‘Tis the season of love—both romantic and familial! While Valentine’s Day can often mean snuggling up with a loved one at home, some Canadians may find themselves venturing a little farther to celebrate the Family Day long weekend, perhaps hopping the border to nearby American destinations for a bit of family time! For parents of young children, visiting our neighbours to the south is often much easier than navigating a whole new culture, different language, or opposite time zone with the kids in tow. Remember, though, it’s not as simple as booking a hotel and packing your bags! If you’re travelling with children, it’s important to be aware of the following cross-border rules before you go.
- Children of all ages need a passport to enter the States. A few things to keep in mind: Photo requirements for an infant’s passport are a front-facing head and shoulder shot. Even if your baby is very young and needs to be held up, your hands or arms cannot appear in the picture. If your child is under 11, leave the signature section blank; but let children aged 11 and up sign their own. Never sign a passport that is not yours. And don’t forget that your passport must be valid six months beyond the date you are entering the US!
- Single parents, grandparents, and other relatives travelling with children must have the written approval of the parent(s) staying behind. Even if you are divorced with full custody, make sure to bring formal documentation confirming you’ve received permission when travelling with your child as a single mom or dad. Due to increased vigilance when it comes to international kidnappings, border officials may not let you and your child leave the country without a notarized copy of a consent letter signed by your child’s other parent.
- Your kids may be young and healthy, but they still need travel insurance. Children are not immune to sickness, and as parents, you know that they are definitely not immune to injury. Although you’d rather not think about the dangers that lurk at the shopping mall, on the ski hill, or at the park, it is your responsibility as a parent to evaluate the risks and prepare for them in advance. And what’s the best way to prepare for the unexpected? Travel insurance, of course! (If you have travel insurance through your credit card, double-check whether your children are covered under your policy.)
- Certain risky activities or amateur sports may not be covered by your travel insurance. Kids love trying new things (think: snowmobiling, ice fishing, or tobogganing) and most of them wouldn’t refuse a game of hockey or a good old-fashioned snowball fight. Just make sure to speak with your insurer and read the fine print in your policy before you go. It’s dangerous and expensive to assume travel insurance covers it all. Exclusions differ from policy to policy, so get in touch with the experts to find the right one for you and your family.
- Make sure those snacks you packed are legally permitted to cross the border with you. Map? Check. Passports? Check. Lunch? Check what’s in it! That cheese on your crackers, that ham in your sandwich, and those fruits for later may not be on the US’s list of approved foods. Even if a food is approved, you must still declare all food items you are bringing into the US, or you risk paying a rather large fine. While growling tummies can make a road trip seem longer than it is, so can answering questions about prohibited foods at the border.
- Travelling with teens? The legal drinking age in the States is 21. And keep in mind, emergencies related to over-drinking will not be covered by your travel insurer. So if you’re a little lax when it comes to letting your teen drink, the US is not the place to break the rules. Not only will you be letting your child break the law, you will also be nullifying your child’s insurance policy—should they get hurt and need medical care while under the influence. And remember, the same goes for your coverage! No matter your age, don’t overdo it.
As wonderful as all this extra family time will be, there are still a few hoops to jump through before you can relax and enjoy yourself. Make sure you know all the rules before heading south with the kids—and, of course, don’t forget to follow them!
For more information on travel tips and travel insurance, visit the Ingle International blog page.