can convince TSA he's under 18, and UA that he's 15 (assuming he'll still be 15 at time of the trip, but he should bring a passport to prove his age at the ticketing counter just in case).

http://www.united.com/web/en-US/cont...s/default.aspx

And for the record, kids aged 12-17 can travel without accompaniment on UA:
Well, let's just say UA has a reputation for not following their own rules.

He won't need to go near the ticket counter as he'll do online check-in and have no checked bags, so the airline won't have cause to check his ID.

As for the TSA, he always gets the full body patdown despite his age because we opt out and he travels with liquid medication (it's prescription, no, leaving it home is not an option nor is substituting something else). He gets through that routine faster than the average adult.

But I've pretty much decided to go with Southwest as they are just far less unpleasant to deal with.
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