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Best tips for a 15yo girl flying solo for the first time?


38carrots
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Would you buy the "unaccompanied minor" service? Why and why not? (I prefer not to, as it is pricey).

What is the minimum you'd have between flights? (She will have 3 flights / 2 layovers)

Would you suggest she buys wifi while on the planes? Is it easy to do? Should she have a credit card? (She'll have a 2.5h flight, a 4 h flight, and a 1h flight).

Anything else that I'm missing? She's a bit nervous, but she'd done this route with me once, and thinks she can do it on her own.)

 

Edited by 38carrots
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First: tell her that things will be OK even if she misses a connecting flight. The airline WILL get her to her destination. She will not get stranded somewhere, just possibly delayed. 

I would not purchase unaccompanied minor service for a 15 y/o. Airports are pretty safe places and fairly straight forward to navigate; I would expect a 15 y/o to manage a domestic flight on her own. 

I would not book any connections that have less than 1.5 hours connecting time. Sometimes one can get away with less, if the plane is on time, if you don't have to go through security a second time, if the lines are not long. But I would not plan on it. I feel comfortable with 2 hours.

 

ETA: Book the earliest possible flight combination of the day. With three legs, you want to make sure that her last leg is not the last flight of the day, in case things go wrong. 

 

She should have a credit card with her, for unexpected expenses. Like missing a plane, having to buy a meal, etc.

Wifi on the plane - meh, not necessary. Does not hurt though. easy to book, instructions are in the booklet, flight attendant can help.

 

Other stuff: take some food. Airline may not serve food on plane.

Water bottles cannot go through security; she should take an empty bottle and fill after security.

Free Wifi at many airports limited to 20 minutes. Discuss whether she may buy wifi access.

 

Tell her to speak up to a flight attendant if somebody makes her uncomfortable. Another poster posted about her DD having a bad experience with a fellow passenger. She should know that she can loudly tell somebody to stop bothering her, can get up, can approach a flight attendant and request assistance. 

 

Will she have luggage or travel with carry-on only?

If she travels with carry-on, prepare her for the possibility that she may be asked to gate check her larger hand luggage in small air crafts. She will get it back right at the gate, not the baggage claim. She should have a foldable bag or something so she can take out her laptop, documents, medications etc and carry them on the plane - those should not be gate checked. 

If checked luggage: make sure luggage is checked through and she knows what that entails. i assume somebody will meet her at the other end. They can help her deal with the situation if luggage got lost, so she does not need to be instructed how to handle that.

Edited by regentrude
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DD15 has flown multiple times alone.  I have not had to purchase unaccompanied minor service since she was 12, so she has flown alone.  No problems as she is airport-savvy.

 

For connecting flights, I always tell her to find the gate THEN hit the bathroom or go get food.

She has the airline app on her phone to warn her of flight delays and gate changes.

She has all the contact numbers she needs (mine, her dad's, sister, grandparents) both in her phone and on paper in her luggage.

She has two forms of picture ID - her state ID and a school ID - in case things get weird.

She has a snack and an empty water bottle that she can fill.

 

BTW - most flights require a credit card to buy food or WiFi unless you can get it in advance.  DD hasn't traveled with a card in the past as we sent snacks and she had cash for airports, but in the future, I think she will be getting a Visa debit card from our bank she can use when travelling.

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I haven't had to deal with this, but a friend has.  Yes, to the credit card and a cell phone.  My friend's daughter was traveling and her flight was cancelled. Because she had no credit card she couldn't book a hotel room and had to sleep (sort of) in the airport.  From that point on, she always traveled with a credit card for just such an emergency.

 

FWIW, it wasn't a problem, my friend's daughter was fine and always felt perfectly safe in the airport overnight. But, her mom would have preferred her daughter be in a hotel room.

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My 19 year old daughter has been flying alone for years. I have never done unaccompanied minor.

 

We fly United and haven't had wifi in a while. You download United app ahead of time and get free tv on your iPad, etc.

 

Definitely a credit card to buy snack on plane or in airport or in case of emergency.

 

Cell phone charger, so can charge phone in airport.

 

Plus lots of discussion beforehand what to do if someone makes you uncomfortable. I still make my daughter call me from plane and tell me who is sitting in her row, are they nice, etc.

 

My daughter was a nervous wreck the first time (so nervous I thought she may not make it in plane). Now she adores flying alone, knows where all good food/shopping is at various airports, if she's early she's been known to go to a sit down restaurant.

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I would not buy the service for a 15yo.

