When I was 14 years old, I went on a plane — alone — for the very first time. My mom meticulously double-checked that I had everything, reminded me of what to do when I landed and even took a photo of me, backpack and all.

A decade later, when I asked her whether she was scared to send me off as a solo flyer, she said she wasn’t. But getting permission to walk me to my gate and wait for me to board certainly helped her feel more comfortable with letting me travel by myself.

As travel season kicks off, many parents are preparing to send their kids off to summer camps and international trips by themselves. While this can be stressful, there are ways to prepare yourself and your children for their solo travel.

How do I prepare to fly my child alone?

  • Pack your children with everything they need. Label their belongings with names and contact information in case anything gets lost. Pack them with plenty of snacks and water, and be sure they wear layers. Because flights can be particularly stressful for little ones, make sure they are equipped with games, books and other activities.
  • Make sure your child has a way to contact you. Teenagers are typically easier because they usually have phones and chargers with them. But you’ll want to make sure your young children have a way to reach you in case of an emergency.
  • Track the flight. Check it every once in a while to make sure the flight is on schedule. If possible, avoid as many layovers for your child as possible by scheduling one flight instead of multiple.
  • Make sure your child knows your phone number. If your child is young, write down your phone number to put in a backpack or pocket.
  • Teach him or her how to ask for help. According to USA Today, it’s a good idea to empower children to ask for help from flight attendants and responsible adults.
  • Ensure your child is emotionally prepared. “Is your kid prone to stress? Are they still quite clingy? Do they require predictability?” USA Today asked. “These may be signs to wait a bit more before you send them off on their own.”

What are airline policies for unaccompanied minors?

Allowing an unaccompanied minor to fly alone is a bigger process than parents might think. Be sure to check with your airline so you are clear on the process.

According to The New York Times, “Booking procedures vary. Delta Air Lines and American Airlines require you to call. United Airlines allows bookings online. JetBlue Airways does online bookings, too, but asks for three printed copies of its forms upon arrival at the airport.”

Most U.S. flights allow children to fly unaccompanied from the age of 5, per The New York Times. However, rules between flights will differ. For example, some airlines — like Delta and American — don’t allow children under the age of 8 to travel on connecting flights.

Parents should use their best judgment when choosing a flight for their child and always put safety first.

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