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To allow my 11 year old to travel to USA alone ?

78 replies

Finallyspring · 23/05/2011 13:49

My DS has had a really good friend since they were 3 years old. I am good friends with his parents too, but this friendship was not engineered by us. It has been a really strong bond made by the two of them.

Sadly the family have recently moved to the US where the boy's father comes from. This was extremely hard for the two boys and my DS really hasn't been happy since. We have discussed my DS going to stay with them ever since the move was planned and I have always agreed it would be a good idea, but never made any firm plans. Now the other family and my DS are really pushing for him to come this summer.

Last night my DH and I agreed he should wait until next year and told him this. He became quite distraught, vomited and cried for hours and hours. This really is not usual behaviour for him.

This morning I had a good think about when he could go next year. However, there are no school holidays which coincide until next August and this does seem like a long time to wait. I then called the airline and found out that if he goes now he would have a chaperone for the whole journey. It is a non stop flight. He would be looked after like a member of the family ( I love and trust the parents ) and he would be staying in a safe and rural area.Not only that but I was given a discount for some reason and it turned out to be cheaper than I was expecting. If we leave it until next year I wonder if it would be hard for the boy to accommodate DS with his new life and friends. So, now I am thinking we should let him go this summer.

AIBU to do this ? He is (usually) a stable and secure child who has gone on school trips and sleepovers without a backward glance but it just seems a bit weird to let your child travel a whole continent away. DH and I can't go with him for various work/family reasons. His brother flew to France by himself at the same age and it was fine, but the USA just seems so far.

OP posts:
Saw444 · 23/05/2011 15:08

My worry would be him/her leaving the family after the holiday had finished.

Hopefully she will be desperate to get back to you but what if she gets really distressed at leaving her friend again and the other family have to deal with getting a hysterical child on a plane.

Other than that I think it would be a great experience.

Finallyspring · 23/05/2011 15:22

saw444 I agree that is a worry, though 'DS' will be starting new secondary school a few days after getting back ( If I do book flight ) and should therefore not have much time to mope

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ScousyFogarty · 23/05/2011 15:28

my first instinct ,Finally, was no, no, no.

Earlybird · 23/05/2011 15:44

Has he flown much previously, and has any of it been on international flights? Is it a direct flight, or would there be connections involved?

Does he travel about independently now (tube, coach, etc)?

How good is he at keeping up with possessions (thinking airline ticket, passport and money specifically)?

Earlybird · 23/05/2011 15:46

Meant to say: I think, in theory, this is fine. Where it falls apart is if things don't go according to plan. For instance - what happens if the flight is diverted, or if the chaperone doesn't show up, or if your friends are late picking him up? Would your ds know what to do?

Finallyspring · 23/05/2011 15:51

The chaperone is a member of the cabin crew so no danger of them not turning up. And they stay with the child from check in to dropping off with friends. As I understand it the airline has responsibilty for the child during the whole period. They also take responsibilty for passport, ticket etc. btw it's a direct flight.

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Finallyspring · 23/05/2011 15:53

My older son has also flown as unaccompanied minor and I have no reason whatsoever to worry about safety. Airlines really do this very well. It's more of an emotional thing

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ChristinedePizan · 23/05/2011 15:54

The chaperone will accompany your DS from security right through to when he is collected at the other end. So there is very little that can go wrong. I used to travel back and forth to the UK to visit my grandparents on my own at that age and it was fine :)

MadamDeathstare · 23/05/2011 15:55

This reply has been deleted

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Ragwort · 23/05/2011 15:59

I think its great that you would consider letting your DS go on his own - it is fantastic to hear about parents giving their children independence - there are so many threads about not even allowing a child on a supervised school trip or a brownie sleepover Grin.

I went to the US when I was 12 and was unaccompanied on the flight - but no problems, I was met at the other end - then crossed again to the coast on an internal flight, it was a great experience.

Finallyspring · 23/05/2011 16:04

No, no no hotels or changing flights ! Would never do that ( mind boggles)

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Tee2072 · 23/05/2011 16:14

FinallySpring I wasn't accusing you of back peddling I was just genuinely curious as to why Expat said that!

My son is only 2 so this hasn't exactly come up, but we are talking about letting my 11 year old niece come visit us in Belfast in a year or so. That would require either a plane change in London or for me to meet her in London and fly back to Belfast with her as there are no direct flights from California to Belfast. I think, knowing what kind of 11 year old she is, I would trust her to make the plane change herself in a year. But I can't speak for her parents!

ilovemydogandMrObama · 23/05/2011 16:22

yes, let him go, but make sure the friend's parents have loco parentis in case he needs to see a doctor or any problems. also make sure he has travel insurance.
Once on board, the flight time isn't a big deal.