 

The minimum time between flights would depend on where and time of year. I would allow more time for winter at O'Hare, for example, than summer in Denver. 1.5-2.5 hours should be fine.

 

A credit card would be useful as a backup, but not having one shouldn't stop her. She can always carry cash and have you call the airline if she needs something booked. I doubt any hotel would allow a 15 yo to stay there alone, and the airport is safer anyway. Bonus that you don't have to worry about her getting back from the hotel to the airport in time.

 

She doesn't need wifi, just a book or a couple of magazines.

 

Remind her to listen to announcements about gate changes and such, and have her double-check the gate when she gets to it by reading the board and/or talking to the desk.

 

She'll be fine!

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Well, if she's wary enough to scream rather than freeze if some man does something creepy, and patient enough to repeat to the clerk at the gate, "I can't get a hotel room. I am 15.  I don't have a credit card.  You need to give me a hotel voucher for canceling my flight," over and over again ad nauseum until the clerk gives in to make her go away, then she doesn't need any service.  She definitely needs cash and something to read.

 

One advantage of the service is that when they inevitably screw up and don't get her to a connecting flight on time, they will either bring the plane back to the gate for a kid with unaccompanied service OR bump someone from the next flight to make certain she's not stuck at the airport alone all night.  The other thing is that in huge airports, some airlines have gates that are MILES apart.  With the service, she gets on a cart and someone drives her to the gate, rather than having to possibly sprint through the airport, taking tunnels, trains, and elevators to figure out where to go (depending on which airport).

 

If this is her first or second time flying all day with multiple connecting flights, and she's not familiar with airports, I think the service is a good idea.  If it was just a direct flight, no big deal.  Ice storms have a way of getting a kid stranded somewhere at this time of year, and having VIP priority status of the service is stress relieving.  It won't mean she'll be babysat all the time, but she will be given vouchers for meals, told to be back at a certain time, etc.  Unless it's changed a lot from when I was a kid, that is.  It may have.

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First: tell her that things will be OK even if she misses a connecting flight. The airline WILL get her to her destination. She will not get stranded somewhere, just possibly delayed. 

I would not purchase unaccompanied minor service for a 15 y/o. Airports are pretty safe places and fairly straight forward to navigate; I would expect a 15 y/o to manage a domestic flight on her own. 

I would not book any connections that have less than 1.5 hours connecting time. Sometimes one can get away with less, if the plane is on time, if you don't have to go through security a second time, if the lines are not long. But I would not plan on it. I feel comfortable with 2 hours.

 

ETA: Book the earliest possible flight combination of the day. With three legs, you want to make sure that her last leg is not the last flight of the day, in case things go wrong. 

 

She should have a credit card with her, for unexpected expenses. Like missing a plane, having to buy a meal, etc.

Wifi on the plane - meh, not necessary. Does not hurt though. easy to book, instructions are in the booklet, flight attendant can help.

 

Other stuff: take some food. Airline may not serve food on plane.

Water bottles cannot go through security; she should take an empty bottle and fill after security.

Free Wifi at many airports limited to 20 minutes. Discuss whether she may buy wifi access.

 

Tell her to speak up to a flight attendant if somebody makes her uncomfortable. Another poster posted about her DD having a bad experience with a fellow passenger. She should know that she can loudly tell somebody to stop bothering her, can get up, can approach a flight attendant and request assistance. 

 

Will she have luggage or travel with carry-on only?

If she travels with carry-on, prepare her for the possibility that she may be asked to gate check her larger hand luggage in small air crafts. She will get it back right at the gate, not the baggage claim. She should have a foldable bag or something so she can take out her laptop, documents, medications etc and carry them on the plane - those should not be gate checked. 

If checked luggage: make sure luggage is checked through and she knows what that entails. i assume somebody will meet her at the other end. They can help her deal with the situation if luggage got lost, so she does not need to be instructed how to handle that.

 

Thank you, this is helpful. I didn't know she could bring her own food. I'll confirm this, but that's reassuring. When we flew this route together, there was not enough time to buy airport food that would accommodate her allergies.

 

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DD15 has flown multiple times alone.  I have not had to purchase unaccompanied minor service since she was 12, so she has flown alone.  No problems as she is airport-savvy.

 

For connecting flights, I always tell her to find the gate THEN hit the bathroom or go get food.

She has the airline app on her phone to warn her of flight delays and gate changes.

She has all the contact numbers she needs (mine, her dad's, sister, grandparents) both in her phone and on paper in her luggage.

She has two forms of picture ID - her state ID and a school ID - in case things get weird.

