Your summer vacation plans could be complicated, or even ruined completely, unless your children have the proper travel documents and identification. This is especially important if both parents are not accompanying the child, if the child is traveling with adults other than parents – even grandparents – or if your child’s last name differs from the parent’s name. These family travel tips will help you make sure your getaway gets going as planned:
Passports for children. All U.S. citizens, including infants and children, must have a valid passport to travel internationally by air. If your child is under 16, both parents must authorize a passport. Even though a passport card can be used for car and cruise ship travel to Canada and Mexico, AAA Travel experts recommend a traditional passport for all international travel, in case an emergency requires re-entry to the United States by air.
Check expiration dates on all passports in the family. Renew any now if they are due to expire within six months of your travel date – some countries won’t admit you with an expiring passport. Adult passports are valid for 10 years, but passports for children under age 16 are valid for five years. Check the U.S. State Department website for additional information.
Cruising with children. Cruise lines generally require at least one adult 21 or older to occupy every stateroom, and that person also needs to be a legal parent or guardian. Cruise lines also require a notarized letter of authorization to travel if a child is sailing with only one parent, other noncustodial adults such as grandparents or has a different last name than the responsible legal adult. Requirements vary by cruise line, so be sure to ask about the rules when you make your reservation.
International solo parent travel. To help prevent parental abduction and international child trafficking, many countries now require proof of the solo adult’s relationship to the child and the legal right to travel in and out of the country with that child. In addition to showing the child’s valid U.S. passport, and an entry visa if that’s required, the solo parent also must present a notarized letter of permission from the absent parent or a notarized death certificate.
The letter should include a statement of authorization for the child to travel, details of the trip and the legal names and contact information for the child and accompanying adult. Single parents, grandparents, stepparents, guardians and any adult with a last name different from the child needs to be prepared with the additional documentation to present at border crossings, airport immigration checkpoints and cruise line check-in desks.
Recently, I was at a check-in line for an international flight at JFK, behind a couple with an infant. She was traveling with the baby and had both their passports. He wasn’t traveling with them, so he only had his driver’s license. The airline agent did not allow the mother and baby on the flight, because her last name was different than his and the baby’s, even though the husband and father was standing right there. That’s becasuse he would not be there at the other end of the flight – or when his wife and baby flew home.
Travel insurance. Never leave home without travel insurance. It’s as important as all those other documents.