Airlines: Leaving The Nest

With the holidays approaching, you may soon be packing up your kids for a trip alone. Here are some things to keep in mind:

Plan ahead. Airlines won't let children fly unaccompanied before the age of 5 and may require a nonstop ticket.

Book early. Avoid the last flight of the day, because another one may not be available if there's a diversion.

Go to the gate. Ask the check-in desk for a special pass, which will allow you to stay with your children until boarding, and don't leave until the plane departs. Whoever's picking up at the other end can do the same.

Stay in touch. Give them two emergency contact numbers and a cell phone.

Set the 'no strangers' rule. "If they have any questions, deal with people who are part of the airline," says Dr. Robert T. Brown, president of the Society for Adolescent Medicine.