She has a snack and an empty water bottle that she can fill.

 

BTW - most flights require a credit card to buy food or WiFi unless you can get it in advance.  DD hasn't traveled with a card in the past as we sent snacks and she had cash for airports, but in the future, I think she will be getting a Visa debit card from our bank she can use when travelling.

 

Thank you. Is the airline app reliable?

 

DD is normally very responsible and independent, but this is a new experience, and she's a bit nervous. We also don't have too many booking options, so the last leg will definitely be the last flight of the day...Yes, she's worried about missing a flight. I know she will be fine and handle things, but I'd like this to be as easy as possible for her.

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My 19 year old daughter has been flying alone for years. I have never done unaccompanied minor.

 

We fly United and haven't had wifi in a while. You download United app ahead of time and get free tv on your iPad, etc.

 

Definitely a credit card to buy snack on plane or in airport or in case of emergency.

 

Cell phone charger, so can charge phone in airport.

 

Plus lots of discussion beforehand what to do if someone makes you uncomfortable. I still make my daughter call me from plane and tell me who is sitting in her row, are they nice, etc.

 

My daughter was a nervous wreck the first time (so nervous I thought she may not make it in plane). Now she adores flying alone, knows where all good food/shopping is at various airports, if she's early she's been known to go to a sit down restaurant.

 

I thought she'd need to buy wifi on the planes in order to be able to text me at any time on the flight (we are the last non-cell phone people on Eearth lol. We are buying cell phones just for those trips so that she could text me whenever she needs to.)

 

Will she be able to text me without purchasing wifi?

 

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I would not buy the service for a 15yo.

 

The minimum time between flights would depend on where and time of year. I would allow more time for winter at O'Hare, for example, than summer in Denver. 1.5-2.5 hours should be fine.

 

A credit card would be useful as a backup, but not having one shouldn't stop her. She can always carry cash and have you call the airline if she needs something booked. I doubt any hotel would allow a 15 yo to stay there alone, and the airport is safer anyway. Bonus that you don't have to worry about her getting back from the hotel to the airport in time.

 

She doesn't need wifi, just a book or a couple of magazines.

 

Remind her to listen to announcements about gate changes and such, and have her double-check the gate when she gets to it by reading the board and/or talking to the desk.

 

She'll be fine!

 

That's a good point. She'd prefer to stay in the airport overnight, if needed, than go through the trouble of booking a hotel.

 

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Well, if she's wary enough to scream rather than freeze if some man does something creepy, and patient enough to repeat to the clerk at the gate, "I can't get a hotel room. I am 15.  I don't have a credit card.  You need to give me a hotel voucher for canceling my flight," over and over again ad nauseum until the clerk gives in to make her go away, then she doesn't need any service.  She definitely needs cash and something to read.

 

One advantage of the service is that when they inevitably screw up and don't get her to a connecting flight on time, they will either bring the plane back to the gate for a kid with unaccompanied service OR bump someone from the next flight to make certain she's not stuck at the airport alone all night.  The other thing is that in huge airports, some airlines have gates that are MILES apart.  With the service, she gets on a cart and someone drives her to the gate, rather than having to possibly sprint through the airport, taking tunnels, trains, and elevators to figure out where to go (depending on which airport).

 

If this is her first or second time flying all day with multiple connecting flights, and she's not familiar with airports, I think the service is a good idea.  If it was just a direct flight, no big deal.  Ice storms have a way of getting a kid stranded somewhere at this time of year, and having VIP priority status of the service is stress relieving.  It won't mean she'll be babysat all the time, but she will be given vouchers for meals, told to be back at a certain time, etc.  Unless it's changed a lot from when I was a kid, that is.  It may have.

 

She is most likely to be flying via New York and Salt Lake City. We had to take a shuttle in NY to get to the next gate, but it was easy (Though I've flown a dozen of times--not super experienced, but experienced enough. And for her it will be the 3rd time ever, and the trip does take all day. It was very tiring for both of us, actually.) And there was a connection where we were told to "jog for about 20 minutes" to the next gate, in order to make it. We barely made it.

 

I wish there was a service that she'd be taken to the gate, without the whole hoopla of "unaccompanied minor." She would have at least more peace of mind.

 

ETA: I've forgotten about ice storms and weather related delays in winter. Oy.

Edited by 38carrots
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I'd skip the unaccompanied minor arrangement.

 

I would avoid two connections. I wouldn't put myself on a trip with two connections, mostly because I know what my own airport is like and how often we've already been delayed and missed connections because of it.  On my most recent trip, however, my other flights were delayed.

