"Are we there
yet?" Like many baby boomers, I've 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, but 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
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 beginsthe 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 obtaineither 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
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
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
For a sample parental consent letter that can be modified for individual purposes and
printed, CLICK HERE