Travel insights from Andrea Sedlacek, editor of The Compass

The Documents Single Parents Need When Traveling with Their Kids

When you’re traveling, you always want to make sure you have the correct documentation to board your flight, enter a country and check in to your hotel or resort. There are some extra considerations to make when traveling with your kids, and even more if you’re a single parent traveling with your kids. In general, you’ll need three main things for each child.

1. Passport

This may be obvious, but it’s worth stating. If a child is traveling internationally, they will need a passport. If a child is traveling domestically via air with an adult, they do not need to show any form of identification and only need a boarding pass to pass through TSA security checkpoints.

2. A Notarized Child Travel Consent Form

A child travel consent form is a legal document giving minor child permission to travel without both parents. These forms are also used if a child is traveling as an unaccompanied minor or with another adult who is not their legal guardian, like if a minor goes on a trip with their grandparents, sports team or school.

There are certain pieces of information that should be included on the form, but there are templates you can find online that ensure you don’t miss anything:

The consent form must be signed by the other parent (the one not traveling). It’s also very important that the document is notarized.

3. Proof of Relationship

It would be easy to cover this one by saying that a traveling minor should also bring their birth certificate to for proof of relationship to the adult, but not everyone has that. You can also use a court order or adoption decree to show proof of relationship between the minor and the parent.

The required documents that single parents may need for their children may differ by airline and country you’re visiting. For example, Mexico requires parents leaving the country with minors to complete a SAM form but Costa Rica only recommends a child travel consent form and does not require it. And if a child is two years old or younger and flying as a lap child (meaning you haven’t purchased a seat for them), some airlines will require you to provide proof of their age, which a birth certificate will take care of. Hot tip: Disney parks may also check a child’s birth certificate for proof of a child’s age for free entry. It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the airlines you frequently book and to check the country’s Entry, Exit and Visa Requirements listed on their dedicated page on the U.S. State Department’s website.

A child medical consent form is not a required document, but can be helpful in case a minor needs medical attention while away. Again, there are free templates you can use to make sure you have all the right info:

Though it may feel like a hassle, single-parent travelers should be as prepared as possible with any potentially required documentation to ensure their family vacation goes smoothly.

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