Whether it’s getting to school or college every day, travelling to their part-time job or just socialising at weekends, there comes a time when a young person must travel on their own.
For most children and young people their first ‘solo’ journey is walking to school or local shops unaccompanied, or perhaps catching a bus to secondary school or to the town or city centre to meet friends.
Younger children may enjoy the freedom their bike gives them; however, it’s not usually until a young person is into their teens that they will be tackling longer coach and train journeys alone.
Cycling and walking
Cycling is more popular than ever and remains an effective, cost-free mode of local travel for young people.
The Active Travel (Wales) Act 2013 aims to make walking and cycling the most attractive option for shorter journeys. Local councils must improve routes for pedestrians and cyclists and produce active travel maps showing suitable places to walk and cycle.
There is no legal minimum age for a child walking to school unaccompanied – it is left to you as a parent to assess the risks on route and balance them against your child’s confidence and maturity.
Sustrans Cymru has free, practical advice to support children wanting to cycle, walk or scoot to school. The National Cycle Network is a series of safe, traffic-free paths and quiet routes for cyclists, wheelchair users, walkers, runners, and horse riders.
Learning to drive is as popular as ever, although car insurance for young drivers remains expensive.
A young person must have a provisional driving licence before they start learning to drive – they can apply for one when they are 15 years and nine months.
Most young people cannot start driving a car on public roads until they are 17; however, they are allowed to drive on private land that is not open to the public (supermarket car parks are out). All learner-drivers must be supervised by someone who is at least 21 and has held a full driving licence for at least three years (for the type of vehicle they are supervising in) and must display L or D plates.
Young disabled people can drive a car at 16 if they get, or have applied for, the enhanced rate of the mobility component of Personal Independence Payment (PIP).
Certain types of moped can be ridden from the age of 16 (with a license, compulsory basic training and theory/practical tests passed).
The availability and cost of public transport differs depending on where you live.
Traveline Cymru provides up-to-date journey information about bus, coach and train travel across Wales. The site has a bus stop finder, timetables and information about possible travel disruption. There is a helpline (Tel: 0800 464 0000) and a free mobile app.
TrawsCymru runs longer distance bus services. Day tickets are available.
If a young person is planning to take their bike onto public transport, always check with the bus or rail operator as space is limited and arrangements vary.
Children who are flying alone are known as ‘unaccompanied minors’ and every airline will have its own policy on minimum ages, permissible flight times, direct/indirect flights and additional charges. Always do your research beforehand.
Discounts for young people
Bus companies offer discounted child fares, with under fives usually travelling for free providing they do not take up a seat needed by an adult.
mytravelpass gives 16-18 year olds living in Wales a third off their bus travel (they must apply for a pass).
Regular train travellers can save money with a 16-25 railcard. If you are travelling with children aged 5-15, you can save money with a family and friends railcard. Children under five travel on trains for free.
National Express and Megabus child fares apply to children aged 3-15 (one child under two travels free with each fare-paying adult).
The NUS has a range of travel discounts available to students at any given time.
Disabled children and young people
If you have a disabled child aged three or over who receives certain benefits, you may be able to lease a car, wheelchair or scooter under the Motability Scheme.
A disabled young person – or someone who is caring for a disabled child or young person – can apply for a Blue Badge.
Cardiff Airport provides special assistance to travellers who face additional challenges, e.g. they have trained ‘autism champions’ who are on hand 24 hours a day. Tell your airline in advance if a young person is travelling with a wheelchair or other mobility aid.
Disabled Travel Advice has advice on travelling with disabled children.
Young carers may be eligible for free or discounted travel on buses and trains when they are accompanying a disabled person with a concessionary travel pass.