Get the right travel insurance for children travelling alone.
If your child is between five and 15, and they’re flying on their own (without a parent or guardian), they’re classed as an “unaccompanied minor”. Their travel insurance should protect their solo trip, wherever they’re going.
The minimum age for flying solo varies by airline, so always check before you book. British Airways, for example, doesn’t allow under 14s to travel alone.
If you already have annual family travel insurance in place, check the small print to see if it covers your child when they’re travelling without you.
Some policies insist children under 16 are accompanied by a responsible adult, like a teacher or grandparent.
If your current policy doesn’t cover your child on their own, you’ll need to take out a separate single trip policy for them.
If they have several trips booked throughout the year (for example, if they’re at boarding school or go abroad regularly to stay with relatives), an annual policy can work out better - you won’t have to take out single trip insurance each time they travel and it can be a more cost-effective option too.
A policy for your child shouldn’t be any more expensive than an adult policy, but compare several travel insurance policies to make sure you’ve got the right level of cover for the right price.
If your child’s going away as part of a group, like a school exchange trip, the premium can be cheaper if you buy a group travel insurance policy - always give exact details of the trip and who they’re travelling with before you buy.
Check that your child’s covered for extreme sports if they’re planning on activities like skiing or scuba diving while they’re abroad.
As with all policies, if they have any pre-existing medical conditions make sure you declare them upfront when buying the policy, otherwise your insurer can refuse to pay out if you have to make a claim.
You probably won’t be able to take your child to the boarding gate without buying your own plane ticket, but most airlines offer an Unaccompanied Minor Service (UMS).
This means your child will be looked after by the airline from the check-in desk right up until they’re collected by an adult (who must show ID that matches what you’ve put on the UMS booking form) when they arrive at their end destination. Book them onto UMS at least 24 hours before they’re due to fly to give the airline enough time to get the relevant staff in place.
This depends on the airline’s rules - it’s usually compulsory for children under a certain age, but the age varies between airlines.
You can request UMS even if the airline doesn’t say it’s compulsory.
Some airlines will allow your child to travel, but only if they pay a fee for UMS. The fee depends on the airline but is usually around £50 each way.
Check the visa requirements of the country your child’s travelling to - rules about the age children must be to travel by themselves can vary between countries
Sometimes a child is classed as “unaccompanied” even if they’re travelling on the same plane but are in a different class to their parent or guardian. Check with your airline
Some airlines won’t accept unaccompanied minors with severe allergies, so make the airline aware of the allergy well in advance of the trip
If your child’s on medication, check with your airline to see if this is allowed on the plane. Flight attendants aren’t allowed to give them their personal medication
If very bad weather is predicted, some airlines won’t let your child fly, but if you have travel insurance you’ll usually be covered for cancelled travel
Some airlines won’t let your child travel on a connecting flight and will insist on direct flights only
Some airlines won’t offer UMS to certain countries, so always check the terms and conditions carefully
If your child’s travelling within Europe, make sure they have a free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) with them - they’ll get access to free state medical care in an emergency
Equip your child with all the paperwork they might need: letters of consent to travel alone, visas, health certificates, contact details of the person your child’s meeting - and, of course, their passport