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Guide for Kids Flying Solo - Part 1

Age restrictions keep little kids grounded.

Airline rules vary but generally accepted guidelines exist:

Children ages 1-4 may fly only when accompanied by a caretaker who is at least 12 years old. A child must be at least 5 to fly alone. Kids 5-8 can take a direct flight to a single destination but not connecting flights.

Those over 8 may change aircraft. If they're 8 to 11, they will be escorted by airline personnel to their connecting flight. A significant extra charge for this service is likely.

Older kids -- ages 12 through 15 -- may not be routinely escorted, but you can request this assistance.

Anyone under age 17 who is flying alone on an international flight must have a signed note from a parent or responsible adult giving permission, destination and length of stay.

One more thing to expect: Kids flying alone pay full adult prices.

Preparing for the Trip

Flying alone can be a thrilling experience for kids, but a far different matter for parents. To help, AAA has given the following suggestions to reassure and prepare.

Four facts to help parents relax:
Your child is never really alone. If your child is young, the airline will assign someone to keep an eye on him.

Airlines don't abandon little kids in airports. If bad weather reroutes a plane, the airline will escort your child to another plane or overnight accommodations.

Airline staff don't release kids to just anyone. Proper identification is required, even if kids appear to recognize a family member.

It's impossible to put your kid on the wrong plane. Airline gate personnel verify the information on the boarding pass.

Make arrangements:

Inform travel staff your child is flying alone. Alert the airline to his age and inquire about their escort policies. Provide names of adults who will drop off and pick up your child at the airport.

Notify the airline of special needs. Does your child require a wheelchair or special accommodations? If your young traveler is finicky, inquire about kid-friendly meals.

Avoid booking the last flight if changing planes. A missed connection can mean your young traveler will be stuck overnight.

Confirm the flight the night before departure.

Make your child's flight comfortable and fun. Pack toys and books in a backpack or jacket with big pockets. Mark all belongings. Include a sheet of paper with the name and phone numbers of the adults waiting at his destination. Now that the planning is done, it's off to the airport. Look for our suggestions to make the next step more comfortable for you and your child.
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