Summer travel season is rapidly approaching, and families everywhere are planning their getaways. But along with the sippy cups and movies you’ll be dragging through security, traveling with small kids also means being aware of some legal details.
Ready for takeoff
The rules at the airport are different for minors depending on the destination. For domestic travel, the TSA mandates that any travelers over the age of 18 must show a valid government-issued ID. For passengers under the age of 18 traveling with an adult companion within the United States, a boarding pass is all that is required to go through airport security. Keep in mind, however, that the airlines may have additional requirements, so it’s a good idea to check with your individual carrier.
If traveling internationally (including to Canada or Mexico) all passengers, even those under 18, must have a passport. And identification isn’t the only consideration for international travel with kids. If a youngster is flying with only one parent or with a nonparental companion, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) strongly recommends that the adult passenger have a letter signed by the other parent or parents, stating their consent for the child to travel out of the country with the adult companion.
And while not required, CBP recommends that the letter be notarized, particularly if the minor is traveling internationally without either parent—like on a school trip or with a friend’s family. In fact, some foreign destinations require such a notarized letter, so you should check with the appropriate embassy to learn about entry requirements.
Divorced and separated parents
Divorce or separation doesn’t prevent a child from going on vacation with only one parent. It does mean, however, that that parent needs to take extra steps. This is particularly true if the trip will take the child across state lines or to another country.
In most cases, either parent can travel with the child, but neither of them has the right to automatically take the child on a long-distance trip. Even if one parent has sole physical custody, he or she will need the consent of the other parent.
Reaching an agreement calls for open and clear communication about the details of the trip and discussion of any possible disruptions to existing custody schedules. In some cases, the court must approve the trip. Parents should work together, with their respective attorneys if necessary, to solve any problems and answer any questions before leaving for the vacation.