 

If she has any trouble making connections (missing flights), it can be super helpful for her to be working on it on her end at the airport AND for you to be working on it from your end by phone, calling the airlines. This was a game changer for my kid when they were stranded half way through a flight.

 

 

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I'd skip the unaccompanied minor arrangement.

 

I would avoid two connections. I wouldn't put myself on a trip with two connections, mostly because I know what my own airport is like and how often we've already been delayed and missed connections because of it.  On my most recent trip, however, my other flights were delayed.

 

If she has any trouble making connections (missing flights), it can be super helpful for her to be working on it on her end at the airport AND for you to be working on it from your end by phone, calling the airlines. This was a game changer for my kid when they were stranded half way through a flight.

 

I can't find only 2 connections while looking on-line. It is always 3, no matter what. I don't think it is possible to fly with only 2.

 

Should I hire a travel agent? Are they still worth while those days? Can they really get a better price / better connections etc?

 

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I thought she'd need to buy wifi on the planes in order to be able to text me at any time on the flight (we are the last non-cell phone people on Eearth lol. We are buying cell phones just for those trips so that she could text me whenever she needs to.)

 

Will she be able to text me without purchasing wifi?

She can't text you on the plane with or without wifi. Text is a cellular service, not data. She can email you if she has a smart phone. Or chat via Google hangouts via wifi again...

 

With allergies, she needs to bring her own food. As much add she will need. Save the hassel and don't have her bring any liquids, even under the 3.5oz limit. When she goes through security, she may want to go through family and medical liquids lane just because they are usually nicer over there and used to kids (even if she's a big kid). Personally, I'd be sure her carry on is small enough to fit under the seat (exact dimensions posted on airline website) so she does not have the risk of having to gate check her bag and need to decide what to grab at the last minute etc.

If her allergies are serious, know that epi pens can go through security without hassel and should be kept with her at all times no matter what.

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There are $177 nonstop flights on JetBlue from JFK to SLC leaving Dec 14th & returning Thanksgiving day on Kayak.com right now.  Try Kayak, and search for nonstop or one stop on whichever days she needs.  Usually Tuesdays and Thursdays are the cheapest ones to fly IME.

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She can't text you on the plane with or without wifi. Text is a cellular service, not data. She can email you if she has a smart phone. Or chat via Google hangouts via wifi again...

 

With allergies, she needs to bring her own food. As much add she will need. Save the hassel and don't have her bring any liquids, even under the 3.5oz limit. When she goes through security, she may want to go through family and medical liquids lane just because they are usually nicer over there and used to kids (even if she's a big kid). Personally, I'd be sure her carry on is small enough to fit under the seat (exact dimensions posted on airline website) so she does not have the risk of having to gate check her bag and need to decide what to grab at the last minute etc.

If her allergies are serious, know that epi pens can go through security without hassel and should be kept with her at all times no matter what.

 

Thank you. So if she buys wifi on the plane, she can message me on FB or email? Correct?

 

Thank you for the tip re carry-on. I hope she can just have a backpack.

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My DD turned 16 a few weeks ago. We would not pay for unaccompanied minor service. I am a former airline employee.  I would try to prepare my DD for everything I can think of that might possibly go wrong.  Our family does not schedule tight connections, even when we are on the same airline for all flights.  If the connections are in the same terminal building and with the same airline, I would like to see 2 hours scheduled, from the scheduled arrival of one flight to the scheduled departure of the next flight.  That assumes they are domestic flights and not international flights.  Some airlines (our largest airline, Avianca is one of them) frequently leave early.  Also, especially on international departures, Avianca closes the door to the aircraft 20 minutes before the scheduled departure. That is printed on their boarding passes.  Our flight from Orlando to Bogota last May began the takeoff roll at the time the flight was scheduled to leave the gate.  I would instruct her to go through security as early as is possible and go directly to the departure gate. That is for her safety (terrorism and normal crime) and also to prevent her missing a flight because she is delayed in security.    If it cost more than a few $, my DD would not be buying in-flight WiFi service.  My DD would have a Smart phone with a fully charged battery with her at all times.  We live in Cali, Colombia. We could send my DD, alone, to Lubbock, Texas. That would require probably 2 or 3 connections, as your DD is looking at. I would want my DD to know what to do, if she ended up in a city she was not planning to be in (things sometimes go awry) and have some way for her to be safe. That is where my real concern comes in. What would happen, if a minor, who had not paid the airline for unaccompanied minor service, ended up in a city they were not scheduled to be in?   Highly unlikely that would happen, however, it does happen.  I have been on more than one flight that ended up in a city it was not scheduled to be in.  On one flight, from Houston TX to Caracas, Venezuela, the flight was scheduled to stop in Aruba. The weather in Aruba did not permit our flight to land there. The Aruba passengers went with us to Caracas.  Had your DD been on that flight, with Aruba as her destination, the airline would have taken care of her, along with all of the passengers.   The situation could be much different, for your DD or my DD, if they, as a minor, try to check into a hotel by themselves. I think in the unlikely event that were to happen to my DD, I would have her go to someone from the airline, explain that she was alone, and ask for their help.  One thing that was in a previous thread on WTM was that the DD of the poster was seated next to a creep who had his hands on her. Your DD should be prepared to yell "Fire" if anyone ever bothers her...  The bottom line is that probably everything will go perfectly and that your DD will be just fine and have a great trip.

