Flying Alone

by Sky

At age 8, my father took the train alone over 100 miles, and transferred trains in New York City, to get home from summer camp.

At age 14, I flew cross country by myself, with transfers, in the days before cell phones.

When do you think kids should be allowed to travel alone?

When would you (or did you) allow your child to fly, or take a city bus, subway, or train without an adult accompanying them?

What limits have you set with your tween/teenage kids about traveling by themselves? What were you allowed to do?

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86 thoughts on “Flying Alone

  1. My husband flew alone from Cartagena, Colombia to St. Louis, Missouri at age 8. He had a layover in Miami and no supervision or anyone worrying about him. Had a wonderful time wondering around and buying comic books he couldn’t get in Colombia, and lots of junk food. He was very capable and made his connection and met his aunt in St. Louis.

  2. I started flying with my brother when I was 10 and he was 12 to visit my dad. Interestingly, my mom was more hesitant to let us take the bus from NJ into NYC to see my grandparents on our own that she was about us flying by ourselves.

    We tried to get DD (11) to fly by herself to visit my dad a few months ago but she didn’t want to fly alone. DS (13) is dying to do it and we tried to set up a trip for this week but it was too short notice to get decent fares. We’re tying to do it next month.

  3. I never had to fly alone until college, but I did take subways and buses in NYC without my parents. I had to take city buses starting in 6th grade. I traveled all over four boroughs by bus and subway at 14.

    I think you can stay in touch now via cell with your child. You might even be able to email on the plane if there is wifi.

    It always comes down to the maturity of the child, but I think many kids would be able to fly by 12 if they’ve been through airports several times with their parents. Teach the what to do if there are delays or cancellations.

  4. We saw quite a few tween kids (seemed like 11 and above) on their own in the airports. I would think that by this age with adequate guidance they should be fine. A quick Google mentioned specific programs/fees for minors travelling by airplane, one should inquire with the airline of choice.
    I try to encourage our kids to get to places themselves. DH is a worrier and will have a thousand questions and will quiz them on “what to do”. I don’t like this as it unnecessarily puts a scare into the kids. There have been not very many opportunities but they can walk home from school and now the older will be taking the school bus plus doing the walk home from the bus stop. Majority of parents here prefer to do drop off/pick up even if their kids could take public transportation. I had this discussion with some other mothers, they were stunned when I told them that I walked by myself to school and back (after age 9) in a huge city, and survived to tell all about it.

  5. DD (who is 15) started regularly using the city bus this past year to get to/from high school (she just finished her freshman year). She is now comfortable riding the bus to a variety of places as well as transferring from one route to another. There are some transit apps that make it easy for DD to figure out what buses she needs to take to get from one part of the city to another. I love the independence it gives DD. Given that she has a cell phone and there are always lots of people around, I feel comfortable having DD ride the bus. More comfortable in fact than I do when she rides her bike as I worry about a car hitting her when she’s biking. DD does ride her bike to various places – but I ask her to text me when she arrives so I know she hasn’t been hit by a car.

    DS will turn 10 in a month. He takes a yellow school bus home from school and then walks on his own from the bus stop to our house (about 3 blocks). He also walks on his own to and from his aikido studio (also about 3 blocks). I let DS ride his bike in the neighborhood around our house.

  6. The kids have taken direct flights, both on their own (now that they are teens/pre-teens) and as accompanied minors. We’ve had no problems, other than loooong flight delays. No problems. I think they like the independence.

  7. We had a flight with all 4 of us on it that had to make an emergency landing. There was a fire on board, and it was very, very scary. For 5-10 minutes (? with caveat time perception was distorted) we thought we were going to have to make a water landing – thankfully the pilot was able to get us to the international runway of JFK. We all had to assume the crash position for landing and then were rushed off the plane. We then had about a 4 hour wait until they could get us on another plane to continue to our final destination. That experience has really changed how I look at flying with kids and kids flying alone. Our kids were 5 and 8 at the time. It was pretty traumatic for us but the kids have no resulting anxiety from it.

  8. Although I biked and took public buses all over the place as an older kid, I never flew by myself until college. My DH was never on a plane AT ALL until he had graduated from college!