He'll have a great time Smile

LtEveDallas · 23/05/2011 16:27

We have used unaccompanied minor service before for DSD and her friend (though not to Canada) and it was very good.

DSD is a very nervous flier, used to hold my hand and dig her nails in when we wnet on hols, but she found the experience better in some ways - she was too embarassed to be scared in front of a 'stranger' and having to act calm made her calm.

I have more of a problem letting her and her friend do the (3hr) direct train than I ever did with the flights.

Finallyspring · 23/05/2011 16:33

Good point about insurance and in loco parentis. Will do ( if we do it ! )

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Finallyspring · 23/05/2011 16:37

'Having to act calm made her calm' This is a wise comment and I think the same can be said of putting children into a situation where they have to be independent. Eg when I get our 14 year old to 'babysit' they never fight. That only happens when we are in the house ! I guess, like all of us, they rise to the occasion.

Am becoming more convinced that I should let him go. But I can't say anything to him until DH comes home and we discuss it. Now, how am I going to persuade DH it's ok ?

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whattodoo · 23/05/2011 17:31

I think this will be a great opportunity for your DD. Of course you have reservations about going back on a decision you've already made, but this will be a great time to explain to her that sometimes you make decisions for the right reasons, then on further thought you change your mind. Its OK not to be stubborn. And, of course, you will explain that you believe her vomitting was an extreme reaction and not an attention/sympathy seeking ploy.

My only concern would be if she is distraught about leaving her friend at the end of the break. Of course, she will prob be excited about seeing her family again and telling you all her news, but it could be quite a difficult situation for your friends to deal with.

You sound like you've got your head screwed on and will cover all the insurance, chaperone, risks etc. I say go for it!

Finallyspring · 23/05/2011 18:06

That is a good point about putting friends in a difficult situation if emotion runs high when they leave each other. Will have to talk that one through with all concerned I think.

Once again, thanks so much for all your responses. I have had some really useful advice and lots of positive reassurance too. AIBU isn't always savage !

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BatFlattery · 23/05/2011 18:10

I definitely think you should let him go. My Dad moved abroad when I was younger than your DS, and we would go as 'Unaccompanied Minors' - separate lounge and everything, with games consoles, toys, etc...

The cabin crew were always very good as well, making sure we were ok, reassuring where needed, etc...

I wouldn't hesitate to send my DS on a plane on his own (if he was going to visit someone, obviously not just if he was annoying me... or maybe... Grin).

He will also get to queue jump EVERY security check, the ground staff will lug his suitcase around for him, and the other family will have to sign for him at the other end.

I bet he'll have the time of his life!

Ickyface · 23/05/2011 18:18

I flew to Australia at 12 with my db and still remember every bit of it now at the grand old age of 39! It was a fabulous adventure and I still class myself as very lucky to have had that experience. He'll be fine, it'll just be you that's the nervous wreck!Grin

MadamDeathstare · 23/05/2011 18:34

This reply has been deleted

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

melpomene · 23/05/2011 19:24

Presumably OP would stay at the airport until the flight has taken off.

I flew unaccompanied to New Zealand when I was 11 (visiting relatives). The outbound flight was delayed overnight but, while waiting with my mum at the airport, we befriended a family with a girl the same age as me. They lived locally near the airport and invited my mum and I to stay at their place overnight. Next day I caught the plane; I remember feeling very grown up and being given activity packs to keep me occupied. Met safely by relatives at the other end. It was a great adventure.

tiredgranny · 23/05/2011 19:33

u have to say who is picking him up and they will have to sign for him and have id my kids did it loads of times virgin r good they entertain them till flight leave and usually chaperone flies with them as it school holidays there probably be loads of kids

BCBG · 23/05/2011 19:42

Definitely let him go, it will be a wonderful and very safe adventure, and waiting until next year will be too long, as you say. The airline will be very careful. Imhe teenagers flying on their own are much more worrying Grin

UKSky · 23/05/2011 19:57

YANBU we used to regularly travel to our aunt and uncle (though only to Germany). Parents put us on at one end and the rellies picked us up at the other end. The air hostesses (as they used to be called) kept an eye on us.

Although I do know that some airlines will not allow unaccompanied children to travel so you will need to check their terms and conditions first.

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