 

We always print two (2) copies of the Boarding Passes for each flight. Why?  I assume we will leave one copy with the Gate Agent, before we board the aircraft. They don't always take that copy, but I assume they will take it.  Then, if there is any confusion, we have the other copy with us in the Cabin after boarding. That happened to my wife on one of the 4 flights we took to Orlando in April/May.  My wife was seated and another woman claimed that my wife was in her seat.  The other woman was in the wrong row.  Also, for Frequent Flyer miles it is good to keep a copy of the Boarding Passes until you see the miles in your account.  

 

If your DD is going on an International trip, then you MUST confirm with the airline(s) involved what documentation is required. Some countries, like Colombia, are *extremely* strict about Minors travelling.  

 

If the airline(s) involved do not give free headsets to their passengers on those routes, I would buy an inexpensive set of headphones for her so she can watch the movies, listen to the music, etc.

Edited by Lanny
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I would avoid two connections. I wouldn't put myself on a trip with two connections, mostly because I know what my own airport is like and how often we've already been delayed and missed connections because of it.  On my most recent trip, however, my other flights were delayed.

 

 

If you are flying from one small town on one side of the country to another small town on the other side of the country, two connections may be the only way to get there.

 

Still, I'd work hard to find a schedule that doesn't require flying the last flight of the day on the last step of the 3 legged journey.  That's just asking for trouble.

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oh, just realized you meant connections in NYC & SLC, not to/from.  Try Kayak.com and see if you can arrange something with less stops.  Travel agents are generally only helpful for round the world trips these days IME.

 

That's what I thought about travel agents. I used to order via Expedia, and they offered a list of other sites to check for price comparison. It was all pretty even. I only saw one option with less stops and it was $1000 more. lol (when I was booking our previos trip).

 

We don't know the exact dates yet. Some times in January for the first trip.

 

 

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Thank you. So if she buys wifi on the plane, she can message me on FB or email? Correct?

 

Thank you for the tip re carry-on. I hope she can just have a backpack.

 

The last three trips I've been on, the wifi on the plane has been out of order.  I wouldn't plan on being able to use it.

 

Why would she need to message you on the plane? 

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My DD turned 16 a few weeks ago. We would not pay for unaccompanied minor service. I am a former airline employee.  I would try to prepare my DD for everything I can think of that might possibly go wrong.  Our family does not schedule tight connections, even when we are on the same airline for all flights.  If the connections are in the same terminal building and with the same airline, I would like to see 2 hours scheduled, from the scheduled arrival of one flight to the scheduled departure of the next flight.  That assumes they are domestic flights and not international flights.  Some airlines (our largest airline, Avianca is one of them) frequently leave early.  Also, especially on international departures, Avianca closes the door to the aircraft 20 minutes before the scheduled departure. That is printed on their boarding passes.  Our flight from Orlando to Bogota last May began the takeoff roll at the time the flight was scheduled to leave the gate.  I would instruct her to go through security as early as is possible and go directly to the departure gate. That is for her safety (terrorism and normal crime) and also to prevent her missing a flight because she is delayed in security.    If it cost more than a few $, my DD would not be buying in-flight WiFi service.  My DD would have a Smart phone with a fully charged battery with her at all times.  We live in Cali, Colombia. We could send my DD, alone, to Lubbock, Texas. That would require probably 2 or 3 connections, as your DD is looking at. I would want my DD to know what to do, if she ended up in a city she was not planning to be in (things sometimes go awry) and have some way for her to be safe. That is where my real concern comes in. What would happen, if a minor, who had not paid the airline for unaccompanied minor service, ended up in a city they were not scheduled to be in?   Highly unlikely that would happen, however, it does happen.  I have been on more than one flight that ended up in a city it was not scheduled to be in.  On one flight, from Houston TX to Caracas, Venezuela, the flight was scheduled to stop in Aruba. The weather in Aruba did not permit our flight to land there. The Aruba passengers went with us to Caracas.  Had your DD been on that flight, with Aruba as her destination, the airline would have taken care of her, along with all of the passengers.   The situation could be much different, for your DD or my DD, if they, as a minor, try to check into a hotel by themselves. I think in the unlikely event that were to happen to my DD, I would have her go to someone from the airline, explain that she was alone, and ask for their help.  One thing that was in a previous thread on WTM was that the DD of the poster was seated next to a creep who had his hands on her. Your DD should be prepared to yell "Fire" if anyone ever bothers her...  The bottom line is that probably everything will go perfectly and that your DD will be just fine and have a great trip.