    I have never sent any of my kids on a plane alone and I don’t really have any reason to. I could see putting a kid on a nonstop flight if there was someone very responsible to pick the kid up at the other end. I would not put a kid on a flight with a connection, especially a regional type flight, until later high school. I find flights with connections to be daunting enough myself. I have seen so many snafus that I don’t think an inexperienced kid could cope with. There was the flight that had 6 gate changes in a 20 minute time period right before boarding, with passengers frantically running from gate to gate with their luggage. There was the recent flight in which a very rude older woman claimed my son was in her seat and he just let himself get pushed out of it. I was in another row, and had to go over to intervene. Yes, the airline had actually booked two people into one seat, but my son was there first, and shouldn’t have moved – he should have called over the flight attendant and showed his ticket. But he was too inexperienced to know that. I have had connections cancelled and only avoided being stranded by quick work on my cellphone. Kids wouldn’t know how to do that. I’ve been through two separate bomb threats on planes – both resulting in being stranded in distant airports, unable to leave, for lengthy amounts of time. And in the last few years, flights are so overbooked that if your connection gets cancelled, you could be stranded for quite a while. One of my friends was stuck recently in Dallas for TWO days!!

    The difference between putting a kid on a public bus or subway, and putting a kid on a flight to Duluth with a connection in Chicago is distance. If a kid gets lost on the bus, parental help is likely no more than an hour away, if even that much. But if a kid gets stuck or lost in O’Hare, there is no one nearby to help.

  9. Yes, it depends on the kid. I think of cases where my flight has been cancelled, and some 12 yos (and their parents!) might find that difficult to deal with. If it’s a layover, you may have to make decisions whether to get a hotel room or not, or wait it out at the airport.

    My kids never flew alone until late teen years, but I usually tried to encourage then to walk and take local mass transit. One kid has a poor sense of direction, and once I had to go find her when she got lost and couldn’t describe where she was. As it turned out, she was in a semi-industrial area so that that was a little frightening for me.

  10. As a 12 year old, I flew alone between major Texas cities, but they were direct flights.

    For academic summer camps:
    Last year my then 14 year old flew from Austin to Charlotte, with a change in Dallas alone. This year she made a similar trip from Austin to Raleigh with a change in Atlanta. This year my newly minted 13 year old made the Austin to Charlotte trip with a change in Houston. We asked that they text us when they got to the gate in the city where they changed planes, if there is time, and again when they met up with the camp staff in the baggage claim area at their final destination (non-negotiable).

    However, the unaccompanied minor and age that they can travel as an adult varies by airline. Unaccompanied minors usually charge another $150 each way on top of the ticket price and do NOT allow an itinerary that has a plane change. The age at which a kid can travel as an adult starts as low as 12, but some it is 15.

    From Austin, many destinations require a plane change, so we had to pay slightly more to get our younger one on an airline that would let her fly as an adult. They had flown with us and/or on a school trip before going alone. We talked through how to pay your baggage fee, find the right gate, getting from terminal to terminal in bigger airports, get your baggage at the end, etc.

  11. Mooshi, that’s what the unaccompanied minor fee is for. Yes, it’s expensive, but it ensures that the airline will take care of the child should anything go wrong.

  12. My second time ever on a plane was coming to the U.S. for college. Granted I was just past my teens but I had an airport change in London – had to get out of Heathrow and catch the free coach to Gatwick. The travel agent who guided me before my trip was awesome. She took me step by step through my trip – if she said “look for this monitor/that gate” there it was. This was pre – 9/11 so for departures and arrivals you could have someone waiting for you right at the gate.

  13. AustinMom – I may have seen the kids in that camp at the airport. The staff at least was wearing the camp T shirt, and they were gathering the campers in the baggage claim area :-).

  14. Unaccompanied minors usually charge another $150 each way on top of the ticket price and do NOT allow an itinerary that has a plane change.

    That depends on the airline. From a quick search, Delta, American and Alaska Airlines will allow unaccompanied mnors aged 8 and older to change planes, but not to the last connection of the day. United and Southwest do not allow connections.

  15. But he was too inexperienced to know that.

    What would have happened if you weren’t there? Worst case he would have tried to leave the plane and the FA would have said – WTF? And he would have said, “There is someone in my seat.” And the FA would have said, “Let me see your ticket.” And they would have figured it out. In the process, learning a valuable lesson and feeling more confident that he can navigate the world on his own without his mom being there to jump in.

