Summer Camp or Vacation: What Legal Documents Do Your Kids Need?

Summer Camp or Vacation: What Legal Documents Do Your Kids Need?

by Jane Haskins, Esq., May 2017

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Summer vacation is here, and your kids may be spending part of their summer at sleepaway camp, a relative's house, or tagging along on a friend's family vacation. If your children will be away from home without you, send along these key documents to prevent travel troubles and help ensure they'll be able to get medical treatment if they need it.

Medical Permission

Children under 18 aren't old enough to agree to their own medical care. To make sure your child can get treatment at a doctor's office, hospital, or urgent care, sign and notarize a medical consent form allowing another adult to agree to medical treatment in your absence. You can find a sample form by searching “child medical consent form" online. Include a copy of the front and back of your child's insurance card.

In addition, be sure the adults your child will be staying with are aware of any ongoing medical issues. Provide a sufficient supply of prescriptions, with written instructions on how to administer them. Also leave written instructions on serious allergies or other health conditions, including what to look for and how to respond in an emergency. Include the name and phone number of your child's regular doctor.

Permission for Activities

Some vacation activities require a parent's permission, and if you don't want your child to be left out of the zipline tour or kept off the ski slopes, you can sign a temporary power of attorney authorizing another adult to make decisions and consent to activities on your behalf. A temporary power of attorney must be notarized; you can combine it with a medical permission form if you'd like. Forms are available online.

International Travel: Travel Consent Forms

The U.S. does not require parental permission for a child to leave the country, but other countries may have different entry or exit requirements. Because of a rise in human trafficking and abductions by parents who don't have custody, airline, airport, or customs officials may look closely at a child who is traveling internationally without both parents along. To make sure things go smoothly, BOTH parents should sign and notarize a travel consent form and send it with the child. A consent form is also recommended if you will be accompanying your child but the other parent will not.

IDs for Domestic and International Travel

Children under 18 don't need an ID to travel domestically. However, it's a good idea to have older teenagers bring their driver's license or passport in case they are questioned at airport security. If your younger child is traveling with another adult, you may want to give the adult your child's birth certificate or passport, just to be on the safe side.

If your child will be traveling alone, be aware that different airlines have different policies for unaccompanied minors, including age and connecting flight restrictions. You may have to pay a substantial fee to put your child on a plane alone. You will also have to designate an adult to pick up your child, and that person will have to provide an ID at the airport.

For international travel, your child will need a valid U.S. passport, and both parents must sign off on the passport application if your child is under 16. Depending on where your child is traveling, he or she may also need a visa.

Special Considerations If You Are Divorced from Your Child's Other Parent

Your divorce and custody orders may require you to notify the child's other parent of any travel plans or consult him or her about summer camps. These documents may also place restrictions on international travel. Following the vacation and travel guidelines in your divorce and custody papers will help minimize conflict with your ex and make the trip a positive one for your child.

Finally, many parents worry about something happening to them while their child is away. If you haven't signed estate planning documents naming a guardian to take care of your child and granting someone a power of attorney to act on your behalf, now is a good time to do it.