 

We always print two (2) copies of the Boarding Passes for each flight. Why?  I assume we will leave one copy with the Gate Agent, before we board the aircraft. They don't always take that copy, but I assume they will take it.  Then, if there is any confusion, we have the other copy with us in the Cabin after boarding. That happened to my wife on one of the 4 flights we took to Orlando in April/May.  My wife was seated and another woman claimed that my wife was in her seat.  The other woman was in the wrong row.  Also, for Frequent Flyer miles it is good to keep a copy of the Boarding Passes until you see the miles in your account.  

 

If your DD is going on an International trip, then you MUST confirm with the airline(s) involved what documentation is required. Some countries, like Colombia, are *extremely* strict about Minors travelling.  

 

If the airline(s) involved do not give free headsets to their passengers on those routes, I would buy an inexpensive set of headphones for her so she can watch the movies, listen to the music, etc.

 

Thank you for the thorough reply. Great points about printing extra passes. And about being rerouted. I think my main message to her is that even if they are rerouted she can always get in touch with me and the person she's travelling to, and between all of us, we will figure out what to do, and that the worst case scenario she sleeps in an airport. For a kid who loves to sleep on the floor this won't be too inconvenient lol

 

I guess I want her to have wifi on the planes, especially the 4-5h flight, as I know she will be more comfortable if she could message me, take photos and share and so on. This will be a bit of a novelty for her and I think it will keep her mind from worrying.

 

 

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The last three trips I've been on, the wifi on the plane has been out of order.  I wouldn't plan on being able to use it.

 

Why would she need to message you on the plane? 

 

That's good to know, thank you.

 

She might not message me, but I think just knowing that she could would help her be more at ease.  Plus taking photos and sharing them would be enough of a novelty for her to be happily busy lol. I know she will be tense / nervous.

 

The longest trip she took by herself was 2h on a bus. She's also going to be away from home for over a week, while the longest she's been away was 2 nights (with the understanding that we could get her if needed.) It is a big experience for her and I want to make sure she's comfortable.

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Thank you. So if she buys wifi on the plane, she can message me on FB or email? Correct?

 

Thank you for the tip re carry-on. I hope she can just have a backpack.

Yes that is correct. It would have to be a small backpack or only half full with no "structure" so it can collapse down. Let her check her real bag. Carry on just needs one change of clothes, toothbrush, phone, charger, book, wallet with important papers, and a gallon ziplock packed with dry food -- two sandwiches, two oranges, bar of chocolate etc. Whatever works for her allergies and won't get too crushed and gross. Some flight attendants are really strict. The bag needs to completely fit under the seat in front AND the foot space in the aisle needs to stay clear so peoplee can walk past in an emergency.

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My kids are pretty experienced travelers, and we haven't done unaccompanied minor services beyond age 12 or 13, but you know, I think I'll go against the herd, here.

 

For an itinerary with 3 layovers, with a final segment late in the day, in the winter, I'd seriously consider the service.  Not out of Fear of Airports (they're safer than all kinds of other transportation hubs), but just so I knew that in the event of a weather-related or other hiccup, my kid would go to the head the re-seating line and get first priority once there.  (Frankly for and itinerary with 3 layovers with a final segment late in the day in the winter, I'd consider paying for that kind of insurance FOR MYSELF if it were available, lol.)  I don't generally sweat travel hiccups, but those are exactly the kind of factors that up the odds of a problem, and if your daughter will be rattled by a problem, that IMO is what the service is for.  

 

And if there isn't a problem, which there probably won't be, the attendants will be chill -- they're no more interested in hovering unnecessarily or mortifying her, than she is, lol...

