We did it. We let the little Zeds fly all by themselves.
Mr. Zed and I are going on a kid-free European river cruise, and Nana Zed offered to watch them at her house while we’re gone. We live in Atlanta; Nana and Pops live in coastal South Carolina. In the past, when we’ve done a kid-free trip, Mr. Zed has flown with the kids from ATL > MYR, dropped the kids off, and flown back, or we’ve driven the kids to Nana’s and started our trip from there.
Now that the kids are five, they can fly unaccompanied on major US carriers.
Thinking about letting YOUR little one spread his wings and fly solo? Here’s what you need to know.
- Pick an airline you trust. If ABC Airline has lost your luggage three times, I’d probably think twice about trusting them with your kids. You may want to call the airline directly when booking your ticket so you can ensure the Unaccompanied Minor booking is done correctly.
- Familiarize yourself with the airline’s policies. What is the fee? Is your child allowed to have a layover? If so, who will be responsible for them during the layover? What happens in the event of a delayed, cancelled, or rerouted flight? Are there restrictions on certain routes or flight times?
- Finalize the plan with your pick-up person. You will need to provide the airline with the name and address of the person who will be meeting your child at their arrival gate, and you may also be asked to provide a password or PIN for that person.
- Talk to the kids. We’ve been prepping the little Zeds for this for about three months. I walked them thorough what would happen, and we set up some easy-to-remember rules (Rule #1: No fighting. Rule #2: Don’t talk to strangers. Rule #3 If you take anything out of your backpack on the flight, make sure you put it back in before you get off the plane. Rule #4 (and this is the most important) Do whatever the pilot and flight attendant tell you to do). We talked through their emotions–scared, excited, nervous? The great thing about twins is they’re never really alone, and I can always count on them to be there for each other if one is feeling a little unsure of themselves.
On the big day
- Pack. We let the littles each take a few things in their backpack that they usually have on flights. They each chose a stuffed animal and their LeapPad. I also coached Nana Zed to check for these items upon arrival. A LeapPad can be replaced, but Lovey and Bear cannot. I threw in a few snacks for good measure.
- Arrive on time. I am always early to the airport. Always. In this case, the kids and I got to the airport two hours before their departure time. When we checked in, I had to show the ticket agent my ID and verify the little Zeds unaccompanied minor status so I could get a gate pass, which allowed me to go through security and accompany them to the gate. Each child was also given a wristband to wear.
- Check in with the gate agent. Make sure they know your kids are, and that they’re flying unaccompanied. Unaccompanied minors are usually among the first to board. Our gate agent could not have been any nicer. He made sure he knew where we were and kept us apprised of any changes, such as a small flight delay
- Kiss the kids goodbye. Big hugs, kisses, and a recap of the rules (NO FIGHTING).
- Wait. You will need to wait until the plan leaves the ground before you leave, just in case the flight is delayed or has to return to the gate for any reason.
- Your pickup person should arrive at the airport well ahead of the plane’s ETA. They will need to speak to the ticket agent to get a gate pass to go through security. They should proceed to the gate and wait.
- Upon arrival, Nana had to shows her ID, provide, the PIN, and sign a form stating she had picked the kids up. Big hugs, big kisses, check for Lovey, Bear, and two LeapPads (check, check, checkity check).
Overall, it was a great experience, despite my typical mom anxiety. Nana texted us to let us know that as passengers were deplaning, they stopped to tell them how polite and well behaved the little Zeds were. Every mom loves to hear that, but it felt especially good in this situation.
Now they’re off to spend a week with Nana and Pops, and I’m off to put the final touches on packing for our Rhine River cruise! More to come….stay tuned!