On Christmas morning, when many of my friends and neighbors were lolling about in their pajamas, opening presents and eating cinnamon rolls, I drove Zoe to Midway airport for her first solo flight. The airport was surprisingly crowded--especially after an easy, traffic-free drive to the airport--but her flight took off on time and landed early. So early, in fact, that I initially missed the "I've got your daughter" call my mom placed to my cell phone immediately upon picking up Zoe in D.C.
And I'm only half joking when I say I booked her travel on December 25th knowing what a PR nightmare it would be for an airline to misplace a youngster on Christmas. It's only been a day or so, but it sounds like my 7 year old is having a grand old time with my mom and stepdad in Virginia--reading Ramona books, looking at old photographs, learning to pick out tunes on the piano, playing ping pong and visiting my extended family.
For the record, it isn't cheap to send your child unaccompanied. In addition to the regular airfare, United and American Airlines charge an additional $100 each way, while Southwest charges half that: $50 each way (and two bags of luggage fly free). Since Zoe is only going for 4 nights, we didn't end up checking any luggage. Instead, she rolled aboard with a small child's suitcase and a backpack packed with 2 Boxcar Children paperbacks, a couple of snacks, a pack of gum and an iPod Touch with headphones. I'd also tucked her birth certificate in there, but we were never asked to show it.