We made it! Four weeks in Germany await. But as usual before we can really get started we need to get over the jet lag – sigh. For the first couple of days it is an annoying companion. By myself it would be okay but with little kids it can get a little tricky. When a four or five year old is sitting next to you at 3am in the morning ready to play there is almost no arguing. At some point in the last years I decided to just go with the flow and get as much sunlight and outside activity as possible. It never took longer than five days to adjust anyway (even though that can seem like an eternity). I learned not to schedule to many activities in the first days and not to expect to much.
How do you deal with the jet lag? Do you have any secrets how to get over it faster? I would be interested to know.
As I mentioned in my last post my “big” girl went ahead to Germany as an unaccompanied minor to spend three weeks with the grandparents by herself. I miss her like crazy but she has a great time as far as I can tell from our daily phone calls (best start to my day).
She is only seven and if she would not have requested to do this we probably would have waited another year or two. During my initial research I learned that most airlines take kids as young as five years as unaccompanied minors. I can’t imagine my son already flying alone but it depends on the kid I guess. Before we bought her ticket we talked a lot about the process of flying by herself – what happens when, what to do during the flight, who waited for her at the other end, etc. She had so many questions for us and would only stop if she was satisfied with the answer. That made me a bit more at ease and convinced me that she would be fine by herself on the long trip. We opted to get her a direct flight and have grandma make the trip to the airport a bit farther away from their home. On the way back she will be flying with me and her brother.
I found this document from the U.S. Department of Transportation helpful. It has general information and tips you might want to think about.
When I decided about which airline to pick I went with the one I felt would be most reliable. We have flown back and forth across the Atlantic quite a bit in the last couple of years and even though tickets from Lufthansa tend to be more expensive it was still the most pleasant flight experience with the least hiccups.
For all airlines you have to pay an extra fee (ranging between $50-$150 for one trip) and the airline makes sure that the kids are looked after.
When I called the ticket hotline to make the reservation (required at Lufthansa) they told me that someone would take her to the gate after check-in. Luckily I also inquired at the San Francisco Lufthansa counter and there they told me that I would be able to get a gate pass and accompany her to the gate. I had to wait until the flight is in the air anyway. During check in she got her little travel pouch and in went all the required documents: boarding pass, passport, the special service form with the flight information and personal information who would pick her up – I also had her immunization record and a consent letter from us. For Germany we probably would not need this but the online information was a bit confusing to me and I determined it easier than a call to the embassy. I was not able to check her in online but since we were early she was able to pick one of the six seats assigned for the unaccompanied minors and get her window seat. The woman at check-in was super nice and was asking immediately if she wanted to speak English or German. She had stories about her own children making the trip back to Europe a couple of times and assured us that she would be well taken care of and not let out of sight. We both were anxiously waiting for boarding to start – she because, she was so excited and could not wait to start her journey and I, because I was nervous to let her go. The unaccompanied minor kids got to board first and were escorted by airline personnel on the plane where the flight attendants took over. On the other side someone from the airline picked her up again and went with her through baggage claim and customs before she got handed over to her grandma (who had to show her photo ID with the right address first).
One day after I bought the ticket there was an article in a big German newspaper the FAZ (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung) about kids who are flying alone with Lufthansa. It is in German but if you know the language it might be interesting.
It all went really well and her little brother already said that next year he wants to go as well – we will see. For us it is an excellent alternative to summer camps. I am happy that she gets to spend more time with her grandparents and gets to know them better. The best advice I have: let them have a say in it and let them lead the way – at least for us that worked perfectly.
Tell me, would you send your kids on travels by themselves or would you rather wait?