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Coach your kids traveling alone for the first time...

Coach your kids traveling alone for the first time...

Old Apr 6th, 2006, 07:44 PM
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Coach your kids traveling alone for the first time...

Tonight I was on a flight back to DFW and due to weather issues quite a few flights were delays and/or cancelled.
I arrive 2 hours late and wait for the parking shuttle. My normal guy asked if I would mind if he stopped really quick to tell a young girl what the shuttle for the Ramada Inn looked like. He explained that she had been sitting there for a couple of hours waiting for a shuttle to the hotel.
He said that he was afraid she was looking for a van marked Ramada when in fact it was a green van marked AAA Transport or something like that...
I was really upset that this girl was so scared looking, just sitting there for so long so I picked up my car and drove back to the airport to see if she was still there. She was and I asked her if she wanted a ride to the hotel. She got in the car with me and I asked her why she was waiting. Evidentally her flight was rerouted and then cancelled. She was stuck, all alone in DFW. She was 18 and had never really traveled, never been to DFW and had no clue what was going on. She had just a little money and no credit cards. Her family was in Mexico and she was stuck in Dallas.
We'd all like to think that out kids would be very capable of handling such a situation and I suspect that most kids would be but not this girl. She was confused and scared. She got in a car with a stranger, in a strange city. Of course I look like June Cleaver or at least a 21st century version of June and I am in no way threatening... maybe she felt I was no danger to her but still...
I dropped her off at the hotel and drove off.
I guess the point of this post is that everyone needs to understand that anything can happen during a trip. You stick a 15 year old on a plane from Milwaukee to Leon Mexico to visit family, the plane could be diverted and ultimately cancelled, like this girl's flight. Leaving your child to fend for themself in a city where they know no one.
I am sure others out there have an opinion about this...
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Old Apr 6th, 2006, 09:14 PM
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While I think Phys Ed is important in schools - maybe kids should be taught some traveling skills. More affluent kids (and adults) often have no idea of how to use local bus service. Less affluent often have no clue about airports, boarding passes, etc.

In a world where it seems everyone must travel eventually, these skills might be more useful than the jumping jacks and tumbling. Or study halls.
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Old Apr 6th, 2006, 09:30 PM
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She was 18?
This is sad and I think you were so nice to help her and lucky her that you were nice!
But.....at 18, most of the kids I know have and can travel alone with no problems. They go to Europe and all over the US.
If she had been a minor, the airlines would have taken better care, but as an 18 year old, she should have been able to figure out what to do.being from Mexico and unprepared as she was , I think, was not usual..
I guess you might have been there at that moment for a reason, yes?
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Old Apr 6th, 2006, 09:53 PM
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Our son (19 and in college) flies back and forth to school several times/year, drives on overnight trips with friends from school (no - we don't make those arrangements for him), has traveled at least annually with us, and has a credit card and a reasonable amount of maturity and common sense.

Still, he was on the phone to me when weather cancelled a connection on a trip back to school and he had to find an airport hotel, reschedule the flight, etc. If I had been unreachable, he probably could have figured it out, but even affluent kids who have traveled a lot may be accustomed to a parent dealing with the logistics of travel. (And most of his friends, at 18 had not traveled all over US and to Europe alone - so we must operate in different circles than the kids Scarlett knows)
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Old Apr 6th, 2006, 10:08 PM
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Perhaps they do, gail.
But usually when kids travel, alone, they get together with their parents and go over what to do if there is an emergency, they have enough money for an emergency and they can call home ( like gails son).
The kids that we know, have traveled with their parents, like mine, so they already have an idea of what is involved.
I think this case is a bit unusual.
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Old Apr 6th, 2006, 10:54 PM
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rb, that's a great thought -- how about in addition to PE? With the growing population of obese students, I think we need more PE, not less -- for some kids it's the only exercise they get!

TTP, did this young women have a cell phone with her? Was she fluent in English? I dunno, there might be more to the story, perhaps.

I think travel, like anything else, is something you get better at with experience and modeling. If your kid calls you to ask how to handle an unexpected circumstance, I consider it a pretty good thing. And it has nothing to do with being independent -- I call it good common sense on the part of the young adult (and a testiment to the relationship that exists between parent and kid).
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Old Apr 7th, 2006, 12:46 AM
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seetheworld: I acknowledged the importance of PE on the first line, and I was thinking of the obesity records as I wrote it. So how about this: the kids learn using public bus systems by instead of being picked up at their front door by the school bus, they WALK to a common pickup point further then the nearest corner (as those in my school district do; the nearest corner, that is)