  16. My kids spend time with their grandma in the summer time, a short direct flight from where we live (and the airline has about 7 flights per day). I have been trying to convince my 6 year old that she could make the flight by herself, but she refuses – and we don’t force the issue. (This same child is so excited to be going to a week of sleep away camp by herself later this summer).

    I think the fact that I could buckle her into her seat, slip an ipad into her hands, and she could watch 80 minutes of tv and then meet my mom at the gate on the other end, seems nearly foolproof. If they emergency land in some small town mid way, then we will have to depend on the kindness of strangers and flight attendants.

  17. @Rhett – do you think in case of weather delays they let long haul flights get out faster than shorter flights ? Twice now, when I’ve flown long haul and was delayed by weather (thunderstorms in the summer) it seemed that they let the long haul flights go first. The long haul flights in spite of delays made up time in the air.

  18. Rhett, no, that would not have happened because he let her sit in his seat. Generally, when that situation comes up, the person actually in the seat gets precedence. If there is an empty seat, the FA will give it to the person without the seat. If there are no empty seats, and that is often the case nowdays, the person who isn’t in the seat will get bumped. That is why my kid should never have let the woman shove him out of the seat. Now since my kid was a kid, if he had been alone they might not have bumped him, but these days, you never know. About a year ago, I saw a really weird situation in which we taxied out, and when they were doing the final headcount, the FAs discvored there was one too many people on the plane. It was another situation of two people being assigned the same seat, but since one person was a smaller child, the family didn’t complain to the FA but simply put the kid on the mom’s lap. They were from some other country and may not have understood that kids older than 2 can’t travel on a lap. Anyway, the plane went back to the gate, and the mom, kid, and dad ended up bumped off the flight.

  19. My grandmother really wanted my brother and I to attend a language camp across the country starting when we were 9. She combined it with plane tickets to visit her house, though each step was at least one connection. I loved traveling by myself, hated the “babysitter” from the airplane who would not stop and let us buy candy or other exciting things in the airport. And, we had to sit in some kind little side room with tv and kid toys during the layover – like a cross between the saddest airline lounge you have ever seen and a church daycare.

    I had a flight canceled out of Denver when I was 10. The (woefully underpaid) flight attendants rounded up all the kids with missed connections at took us to a very fancy hotel (probably not, but it seemed that way). I got to order room service! I think we slept 3 girls to a room and the FA. That was probably the highlight of the summer for me.

  20. Louise – Green t’shirts is what my kids were told to look for, but the report is th color is closer to teal than green.

    DD – You are right, it is definitely airline dependent. The ones that met our itinerary needs would not allow plane changes.

    MM – DD#1 has ridden the city bus a short distance from the school bus stop to her driver’s ed class, but her dad doesn’t want to let her ride it downtown to the main public library. Last time I took her there, I pointed out the bus stops (upgrading and they now look different) she would use and the route numbers. She has a cell phone, so I am happy to let her try it. Not sure why he is opposed other than he is not very familiar with her route and if he had to be the one to “rescue” her would be as lost as she was.

  21. Louise, I know a thing or two about that because my best friend developed a lot of the flight cancellation algorithms for a major airline. In many cases, there is a groud delay program which means some flights go, but not all of them, rather than all flights being cancelled. Yes, the long hauls are always the last to be cancelled. In particular international flights get priority. Also, one of the big reasons for cancellations is that after a delay somewhere else, the arriving crew has gone over their allowed hours and can’t fly the next leg. Oh, my friend has told me so many stories!!

  22. My cousin and I flew to visit our mothers’ sister when we were 7 and 6, respectively, circa 1980. Our fathers drove us to DC to catch a nonstop flight, but it ended up getting cancelled and we had to change planes in Atlanta. I don’t think they told our mothers about that until we were confirmed to have safely arrived! A flight attendant walked us through ATL and made sure we got seated on the connecting flight. That was my 1st time flying and I think it was my cousin’s 2nd. It was quite an adventure, but I can’t imagine sending my 8-yo to do this on her own now! For one thing, she doesn’t have a very good temperament when something unexpected happens and I can just picture her freaking out and throwing a tantrum. For another, it just seems so big and scary. I still can’t believe our parents put us on that plane!

