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At what age do you encourage your children to travel on their own?

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Jul 7th, 2005, 06:56 AM
  #1
aggiemom
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At what age do you encourage your children to travel on their own?

I'm only looking for opinions, not advice.

I'm interested because I posted a question on the US board about my 18 year old daughter and her friends going on a short trip.

I'm assuming because this IS a travel board, the parents here would most likely encourage their kids to start young, but I'm still interested.

For instance, some examples:

what age can they fly alone?

what age can they go with their friends on a short car trip?

what age can they take an "actual vacation" (like a cruise, Caribbean, Europe) with friends?

DH and I are pretty liberal. Our girls have had their own FF numbers since they were tots and learned how to book flights, select seats, get boarding passes, check in very early on.

How about you?
 
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Jul 7th, 2005, 07:04 AM
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Yes. our kids learned to love travel early and we permitted them to be independent fairly early. Daughter made the Spring break trip to Acapulco at 18, son booked a trip to London at about 20 and went on a cruise at about 21. They'd done enough travel with us by then, that we felt they could handle most travel-related things themselves. It's not the travel, though, that really worries you. It's the living life at that age that's risky. My son-in-law's Mom never let him leave the house without admonishing him to "Make smart choices." That's the big item, to wit, the whole Natalee Holloway thing.
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Jul 7th, 2005, 07:30 AM
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I agree with Tiff, there's 18 and then there's 18. I think it depends on personality type and maturity, as well as life experience (was the child raised sheltered in a small town or with great freedoms in a big city?) not chronological age.

For me, I didn't get to travel internationally until I could pay for it myself, which meant after college.
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Jul 7th, 2005, 07:33 AM
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hey what happened to the posts from Tiff & Robespierre? i swear they were here a second ago. i better go get another cup of coffee!
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Jul 7th, 2005, 07:54 AM
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My steps have been traveling abroad with us since they were 12 and 14. Also - they have spent summers in NYC - so are used to dealing/navigating in big cities.

Both started traveling to europe on their own at 17 - the summer after high school - with friends - not alone. And have never had any major problems (other than the standard glitches and tourist issues).

One caveat: they have been doing this modestly on their own dime - either money from working or a little left to them by a grandmother. (But their dad does pay full freight - minus scholarships - for their college expenses.)
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Jul 7th, 2005, 08:08 AM
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It all starts at about age 6, when you let them walk around the block on their own. It's all downhill from there.

Seriously -- my sister and my brother are sending their kids out to see me this summer, they're both flying alone for the first time, and they're 13 and 14. I think they'd let the little ones (9 & 10) fly alone if it wasn't for the fact that I can't meet them at the gate.

My folks let me drive with friends on short (1-hour) drives to the big city when I was about 17, and I flew to Brazil alone on a Rotary Exchange when I was 16, and I know plenty of people who let their kids go to Europe on a guided tour, with a few days at the end for "independent travel" when they were 16 & 17. I'd probably do the same with my kids.

I think it's really a question of maturity for your kids, and what you think is best. A wild child that can't stay out of trouble at home would not be the one I'd send off to Europe for the summer...under the assumption that they'd act the same over there, if not worse, without supervision.

Good question.

Jules
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Jul 7th, 2005, 08:11 AM
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aggiemom, I think I'd have to be in my 90s before I encouraged my (hypothetical) children to travel on their own

Seriously tho', I first went overseas (flying) on my own at the age of 17. I would have little hestitation allowing a mature 16 year old to go; or stopping an immature 18 year old.

What's a "short" car trip? A day trip? or overnight?

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Jul 7th, 2005, 08:22 AM
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I let my kids, now 15 and 18, fly alone starting when they were about 8-10 years old. They often flew to other US cities to visit cousins.

My daughter flew to France alone last summer and took a train to meet me in the Dordogne. She was 17 then. This summer she'll leave the Dordogne, go to Paris and spend a couple of nights on her own, and then travel back to the USA alone.

She also has taken numerous short trips alone and with friends to not-too-distant U.S. cities and has flown by herself all over the country to play in lacrosse tournaments and camps.

That said, my kids grew up traveling from the time they were in utero. It's second nature to them to be on planes and trains and in cars, navigating. They're great with maps, used to being in different cultures, and not phased by unforeseen circumstances. Travel has been a huge part of their lives. I have no problem with them traveling on their own because I'm confident they know how to do it. And cell phones are a godsend!
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Jul 7th, 2005, 08:45 AM
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I went to Czechoslovakia by myself when I was 11 (my parents tell me there was much deliberation). My parents knew someone else going who sort of chaperoned me on the plane, and my grandmother met me in Prague. However, I was separated from my chaperone at customs/immigration, and had quite a time getting through as the Cold War was still fully in swing, and I did not know Czech (only Slovak) and no one at the time knew English (only other language was Russian). An interesting experience for an 11-year old!

Several road trips with friends beginning at age 16.

First really big road trip to Florida for Spring Break at 18.