"Traveling while Clueless" is not restricted to kids or the elderly. I've seen plenty of middle-aged people fall apart when small problems arise during a trip.
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Old Apr 7th, 2006, 02:48 AM
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i think the responces here clearly show many of the problems in the US. one assumes that all american children are rich enough to travel the us and europe somewhat regularly with their families. get a grip. travel is a priviledge of the wealthy. many americans will never make it out of their home state. off topic, but same idea - i spoke to someone recently who couldn't understand how any american has a low enough income to not pay any taxes??? said they knew lots of poor ppl and knew they paid taxes...
and to suggest that the public schools should "teach" travel is just a joke. they have not even been teaching geography for the past 15 years.
txtravel, i think you were very kind to assist this young woman. i am well past 18 and have had some very panicky moments while traveling. you get tired, confused, frustrated and often the local ppl assume you know more about their area than you do and give confusing instuctions...
i agree though that it would be nice if all parents were experienced travelers and took the time to teach their children how to get around and deal with every conceivable emergency.
thank goodness for the kindness of strangers bearing june cleaver pearls.
sorry off my soapbox now.
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Old Apr 7th, 2006, 03:04 AM
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Kids traveling alone don't need to posess every arcane skill including how to book a hotel in an emergency.

They need to grasp the simple principle of how to realize when they need help, and how to find it.

That girl who sat around waiting for a confusingly-labeled shuttle for hours surely could have been taught to simply seek help from staff at the airport if she found herself in a situation that was confusing or alarming. Anybody who works there could probably have solved her problem by explaining about the shuttle, or could have suggested that she call the hotel.
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Old Apr 7th, 2006, 03:37 AM
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I'm sure I'll get a few comments on this, but you can't TEACH common sense! If you, or your child had been waiting anywhere for a few hours, wouldn't you think to ask someone about the shuttle? It just seems like such an obvious answer - no matter if it was the first time traveling or the 100th. I'm thinking that maybe this girl either wasn't too bright, or didn't speak the language very well and didn't feel comfortable asking. Hopefully, June Cleaver, you enlightened her as to what to do next time. (and no offense, but it was pretty stupid to get into a car with a stranger too - June Cleaver or not!)

Just my two cents...
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Old Apr 7th, 2006, 03:47 AM
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IMHO high schools should give kids - preferably freshman or sophomores life classes - like how to cope with reality - which I think would be more important than a lot of what they "learn" - not PE - they definitely do need that - but most kids don;t seem to be carrying very heavy course laods.

They need to be taught the basics of banking, finance, budgeting, travel - and a wholelot of things that are common sense.

That said - this poor girl seems to have been extremely naive - and ill-equipped for an 18 year old. Every one I know has a cell phone, a credit card, a bank account, has traveled with parents - and most are away at school managing their own lives - and wold certaily be able to find a hotel to check into in the case of flight cancellation.
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Old Apr 7th, 2006, 04:33 AM
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Iam suprised that someone didn't say that the fact that this person got into your car without hesitation is even scarier.

We know you are a good person trying to help.

Think about the person who isn't good who drives up and with a big smile says, "Do you need help? Get in..."
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Old Apr 7th, 2006, 04:50 AM
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The first time my son (then 16) flew alone, I spent the month before giving him instructions for every possible contingency. If your flight is boarding and you're in the security line.... If your flight gets in too late for the connection ... If the gate number is wrong ... If they re-route you ...

His father just bought the boy a cell phone (also a good idea).

He did indeed have the flight from hell coming back -- they were stuck on the tarmac for 4 hours, and then the connecting flight was cancelled and the airport closed due to weather, and he had to stay overnight (no hotel provided). But my catechism worked perfectly. He knew to lay his problems on the airline's doorstep, find out what his options were, and then call home.
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Old Apr 7th, 2006, 05:07 AM
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Thank you for showing compassion by first allowing your parking shuttle driver to stop and tell this young girl what her shuttle looked like and then going the extra mile by going back and helping her.

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Old Apr 7th, 2006, 05:13 AM
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I'm with Intrepid. Having just come from a seminar on how to protect your children sponsored by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the fact that she just got in the car with you makes me shudder!
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Old Apr 7th, 2006, 05:23 AM
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This is precisely whey I am adamant about routing my step-daughter in the most direct possible routes when she visits us in the islands, not to mention still paying an unaccompanied minor fee for her even though she is 16.

I shudder at the thought of her being stranded overnight somewhere like San Juan and not being able to speak the language in order to make a hotel reservation, know how to get around, or even have a credit card for incidentals. She has traveled a lot in the islands with us and we've taught her things, but I'm sure it would still be a panic situation if she were to find herself stranded unexpectedly.

