This article was created in partnership with Western Union.
When living as migrants in a foreign country, you and your family need to stay connected to loved ones back home, but it’s hard to align everyone’s hectic schedules for global travel. While a school holiday might be an obvious time for your children to visit family and friends abroad, for instance, this could easily be crunch time at work for you or your partner.
The answer: Send your kids abroad alone. That’s easier said than done, of course. It can be terrifying to let your child fly solo no matter how meaningful those moments with far-flung family members may be. Before your child jets off alone for the first time, follow these tips to support them personally and financially when they travel abroad.
1. Choose the right airline
Many major airlines have safety protocols in place for unaccompanied minors (usually children between ages 5 and 14). However, some don’t accept minors at all. Those that accommodate solo children typically provide services such as end-to-end escorts, whereby airline personnel guide your child from check-in to boarding, and then deliver them safely to a prearranged adult upon arrival. These services vary from airline to airline, so be sure to confirm the necessary procedures, paperwork and fees well ahead of the trip.
2. Rehearse your plans
Before your little one takes off, take some time to prepare them for the experience. The Chicago Tribune recommends walking them through their entire itinerary, from security to immigration, boarding, baggage claim and pickup. Explaining the unexpected noises or bumps on the flight can also be helpful since turbulence can be scary for young travellers.
You’ve likely warned your child never to trust strangers in the past. But when it comes to solo travelling, it’s a little more complicated. There will be some trustworthy strangers — those in airline staff uniforms, for instance — as well as strangers to avoid, and it’s important that your child knows the difference.
3. Discuss emergency plans
Even though thousands of aircraft traverse the world every day, there’s always a chance of disruption due to weather, delays or mechanical issues. Put simply, flights don’t always go as planned. Just in case the itinerary sees a curveball, make sure your child knows what to do.
Go through all the potential scenarios, including a canceled or diverted flight, and instruct your child to ask for assistance if they need it. Empowering them to speak up when they need help is an important part of planning a solo trip, and it teaches them to be self-sufficient and adaptable.
Before the trip, make sure your child has all the necessary paperwork. According to British Airways, every child should fly with an emergency kit that includes essentials such as:
- Your child’s passport and photocopies of their passport
- A signed consent letter granting permission for your child to travel alone
- Travel itinerary and airline information
- Your contact information and the information of the relative who will pick them up
- A list of your child’s allergies, medications or medical conditions
- Money or prepaid debit cards to pay for any necessities
- Instructions for how to collect a money transfer
4. Stay connected
Just in case your child falls ill or simply wants to say goodnight, make sure you’re able to reach them throughout the trip via a mobile phone or tablet. While they’re away, safe and sound with your family, it’s also important to check in every day via phone or video chat to see how they’re doing and to hear about their experience.
Staying connected financially is equally as important as staying emotionally connected. Should your child need money at any time during global travel, it’s fast and easy to send money through a Western Union money transfer. You can initiate the transfer online, via the app or in person at an agent location. Once confirmed, it takes just a few minutes for the funds to reach your child on the other side of the world. Since Western Union has locations in more than 200 locations worldwide, your child, or a designated adult, can find a location near them and collect the funds in person by showing their ID and the money transfer control number. Alternatively, you can transfer the funds directly into your child’s bank account.
If your child will be overseas for an extended period of time, you can set up recurring payments ahead of time to fund their adventures. Simply presend your money to a Western Union location in the city in which your child will be travelling. When your child arrives in that city, they can easily collect the funds. Staying connected financially through money transfer services helps support your child no matter where they go.
5. Manage your emotions
Your child’s solo trip is a big deal, and emotions will certainly be running high as they traverse the globe. Try to conceal your internal anxiety, which every parent will battle, and focus on the positives instead. “It does not help to be too overprotective of children,” Rebecca Nelson, a child psychologist, told the Chicago Tribune. “It can make them more anxious. Part of growing up is engaging in away-from-home activities to practice self-sufficiency.” When your little one successfully completes their first solo trip, be sure to celebrate their bravery.
Preparing for your child’s first solo adventure shouldn’t be hard. Ensuring they have the emotional and financial support they need is key. If your child is prepared for what to expect and feels connected with you throughout their global travel, the experience should be smooth, memorable and meaningful for the whole family.
With the Western Union® app, you can make sure your child has the financial support they need while travelling solo.