Backpacking Europe for the first time alone at 21.

One scary thing is, looking back on the Spring Break trip, how many risky things we did on that trip. The Natalee Holloway case really hit home because it could have been us. One of my friends went on a 1-hour motorcycle ride with a stranger. My friend and I got into a car and hung out on the beach with guys we had just met. We went to a party at someone's hotel room. Etc. Luckily, it was all innocent and fun, but it SO easily could have gone bad. And yes, we were mature and not your rebel-type kids. (I was high school valedictorian, my other friend the salutatorian, etc.) But we still did those dumb things.

I guess my point above is that I think bad things happen randomly. Kids will do dumb things (like we did), but do learn from them. If they don't do dumb things while they travel, they'll figure out some way to do dumb things close to home.

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Jul 7th, 2005, 08:52 AM
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I used to travel a lot with my folks when I was a kid, both domestically and abroad, and I flew on my own for the first time when I was 11, to visit my grandparents. When I was a teenager, my dad once put me on the phone to confirm a hotel reservation. I was more than ready for my semester in London and that year's spring break in Ireland, which I planned entirely on my own.

If I ever have kids, I'll raise them the same way.

I did something similar to Hunnym; I once got into a Mini in Ireland with a couple of Irish guys (and an American friend) to go to a pub. I guess we could have gotten into trouble, but luckily, they were just after a pint and some good music.
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Jul 7th, 2005, 09:13 AM
  #11
 
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I was allowed to take a long road trip (from Michigan to Florida) when I graduated h.s., which was age 17. I went with my cousin who was 17 as well. We were 2 17 year old girls on a road trip. But our destination was to visit some family and some friends, so we weren't alone for the entire time. My parents were worried of course, but I had the travel bug and I was very persistent. Since then, I have done a great deal of traveling and one of my greatest thrills is planning a trip! My opinion on the age a child could travel alone on a plane, depends on where they are going. I don't think I would let my daughter fly alone on a plane until she was at least 14-15. As for traveling alone or just with her friends for an entire vacation, I would make her wait until she is graduated.
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Jul 7th, 2005, 09:13 AM
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My neice went off to London when she was 18. She had never been away from home before. She was in a work program through a company called Bunac. She lived and worked in London for 6 months..that's how long her work visa was good for. She had a bit of a rough start, was with a friend who's mother is an American expat living in Essex, so that made her father a little more comfortable but I don't think he slept a full night the entire time she was gone. He's an ex-cop so I guess worry comes naturally to him. She learned a whole lot about dealing with people, managing situations. All, in all, it was wonderful. We visited her toward the latter part of her stay and she was buzzin' around like a native. Now, next month, she's heading off to Copenhagen for a year of school but I know her father is going to be totally freaking out about it because of todays tragedy in London, but I know that's not going to stop her. Her poor dad will just have to up his traquilizer intake I guess. Anyway, you have to judge the maturity level and coping skills of your own child. I think any time they have to extend their comfort level a bit is a growth experience. My neice called her dad several times, in tears, having some issues with her friend, not being able to find a flat right away, etc. and even though her dad could give some advice and comfort, SHE had to deal with the problem and get it worked out..and she did. So, in the end, I would think that once your child is 18, it would really be a good time to let them start having some experiences on their own. IMHO
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Jul 7th, 2005, 09:13 AM
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I agree that it really depends on the maturity and travel experience of the individual.

My mother raised my sister and I by herself and she always instilled independence and street smarts in us. Our first domestic trip alone without her was from Dallas to Houston on a bus at the ages of nine and six. I was then allowed to travel domestically by myself or with friends by the age of 15, depending upon the location and who I would be with.

My first international trip was a group tour in Europe at the age of 15 and I don't think I would have felt comfortable going there alone at that point in time. However, just a few short years after that I felt perfectly capable of going to Europe on my own or with friends.

I think the decision is different for every individual and every parent, but I do feel that by the time "children" are 18 years of age, they are legally adults and are capable of traveling alone domestically. Interntionally can be another story IMO. Lauguage barriers and other cultural differences can be a burden on a child or young adult unless they are properly informed to deal with such.
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Jul 7th, 2005, 09:32 AM
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HI!
Interesting topic.
The first time I ever flew on an airplane was alone. I was around 11 and flew from DC to NY. My mom put me on the plane and my grandparents picked me up right at the gate. It was direct and it was fine. I travelled overseas for the first time (my second time on a plane) when I was 15 and went on a group trip with my French class. It was not with my parents, but it was supervised. I don't think I would have been ready to go independently at that point (although we were allowed to have free time for a whole day while in Paris). That day just a friend and I navigated alone and then rejoined the group late in the day. I will never forget that feeling of independence and confidence.

