Tips for Teens Traveling Internationally without Parents

Tips for Teens Traveling Internationally without Parents


Most of our programs allow you to choose your own program dates, flights, and length. Some advantages to this are that families have control over booking flights and are able to use frequent flyer miles. One challenge, however, is that students must travel independently to their program destinations. Some teens are understandably nervous about flying alone. Here are some tips to help teens and parents feel more at ease about traveling internationally without a chaperone or flight leader.

Before booking your ticket

Check with us before booking your ticket to see if anyone else from your area will be attending your program at the same time. We will put you in contact with one another.

Booking your ticket

Whenever possible, choose a direct flight. Fewer fights mean fewer opportunities for flights to be delayed or for other problems to arise.

If a direct fight is not possible, choose a flight that stops or makes connections in the United States. Whenever possible, stick with the same airline for both flights.  Make sure there is ample connection time between flights. A long wait is preferable to a missed connection.

Flights earlier in the day are less susceptible to delays than later flights. Avoid the last flight of the day if possible; if it is canceled, opportunities for rerouting may be limited, and you may end up spending the night in the airport or a nearby hotel.

During Transit

Keep a printed copy of your itinerary as well as your ticket and the contact information for the airline and your program contacts in an easily accessible travel bag or pouch. Keep this bag on your person during the flight.

Never put travel documents on the seat next to you or in the seat-pocket.

When you get to your connecting airport, find your new gate before going to get something to eat. Check the status of the next flight to find out when it will board.

If your connecting flight is cancelled, rerouted, or delayed, talk to the gate agent.  Do not leave security to speak with a ticketing agent.

During customs, you will need to pick up your luggage and place it on a screening belt. There may be customs officers with narcotic-sniffing dogs in the screening area. You will show your passport to the customs officer. The officer will ask if you have anything to declare and the purpose of your visit.

When you exit customs you will be met at the airport by your host family or a member of our partner organization’s staff...and the next phase of your adventure will begin!

Flying as an Unaccompanied Minor

Most airlines will extend their Unaccompanied Minor services to teens up to age 17, traveling independently.  Fees are typically $50-$200 each way, depending on the airline. As an unaccompanied minor, you will be escorted from one flight to the next during connections as well as through immigration and customs.

Some teens choose to fly as an Unaccompanied Minor on the way to their program, and fly independently on their return.

If you choose to fly as an unaccompanied minor, here are a few important points to keep in mind:

If you choose this option, please let us know in advance. The airline will only release an unaccompanied minor to the person your parents designate, so you will need to know the name and contact information of the person picking you up at the final destination. This will not necessarily be the host family. It may be a member of our partner organization’s staff.

Your parents may apply for a gate pass to bring you through security all the way to the gate. An airline representative will escort you onto the plane during pre-boarding.

An airline representative will assist you with your connecting flights as well as through immigration and customs.

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