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Ed Perkins on Travel: Traveling with kids’ checklist

Ed Perkins on Travel: Traveling with kids’ checklist



The main type of travel during the re-opening period will be "visiting friends and relatives," or VFR, in industry jargon, one of the three big travel groups the industry uses. (The others are leisure travel and business travel, in case you cared.) So say the industry "experts." Although I don't know when the country will be truly "re-opened," even if it isn't yet, many of you will be traveling with kids or arranging for kids to travel fairly soon. Here's a checklist of arrangements you need to consider.

1. ID. Even if you're just taking a road trip, it's a good idea for each kid to have government-approved photo ID of one sort or another. And if you're flying, you need the obvious ID required by TSA. Fortunately, TSA has again relaxed the need for REAL-ID compliant state ID; the new deadline is October, 2021.

2. Consent Forms. When my wife and I were guardians of a grandson, we would occasionally ask him to invite a friend along on a family trip: We had long since learned that on such trips two kids are easier than one. But I remember the first time we took one of our grandson's buddies on a trip to Oregon, we were surprised to find that the operator of a tame jetboat excursion on the Rogue River refused to allow the friend on the trip because we didn't have notarized permission from his parents. You can face this problem in unsuspecting places, including some adventure/thrill rides.

Official permission can also be a problem with kids of divorced or separated parents: Although the chances are not high, there's always the possibility that local authorities will challenge the status of a kid other than your own. People are really antsy these days about "kidnapping" by one parent or the other during custody disputes.

You can avoid problems by having a joint guardian of your own kid or the legal guardians of your kid's friend fill out a consent form, which you can easily improvise or download (free) from eForms at And you minimize risks by having the form notarized. Official permission is important if you're flying and especially if you're going out of the country. You do not want a hassle at an arrival airport or border.

3. Family Flying with Kids. US airlines do not generally offer any discounted fares for kids or students. Anyone two years old or over needs a full-fare ticket. If a kid age 12 or under is with you, he or she needs no special ID to fly domestically, and TSA offers some special protocols for screening kids in that age. But TSA treats kids 13 or over as adults. That means they also need regular ID.

4. Kids Flying Alone. Family situations often dictate that kids have to travel on their own. And you may be surprised to learn that the main US airlines have different minimum ages for kids to travel independently as adults: 12 years for domestic flights on Hawaiian, and Southwest; 13 years on Alaska, 14 years on JetBlue, and 15 years on Allegiant, American, Delta, Frontier, Spirit, and United. Age limits also vary on international lines. If your kids need to travel without an accompanying adult, most airlines offer "unaccompanied minor" service for kids between 5 and the minimum solo travel age that monitors them closely, and with lots of details, with a fee up to $150 each way; only Allegiant and Frontier do not. Check with airlines for details.

Amtrak offers 50 percent discounts for one minor age 2 to 12 accompanying each full-fare adult; not applicable to sleeper accommodations or first class on Acela. The minimum age for solo travel on Amtrak is 16, with no youth discount. Kids younger than those ages must be accompanied by an adult, but Amtrak offers an unaccompanied minor program at a limited number of stations for kids age 13 to 15.

(Send e-mail to Ed Perkins at Also, check out Ed’s new rail travel website at


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