Due to the number of non-traditional families in our society, it is common for custody agreements to require children to travel over the holidays to be with the other parent. This is an issue that many parents have to deal with in the best way possible. If the parents live in close proximity they can easily drive them to the agreed upon destination. If the divorce is amicable it may even be possible for each parent to drive half way for the exchange of the children.
However, it isn’t always possible for parents to be able to do this for one reason or another and that means that children will end up traveling alone for the holidays. You want to make this as smooth of a process for them as you possibly can. Make sure you talk to your child about the process and they know exactly what will be taking place. It is important that you talk to them about not going with strangers for any reason while they are traveling alone for the holidays.
Make sure you pack your child plenty of activities for them to entertain themselves during the flight. It is a good idea to pack them drinks and snacks too in case they get hungry. Never leave your child until they have boarded the type of transportation they are taking. If there is a layover or a cancellation they will be left alone.
If possible send your child with a cell phone they can use in the case of emergencies. You should also pack a list of contact phone numbers with them and any medical information that could be useful in the event of an accident. Avoid placing children who are flying alone for the holidays on those flights that have layovers if you can help it. In the event that it is necessary make sure a flight attendant will be escorting them to that location.
The safest mode of transportation for you child if they are traveling alone to visit the other parent for the holidays is to book them a flight. It may be more expensive but you will be more confident about them going alone. If possible don’t send your child alone on a flight if they have never been on an airplane before. The stress of it can be too much for them to handle.
Let the airline know at the time of booking that your child will be traveling alone. They will keep a close eye on the child during the flight and find out who they have to be delivered to at the airport. This person will need to have their photo ID with them even if the child knows them in order to follow safety procedures. Most airlines consider a minor to be traveling alone for the holidays if they are between 5 and 15 years of age. Younger children aren’t allowed to travel alone.
It is against the rules for children under 8 years of age to travel alone on Amtrak. Those between the ages of 8 and 15 may travel alone as long as it is not an overnight trip. They must reach their destination no later than 9 pm. The child isn’t allowed to transfer trains either or to get off at any locations other than the one printed on their ticket.
The child will be interviewed by a staff member when they are brought to the train station. If the child doesn’t appear to be mature enough to travel alone they will not be allowed on the train and the ticket price will be refunded. If they are allowed to board the parent must sign a waiver releasing Amtrak from all liability. The child will be issued a wristband so that all staff members will know they are traveling alone.
Greyhound doesn’t allow children under 8 years of age to travel alone either. This isn’t an option at all of the bus ride is more than 250 miles at Greyhound has that limit on the number of miles a child can be on the bus. To get off for any reason at a rest area or bus stop the child must be accompanied by the bus driver. They are also required to sit in the seat immediately behind the bus driver.