How Young Is Too Young For a Kid to Travel Alone?

Child, travelMy daughter’s father and I have two completely different definitions of crazy. His has my picture right next to it for a number of reasons, most recently because he wanted to put my baby on a plane from New York to Miami by herself and I wouldn’t even let him waste any more breaths than necessary on that plan. Because that right there is my definition of crazy.

According to him, it was perfectly reasonable to strap a vulnerable young girl into a crowded plane with a bunch of strangers — including the flight attendants and airline staff supposed to be keeping an eye on her —  and expect me to feel perfectly at ease from D.C., thousands of miles too far away in case I needed to kick somebody’s hind parts. Yeah OK.


Most of us as parents know the innumerable worries and concerns that crop up just from our kids taking public transportation by themselves, much less clamoring 30,000 feet into the air solo. Maybe back in the 80s when we were kids, that was much less of a harrowing experience — though I’m pretty sure my mother would’ve voted that idea down just like I am. I vividly remember her making me watch the movie about Adam, son of America’s Most Wanted host John Walsh, who was kidnapped while shopping with his mother in Sears.

If I could no longer skip over to the toy aisle by myself because fear of a crazy kid killer had been implanted into her, there was no way my mama was letting me hop a flight to another part of the country on the solo.

Almost two decades has elapsed between my childhood and my kid’s, and judging by the news, there isn’t any more reason to believe it’s safer for Girl Child. In fact, there are even more nuts roaming the streets than there were back then and guess what? They travel. They go airborne. They hop the Amtrak. They ride Megabus and Greyhound. Heck, there are more weirdos on any given bus ride than a public park at sundown. They’re drawn to bus travel for some reason. A few years ago, I remember hearing a story about a guy who was minding his own business on a trip from Canada and the dude sitting next to him just whipped out a machete and started going stone cold crazy.

Now, that’s an isolated instance, I know. I’m well aware that millions of people trek all across the country without incident. I’ve flown to Chicago and San Francisco myself this year, and taken I don’t know how many trips back and forth on the bus and the local Amtrak train, and haven’t had so much as somebody look at me wrong. But I’m a grown woman who knows how to handle myself if something did go awry. My child doesn’t. Not yet.

One time over the summer I rode the bus to see The Man because my car was on the fritz. (That’s yet another downfall of the long distance relationship — it will assassinate your car.) As we were pulling in front of the destination station, the guy in the seat next to me kinda twisted his body to box me in, leaned over, and said in barely comprehendible English, “Gimme a kiss.” It threw me off and I got all flustered, but I managed a “No!” before I socked him in the face with my overnight bag as I ambled out of the seat to safety. I wonder how my daughter would’ve reacted in that situation.

Next year, she’ll be a freshman and I’m contemplating allowing her to take D.C.’s fine city trains and buses to get to her high school. I’m having a hard enough time thinking about that, much less solo statewide excursions. I’ll take baby steps until she goes off on spring break. In college.

Would you feel comfortable sending your child on a train, plane or bus without a relative?

Image via sandflake/Flickr

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