  23. Thanks Mooshi – DH and I both love this stuff ! DH loves flying about as much as Rhett. Too bad DH has to work when he gets to his destination.

  24. With seat assignment snafus, they don’t just kick one of the two people with the mix-up off of the plane. They will take them off based on ticket price, standby status, etc. I have been on full planes where they have removed people (a few times the smaller planes will be overweight, even though they have empty seats), but not based on a computer lottery related to double seat assignment.

  25. SWVA, flying was so different in those days. Flights were not so full, connections were not as tight, and flight attendants had time to do a lot of personal service. Flying has become hellish in the last 5 years as airlines have drastically cut service to many hubs. All the flights are overbooked, and customer service agents are nowhere to be found. A lot of stuff is self serve now.

  26. Ada, that is true. In fact, the rude woman situation was resolved because they located a standby and threw that person off, so the rude woman got that seat. However, when I have seen these situtations (and they happen fairly often), actual rear-in-seat possession goes a long ways.

  27. the person who isn’t in the seat will get bumped.

    Then he gets $500, Admirals Club access, a hotel, food vouchers and first class on the next flight.

  28. @Rhett – do you think in case of weather delays they let long haul flights get out faster than shorter flights ?

    Yes. ATC will tell Delta or American that, due to low ceilings, thunder storms, etc, they can only let 50 out of 75 flights go. Then it’s up the airlines to pick which 50. Usually, it goes from biggest to smallest.

  29. I have never heard of someone who is bumped getting food vouchers, a hotel, and first class. Maybe someone who is good at negotiating, but again we are talking about a kid. Most of the time when I see people get bumped, they get some cash or a fairly useless future travel voucher.

  30. Yes, air travel was definitely different back then! A few years later, the same cousin and I rode the Greyhound to visit the same aunt in another (closer) city. I think we were 11 & 12 by then, and I still can’t believe they put us on the Greyhound by ourselves. They must have been really desperate to have a kid-free week!

  31. I can just picture her freaking out and throwing a tantrum.

    Tantrums are for when she feels comfortable with you. She’d never throw a tantrum with some stranger. I’m 100% certain she’d be on her very best behavior.

  32. Service is variable. Last summer I was travelling with my disabled (blind and mobility impaired) mother. In general, we had pretty good service in getting her from plane to plane and through security and baggage pickup both ways. I could never have gotten her through JFK and between terminals on that bus by myself. However, on one plane we were “next to each other”, but due to the way the seating was laid out, I couldn’t keep as close of an eye on her on the way back.

  33. Rhett can probably clarify better here, but getting bumped is different than losing your seat due to overbooking. The airline wants to bump people so they don’t need to refuse them a seat. “bumping” is a voluntary process, which is why they ask for people at the gate. In college, it happened to me a number of times – I got great vouchers for future travel, usually food/hotel while I waited for the next flight. They entice somebody to willingly step-off so they are not bound by the federal rules of what happens if they refuse carriage – a lot more pain and money for all involved.

    Again however, this is why you pay an unaccompanied minor charge – they would never send a kid off by themselves – way too much hassle.

  34. I have never heard of someone who is bumped getting food vouchers, a hotel, and first class

    Did you ask? It’s fairly standard.

  35. Question on the uaccompanied minor charge – at what age do they no longer offer that service? And does the person who is helping the kid meet the kid before security? Or is the parent allowed to go through security with the kid? Security is often one of the more daunting parts of the process.

    In truth, I don’t really care. I have nowhere that I would want to fly a kid off to.

  36. This is the AA policy:

    Self Travel

    Children under 15 years of age must travel with another passenger at least 16 years of age or they will be considered Unaccompanied Minors.
    Passengers 15 through 17 years of age may travel independently. Unaccompanied Minor service can also be purchased as an option for passengers 15 through 17 (subject to the same charges and provisions). Customers 16 years of age or older traveling alone may book travel online. Customers who are 15 and traveling alone must book travel by calling Reservations.

  37. You can take anyone under 18 through security. I believe they will let you board with the kid if they are too young to be embarrassed by this. I have done some looking into this.

    I, clearly, have lots of places I want to send my kids away to.

  38. I would love to send my kids to visit their cousins, a plane ride away. DH would be so worried the entire time, that it is not worth the hassle of dealing with him. To the kids, it would be a big adventure. DH probably will volunteer to chaperone even the least adult friendly overnight school trips so that he can see that his kids are all right.

