Now that summer is in full flight, family travel is priority number one, and so it should be. But if your plans involve trips to foreign countries, and especially if you’re taking along young children (your own or those of friends or relatives), you need to be sure your documentation covers them just as it covers you.
All Canadian children, from newborns on up, need their own passports to travel to a foreign country.
So plan well ahead. At this time of year passport offices are overloaded and travelling on parents’ documents is no longer acceptable.
Passports remain the most valuable and acceptable form of identification in nations the world over. And it’s your assurance that no matter where you go, you will be allowed back into Canada. In the globalized world, no one, including a child, should be without one.
Travel medical insurance
You may have your travel insurance policy tucked away in your shorts, but the kids are a lot more likely than you to have an accident, stomp on a broken bottle or a Florida stingray, eat too much of the wrong food or drink, run a scary temperature, or cross paths with a poisonous spider and need to be hurried to the closest emergency room.
There are no special kids’ rates in the ER. And unless you’re carrying a travel insurance policy that specifically names each of the youngsters in your charge, you could end up with several thousand dollars (US dollars—or euros, or pounds) on your credit card for one afternoon’s unexpected diversion. Unless you have a family plan (with all members named) or individual plans for each child, your coverage won’t extend to the kids in your care.
Do check out family plan options when selecting travel insurance, but make sure you understand the conditions and your own responsibilities.
With governments cutting back on paying foreign hospital bills (as in Ontario), unless you have private travel health insurance, you alone are responsible for paying those bills.
Travelling with children? Get written parental consent
Often overlooked when planning foreign travel are the documents you need when taking your grandkids, nieces, nephews, or your children’s friends across international borders—even if they share your own last name. Most countries have implemented measures to prevent child abductions across their borders so don’t be surprised if a border control agent asks to see documentation permitting you to take underage children into (or perhaps out of) their country. If you’ve ever been pulled out of line for “further questioning” by a customs or border agent, you know the feeling. Have the documents handy and assume you will be asked for them.
Even when I travel with my teenage grandchildren across international borders, as I often do, I carry letters of permission signed by their parents, and to add a measure of authentication, I have the letters signed by a notary.
What do you need in the letters? The children’s birthdates, their permanent addresses, passport numbers, parental signatures and contacts, dates and locations of travel, places they will be staying, relationship to the lead traveller—basic information that can be easily and reliably verified.
You can prepare these letters yourself or you can download samples from Travel Canada’s website.
Also, if the children are travelling with only one parent—it’s a good idea to have the non-travelling parent, or legal guardian, provide written permission. That may be tricky sometimes, but do it anyway if possible.
Summer travel to foreign countries, especially with children, can be great fun. It helps you see what they are seeing. But it can also be nerve-wracking if you let it—or if you don’t do your preparatory work.
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