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We fly with a small backpack (like a school backpack) and a small wheeled suitcase all the time. The suitcase goes overhead and the backpack under the seat. The suitcase, even if it meets the carry-on requirements, may be taken away at the gate and checked if the plane is small or very crowded. Have her put anything important in the backpack.

 

Multiple copies of the boarding pass are good. That way, if she loses one, she,ll be ok.

 

Remind her that planes board about half an hour before the departure time, and that they lock the doors well before departure, so she can,t arrive at the gate too close to the time on her ticket. Usually they put the boarding time on the ticket, but this can change. I was just on the phone with my son when they made the last boarding call early. He panicked and hung up fast.

 

Make sure she goes through security right away, goes to the gate, and actually talks to the attendant to make sure that is still her gate. If she is early, they may change it, so she needs to keep checking.

 

Headphones make a good defense against overly friendly strangers. Hoodies are nice, too.

 

Tell her to stand up and shout don,t touch me if someone touches her inappropriately. Make sure she knows that it is ok to do that.

 

She knows about the little bag in the seat pocket, right? That can save embarrassment.

 

Remind her to drink enough that she doesn,t get dehydrated. Planes are dry. She can ask the flight attendant for extra water. On the other hand, remind her that she will need to go to the bathroom if she drinks too much, which can get uncomfortable during landing or takeoff.

 

Planes can be hot and you can feel sick if you overheat and it is bumpy. Dressing in layers is a good idea.

 

Definitely bring food, but remember that smelly or noisy food may bother your neighbors.

 

Tell her to bring her bags into the stall with her in the airport bathroom. And generally keep them where she can see them easily.

 

You can print out maps of airports beforehand and remind her of how they are laid out.

 

She knows how to check the monitors for her flight, right?

 

Make sure she knows what to do if a flight is cancelled (go to airline desk, explain, and ask to be rescheduled).

 

Check the am/pm on all flights. We,ve messed this up before.

 

We generally text loved ones when we are actually on the plane, and then when the plane lands. It cuts down on worry. You can check on her flight from home on the airline,s website.

 

She should be fine. : ) Teenagers do this all the time.

 

Nan

 

Eta - tell her that if she is allowed to carry on a hoodie or sweater or coat. It doesn,t have to fit in the backpack. People carry on sacks from Dunkin Donuts and cups of coffee and sodas, too. Again, those don,t have to fit in her backpack.

Edited by Nan in Mass
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After reading all the replies, I have to agree with Pam in CT: this one case is tricky. Winter in NYC and SLC will likely mean snow and ice (and delays and cancellations).  The last leg is the last flight of the day. There is more of a chance for things to go "wrong," I think, and if your dd is at all nervous or anxious... or if she's not completely jaded by a lifetime of flying... then I'd get the unaccompanied minor service.

 

My 14 y.o. dd flew both with and without unaccompanied minor service this summer and both times she was lucky enough to have age-mate friends and/or familiar adult colleagues on the flights with her. It made it much more enjoyable and less stressful/less anxious for her. Next year she will be 15 and will likely be flying without me again... if she was doing three legs, alone, in winter, and later at night, I would definitely get the service.

 

Best wishes to you and your dd!

Edited by zaichiki
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I thought she'd need to buy wifi on the planes in order to be able to text me at any time on the flight (we are the last non-cell phone people on Eearth lol. We are buying cell phones just for those trips so that she could text me whenever she needs to.)

 

Will she be able to text me without purchasing wifi?

In my experience wifi on planes is so bad it's not worth purchasing.

 

Also, under 18 she won't be able to get a hotel room alone.

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Just my personal flying comfort zone - always keep a change of clothes in carry on. Toothbrush/mini toothpaste (the mini tube should be okay for liquid regulations). Just in case something unexpected happens. Someone spills a drink on your pants, you get stuck over night and want to brush your teeth, you make it to final destination but checked luggage is missing, etc. I did have a flight completely canceled due to weather once when I was traveling alone. I got a hotel voucher from the airport (I didn't even know how they worked and had to figure out where to get in line to ask for one), but I still had to pay a large chunk of the fee. The hotel was not cheap. I didn't want to sleep in the airport overnight so I took the hotel. Maybe if I wasn't traveling alone and it wasn't going to be so many hours I would have stayed. The airport shuttle took me from airport to hotel. I was fortunate enough that a friend was able to pick me up from the hotel and go eat dinner with me, otherwise I would have probably had to rely on prepacked snacks or a vending machine. So, make sure she has cash for something like that. Also cash to tip. May need to tip someone handling luggage or if she needs to use one of those carts to be driven across the airport. I am able-bodied, but there have been times where due to airport layout/timing/or traveling with someone elderly that we relied on that service. It was a big help.