  39. I rarely think about it because I travel frequently, but I had a similar emergency landing in Sydney. It was my first trip to Australia and my friends had already flown back to Japan and the U.S. I was in the country alone and I was supposed to fly to the Gold Coast to meet family friends.

    I got on another flight, but the reason I did was that it was pre cell phone and Internet. I was truly stuck unless I got over my anxiety, and got on the next flight. I just kept reminding myself that Qantas never crashes into the sea(remember Rainman).

  40. The first time I was in a bomb threat situation, I was a kid (but I was with my family). It evidently was taken pretty seriously, because we were immediately diverted to the first airport that could accomodate our plane. This was on an international flight, so we ended up in another country. They would not allow our plane anywhere near the terminal, so we were all bused in to the terminal, where we were kept for over 24 hours – no hotel, no Admiral club, no food vouchers, no payments or upgraded. We had to trek back out to the plane at one point and stand by our luggage, which had been dumped unceremoniously on the tarmac, while bomb sniffing dogs pawed through it. It was not a fun experience.

  41. My husband passed his cath test with flying colors. No stents or other surgical interventions planned. Medication tweaking improved his condition by Sunday. He’ll probably have to be on a low sodium diet. (I’ll have to figure that one out in the kitchen.) But he still has a poorly functioning heart. There are four stages of the medical condition that is technically known as congestive heart failure. The worst one is awaiting transplant or hospice. He is only one stage removed from that, but people live with that for many years.

    On topic, my kids flew young, including to europe to see grandparents, but times were different then. However, IMHO, any person old enough to be in driver’s ed is old enough to ride public transit downtown, and frankly I consider both to be important life skills.

  42. Most I have seen look similar to what Rhett posted. You can accompany them through security to the gate. I have never tried to do “assisted boarding” with them. DD#1 wanted me to go to the gate the first time, but not this year. DD#2 didn’t want us to go to the gate at all, so we didn’t. I have a higher level of confidence than most of their friends parents that they can handle things.

    Only if they are unaccompanied minors can they be met at the gate, otherwise it is at baggage claim or at the point they leave the secured area.

    We have played a game – what would you do if… – where we given them scenarios like, mom and dad went on vacation for a week during the school year, how would you survive? Even when they were 12/10, they were able to talk through these things in a rational way. It is how we learned they knew where a few bus stops were and which streets to take to get to the grocery store, etc. Not that we planned to leave them at that age, but it was fun dinner discussion. They don’t find this as fun any longer, but it gave us confidence in their ability to work through things

  43. DS (16) flew back from a school trip with a couple classmates. Their flight was cancelled last minute, their new flight was delayed on the runway causing them to miss their connecting flight at OHare and almost spend the night–it was nerve-wracking for the parents.
    He is flying by himself on Sunday–to a college campus in Fred’s town. I hope this goes more smoothly….

  44. Meme, good to hear you got some good news.

    Mooshi, the bottom line is if you pay the unaccompanied minor fee, the airline will take of everything.

  45. it was nerve-wracking for the parents.

    What was nerver-wracking about it? They’ll get there when they get there.

  46. Meme – You are correct that many people live in that stage of congestive heart failure for years. My mother is/has and it does create a medication cocktail to be monitored. In addition, other illnesses or injuries can be more problemmatic given the way the meds interact with each other.

    I agree with you about the bus travel!

  47. Mine have all flown as unaccompanied minors for camp or grandparent visits, and they all take the bus alone, although their preference is to be chauffeured.

    Mémé, I’m glad to hear that his situation has improved, even if it’s not going to be back to his previous normal.

  48. Good news Mémé- this has likely been out of control for awhile and being on the appropriate meds may make a real positive change in energy level, etc. I hope. I imagine you have been told this, but I really think daily weight are helpful for this. Hospitals have a lot of financial incentive to avoid re-admissions for CHF exacerbations. I hope that is translating into good discharge counseling for you both.

  49. Spending my later school years in a small town, I didn’t really have the opportunity to ride public transit alone until college while on a J-term in the city. I did bike/walk all over the place from the age of about 8 or 9 on though. It was very much “get out of here and be home for dinner” as memorialized in all those “70’s and 80’s childhood” facebook/blog clickbait thinkpieces. I rode by bike to tennis lessons, the pool, friends’ houses, softball practice, music lessons, etc. I do not remember my parents driving me to much of anything unless the weather was really horrid.

