Friday, August 14, 2015

Sending Children to Travel Alone - Example Documents, Tale of Terrors, and a TIP

Goodbye, my dearest pony - I mean, son.

Well, we did it. Our children are off on on their own, flying to the mainland to spend time with California friends and family.

You may scoff, pointing out that my son is sixteen and my daughter twelve; hardly children! But they are. It's a point worth making that age and appearance do not necessarily combine to make someone an adult and there are things that concern children - okay, teens - which can make for a confusing landscape. As their adult, it's my job to help them navigate that landscape as wisely as possible.


"I said, I am NOT a pony!"
After years of camp outs, they were fairly adept at packing their own luggage. There were some compromises. I did sneak in and sneak out some items. My son did not believe he needed an extra, empty backpack. I did. I won - because I still stuck it into his suitcase, before he went to bed. My daughter needed more socks. No problem. Got them. She wanted a $300 iPhone in case of "emergencies". We got the $1 Go Phone special with AT&T.

I typed a list of phone numbers and a calendar of all the activities that were planned in advance  and people whom they would be visiting. We made them both record various phone numbers. We actually forgot to request that they share each other's phone numbers with each other - as we received a text from our daughter that she needed her brother's phone number. Oops.

I checked all the possible rules regarding children - okay, TEENS - who travel without an adult. Interestingly, the railway system -the train -does not permit children under 18 to travel without an adult (see? they are children). That blew a small hole in one of our plans of flying into San Diego for one grandmother then taking the train to Simi Valley to see the other grandparents. My brother in San Diego was nice enough to take them to Simi Valley by car, so that was fixed. I am thinking it's likely a rule for safety. The train makes frequent stops and there's no guarantee that children will stay on the entire train for the entire trip - for whatever reason.

The Other End of the Horse. Kidding.
The airlines, specifically Hawaiian Airlines, were a little more liberal. I am assuming because once children are on the plane, they are a little more "locked in", at twenty thousand feet in a pressurized cabin, than the train. Also, if the 'young travelers' - is that better? - are over twelve, they can travel without the required purchase for $100 of an Hawaiian Airlines staff member  to accompany them from Point A to Point B. If they are under twelve but over five, you have to make that purchase. There are no solo young travelers accepted under five years old at the moment with Hawaiian Airlines. Duh.

Okay. We are good. They can basically just get on the plane and go. I prepared and had notarized a Minors Traveling without an Adult Permission form, a Health form, and (almost forcibly - they SO did not want to be bothered) had them apply for their state Hawaii identification cards. They received temporary ones on the spot - with a picture! Great job, Hawaii DMV. They also carried their school IDs, too.

I didn't want to take any risks with them needing some type of identification on them..

I photocopied their birth certificates, IDs, health cards, calendars, Minors Traveling, Health Forms four times. They each got one set to carry on their bodies as they traveled. They each got an extra stuck into their suitcase. I had the thought (but I didn't follow through on it) to email a PDF of said forms to all relatives and friends involved.

I also gave them forty dollars traveling money, each. I explained that headphones are expensive, so they brought their own. I advised them that restaurants are expensive in the airports, but don't starve yourself -just be careful with what you spend.

Here's the TIP:

Here's something I didn't know. Even though I am their parent, I was not going to be allowed pass the security checkpoint to see them off at the gate. Now, I had ASKED THIS QUESTION of my flight reservations representative. Apparently, he didn't know the answer actually but he (thought) said to me, oh, it's no problem. You just go on in.

My angel!
We got to the front of the very long line and boom! I got asked to return to the OTHER long line to request some type of "gate pass" because I didn't have a ticket.

This was frightening for my daughter, who was very anxious about traveling alone (well, with her brother - essentially alone, particularly if he is on his phone) for the first time. Her eyes got very large and they started to well up with tears. I didn't want to waste time arguing with the TSA staff (who argues with TSA?) so I made a quick decision. I ignored the potential drama flowing in the eyes of my children, and I ordered, "Get to the gate!"

By the grace of God, and my bugging the staff members that walked by me standing in that second, flipping long line, I was moved to the first class check-in, where I repeated, my children are about to leave, I am supposed to see them off.

I had one very sweet person say to the counter rep, "Oh, it's okay, just issue it (the gate pass), and put down that I said it was okay." Well, she left, and this counter rep -talk about Ms. Negative - says, "I don't really know if you're going to make it (on time)..." I so wished I had the power of ray-guns from my eyes at that moment.

Inwardly angry, I accepted her gate pass - which was just a dummy ticket with some phrase like 'parent'  on it - and took off at full speed back to the original long line. I talked to the lady in front of me, to the gentlemen in front of me, and then to a woman who was helping an elderly man, and they all heard my story about how my children are traveling alone for the first time, and I really, really wanted to see them off at the gate, and SO sorry to bother you... these sweet people let me go through. God bless you, you people. Thank you, Lord. Throughout all this, I was texting my son, "I am coming! I am on my way!".

When I reached the second checkpoint, I tossed my purse into the scanner, and nearly collided with the security person who said, "Ma'am? Ma'am?" as I strode to the gate -I saw them! They were waiting for me! They were standing alone with a single flight attendant. All other passengers for that flight had boarded already.

I showered them with kisses. My daughter again looked like she was going to cry but I kissed all those tears away. The security guard had followed me for a bit, handed me my purse, but didn't seem at all angry. I think he could tell I wasn't some bomber by the way my children were hugging and kissing me.

Do you think my TIP is about the gate pass? It is a little bit.

Actually, it's more that when you are in trouble, tell people what you need, and thank God when you get it.


Example Medical Authorization Form

Example Unaccompanied Minors' Permission to Travel Form

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