 

I don't know if texting works during flight just because of cell tower range, but I don't think it has anything to do with wifi capabilities. I can still use a texting feature on my phone when I disable my wifi. I didn't always have a data plan, which means I used to text before wifi/internet. I've always just used my phone before takeoff/upon landing. I don't know that it would be so crucial to communicate mid flight. Ok I just saw some replies above. I'm frugal. I probably wouldn't spend the money on the wifi assuming it's expensive Lol. I'd probably bring a book or kindle or coloring book or something.

 

Agree with checking the flight info on the boards when you land. The app thing sounds cool! I have never used an app for that. I think I'd rely more on the airport boards/airport staff in case the app is slower.

 

If it's possible I would choose the most direct flight arrangement as possible. I am agreeing with the poster that said I wouldn't even want to do two connections myself.

 

My problem with the idea of getting stuck in an airport overnight is the urge to sleep but feeling vulnerable to keep an eye on my luggage adequately. I'd loop my strap around my leg but still be concerned.

Edited by heartlikealion
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Is there no way to cut down on the connections? All of my kids have flown alone or 2-3 at a time and that's the only thing about your plan that gives me pause. What if she's stuck at an airport in an immediate city for 2-4 days?

 

2-4 days??? This happens???

 

I'll investigate cutting down on the connections. Maybe she can fly into the nearest big airport instead.

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Thank you. So if she buys wifi on the plane, she can message me on FB or email? Correct?

 

Thank you for the tip re carry-on. I hope she can just have a backpack.

Yes but often the in flight wifi doesn't work, so I always have kids text me "in my seat" and "landed". I also track their flights because I have very young kids flying alone and I freak out on the inside no matter how many times we do this.
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Thank you. Is the airline app reliable?

 

DD is normally very responsible and independent, but this is a new experience, and she's a bit nervous. We also don't have too many booking options, so the last leg will definitely be the last flight of the day...Yes, she's worried about missing a flight. I know she will be fine and handle things, but I'd like this to be as easy as possible for her.

When you book the ticket you can put her cell phone number and they will text any flight delays, etc.

 

I have the United app on my iPad/cellphone and you can see if flight took off on time, what time it took off plus there is an interactive map so you can track it as it flies across the country.

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If she can read, and she can recognize a uniform, and she can understand verbal instructions, she doesn't need to be accompanied.  Give her at least 45 minute layovers, so she's not rushing.  Maybe type some step by step instructions for the airport, so she knows what to expect, or can look it up if she's confused.  If she has a smartphone, install the airline's app.  Don't bog her down with a ton of stuff to remember.  

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2-4 days??? This happens???

 

I'll investigate cutting down on the connections. Maybe she can fly into the nearest big airport instead.

In the winter? It's possible. My daughter and her friend were stuck for almost a week in Chicago due to back-to-back snowstorms. Luckily they were visiting us, so they had a place to stay.

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I traveled alone for the first time at 12 and got a sinus infection before my return trip. All I remember doing is sitting in the plane with my head between my knees crying for the entire flight. So teach her about the wonders of Sudafed. I now always carry Sudafed when I fly.

Emily

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I traveled alone for the first time at 12 and got a sinus infection before my return trip. All I remember doing is sitting in the plane with my head between my knees crying for the entire flight. So teach her about the wonders of Sudafed. I now always carry Sudafed when I fly.

Emily

Ooh. This reminds me. One of my exchange students flew for the first time. To us. From France. At 11. Alone. He gets (he found out) those headaches from change in cabin pressure, and along with the nervous tummy ache, he was confused as to what was happening to his body. Poor kid. When we flew (together) to Florida during his stay here I handed him some gum and explained and he relaxed. But this was a kid who had never flown before...

Eta that the United ap seems legit in our experience

Edited by madteaparty
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Ooh. This reminds me. One of my exchange students flew for the first time. To us. From France. At 11. Alone. He gets (he found out) those headaches from change in cabin pressure, and along with the nervous tummy ache, he was confused as to what was happening to his body. Poor kid. When we flew (together) to Florida during his stay here I handed him some gum and explained and he relaxed. But this was a kid who had never flown before...

Eta that the United ap seems legit in our experience

I didn't figure it gave out flight info for other airlines? Not sure which airline 38carrots is using.

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