Summer is here and school’s out, making it a popular time to visit relatives or take a family vacation.

We all know kids can get restless traveling long distances on an airplane or in a car. To help you arrive at your destination without any problems, it’s important to have these three documents in place before taking a trip.

Related documents: Child Travel Consent

1. Passport

Minors under the age of 16 years old must possess a valid passport when crossing borders through air. Those crossing through land and sea entry points can pass with a birth certificate, but it is strongly recommended that you apply for their passport because it serves as official verification of their citizenship.

Millions of people cross through borders each year, but a great deal are refused due to lack of proper identification. If you have not already done so, apply for your child’s passport. Both American and Canadian passports last five years and are used as the primary form of identification when traveling.

Electronic passports or “e-passports” have been in use in the United States since 2006 and were recently introduced in Canada in 2013. These passports include a computer chip containing biographical data and photograph of its holder. The information in the chip cannot be tampered with and is used to increase security, privacy and protection for travelers.

Give yourself plenty of time prior to your vacation to get your child’s passport. Both guardians will need to accompany their child to the passport office with a completed application form, passport photo, fee and other documentation. Allow for 4-6 weeks for the passport to arrive or receive expedited service (2-3 weeks) for an additional cost.

2. Child Travel Consent

A Child Travel Consent provides proof that a child has parental permission to travel alone, with one parent, or with a designated guardian.

If your child is traveling alone, they must have a consent letter signed by both parents. If the child is traveling with one parent, the consent form needs to be signed by the parent who is not going on the trip and should include a copy of the non-traveling parent’s passport or identification.

If the minor has a deceased parent and is traveling with their living guardian or parent, a copy of the death certificate needs to be presented. In instances where the child is traveling alone, with one deceased parent, the living parent needs to sign a consent form and attach a copy of their late spouse’s death certificate.

Through not a legal requirement, a child travel consent form is highly encouraged by government officials whenever a child travels. It also helps avoid border delays. If you are not able to produce consent, the officer or attendant has the right to refuse your travel.

The primary reason for consent forms are to reduce the risk of abduction or child trafficking, which has become a growing concern with travel in and out of the United States. Proper documentation not only keeps children safe, but it also prevents missing or runaway children from leaving the country.

A consent form includes:

  • The child’s contact information
  • Both parents contact information
  • Who the child is traveling with or their travel arrangement (one parent, no parents, group travel etc.)
  • The child’s destination

To bring the document into full effect, it should be sworn and signed by a notary public or witness. Your signing details will depend on the airline and country you are traveling to. It is recommended you check their policies before signing, especially for minors traveling abroad.

Ideally, both parents would accompany a child when traveling. Unfortunately, complex family structures do exist. For that reason, it’s important to always have parental permission forms in place to prove that both parents are in agreement of their child’s whereabouts.

3. Proof of Relationship

In addition to a passport and travel consent letter, parents traveling with children should have proof of their relationship to their child. This may include a birth certificate, court order or adoption decree.

Separated parents are encouraged to carry guardianship forms, (such as a Child Medical Consent and Child Travel Consent) indicating they are entitled to care for their kids, particularly in situations when a child is traveling with one parent.

Quick Travel Tips

  • Always check with your travel agent, airline company or government official to find out what specific documents you need before taking a trip because each circumstance is unique.
  • Keep some form of identification and contact info with your child at all times in case you get separated
  • Keep all documents in a folder or briefcase for easy access
  • Arrive at the airport early to allow for adequate travel time
  • Read over all documents ahead of time to familiarize yourself with the details and ensure information is complete and accurate.

The only way to help make your trip run smoothly is to be prepared. Gathering necessary documents and organizing them will not only save you time in line, but also make for a more enjoyable and safe traveling experience for everyone.

Give someone permission to travel with your child

Posted by Kristy DeSmit

Kristy is a blogger, Twitter enthusiast, and company legalese interpreter.