Eight Is Too Young for a Kid to Travel Alone

TrainDid you hear that Amtrak has changed its rules regarding children traveling alone? Yeah, now, starting November 1, kids can't travel alone unless they're 13 years old; under the old rules, they had to be ... 8.

Eight? Seriously? My 8-year-old can barely tie his own shoes, let alone handle his own luggage and look after himself without the help of a dedicated adult on a long train trip.

There's absolutely no way I would send him alone on an Amtrak train at this point.


Also under the old rules, kids between the ages of 8 and 14 could travel unaccompanied by an adult as long as an adult brought them to the train station and signed a special release form. These kids were then issued a special bracelet to indicate that they were unaccompanied minors, which they had to keep on for the duration of the trip. Amtrak's new rules get rid of the whole wristband system, because the company realized that it was probably not such a great thing to identify children so obviously as unaccompanied minors. (Ya think?)

Amtrak really seems to be on the right track with its new rules -- which require kids ages 12 and under to be accompanied by someone who is at least 18 years old. Yes, I'm sure some families who rely on Amtrak to transport their kids to and fro will object. And I know many airlines make special arrangements for unaccompanied minors, starting at age 5 (which is alarming in its own way), but a train is not an airplane.

People get on and off of trains. There's a lot of movement and hubbub. A train conductor may be responsible for several cars and may not be as accessible to the child as a flight attendant would be: What if your child needed help? What if he or she was being hassled? And wouldn't it be a little too easy for someone to slip off a train with an unaccompanied minor without anyone noticing?

The possibilities are almost too horrifying to think about.

How old do you think your child would have to be before you felt comfortable allowing him or her to travel alone?


Image via jpmueller99/Flickr

Read More >