Some family members have invited my two older kids to visit for a week next summer. The plan is that the children would fly there, and then we (and the youngest sibling) would drive up a week later to pick them up, visit a few days, and then drive home again. While they've been on vacations without us before (the same relatives drove them to Disneyworld a year ago), neither one has flown on a plane.
We are (happily) not being pressured to send the children if anybody is uncomfortable with the idea. I've spent the last few months going back and forth in my mind. I think this could be a fun adventure and positive experience for them, and a way to help them both feel responsible and mature. On the other hand, I'm freaking out about plane crashes, kidnappers, what happens if they get in a fight -- mostly things that my logical side considers to be overprotective and dramatic, but my emotional side can't stop fretting over.
My daughter will be 11, and generally responsible and conscientious. Her younger brother will be 8. He's terribly forgetful and doesn't like being in unfamiliar situations, although with his sister along he'll probably cope. I am assuming that parents will be able to escort them to the gate and other relatives will allowed to the gate to meet them, so really the only alone time will be on the plane itself.
I realize that there's no "right age" at which kids are old enough to fly on their own. What are some things I should be considering as we come to a decision? Since neither has ever flown before, how can I help prepare them for the experience -- particularly the younger who might freak out about pressure changes, thumps as the landing gear deploys, turbulence...?