The Pre-Tween Years (8-11)
Want to spend a few months seeing the world? Now’s the time to do it. “They don’t need naps and they can go, go, go,” says Wheeler, adding that you’re also going to be free from the confines of the stroller and the requisite bag of snacks and toys that comes standard with every small child. Kids this age are starting to become very independent, so you may need to lay down some ground rules different than those at home. For Wheeler, that meant making sure her kids never went to the bathroom alone in certain places where violence against women is common.
Dr. Spinks-Franklin says that while safety should always be a priority when traveling, up until this age, conversations should be kept abstract. “When kids are young we just say that airport security is there to keep us safe. We don’t talk about 9/11 until upper elementary school ages,” she says. But now, it’s okay to go into more detail if your kids ask — so long as you stress that travel, on a whole, is safe.
Eight to 11 is also when some kids may be able to start flying unaccompanied, so long as an adult is there to greet them on the other side. “If you can leave a child home alone for a couple of hours, and they know to keep the doors locked and how to make a meal for themselves, they can probably fly by themselves,” says Spinks-Franklin. Exceptions to this would be a child who is easily distracted and might wander away from the gate during boarding, or a child who is impulsive and might try to hop another flight. You know your child best, says Spinks-Franklin, so use your judgment.
Activities to Introduce: Rafting (under class III), fly-fishing, camping, stand-up paddleboard