By Ilona Kauremszky

Q: I'm 15 years old and planning to take a trip, alone, to Louisiana in early July. I'm on budget and planning to fly to New Orleans where a friend will meet me. Do you have any suggestions on purchasing affordable plane tickets for this trip? If possible, can you offer any further cost savings ideas and just general traveling on my first plane ride alone? Thank you very much for your time and consideration.

A: First off, I'm assuming that you are a Canadian Citizen and have proof of Canadian citizenship such as a passport with photo identification.

As with any travel, there are certain preparatory steps, one should take to ensure a safe, pleasurable journey. When you indicated your age, my immediate reaction was, "Do your parents know about your trip and have they given you permission to travel alone?"

Since you are under the age of 18, the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) has rules in place when it comes to travel by children. For starters, you will need to carry documentation showing that your parents have given permission. There is an excellent free government publication entitled, "Crossing the 49th: Advice For Canadians Traveling to the United States." For a copy, call DFAIT at 1.800.267.8376.

In addition, each airline sets its own rules for unaccompanied minors. For instance, Air Canada has a program called, "Unaccompanied Minors," young passengers aged 12 to 17 travelling on their own will be identified in the reservation system as a young passenger travelling unaccompanied (YPTU). This ensures that if there should be a flight delay or cancellation, the young person will receive extra care. This service is free. For more details, contact Air Canada at 1.888.247.2262.

Once these issues have been addressed, the next focus is on budget.

Since your planned trip is scheduled in summer, this is considered the peak travel season to destinations like the United States. As a result, airfare prices will be higher compared to off season travel time. The best bet is to contact your travel agent for the latest pricing information.

Generally as a money saver, it's recommended that flight departures occur between Monday and Thursday. Another money saver is try to eat picnic-style at least once a day and remember two can munch on one at a restaurant. Share, split or ask whether smaller portions are available.

As for first time traveling, keep your belongings close to your side and never leave them unattended. Lastly, ensure your friends will greet you at the airport.


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