IT HAPPENS EVERY SPRING: Family travel rules to think about before touring with children
It’s that time again: Swallows gliding back to Capistrano (we hope), baseball teams sliding in for Spring Training, and people calling their attorneys wondering what they need to have in order before taking the kids on trips. Familiar chords, these joys of Springtime.
For years, family travel legal parameters were fairly static and simple. Lawyers could fax or mail one of two or three informational articles that had been passed around since Howdy Doody followed the Mickey Mouse Club. Today, rules and requirements can change on a daily basis and without warning, and lawyers are directing their clients to websites and blogs from government agencies. These sites advise readers to monitor the websites on a daily basis to avoid missing important changes that can be made without warning.
What has happened? Three primary twenty-first century realities plague this particular plot.
Legalities impacting travel with children
First, there is the Patriot Act with its apparently limitless capacity to reach every corner of international, national or even regional travel. Most people have friends and family who can argue from either political side about the effect of the Patriot Act on American culture, but in the end, we all have to deal with its time and paper impact on travel regulations at both the beginning and the end of every trip we take. But it doesn’t stop at paper. In one case a mother, whose unruly children caused her to lose her temper and spank them on a flight, spent three months in jail under the Patriot Act Provisions. In general, remember that even children are not wholly immune to this law that gives wide berth to agents to define who is involved with terrorism.
Secondly, divorced parents and grandparents have special requirements when traveling with children. Some of these requirements are a result of what family law attorney Kevin Gibbs calls an “epidemic of parental misbehavior.” For grandparents or divorced parents traveling without the other parent, basic requirements for taking children on trips may stay constant: Plan on having a letter of parental consent from the parent or in-law who is not traveling with the child in question. Medical requirements (practices and medications) need to be ready at any time for inspection. Evidence of the parental approval of the indicated travel destination – and the stops along the way – needs to be part of the package that the travel mentor carries.
Last, but certainly not least, is the persistent percolation of problems in nations all over the globe, often on an almost minute-by-minute basis. Every year’s crop of new international incidents brings with it a need to maintain vigilance over what places are, simply put, not currently appropriate places to take children.
How to stay up-to-date
Unfortunately, any statements that are much more specific than the foregoing need to come from a government website, or possibly a travel blog, that has been updated almost as recently as this morning’s weather report on the potential for snow in Mammoth this weekend. Even when we are in the midst of traveling, we need to revisit those sites prior to reaching any given governmental juncture to be sure we are still up-to-date on what’s required to pass through the gates. Any data that we receive prior to a given date may simply have gone out of date at the time the documents are being inspected.
Where to begin?
Please consider these websites as a good starting point for your research on the process of paper preparation for a trip with a younger family member:
• Canadian and Mexican Junkets: (956) 542-5811
• Parental Consent Form U.S. (Customs and Border Protection provides a recommended format, including notary treatment.)