Is your under-18 heading abroad without you? Find out everything you need to know to keep them safe on their travels.
Waving off your child as they embark on a journey – whether flying solo to meet a family member abroad, going on holiday with their best pal’s family or jetting off on a jolly with friends after their exams – can be a daunting prospect for any parent.
Your every instinct is to have them close and to protect them (as well as burst into tears when they disappear from view, of course!). But, while you can’t be there to take care of them on their trip, you can at least ensure they’re covered against any emergencies that might arise by taking out adequate travel insurance.
What travel insurance will my child need?
If you’ve already got an annual family travel policy, it’s worth checking the terms and conditions to see if it will cover your child when travelling without you. Some policies allow children to travel independently of you, although they may stipulate that children under 16 need to be accompanied by a responsible adult, such as a grandparent. If your current policy doesn’t cover them to travel without you, or alone, you’ll need another option.
Depending on who they’re travelling with, you could also look into group policies, which cover people travelling together who may or may not be related. If they’re holidaying with grandparents, for example, there might be the option for the grandparents to add them to their own annual policies. Otherwise, you’ll have to take out a separate policy for under-18s travelling alone.
Whichever type of travel insurance your child has, it should contain all the basics that an adult policy does, including insurance against lost luggage, medical treatment, theft, loss of personal possessions and accidents.
Our Admiral Travel Insurance covers a range of activities as standard, but if your child is heading off on an adventure holiday and intends to do any typical teen pursuits such as go-karting or mountain-biking, it’s always worth checking with our advisors for your own peace of mind.
If your child is snow-bound and planning some skiing or snowboarding fun on the slopes, you’ll need our specialist winter sports insurance to enable them to cut a swathe across the mountains with confidence!
Make sure your under-18 also takes his or her EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) with them if travelling within Europe, in order to easily access basic emergency healthcare in the unlikely event it will be needed. But do remember that this handy card is not a replacement for travel insurance and full travel cover will still be needed.
And any parent who’s ever tried to unglue their teenager from a smartphone will know the importance of protecting their precious tech from loss and damage – not least so you can keep in regular contact with them by phone! Our gadget insurance offers add-on cover to some policies for up to three gadgets, up to a value of £1,000, in the event of them being lost, stolen or damaged.
Top tips for under-18s travel
If your under-18 is going away with grandparents, the family of one of their friends, a step-parent or, indeed, anyone who has a different surname to them, it’s a good idea that you, as the parent, writes and signs a letter giving consent for those adults to travel with your child. It’s not compulsory, but it may speed up any queries at border control. You can find a template on the Home Office website. You could also write a similar letter giving permission for medical care when they’re away.
Make copies, paper and digital, of all your child’s important documents – including their passport, tickets and travel insurance – in case they lose the originals. Remember, too, that laws regarding under-18s travelling without an adult vary from country to country so be sure to research their intended destination in advance.
The Foreign Office website has a section on current Foreign Office Travel Advice for 225 countries. Did you know, for example, that Portuguese Border Control requires that a child under the age of 18 travelling to Portugal alone or without a parent or guardian should either be met at the airport by their parent or guardian or carry a letter of authorisation to travel giving details of the adult in Portugal who will be responsible for them during their stay?
If your little one or teen is taking a flight on their own, you’ll need to inform the airline well in advance, and will usually have to book their ticket over the phone and talk to the reservations team rather than book online. You may need to sign a form of consent or a Declaration of Indemnity.
A child must be at least five to fly solo, but every airline has its own policy. For example, the minimum age of a person permitted to travel alone with British Airways has recently been increased from 12 to 14 years of age.
Children aged five to 12 years who fly alone are classed as ‘unaccompanied minors’ on a flight, even if they sit in a different cabin class to adults travelling with them (we’re talking to you, Kirstie Allsopp and Gordon Ramsay!). This is because cabin crew will be responsible for them in the event of an emergency or when the seatbelt signs are switched on.
You’ll need to pay a fee for an unaccompanied minor or an escort service for their supervision. If your child is aged between 12 and 16, they can travel without supervision, but you can still request an escort for them if you prefer.
The airline will also usually require that the parent or guardian dropping off the child at the airport remains there until the flight has departed. You will also need to arrange for a pre-registered adult with photo ID to meet them at their destination.
The most important thing when waving off your loved young ones? Try not to show them you’re worried. Tell them to take care – and a have a great time!