Dear Annie: My wife decided to offer our young teenage daughter a trip to Japan because a friend of ours moved there last summer. Our daughter would stay for a week with this friend.
My wife agrees with me that the decision was impulsive, but we both know it offers an opportunity for our daughter to enjoy a great experience. This friend is only in her 20s, but both she and my daughter are very responsible individuals.
My concern is with the potential dangers of a young girl travelling alone internationally. I have done some research and understand we can have an airline representative escort her through customs to meet our friend. But this is where my trust begins to waver.
There’s too much of the unknown to make me comfortable. How would the airlines handle the trip when there are plane changes? If something were to happen, whom could my daughter turn to who is trustworthy?
I realize I may be a little overprotective, but in this case there are good reasons. Maybe I’ve read too much about human trafficking, but it worries me that someone may spot my daughter as a vulnerable target. What is the real risk? How can we best ensure her safety? – Protective Father
Dear Dad: Call the airline about their policy regarding unaccompanied minors who must change planes. Find out whether they provide an escort, and if not, she should ask a flight attendant before leaving the aircraft which gate she is headed for and how to get there.
Tell her to watch her luggage when she gets on and off the plane, and to be alert when using airport bathrooms. If she has to wait at the airport, she should stand near other women, preferably those with young families.
Make sure she has a cellphone that will work in Japan and is programmed with your friend’s number and local emergency numbers. Most importantly, she should carry herself with confidence and pay close attention to her surroundings. Chances are your daughter will be fine, but it never hurts to take precautions.
Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail your questions to email@example.com.