It can often take a lot of trust and courage to come to terms with the children’s first trip abroad. You may have fears that your ex has not cared for them for that length of time before, that they may not return from the trip, or that your child is too young to travel without you. These are common concerns.
Here are some tips from Relate about how to manage the emotions surrounding travel, as well as the practical side of proceedings.
Managing difficult feelings
- Try to remember how you managed difficult feelings when you first separated and draw on the same strengths.
- List your concerns – both practical and emotional ones. Sort out what feels most important to think about or act upon first.
- Without involving your child in discussions, try thinking about the trip from your child’s point of view. How might they feel if they miss out on an opportunity?
- Ask your ex to share any plans they have for the trip abroad, explaining that doing so will reassure you.
- Talk through how you feel about the trip with a friend or family member.
If you give permission it is very important to do the following:
- Ask for contact details for example, telephone number and address abroad and details of who else is joining them on holiday.
- Make sure your ex has contact details for the children’s doctor in the case of a medical emergency.
- Check your ex has travel and medical insurance that covers your child.
- Allow your child to e-mail/text/telephone you if they would like to.
Fiona also advises her clients going on holiday with their children to send a text to the other party to let them know of the children’s safe arrival once they’ve reached their destination. It takes little time and can be of significant goodwill and reassurance to the parent left back home alone.
Travelling overseas with your kids is logistically challenging – and more than a little exhausting – at the best of times. At the worst of times, the administrative burden can result in a check in-desk disaster and a cancelled trip. If you’re part of a blended family, in which one or both parents have different surnames to their children, this can only add to what is already a particularly stressful time.
Here are our top tips to sail through passport control this Easter…
1. Check the Expiry Dates!
Ensure your kids’ passports have at least 6 months left until expiry. Some destinations allow travel with less than 6 months, but many don’t. On a trip of a lifetime to Kenya, one family was turned around at Gatwick. After a couple of days their passports were renewed, but the knock-on expenses as well as stress levels were extremely high!
2. Separated or travelling solo? You need parental permission.
Most parents don’t know it’s a criminal offence to take your child abroad without the consent of anyone who also has parental responsibility (PR) for the child. Not all parents have PR but most probably do. If you are divorced, separated or just travelling without your spouse, even going to Edinburgh would be classified as an offence without the consent of the other parent. You’ll need to take a signed letter of consent from the child’s other parent in order to travel, as well as…
3. Birth Certificates!
Yes we know that carrying these around can be a real pain, particularly for parents with blended families. However the Home Office recommends you carry a child’s birth certificate so that you can prove you are the parent. In fact, South Africa has made child birth certificates a mandatory document for entry. In recent years UK Passport Control have become increasingly vigilant about checking parental authenticity to prevent child trafficking. This is little comfort to one respondent to our travel poll:
‘This happened to me. It was not helped by the children’s’ blank faces when asked what relationship they were to me! I made sure I flew with a letter from their father after that.’
– Fiona H.
Of course these days it is entirely usual for parents not to share a name with their spouse partner or their children. It may be the 21stcentury, but after a long flight these interactions are still commonplace:
‘I was quizzed coming back into Heathrow after an 11 hour flight with three kids. Passport Control asked me to quickly rattle off the dates of birth of all my kids, then gave me a stern talking to about travelling with a different name to my children’
– Lisa D.
We can all be forgiven for muddling up dates and mislaying paperwork after a long haul flight with the kids. That’s why Fiona McLeman suggests:
4. Screenshot Documents on your Phone
A handy shortcut for breezing through passport control. The official advice is to carry the originals or certified copies, however if all your other documentation is in order, a birth certificate photo may well suffice.
5. Get multiple copies certified
Instead of carrying the precious originals, you can ask a solicitor to arrange certified copies for you at a minimal charge. Everyone with PR should have certified copies for each child, and then the originals can be safely stored away at home.
Coming next: Are your kids travelling abroad with your ex? How to manage difficult feelings, and practical considerations.