Amtrak to the Rescue
We love it when chief researcher Marilyn Terrell shares her family’s travel tales and tips. This week, she gives the scoop on unaccompanied minors on Amtrak:
Have you ever had a week when your friends abandon you and refuse to sit with you at lunch? Well, our sixth-grader James recently had a week like that, and my husband and I were trying to think of something that would cheer him up when his big sister Emma (who lives in New York) called with the perfect solution: She had scored two awesome seats to the Giants–Eagles game that Sunday afternoon in the Meadowlands, and asked if James would like to go. The problem was getting him to New York and back. His older siblings had flown alone when they were nine and ten, but further away than New York. A train made more sense from D.C., but they have multiple stops with people getting on and off, and there are no flight attendants; who would keep an eye on him?
Turns out, Amtrak will; they have a thorough unaccompanied minors program for kids aged eight and up. The conductor has to interview the kid to make sure he or she is mature enough to take the trip alone, you have to fill out paperwork with all the contact info for the adults dropping off and picking up at the stations, and the minor has to wear a wristband. You have to go to the customer service office to fill out the papers, and then a train employee will take you and your child to the train before everyone else boards. You meet the conductor, who puts your child in a seat he can keep an eye on (in James’s case, that was in the business class car). At the arrival end, the conductor brings your child to the designated adult who must present a photo ID before the child is released. Unlike the airlines, which usually charge you extra for the unaccompanied minor service, Amtrak just charges an adult fare instead of a child’s fare, and there’s no additional cost. Roundtrip DC to NYC Amtrak trip for an unaccompanied minor: $201. Getting to go with your big sister to your first professional football game: Priceless.
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