    DH rode the bus to school starting in HS, and took public transit alone (with friends) infrequently before that. That seems about right for an urban kid. DS’ school takes public transit to field trips where feasible – it is part of their life skills lessons to learn how to plan and execute a trip on public transit/walking/reading maps. They do it as a class with teachers of course, but I still think it is a good idea.

    I can’t think of where we would send DS alone on a plane before he gets to the specialty summer camp age which is HS anyway. He did go to a 3-night, sleepaway nature retreat through school this year at 7 which is earlier than I did overnight camp without my parents, and he loved it. I was incredibly nervous about it, but he wasn’t.

  50. DS will be doing his first overnight camp type trip (4 days) this coming school year. It will have cabin type accommodation but we don’t have a suitably large back pack type bag. I’ll need to buy him that plus a fast drying towel and pillow. Any suggestions for a bag, towel, pillow ? This is not a rustic facility – more activities (bonding) in a camp setting.

  51. Louise: Go to REI and try on a bunch of backpacks with a sales rep. REI has a great back to school sale, so that is the time to strike. You will likely use the backpack for years for future travel.

    For towels, we use small towels roughly the size of the towels that you get at the gym. Cheap is good–you don’t want a heavy, fluffy towel that takes a lot of room. For a pillow, DH stole a small pillow from a past flight and the kids use that.

  52. Why does he need a backpack style bag for cabin camping? I would think a duffle would be the right thing, and easier to pack. I would not buy a technical bag unless you think he will use it in another situation.

    I have a travel-backpack I bought at REI two decades ago. It is great – zips completely open, had a detachable daypack, and a panel that zipped over the straps (makes it much easier to check on a flight).

  53. Louise,

    We like the REI camp towels. We use them for camp, for the gym and for travel. (http://www.rei.com/product/832932/rei-multitowel-lite-large-towel-36-x-165)

    For the pillow, depends – I have a small travel pillow from Bed, Bath and Beyond, but it is not super comfortable. I have one that is more expensive, but only worth it if you use it a lot. My kids use the large ziploc travel space bags and take their regular pillow.

    Bag – Depends on what he needs for 4 days. My kids take a stuff sack, sort of like this (http://www.academy.com/shop/pdp/coleman-large-compression-stuff-sack/pid-928803) and a back pack – similar to what they use for school or a duffle bag.

  54. In college I missed my connecting flight to Europe due to issues at O’hare. I was travelling alone for the first time and I recall standing in line and everyone in front of me being turned away for hotel vouchers. I stood my ground demanding they put me up in a hotel, include food vouchers, and book me on the next direct flight (I was not settling for connecting European flights). And guess what? I got what I asked for. It was such a valuable experience and it was probably where I learned to not let travel issues ruin a vacation. I also learned not to connect through O’Hare.

  55. LAX should also be on any list of airports to avoid connecting through.

  56. We have a family member with divorced parents who has to fly cross country several times a year, but is still too young to read fluently, let alone negotiate for a hotel room. Right now a parent takes him, but that gets very expensive.

    I thought there might be a chaperone service, but not on the airline they usually use.

  57. Frankfurt is terrible, too. After last summer, I’ve vowed to avoid it when possible. DS got hauled off into a separate area for random terrorist screening check. They then segregated the entire family to double check our electronics. Same thing happened to a colleague of mine.

  58. Mémé, that’s great news.

    Can his heart function be increased through exercise?

  59. “Then he gets $500, Admirals Club access, a hotel, food vouchers and first class on the next flight.”

    “I have never heard of someone who is bumped getting food vouchers, a hotel, and first class.”

    The last time I got bumped, I got a hotel and food vouchers.

    I also got mileage credit for both the flight on which I was booked, and the flight I actually took. Mileage seems to be something the gate personnel have authority to give, and which they seem to give quite easily, so IME it’s worth asking for. And it can be used for the first class upgrade later.

  60. “Any suggestions for a bag, towel, pillow ?”

    My kids’ school does a number of overnight events, starting with the 4th grade trip off island. For these events, the mandated luggage is a garbage bag, with duct tape and a permanent marker to identify owners.

