Planning a Family Trip? 5 Rules for the Road

Summer is just around the corner, and many Canadians will take this opportunity to travel to favourite American destinations like Disney World, New York City, or tropical Hawaii. For families, visiting our neighbours to the south is often much easier than navigating a whole new culture, different language, or opposite time zone with the kiddies. 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.

  1. Children—even infants—need a passport to enter the States. Sound tricky? It is. A few things to keep in mind: Photo requirements for a baby’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, while children aged 11 and up must sign their own passports. Never sign a passport that is not your own.
  2. A parent travelling alone with children must have the written approval of the parent staying behind—even if you are divorced with full custody. Make sure to bring formal documentation confirming this approval 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 form like this signed by your child’s other parent.
  3. No matter how young or healthy, kids need travel insurance too. 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 beach, in the ocean, or at the theme park, it is your responsibility as a parent to evaluate the risk and prepare for it in advance. And what’s the best way to prepare for the unexpected? Travel insurance, of course!
  4. Some travel insurance won’t cover certain activities or amateur sports. Kids love trying new things (think: hang-gliding, snorkelling, and jet skiing) and most of them wouldn’t refuse a game of basketball, soccer, or beach volleyball. 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 find the right one for you and your family.
  5. Parents 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 permitting your child to 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 and relaxing as your upcoming summer vacation will be, there are still a few hoops to jump through before you get there. Make sure you know all the rules before heading south with the kids; and, of course, don’t forget to follow them!

This article, written by Kathleen O’Hagan, is provided by Ingle International, specializing in travel insurance solutions since 1946. Ingle International helps keep travelling Canadians informed for safe and healthy travels. To read more, visit Kathleen is one of several TIF contributors.

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