Yesterday was a big day for our family. My 5 year old and 7 year old sons flew for the first time as unaccompanied minors. I was nervous, but deep down, I knew they could handle it with all of their previous experience flying. They took a direct flight from Seattle to Denver and met their grandparents at the other end. One thing that made it easier for us to decide to let them go alone was the change in the law a few years ago that again allowed parents to walk their children to the gate and for the receiving adult to meet the children at the gate. After 9/11, there was a period where children had to be given to an agent before security and then the picking up adults had to wait outside of security for the airport agent to bring the child off the plan and outside of the secured area. I didn’t want to trust a stranger to look after my kids in a busy airport and I am so glad that the rules now allow parents and designated adults to take children to and pick children up from the gates.
The logistics included filling out paperwork for the receiving adult (that could be done online) and paying a fee (for Delta it was $150 each way but covered both of my children traveling together). When when my husband and I arrived to check them in, we had to show a government issued ID in order to get our passes through security. Then we had to fill out some information for the kids on a special unaccompanied minor envelope and verify the name, address and phone number of the person picking them up. The kids each got a bracelet with a barcode on it as well.
We had opted for the boys to have a backpack for their Kindle Fires and a few other books and small toys for when they were on their trip. They also had headphones and some snacks (Uncrustable sandwiches and cheese sticks). We opted for them to take their roller boards on the plane rather than checking them in an attempt to make it easier on my in-laws. However, we forgot that they would need their booster seats for the car on the other end that they would need to be checked under the plane anyways. Oh well. On another note, my in-laws treated my kiddos to this trip, and as it turned out, it was fewer miles to book a first class ticket than a coach seat. So not only were they flying alone for the first time, they were doing it in first class! Lucky ducks!
So what was my biggest fear about letting them go? Not that they would not get to my in-laws once they landed or that someone would do something to them on the plane (though I did read a super creepy story about a guy trying to touch a young sleeping child sitting across the aisle from his mother!) My biggest fear was that in flight, something would go wrong, they could crash or perhaps someone did in fact try to take over the plane and crash it, that regardless, my babies would have spent the last moments of their life alone and scared without me able to be there to comfort them.
And with that lovely image in your head, I am happy to say that nothing bad happened at all and they are safe and sound in Colorado with their grandparents having a grand ol’ time! But I still can’t wait to see them next week when we drive down to meet them. Stay tuned for our 2nd trip of the summer, this time on our home turf of the “Wild West” USA where I will be driving a huge circle around America’s west through 10 states with the 3 kids. The first quarter of the trip I’ll have my husband and just our 2 year old, the 2nd quarter I’ll be solo with all 3 kids from Colorado to Texas, the 3rd quarter my mom will join me from Texas to Arizona with all 3 kids and the last leg of the journey I’ll be alone again with the 3 little ones as we make our way back up to Washington from Arizona with a stop through Las Vegas!