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Cruising With Kids

Going to sea with your children, grandchildren, and youngster's friends

by Linda Coffman

"Are we there yet?" Like many baby boomers, I asked that question from the back of my parents' station wagon and answered it from the driver's seat of my own. Some of our happiest family memories are a result of our travels together. 

Car trips can be fun, yet nothing beats a cruise for hassle-free family enjoyment. It's not uncommon these days to see several generations embarking together for a shared adventure to new and out-of-the-way destinations.

While multi-generational cruises are popular, so are single-parent and grandparent cruises with the children. It's also not uncommon for parents to invite a teenager's friend to sail along.

For single (divorced, widowed, or simply married, but solo) parents, grandparents, or family friends taking children on a cruise, there is an often overlooked planning step that can end a vacation before it begins—the permission letter.

Airlines, cruise lines, and immigration agents can deny minor children initial boarding or entry to foreign countries without proper proof of identification and citizenship and a permission letter from absent or non-custodial parents. 

According to Department of State Publication 10542: "With the number of international child custody cases on the rise, several countries have instituted passport requirements to help prevent child abductions. For example, Mexico has a law that requires a child traveling alone, or with only one parent, or in someone else's custody, to carry written, notarized consent from the absent parent or parents. No authorization is needed if the child travels alone and is in possession of a U.S. passport. A child traveling alone with a birth certificate requires written, notarized authorization from both parents."

Proof of identification and citizenship is relatively simple to obtain—either a certified copy of a birth certificate or passport. The permission letter is a bit more vexing since most people aren't aware of the necessity to have it, let alone what it should include.

An attorney could prepare a formal affidavit, but a simple letter-style document is adequate as long as it is signed before a notary duly authorized to administer oaths. To be acceptable, it should include specific details about the trip, the custodial adult(s), and the child(ren). While no one wants to think about medical emergencies while on vacation, it is also wise to include consent for the adult to authorize emergency treatment for the child in case the need should arise.

Some parents, particularly mothers who don't share the same last name as their children, take no chances and also carry a copy of their divorce decree or, in the case of widows, a death certificate.

After going to all the 'trouble' to secure proper documentation, it could turn out that no one even asks for it. Why did you bother? Because if you hadn't, the possibility exists that your cruise ship may have sailed without you and your very disappointed family. You may even find that it's easier to get into a port of call than to leave it with your own child!

For a sample parental consent letter that can be modified for individual purposes and printed, CLICK HERE


Family Cruising, The Basics: Will your family enjoy a cruise? 

Do's and don'ts & what to know Before You Go

Photo by Barry Winiker, courtesy of Carnival Cruise Line


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