Would you let this tween travel alone?

Aren Philly Art Museum

“Mom,” my 11-year-old son asked, “can I go to film camp in New York this summer?”

Film camp? You want to fly to Newark alone? Stay in the Big Apple without your parents?

Even though we’ve been traveling as a family since Aren was a month old, I heard myself whispering the answer reflexively, like the native New Yorker I am: “Fuggetaboutit.”

It wasn’t my final answer. Later today, I’ll tell you if we let Aren go to film camp in Manhattan. Watch the comments for details and tune in to the Away is Home show using the hashtags #familytravel and #awayishome on your favorite social network at 11 a.m. EDT.

The travel industry term for a child ages 4 to 17 traveling without adult supervision is “Unaccompanied Minor.” But just because they fit the age doesn’t mean they’re really ready. How do you know if your child is fit for solo travel?

Maturity. Is the child able to follow the directions of another put in charge without trying anything funny, like ditching a companion (been there) then it’s a good sign. Also, can the kid alert a responsible adult if someone — like a seatmate or another passenger — tried something inappropriate?

Fear factor. Is your child confident enough to take the trip without being afraid? After all, you’re going to warn them about strangers, who they can and can’t talk to and to be careful about the information they tell others. That would stress me out!

Are they comfortable with travel? Have they done this kind of thing before? Do they know where to stow their bags and how to ask for help from a flight attendant? Do they know how to buy food? Even having experience in finding the bathroom or what it’s like to walk through a terminal can be helpful.

We listened attentively to Aren’s pleas to send him to Manhattan, to become the next Steven Spielberg. He made a good case. He’d been to New York City several times and he’s a whiz around Final Cut. And then we made our decision.

Can you guess what we said?

Would you let this tween travel alone?

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Kari Haugeto

Kari is a serial entrepreneur with an education addiction and a profound curiosity that, more often then not, fuels some pretty incredible adventures. Currently her attention is focused on social and digital media technology and she is developing a project with her family of five and a variety of sponsors to share their cross-country adventures online in an interactive, socially responsible, educational and authentic manner.


  • HeidiDreams

    It’s FILM CAMP. I am sure there will be someone at the gate to meet him and he will be staying with others. I am sure he is only SOLO during the flight portion with Stewards to assist ! It’s not like he is going to be on his own partyin’ it up in the BIG CITY ! lol

  • Jim Zakany

    This is a tough one. At thirteen, I’d say, “sure.” At eleven, though…I dunno. If he’s capable, perhaps, but I think he’d be the exception rather than the rule even among seasoned travellers.

  • alsous

    As long as someone met him at the airport and he could fly direct without having to deal with connecting flights, I am sure that Aren will have a memory that will last a life time at film camp.

  • http://elliott.org Christopher Elliott
  • AZX Traveler

    Chris, I’m sure your kids a very travel savvy and know their way around an airport and planes better than many adults. My concern would be not with the airport/plane part of the trip but rather with the destination gate to camp part of the trip.

    I personally avoid JFK/LGA at all costs but inevitably find myself connecting through there a half dozen or so times a year. Let’s just say, it’s not a pleasant experience. Having to venture beyond the airports there is panic inducing, and trust me, I have traveled in some pretty shady places around the world.

  • http://elliott.org Christopher Elliott

    OK, if Kari’s not going to reveal the answer, I will. We decided to wait until next year for film camp, for a variety of reasons. I think Aren would have done fine in NY for a week, but one thing that we didn’t factor into this was how we, the parents, would feel about letting our baby go for a week. I’m telling you, it’s not easy. We’re working up to it!