    I just grab one of our older towels and send that with the kid. No biggie if it doesn’t come back.

    I camped a lot as a kid (I was in Scouting), and most of the kids didn’t bring pillows. A lot of us brought pillowcases, and stuffed them with extra clothes and other soft stuff, and used them as pillows.

  61. OT, DS started catching the city bus alone in 8th grade. We were pushed into that a bit, when the family with which we carpooled when our sons were in 7th grade decided that their DS should catch the bus home instead of being picked up. The two of them initially caught the bus together, then went independently as their schedules diverged. DS enjoyed the independence for a while, but quickly got over that because of how long it takes to get anywhere on the bus.

    I’d have been comfortable sending him alone since he was 14. He figures things out well; he planned out all the ground transportation arrangements, using mass transit, on our trip to the east coast last summer.

    One thing I’d be concerned about if something happened would be, like Mooshi, his not standing up for himself enough. The other thing he’d be lacking is the financial resources (e.g., credit card) to take care of certain situations.

  62. To be clear, when you flight is cancelled (or miss a connection) due to no fault of the airline (weather), then they don’t owe you anything. If it is their fault (mechanical delays/personnel problems) they owe you food, accommodation and quickest onward travel possible.

    I missed a connection in SFO a few years ago, with two littles and a giant belly, due to fog delay in arriving to the airport on another flight. It was right before the 4th and they were unable to do anything, they said. Because it was weather related they were not legally obligated to provide any services and could put us all on the flight that was most convenient for them – 4 days later. Fortunately, DH was traveling frequently and was able to connect with the Gold customer service reps and they solved it.

  63. Like many things, I think this answer is different for each child. We sent our oldest DS off to a national debate tournament in Indianapolis the summer between junior and senior year. The teacher is very laid back – basically telling the kids to make sure they were on a flight with at least one other person and to get themselves to a particular hotel on a certain day.

    My DS and his debate partner traveled together – I was thrilled he was with a girl because I think they tend to pay a bit more attention (to things like overhead announcements of flight changes) and her parents were equally pleased when we explained that our son had traveled enough to know what to do if there were flight changes or other complications.

    I let him figure things out for himself, but was still somewhat surprised when he explained that he had investigated all the ground transportation options and found a city bus line to get to the hotel. We live in the burbs so he was plowing new ground.

    Clearly, I and my friends thought this was big for a 16yo, but you all are telling stories about much, much younger travel. That is impressive.

  64. Sunshine– does that mean your DS (and partner) won at states?

    I’m curious about his experience at nationals. I don’t think many of the local state champs here go to nationals. A friend of DS won states as a senior, then went to nationals, but she was off to college after that so I don’t think DS got to hear much about her experience there.

    DS aspires to having that opportunity.

    BTW, it’s pretty easy to find city bus routes these days. Just use google maps.

  65. Louise – Also, I buy a ton of stuff through Sierra Trading Post. They have very good coupons if you sign up for their email list. They sell overstock and 2nds of popular outdoor gear – so last season’s styles and colors, but most of the big, fancy names are there (which is much like purses – sometimes matters for quality, often matters for coolness -Arc’teryx, Northface, Marmot, etc. )

  66. Finn – he qualified at state without winning. I think any and all exposure to debate is good. I was floored with the talent of the kids participating when I had to do some parent judging (required when he was a novice). Lots of forever-skills are developed in this activity.

    My small town high school had nothing at all comparable to this experience. In some ways it was probably good, because I had no idea there were this many really smart people out there!

  67. Finn –

    With better medication management, especially a course of diuretics and salt restriction, his energy and lung capacity will improve, his blood pressure will come down, and his inefficient ventricles will have an easier job of pumping . Walking and light exercise are good for everyone. However, no amount of exercise will fix his leaky valves or restore his damaged heart. Our objective for his first day home (tomorrow or Wednesday) is to have him get up the stairs successfully and lie down. The attending physician put no restrictions on his activities, he can drive as badly as before. He even booked a vocal coaching client (here) for Friday night.

    If all goes well in the next week or so, I still plan to take the August vacation with consultant DD in his place. 28 year old stepson will be on call (his mom is reliable backup), possibly spend some nights in the guest room, and my DIL will see that he gets some meals. However, after this, no more exotic travel plans. North America has a lot to offer.

