Our girls, Beezus and Ramona are seasoned travelers at the ages of 7 and 5. With all of their grandparents and most of our family living at least a 6-13 hour drive from the DC area (and their Dad, Mr. Quimby, getting points through a frequent flyer program) it’s always been an easy choice to fly to visit family instead of driving. The girls now know to hold their own boarding pass, state their name in a loud clear voice when the TSA agent asks, and how to slip off their coats quickly (but leave on their shoes) to get them onto the x-ray belt.
Air travel is just a regular part of their lives.
Over the past year or so, as they got older and our then-4-year-old Ramona got close to reaching the minimum age to fly alone (5 years old for most airlines), we wondered if they were comfortable enough and mature enough to fly without parental supervision for an upcoming trip to visit their grandparents in Alabama during Spring Break. So we turned to the experts on all things airplane related: Southwest Airlines. We are a Southwest loyal family – we love how they have NO FEES for your first 2 bags, how you can cancel or change flights without a change penalty fee, and the wide range of flight times to and from the airports where we fly most. My husband also travels for work and he flies almost exclusively on Southwest (in part because he likes their in-flight wifi). So, I turned to their policy on “unaccompanied minors” to see what they had to say. Southwest has a handy-dandy page that lists not only their policies on “Unaccompanied Minors” but also a great guide that walks you through what to do and where to go every step of the way, as well as suggestions for preparing your child on what to expect during the flight. The U.S. Department of Transportation has a document that is dated, but we also looked at it to see if there were any other issues we should consider.
I’m sure that some families would never consider this, and that’s okay because different families do different things, after all! But for our family this was a reasonable possibility, so we started talking to the girls about the possibility of flying by themselves and mentioning that sometime in the next year or so, they would be old enough to fly by themselves. On their most recent flights, they practiced buckling themselves in, ordering their own drinks, and going to the bathroom by themselves. We knew that Beezus was ready and we felt pretty confident that Ramona was close.
However, as our plans for Spring Break started shaping up, it just wasn’t looking like Ramona was going to be ready to fly solo, so we made other arrangements for this time. As we were waiting in line to check-in at the airport, she told me several times that she was NOT old enough to fly by herself at five years old, but she was pretty sure that she would be old enough at 6 years old.
What a great self-assessment, I thought. There’s always a next time !
When she’s not chugging water in the security line (to empty a refillable water bottle before going through security) Ellen blogs semi-anonymously as Thrift Store Mama from Gorgeous Prince George’s County, Maryland.
Image courtesy of www.jaunted.com via Google Images.