This past fall, I traveled to from Chicago to Toronto with my 13-year-old son, for a quick weekend trip. We both had our passports in hand, and as a travel writer, I’ve traveled frequently with my kids only in tow, so I thought we were good to go. Wrong! When we arrived at Toronto’s Pearson Airport, we were detained and questioned. “Where is your son’s father?” “Why are you traveling without your husband?” “Why do you have different last names?” were three of the many questions I had to answer. 

I was able to answer the questions with confidence, and at age 13, my son was able to answer questions directed to him as well. After being tied up at the border for quite some time, we were thankfully (and finally) able to leave the airport and enjoy our vacation. 

Several of my fellow traveling moms and dads shared similar experiences. Here’s why: In 1980, a Hague Convention was held and the multilateral Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction Treaty was drafted – with the ultimate goal of protecting children from abduction and retention across international boundaries. Since the convention, and with parent abduction on the rise, more and more countries are holding to tighter rules and regulations when it comes to crossing borders with kids in tow. 

Avoid travel headaches and arrive at your destination prepared with the proper documentation. 

Here’s what you need to bring along when traveling alone with your kids:

  • A copy of your child’s birth certificate.
  • A notarized letter authorizing travel, in English and official language of your travel destination, signed by the parent who is not traveling and including the home address and contact information of the non-traveling parent.
  • A photocopy of the passport or ID (Driver’s License) with signature of the non-traveling parent.
  •  And finally, don’t forget your passports!

What if you’re separated or divorced from your child’s parent? If you have sole custody? If the child’s other parent is deceased? In addition to the above, bring along the following:

  • If you are separated or divorced from the non-traveling parent and share custody, carry a copy of the legal custody documents.  
  • If you are separated or divorced from the non-traveling parent and have sole custody of the child, carry a copy of the custody decree.
  • If the child’s other parent is deceased, carry copy of the death certificate should be presented.
 As always, check the rules for the country you’re visiting to see if there are any additional requirements.