Tips For Solo Parents Travelling With Kids

Guest post by Michelle Kooy, Lawyer, Henderson Heinrichs LLP

Solo Travel With Kids

I’m travelling out of the country with my child during the summer holidays. Is there anything I need to do? 

If you’ve recently had an argument with your ex-spouse about travelling with the kids during spring break, you will appreciate the benefits of dealing with the summer arrangements now.  It’s never too early to deal with travel arrangements, and sooner is better when it comes to planning travel with your minor child.

Solo parents should have a planned travel consent form signed by the other parent, or a court order signed that confirms that they have the right to leave the country without the consent of the other parent. Make sure any requests for authorization to travel are made well in advance to avoid stress.

The Government of Canada website recommends that you have the following documents on hand when travelling with minor children:

1) A copy of the child’s birth certificate.

2) A letter of authorization signed by the parent who is not travelling, containing their address and telephone number.

3) A photocopy of the non-accompanying parent’s signed passport or national identity card.

While a consent letter and photocopy of the non-accompanying parent’s signed passport or national identity card is not a legal requirement for children who are travelling outside of Canada, it may be requested by immigration authorities when entering or leaving a foreign country, or by an airline agent or Canadian official when re-entering Canada.

If parents are separated or divorced and they share custody of the children, the parent travelling with the children should carry copies of the legal custody documents, such as court orders dealing with the children. 

If the parents are separated or divorced and one of them has sole custody of the child, the letter of authorization may be signed by that sole-custodial parent only and the travelling parent should bring a copy of the custody papers along on the trip.

Finally, if one of the child’s parents is deceased, the travelling parent should bring a copy of the death certificate.

Unfortunately, if a travelling parent cannot produce these documents,  he or she may face delays or even a refusal to enter or exit a country.

The best source of information on the consent letter and other documents required can be found on the Government of Canada website.

What happens when the other parent refuses to sign the travel documents?

When travelling outside of Canada, children require their own passports. A parent can apply for a passport for their children if they have custody or are the legal guardian of the children. The parent will need to have documentation such as a birth certificate or an adoption order in order to complete the application.  If the children have another guardian, that guardian will have to sign the application as well.

If the other parent refuses to sign the application, a judge can make a court order that the travelling parent be able to sign the passport application alone and/or give you a court order stating that you may travel with the child without the other parent’s authorization. Keep in mind that the courts are very busy during holiday seasons, including the time leading up to summer holidays, therefore applications for travel should be made as far in advance as is possible.

How can a lawyer help?

If you have questions or need assistance with your holiday travel documents for the summer holidays but don’t know where to start, a family lawyer can help you through the process.

To find out how one of our family lawyers could assist you, contact us.

*Please note, if you are the non-travelling parent and you are concerned that your children won’t be returned, you should seek legal help immediately. You can apply to the courts to have your child’s passport taken away from the other guardian. See our blog post, “What parents should know about the Hague Convention on the civil aspects of International child abduction.” for more information.

 

How To Enjoy A Fuss-Free Vacation As A Family of Five(+)

Family Travel

When my husband and I first announced that we were having a third child, many of our friends responded with, “Say goodbye to family vacations!”

Most hotel rooms are designed to accommodate a maximum of four occupants, and family deals usually cater to families of four or less, so finding a destination for a relaxing tropical getaway with all three kids in tow seemed like a daunting task. In fact, until our most recent family trip, we avoided travelling as a family of five altogether, opting instead for short local getaways to rental homes or cabins, or trips that involved leaving our youngest at home.

I was thrilled when I discovered that there is a whole world of options for larger families who want to travel abroad – I just hadn’t known where to look! Here are some tips on how to plan a fuss-free family vacation as a family of five.

Check the travel deal sites for all-inclusive family packages.

Nowadays there are many travel deal sites that provide kid-friendly travel options for larger families. Surprisingly, many even offer all-inclusive resort options for both adults and kids. Our family wanted to go to a sunny beach in Mexico, and set our sights on the Riviera Maya region – a beautiful area on the Carribbean coastline of the Yucatan Peninsula. Through Sunwing Vacations, we discovered a fantastic beachfront all-inclusive spot that offered swim-up suites for larger families, a huge range of offerings for kids of all ages, and numerous pools, restaurants and activities to keep our family engaged for our weeklong stay. The package included flights, all-inclusive rates, and added fees so everything was booked and paid in one spot. (Bonus tip: if you can, travel in the off-season months. The weather is usually still warm and dry, but the rates are much lower).

Family Travel

Plan ahead for long flights with little kids.

One of my biggest fears about travelling with our whole family was surviving the long flight with my younger kids. I dreaded being ‘that family’ with the fussy toddler kicking and screaming while in the air, and no escape to calm her down. Fortunately, I arrived totally prepared.

Before we left, I hit the dollar store and purchased a bag full of fun activities for each child – a fresh pack of crayons, stickers, colouring books and miniature toys for the littlest, a fresh pack of Pokemon cards, a new book, and some silly putty for my middle child, and some neon pens, a journal, and some pre-teen magazines for the oldest. I loaded our phones and laptops with pre-downloaded Netflix shows and movies, and we headed out – with full bags and fingers crossed for stress-free travel.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that upon seating, Sunwing Airlines provided my children with activity packs to enjoy during the flight – even better! Our flight went off without a hitch (I even received compliments from fellow passengers on how quiet and well behaved my children were!).

Family Club

Choose a resort that offers kid-friendly amenities.

We stayed in the Family Club at the Grand Riviera Princess All Suites & Spa Resort, a 1,500 room luxury resort tucked along the beach in Playa Del Carmen. Not only did the resort offer a whole separate sprawl designed specifically for families with kids, but it offered large suite-style rooms with a King-sized bed for us parents, and bunk beds with a third slide-out bed in an area for the kids, separated by a curtain. Our room was on the ground floor, and offered a swim-out pool which could be accessed directly from our back door. This was a huge bonus as the kids could enjoy swimming as they wished while we sat back on our patio chairs and sipped on pina coladas.

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Not only were the rooms perfect for large families, but the amenities were on point for kids of all ages. Adjacent to our room was a massive water park and an outdoor playground. While there were 7 themed restaurants and large buffets available to all resort guests, the Family Club offered its own kid-focused pirate-themed buffet, and an exclusive ice cream parlour where kids could order their favourite cones or shakes anytime of the day. The resort also offered a great Kids Club, jam-packed with fun activities for kids from 4-16, a parking lot full of ride-on cars and strollers for infant and toddler guests, and everything you could need for the youngest guests, like baby monitors, cribs, changing tables and more. They also offered great family-friendly entertainment in the evenings, including live performances of both Frozen and Moana – my toddler was in heaven!

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Now that I know that it’s possible to enjoy a laidback tropical vacation with my whole family, this might just become a regular thing. The kids spent their days swimming, splashing and playing together outdoors, and my husband and I were able to sit back, relax, and enjoy some cool tropical cocktails while soaking it all in. Whoever said families of five can’t enjoy luxury travel obviously wasn’t aware of all the great travel options that are out there for large families. Big or small, there are great travel options available for travellers with kids – you just have to know where to look.

Family Travel