Your children will always be your babies, so watching them fly off on their own, whether it’s a teenage friends’ holiday or on a school trip, can be an anxiety-inducing experience.
That stress will probably never go away - once a parent, always a parent - but you can get some peace of mind by ensuring they have a robust travel insurance policy in place before they set off.
There are a number of reasons why your child may be travelling without you.
Their insurance needs will vary, depending on the nature of their trip.
If you already have family travel insurance it’s worth checking to see if it covers a child travelling independently, as some policies do include this in their terms.
If not, you’ll need to take out a separate policy.
You can do this on behalf of your child, if they are under 18, and there are even children’s travel insurance policies on the market.
An under 18s travel insurance policy should cover the basics:
Plus, if your child has any pre-existing medical conditions remember to declare them upfront when you buy the policy, otherwise your insurer may not pay out if you have to make a claim.
If your child is travelling within Europe, make sure they have a free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).
It isn’t a substitute for insurance, but it will cover them if they need state-provided healthcare or medical treatment in any European Economic Area (EEA) country or in Switzerland.
Most airlines class anyone over 16 as an adult and will allow them to travel on their own.
Children aged five to 15 travelling alone without a parent or guardian are classed as ‘unaccompanied minors’.
The rules on unaccompanied children travelling vary from airline to airline, so check what their policies are and be prepared to pay extra if your child needs a chaperone.
British Airways, for example, don’t allow anyone under the age of 12 to travel alone, unless accompanied by an adult aged 16 or over.
Remember also to check visa requirements with the embassy of the country your child is travelling to, as some destinations have different rules about the age children have to be to travel alone.
Check out the foreign travel advice section of the government’s website for details of each country’s entry requirements.
Under 18s travelling to Portugal, for example, need to carry a letter of travel authorisation from their parents or guardian, with the letter stating the name of the adult responsible for them while they are visiting Portugal.
You may find it’s cheaper to buy a family or group holiday insurance policy rather than standalone policies for each family member, so remember to compare all the options and costs before picking a policy for your child.
If you do need an individual policy for your child then opt for a single trip travel insurance policy if it’s a one-off event.
If, however, your child will be travelling alone multiple times a year - for example if they are at boarding school or staying abroad with relatives - then an annual policy is your best option.
Generally speaking, an under 18 travel insurance policy should be no more expensive than an adult travel insurance policy, but it’s worth shopping around to ensure you have the best possible insurance for your child’s individual requirements.
Note that if your child is travelling in a group, for example a teen holiday with friends or a sports club trip, they may get a cheaper premium. So be sure to state exactly who they are travelling with before you buy.
If your children are travelling on their tod, don’t panic! Plenty of other young people are boarding planes and catching transfers every day - with the right preparation and safeguards in place, you can have peace of mind that they’ll be ok.
Penny Alexander, who runs the successful family travel blog Parentshaped†, offers this advice to parents whose children are flying solo: “Read through your chosen airline's unaccompanied minor process online together so that you both understand what to expect at each stage.
“Don't be afraid to walk it through or role play it; it can really help young people to visualise the process.
“For older kids travelling independently, as well as paper copies of travel documents stored separately in their luggage, create a family Dropbox with copies, photos or scans of all their important documents, such as insurance, passport, travel itinerary, visas.
“Finally, look carefully into travel insurance, make sure it covers unaccompanied minors, meets all their travel needs, and brings you full peace of mind as a parent.”
Gretta Schifano, who has written a blog specifically on teen travel on her site Mums Do Travel† says: “Before the trip, it’s really important to talk to them about what to do if things don’t go to plan, and to make sure that they know what to do and who to contact if there’s a problem.
“When my 17-year-old daughter went Interrailing around Europe with a school friend we found the Find My Friends app to be really useful. It’s an iPhone location tool which shows you where someone is on a map.”