Tips for Kids Flying Solo

Child waiting at airport gate with luggage watching airplane

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Everything Parents Need to Know About Sending Kids Unaccompanied Minor on Flights

  • What: Sending Kids Unaccompanied Minor on Flights
  • When: 5 years and up
  • Why: Keep kids safe
  • Where: In transit

Maybe your kids have finally gotten old enough to fly alone. Perhaps your ex has moved too far to drive in a reasonable amount of time, and your kids still visit often. Whether they travel to see a far-flung parent, visit extended family, or attend a big event, having kids fly as unaccompanied minors can often save families big bucks. But it doesn’t come without lots of worry. If your kids are flying by themselves for the first time, here’s what you need to know beyond what snacks and entertainment to pack.

  • Most airlines won’t let kids fly without an adult on the same itinerary before age 5. Once they hit school age, airline policies vary. But most will only allow kids from age 5 to 8 on nonstop flights to their destination. Got a connecting flight? Kids will need to be 8 years old or older before they can go on their own. Each airline has their own policy for how long kids require the extra service as well. Some companies will let kids as young as 12 fly on their own without special accommodations, while for other airlines they need to be 14.
  • Fly together if possible. If you’ve got more than one child, sending them together can alleviate a lot of stress for both parents and kids. Siblings have someone familiar to sit next to on the plane, and parents know that two kids are much less likely to get lost in transit.
  • Airlines charge extra fees for unaccompanied minor service. The fee ranges depending on the airline’s policies, but expect anywhere from $25-$150 per child. Even with the extra fees, you often save money over buying a second ticket to escort them.
  • You probably can’t book online. Many airlines offer a dedicated phone line for booking unaccompanied minor tickets so you don’t have to wait on hold in the regular phone queue. You’ll need all your child’s pertinent information, like full name and date of birth. If you know which flight number and departure and arrival times you’d like, that can make the process go faster.
Two kids seated on airplane watching seatback entertainment
  • Kids can only fly at certain times. Most airlines won’t let kids fly unaccompanied on red-eye flights. They generally have to depart during daytime hours, though policies can vary from airline to airline. Some exceptions (like flights to and from Alaska) exist, but you may need to ask.
  • When it comes time to depart, kids can’t check in online. You’ll need to find the line for special services at the airport and fill out any paperwork required by the airline. This wait in line can add significant time, so be sure to arrive at the airport earlier than you would for a regular flight just in case.
  • You can accompany your kids to the gate. At the airport, you can go through security with your child and walk them all the way to the gate. An airline representative will take charge there, and help them find their seat and get settled in on the plane once boarding begins. At the destination, the designated adult can meet them at the gate getting off the plane, so your child never has to navigate the airport on their own.
  • Make sure kids have cash or a gift card on hand just in case something goes wrong. Parents choose varying amounts, but it helps to have enough to cover cab fare or public transit to their final destination just in case. 
Seven year old boy pulling JetKids BedBox through airport with Nuk hard spout sippy cup in backpack pocket
  • Include a paper slip with each child’s name, date of birth, parents’ names and contact info, travel information, and the name and phone number of the person picking them up at their destination. Make sure your child knows where this information is written down. Even if your child knows the phone number and address, they may forget when put on the spot.
  • If the person on the other end of the flight isn’t a parent, be sure to print out a waiver for the adult to authorize medical care. Make sure everyone knows the location of this important piece of paper. If something happens and your child needs medical attention, you don’t want everyone getting caught up in the necessary paperwork before your child can get help.
  • Take a photo. Make sure you get a quick snap of your child before they board. If anything happens, you have a photo worth a thousand words to share with the adults on the other end so they can spot them in a crowd.

Flying alone can be intimidating, but following these tips will help ease the anxiety for everyone involved. 

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