    Thanks to everyone for prayers and good wishes, expressed or implied. My kids have been great, too, making jokes and giving me a safe place to vent. I really love this crazy old guy, and just need to make the most out of every day we have.

  68. Meme – I’m glad to hear that your DH is on the road to recovery. Your last sentence at 8:40 made me smile.

  69. Late to the party, but I think it depends in part on whether the child knows the route/area or whether the entire “public transportation experience” is new. I rode the L train in Chicago with DS1 (8) and turnstiles, having to enter and exit quickly, buying tickets (and learning that machines don’t sell child tickets) were all new. I probably wouldn’t expect my child to negotiate all that until at least late high school- it’s like going to a different country, in many ways, although we have ridden the city bus for entertainment on a couple rainy winter days.

    I probably would expect my child could use either a city bus in a familiar area or ride his bike to/from school by middle school. If there were sidewalks and slower speed limits, upper elementary would probably be fine.

    I would let my child fly alone earlier than the airlines will, if it were to visit a grandparent on a nonstop flight. It’s more likely that his school bus will go in a ditch than that the flight will experience anything really unusual.

    One benefit I have with my oldest three is that almost any experience is new/necessary to do alone only for DS1. The twins are usually grouped with/just after DS1 and they always have each other. It will be interesting to see how this affects them as they grow up- we told their kindergarten teacher it was up to her judgment whether to put them together or separate in first grade.

  70. Meme – glad to hear your news.

    WCE – from the one set of twins (with an older brother) that I have observed, having them in the same class would be easier for the parents. Exact same homework, parent teacher conferences, library time and any other school event a parent would like to be there for, are at the same time. Otherwise you would have to go to one twin’s class, then the other. Past elementary, all this goes away.

  71. Off Topic – here is a book I liked that may interest Tote baggers.
    How to Be a Victorian: A Dawn-to-Dusk Guide to Victorian Life by Ruth Goodman.

    I also liked the book WCE posted: At Day’s Close: Night in Times Past

  72. meme, I am happy that your husband will be able to come soon.

    It is interesting that different schools have different philosophies about twins. My district does not allow twins or first cousins in the same classroom. You can try to get an exception, but they really prefer it if they can be separated and build their own relationships etc. In my DD’s grade, there are 11 sets of twins in a grade of 160 children.

  73. I’m also surprised schools would put twins in the same class unless it was completely unavoidable.

  74. In my district, twins are usually put together unless there is a specific request to separate them. There is also a cultural tradition of dressing twins the same. I just stay out of it.

  75. Our school lets the parents choose whether twins should be in the same class or not. My twins are fraternal and they were in the same kindergarten class because there’s only one for the bus route by our house. They are both strong readers and if there are reading groups, will be together for that. The kindergarten teacher, reading assistant, and first grade teacher they will likely get are all well into their 60’s (the only first grade teacher this year is in her 45th year of teaching) so my twins will not be the worst behaved children they’ve ever seen.

  76. @WCE – there will be maturity coming into play as well as the boys move into first grade. Both my kids got older (well into 60’s), firm but fair teachers in first grade. Some parents don’t care for that style of teaching but both my kids benefitted from having exposure to different teacher personalities and a some teachers being more demanding than others.

  77. Our district lets parents have a lot of input with the placement of twins. From what I can tell parents cannot make up their minds whether to have the kids in the same class or not.

  78. When I was a kid, our schools grouped kids homogeneously, so all the twins I knew of were kept together.

    At my kids’ school, the normal policy is to separate them, but DS has one set of twins in his class (out of something like 18 sets of twins and triplets in his grade) that were in the same class through 4th grade. In 5th grade, they chose different music options and thus could not be together in all classes.

    DS has a couple of classmates who are boy triplets. The 3rd triplet is a sister who is one grade above them, because of different cutoff dates for boys and girls. That seemed to work out well for them, as the three of them have chosen to have largely separate lives in school, with no overlap in activities, and thus very little overlap in friends. It helps to be in a school which offers a wide variety of activities.

  79. Sunshine, I agree with you about kids meeting smart kids through debate. DS has made friends with kids from other schools’ debate team, and has seen several of their names in the paper as NMSF.

    I was also similarly blown away the first time I went to an intermediate speech meet.

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