“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

TravelHaven Tips – Children Flying Alone

After recent stories about airlines putting two unaccompanied minors on the wrong flights, travel writer Harriet Baskas (author of the “Stuck at the Airport” blog ) recently wrote a piece on msnbc.com that you can find here: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/31513456/ns/travel-tips/ In the article Ms. Baskas notes that the Department of Transportation publishes a pamphlet with tips for children flying alone, but it does not impose formal regulations for unaccompanied minors.

Ms. Baskas offers these five tips for sending your kids alone on a plane.

1. Evaluate whether your child is ready to travel alone. Honestly assess your child’s life skills and maturity. Some nine-year-olds may be very self-reliant; some 12-year-olds may be too naive or dependent. Every child develops at her/his own rate. If your child is shy and uncomfortable speaking up, then they probably shouldn’t be traveling alone.

2. Prepare your child for the whole journey. Your child will need the right tools: snacks, spending money, extra layers of clothing, entertainment, and a cell phone or calling card with a list of contact and emergency numbers. Instructions and advice are important too. Talk with your child about how to request a seat change if uncomfortable with a row mate. And remind your child not to tell strangers any personal information. Make sure your child knows what to expect on the plane — from the dings and the announcements to the fact that they’ll be required to turn off games and other electronic devices during take-off and landing.

3. Provide your child with back-up at both ends of the trip. Guardians are allowed to escort a child flying alone through security and out to their gate, but you need to make sure you arrive at the airport early enough to fill out the paperwork and make your way through the security checkpoint together. Don’t rush off once your child boards the plane — stay in the gate area until that flight leaves the ground and is well on its way. If the plane returns to the gate for a mechanical problem or weather delay, you’ll want to be there to reassure your child. The same advice applies at the other end: make sure the person picking up your child knows what’s expected of them and is at the airport well ahead of the airplane’s scheduled arrival.

4. Simplify the trip for your child. Avoid booking your child on the last flight of the day; if that flight gets delayed, your child could be stranded at the airport overnight. Whenever possible, book your child only on direct and non-stop flights. Any extra cost or extra driving to a more distant airport for a direct flight is worth it to ensure your child’s peace of mind – and your own.

5. Don’t expect airline staff to be responsible for your child. Gate attendants and flight attendants have plenty of duties to perform and can’t devote them selves to one passenger, no matter how young. They aren’t day care providers.

Keep in mind that tickets for unaccompanied minors are more expensive. While Southwest Airlines recently began charging $25 to send children ages 5 to 11 years old on non-stop on direct flights , most other airlines levy fees between $50 and $100. But there may be rule wrinkles that work in your favor. On Alaska and United, for example, one unaccompanied minor fee covers up to three siblings traveling together. On American Airlines, some checked bag fees are waived when an unaccompanied minor fee is paid.