Although she is very mature, I only wish I could get my DH to agree with me in that she is not quite yet adult enough to handle unexpected delays or overnights when traveling overseas on her own to visit us. He seems to feel that she would be just fine if she had to unexpectedly overnight somewhere. Arrghhh.
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Old Apr 7th, 2006, 05:24 AM
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Agree with Intrepid - that's really scary that she just got into your car. Stranger danger anyone?
The first time I flew as an unaccompanied minor was from Chicago to San Francisco at age 7. At age 14, I was too old to be escorted by the airline, and was truly flying by myself. My parents and I reviewed as many scenarios as humanly possible, but in the end, it does come down to common sense. I've been stuck in plenty of icky flight situations where connections were missed, flights overbooked, etc. You learn to immediately let the airline know your situation, especially that you are a teenager traveling alone. Part of growing up into an adult is having experiences that force you to rely on yourself, and put you outside your comfort zone. Just my 2 cents...
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Old Apr 7th, 2006, 05:44 AM
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Hi again...
Ok, let me clarify to my best ability.
The girl was clearly either confused or mentally challenged. She was caucasian and from what I could gather she had family that was already in Mexico and she was going to meet them there... I am not sure if they lived there or were tourists.
I tried to set her at ease, explaining where I was driving because the route may have appeared I was going away from the hotels and the airport.
I asked her how old she was, whether she was a student, just small talk.
She was very concerned about the hotel getting her back to the airport early enough this morning. I told her that if it looked like she would not be able to leave by 545am, she should call a cab or walk across the street to the Westin and ride that shuttle to the airport.
Now, I think my own daughter would be about as patient as I am... she would have called a cab after 30 minutes of waiting. If she did not have the money, she would have been calling the hotel and pestering them to hurry.
I did not see a cell phone with the girl. Odds are she had one but I am not 100% sure. Even if she had one, if she left it on during the flight the battery may have been drained by the time she got to DFW... which is quite common.
And just an FYI to everyone... the airline stops the 'unaccompanied minor' requirement at 15.
Working in the hotel industry, I was a bit worried about her checking in at a hotel. I figured that the airline agreement would take care of the fact that she was only 18. Most US hotels will not allow an 18 year old to check in...
I think knowing your kid is part of the preparation. This girl was not a take control kind of kid.
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Old Apr 7th, 2006, 07:43 AM
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My 2 teenagers have been flying solo since they were 5. After age 11 or 12, they flew unescorted and really did have to depend upon strangers a couple of times. The lessons we have learned is to always, always have some cash on you (usually give them $20 or $30) and a credit card in case of emergencies. You worry about your card being stolen, so we use a card exclusively for this purpose. One time they were together visiting their grandma (MIL) in Chicago. She didn't wait to ensure they took off safely, left them without any $$ and their plane was cancelled. I will never forget the cell phone call from a stranger saying they were on this flight with my kids, introducing herself, and asking permission to buy my kids' lunch, since they had no money. We were very lucky (they were 12 and 15 at the time) in that she was a schoolteacher and they never had to leave ORD. You learn these lessons the hard way. By the way, she refused to let me get her address and send her money to cover lunch, she believed in paying forward.
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Old Apr 7th, 2006, 08:45 AM
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I'm trying to find the right words to say this the kindest. I'm not as articulate as many Fodorites.

As empathetic and intelligent as all of you are, I see reflections of non-experience with populations outside of your own socio-economic group in some aspects of this. And I'm not talking great cultural difference miss-interpretations either, which complicate the mix further.

Many, many people do not travel- nor do they role model travel to their children. Economics and personal family circumstances can often combine into strange logistics.

Living within and with close proximity to many low income families in my lifetime, I've saw this kind of thing rather constantly. And not just at the airports.

Just last summer I found a "lost" 15 year old in MI, who was heading to FL from Detroit (and he had traded in his plane ticket for $$$, and was thumbing in the wrong direction- being near my house in SW Michigan). He didn't even have a good idea of the geography involved, and was ravenously hungry at a ice cream/hot dog stand- looking for throwaways. His money was gone, and he was scared to tell me most of the truth because he didn't want to go back to the house in Detroit (step-father expelled him).

He was originally shipped by a parent to another parent- neither which had seen each other or talked in real time for 8 years. A town person (minister- female) ended up putting him up in her trailer until the social services people could facilitate him better with some needed research.

I found a 7 year old girl who was left in a library and told to take a bus which no longer existed. etc. etc. etc.

Yes, many people would coach their children fairly well on this kind of trip- but some just don't have that context themselves, nor do they have the time. Lots and lots of kids are self-taught or school taught for the most part primarily. TV is their home baby-sitter from earliest days.

The USA isn't homogenous, some cultures won't allow their female children to travel- period, nor women in general. Nor do they role model or relate information upon this issue.

I don't judge but just tend to envolve myself when I see something. I do NOT overlook, and believe me, sometimes it would be a whole lot easier to do so.
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