Documents Needed For Traveling With Grandchildren

FAQs About Passports And More

documents needed for travel with grandchildren
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In this increasingly complex world, it's easy to overlook something vital while traveling. When traveling with grandchildren, you will want everything to go smoothly. While you can pick up items that you forgot to pack, forgetting vital papers can cause considerable difficulty. These travel tips for grandparents in the United States will ensure that you have the documents you need to avoid any problems when traveling with your grandchildren.

What documents do I need to travel with my grandchildren?

Let's start with the basics. The grandchildren won't need ID for road trips with grandparents. In addition, airlines and trains do not usually require any form of ID for children under 18 for domestic travel. Still it's never a bad idea to bring some ID. Photocopies of the grandkids' birth certificates should be fine for all needs. 

In addition, you should bring:

  • A notarized letter from the parents giving permission for medical care.
  • Copies of the grandchildren's insurance cards. Don't forget prescription cards, cards for dental insurance and secondary insurance cards if applicable.

What about a letter of permission from the parents?

Although most grandparents will never have to show it, carrying a letter of permission is advisable. Templates for such letters are available online, or create your own letter of permission using these instructions.

 If a grandchild's parents are divorced, ideally documents should be signed by both parents, as sometimes children are transported across borders during custody disputes.

What if we are leaving the country?

If you are traveling in Mexico, Canada, Bermuda or many areas of the Caribbean, your grandchildren 15 and under can travel using certified copies of their birth certificates instead of a passport.

This provision applies only to travel by land or sea and does not apply to travel by air. For that, children must have passports. For more information, learn about the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative.

When taking a cruise which returns to the port of departure, Americans will not need passports to re-enter the United States. They may, however, need passports to disembark the ship in foreign ports. Passengers should check with their cruise lines or, to be safe, carry passports.

What if we are traveling somewhere not covered by the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative?

Even small children and infants need a passport for air travel overseas. Both parents should appear in person to apply for a child's passport. When that is not possible, other paperwork will be required. Grandparents who want to take grandchildren abroad should be sure that the passport process is started in a timely manner. Learn more from the U.S. Department of State.

Remember that some countries also require a visa for entry, and vaccinations may be required in some cases. Check the U.S. Department of State's website for country-specific information.

What else do we need if traveling abroad?

Some travel authorities suggest that you obtain a limited power of attorney if traveling abroad with grandchildren.

At least you should have a letter of permission as described above. 

Should the grandchildren have passports if we are not planning to travel abroad?

The best answer to this question is, "Why not?" In this post-Homeland Security world, a fair amount of effort is required to keep up with what is acceptable. Just ask the thousands of travelers who had to ditch their cosmetics because they were too large or not in the proper type of plastic bag!

Passports generally seem to make travel easier, even when they are not required. Children can no longer be added to a parent's passport, as was once allowed. So why not get them passports of their own? A U.S. passport is the best form of identification in the world. Of course, your grandchildren deserve the best!