Being a single parent can be tough at the best of times. And planning a trip out of the country with your child is definitely one of those times!
Regardless of the reason for your trip, traveling as a single parent has unique challenges that may not occur when two parents are traveling together.
For example, going through immigration and dealing with passport issues can become somewhat tricky.
To help the planning process go as smoothly as possible, remember these tips when you decide to make a trip abroad as a single parent.
Get Everyone’s Passport
One of the first things you’ll want do well in advance is get everyone’s passport prepared.
A passport is needed to travel anywhere abroad, including Canada and Mexico. Some countries require you have a passport valid for six months or more after your trip ends.
Check all the rules of the country you’re traveling to, and keep in mind that while passports generally take 4-6 weeks to arrive, there can be delays.
If you’re getting your child’s passport as a single parent, you’ll need the participation of the other parent unless you’re the only parent on the birth certificate, you’re the sole custodial parent, or your partner is deceased.
If your partner is deceased, you have to take a copy of the death certificate with you to the passport office. If you’re the only custodial parent, you need to bring a court order that’s certified and states your status.
If you share your child with a co-parent, then you’ll have to do one of a few things to get your child’s passport.
One is the bring your former partner with you to your appointment, and there you’ll both sign the form.
Another option is to get a Statement of Consent signed by the other parent, which would allow you to apply for a passport for your child.
The third option would be bringing a Statement of Special Circumstances. This is something you might use if the other parent can’t come or write a statement for your child to get a passport.
You should go to the State Department’s website and find out what you need for the country you plan to visit as well because different countries have different rules for minors to enter.
For example, in Canada, a child that’s traveling with just one parent or guardian will need their passport, a copy of the custody agreement, if there is one, and a letter of authorization by the non-traveling parent.
If the other parent doesn’t want their child to get a passport, they can take legal action to block it by filing a request with the State Department through the Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program.
If there isn’t a custody order in place regarding traveling abroad, the other parent could also ask the court to prevent international travel or ask that you’re required to deposit a bond to the court to make sure you come back.
If you want to get your child a passport and the other parent is opposing it, you may have to work with a family lawyer to get a court order. With that court order, you can then get the passport without the consent of the other parent.
This is all the more reason you need to plan ahead and starts on things well in advance if you want to travel abroad as a solo parent.
If you’re going to file a Statement of Special Circumstances, you’ll have to explain in detail why you can’t bring the other parent. You should also detail your attempts to contact them.
There are some countries that will require you to present a letter of consent from your former partner. When you’re returning home, U.S. Customs and Border Protection issues a strong recommendation that you have a letter as well.
If you’re asked at Customs and don’t have a letter, you could be detained until the agents assess the situation and contact the other parent.
When your passports and other necessary documentation is handled, it’s time to plan for potential health issue.
First, check to see if your destination requires any special immunizations.
Travel health insurance is also a good idea, since some other countries won’t provide medical care without it.
And finally, do a bit of research on the doctors and medical centers available in the area you’re visiting, so that you know what to do if an emergency health situation does arise.
General Tips for Traveling As a Single Parent
After dealing with the technicalities, you can start to plan the more fun details of your trip.
It’s important to choose an age appropriate hotel, of course. If you’re visiting a resort, you may also be able to find one with an onsite childcare program.
If you’re a single parent and you want the chance to relax a bit, this could be a deciding factor for you.
Cruises can be another great option if you don’t have a specific destination in mind but know that you want to travel abroad with your child.
Cruises have everything you need onboard, so you don’t have to worry about things like food and transportation as much. In fact, if you don’t want to, you don’t have to leave the ship.
If you’re traveling abroad, many of the available flights are likely to be overnight, which can actually work out well when traveling with younger children.
Bring a comfy pillow and blanket, and with luck your child will sleep on the plane and you’ll both arrive fresh and ready to go.
Don’t forget to also pack an extra set of clothes for your little one for the flight, because spills are likely!
When you’re traveling to a different country, and you are on your own as a parent, a fun vacation can occasionally be tiring and stressful.
To avoid this, keep things simple and plan just one or two must-do activities each day, so that you have plenty of time to enjoy yourself and you’re not worried about making it anywhere at a certain time.
Finally, the more attractions you can prebook for the days you’re going to do activities, the better. You don’t want to be standing in long lines on your own with your child if you can avoid it.
Traveling internationally with children is never easy, and it can be especially challenging when you’re doing it as a single parent.
But when you take the time to plan and prepare, the memories you make together with your kids will be well worth the effort!