I now have 2 sons of my own. Their personalities are very different so my decisions about their travel may not be the same. I would not yet send my 11 year old on a plane alone as he would not be comfortable. It has not come up yet, but I would be willing to send my 14 year alone on a flight. I would also allow him to go on a superivsed group trip without me, but don't think I would allow him to travel alone till around 18 years, although we will have to see and take that as it comes. However, while my older one is more independent, I am not sure that he and his friends are a group I would feel wholly confident about sending on a trip (although they do have some years to mature ). My younger one is very cautious and deliberate in his organization so, when he is ready, I may feel differently about him travelling with friends. You have to know your child and the people he/she would travel with.
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Jul 7th, 2005, 09:52 AM
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Interesting thread. I can't say as a parent cause I have no kids yet, but I was an independent traveller from an early age.

I did a 3 month exchange at 16 (lived with a family in Germany) and since then have been doing my own trips. I've payed for them.

From a non-North American perspective - we have friends in Germany who are sending their son and daughter, 14 & 12 respectively to visit/go to camp for a month. They will be travelling on their own.

I loved travelling on my own - it made me understand what being responsible for yourself really means.
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Jul 7th, 2005, 10:09 AM
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I second (or third) the point about the individual maturity of your child. Every one is different.
We traveled with our daughter since she was little, and she learned the ins and outs of airports, subways, map reading, using foreign currency, etc. by being with us.
By the time we took her to London and Paris, SHE was guiding US around the Tube and Metro!
We let her travel alone for the first time on a senior trip with 3 close friends to Cancun (not sure I'd do it now after all the Natalee Holloway publicity!) and I gave each of them a list of do's and don'ts. I have no way of knowing how carefully they followed those instructions, but they came back without having to wire for money or getting sun poisoning.
I allowed her to make a backpacking trip to Europe last summer--she met up with a friend in Dublin, then they traveled to London, Paris, and Venice. She did very well--didn't miss any trains or planes, and again, didn't have to wire for more money.
I'm convinced that traveling, both with her parents and alone, has given her a sense of independence and confidence that will enhance her life.
We are returning to London later this month, our first trip since the death of my husband and her father, and I fully expect my daughter to lead me around the city and count out the money!
I can't give a specific age at which I would allow a child to fly alone or to go on a car trip with friends, but my daugher's senior trip was when she was 18, and on the trip to Europe she was 20. But I think her previous trips with us (Mexico, Caribbean, Hawaii, Spain, England, and France) made her pretty sophisticated travelwise.
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Jul 7th, 2005, 10:18 AM
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My kids started to fly alone around 13 (within the United States). My son went to Spain alone at 17 - Switzerland alone at 18 (just got back last week). As terrible as this sounds, I'm not sure when I will allow my daughter to go to Europe alone - I can't quite picture this at 17 - but probably if she had friends to join her. I've not allowed the Mexico/Island spring break trips - as I'm tolerant about travel if I can imagine some value.
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Jul 7th, 2005, 10:30 AM
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I think Julie_Colorado makes a good point. It is not just the child or age for me, it is also the "where." I would be much more hesitant to send my kids on a "Cancun-type" spring break thing than to Europe.
Our sons have been travelling since they were literally 6 weeks old. My 14 year old (and even my 11 year old) can already comfortably navigate us around New York City. They will going on their first trip to Europe in 3 weeks so I am excited to share in that experience with them.
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Jul 7th, 2005, 11:49 AM
  #19
aggiemom
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Sheila - I meant a short trip to be about 3-4 days somewhere within 4-5 hours of where you live, by car.

It's been interesting to see everyone's thoughts. Thank you.

I've been dealing with some very over-protective parents and it has put a damper on my DD's trip today and frustrated me to no end.

It's nice to see here that most people are very reasonable when it comes to "letting their children take flight" and take into account many factors.

Thanks, all, for your thoughts.
 
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Jul 7th, 2005, 12:03 PM
  #20
 
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I think it depends very much on where they are flying to, who is meeting them and what they are going to do when they are there.

Last year my 15yo daughter wanted to stay with a schoolfriend who lives in Brittany in the holidays. I allowed her to fly from Southampton to CDG Paris, wait a few hours and then fly on to Brest where she would be met by her friend's parents. The trip was the same in reverse, although her return flight CDG to Southampton was cancelled and thankfully rather than have her stay alone in a hotel in Paris (or near the airport) her friends took her back to their home and returned her to the airport the next day when the flights were fine.

It was a huge step in trust and faith, and luckily it went well. We both kept our mobile phones on, and despite the costs kept in touch regularly. Daughter is tall, slim, blonde and beautiful, and I was concerned about the attention she might attract. She did get quite a lot, but coped with it well, and thankfully nothing untoward occurred.

If she hadn't been going to stay with friends and been met at the airport there is no way I would have allowed her to go.

This year she is flying out there again, but now there are direct flights and she is flying with two schoolfriends as well, so I have no qualms at all.

You have to take into account the circumstances, and make your own decision based on how responsible and mature your daughter is, and also how you feel about the friends she is travelling with.

Regarding age, airlines seem to have their own policies about the age 'children' can travel unaccompanied by an adult. Hotels also have their own policies about the age of people booking/paying for rooms.
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