Why is it so tough for kids to fly to camp alone?

Every summer millions of kids travel to camp via cars, busses, trains and planes. Most camps offer some sort of pick-up/drop-off service at local airports and it can be logistically challenging. Delays (or early arrivals) and cancelations are annoying but there is nothing more frustrating than dealing with airlines' 'unaccompanied minor' policies. The below article from NY Times delves into the direct costs of flying 'UM' but does not touch on the added cost to the adults that have to make the transfer at the airport.


When we pick-up a camper flying 'UM' we can expect it to take at least an additional hour after the plane lands for the camper to get out to us. Drop-off is even worse as we are required to go through security with the camper and wait at the gate until the plane takes off which sometimes means an entire day at the airport. This is a waste of time and resources for most campers who are more than capable of flying solo. Surprisingly bus and train companies are even more difficult: most do not let unaccompanied minors under the age of 16 ride regardless of the situation.

The summer camp experience helps kids build self-confidence and gain independence and the journey to/from camp should be part of that adventure. So what should parents do? The 'UM' policies are not flexible and airline employees will never budge (we have tried). Parents can encourage their campers to not just be led around the airport but actively look at maps, signs and arrival/departure boards to gain some understanding of how airports work. They should know their airline, flight number and departure time as well. This will help them learn skills that will make them successful travelers in the future.