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5 travel docs parents should have prior to an international trip

Traveling overseas can be an adventure for a family, but it can also be very stressful, particularly for parents. Along with all the normal vacation stresses, there are other issues that may arise that are specific to overseas travel with children in tow.

As with most things when it comes to kids, forewarned is forearmed and it is better to plan for an emergency and not need the items than need them in an emergency and not have them. While there could be an endless list of items that are important, parents need to be sure to have at least the following five covered before leaving for a trip overseas.

Prescriptions for Medications and Glasses (if needed)

Inevitably, things happen when you are on vacation far away from home. Being overseas is the perfect time for your child to get sick, run out of their medications, lose a contact lens, or break their glasses. Having extra prescriptions can keep you from trying to navigate a foreign medical system and a language barrier as well as potentially saving your vacation. It is essential that you carry all medications in their labeled bottles so there is no confusion during entry and exit from a country of what the medication is and that you are supposed to have them.

There is no hard and fast law for the legality of medications from nation to nation so you must be careful if you are carrying prescription medication with you. Many medications that require a prescription in the US are sold over the counter in other countries so having the name and dose of the medication can help you get exactly what you need whether it is over the counter or by prescription only. If you child takes an over the counter medication, either consider bring extra with you or bring the packaging to show to a pharmacist where you are visiting should you need more.

Carrying an extra prescription for new glasses or contacts is truly carrying a type of trip insurance. A child who can’t see can’t enjoy a vacation. While no one plans on buying new glasses overseas, it is a much better alternative than having to go through an eye exam and fitting when, if you have your child’s prescription, you can simply new ones made.


Everyone in your family needs to have a passport regardless of age and those passports must be carried with you at all times while in another country. No exceptions. While it’s understandable to not have children left responsible for their passports, parents need to be sure that they have the documents with them at all times. Should there be an emergency that would necessitate you going to the embassy for your own safety, it is likely that the only way you would be given entry would be with a passport in hand that clearly states your citizenship.

Particularly in regard to children, it is much easier to get a child into a country than out, due to potential abductions, so having your children’s passports with you is essential when entering or leaving a country. Older children are usually required to carry their own passport and hand it to the agent themselves. Children also may be asked questions by the agents that must be answered by the child. Border agents are very by-the-book and expect you to follow the rules to the letter, particularly in regard to children.

Secondary ID

A school ID or a state-issued ID is a good thing for children who are traveling to have as both will further establish identity and citizenship. A birth certificate will do the same thing; however, many people don’t want to travel with an original, certified copy of each child’s birth certificate. While your passport is your main form of identification, a secondary ID can be important if something happens to your passport while traveling such as it being lost or stolen. You should be sure to keep secondary IDs in a separate location from your passports, somewhere where they won’t be lost or stolen such as in your suitcase at the hotel. It is not a good idea to carry all forms of ID with you at all times because if you suffer a loss then you are without ID.

Custody Papers

If you are legally separated or divorced and traveling with children, you should have a certified copy of the court orders and custody papers with you to establish that you have the right to have your children with you out of the country. International child abductions by non-custodial parents is a world-wide problem, one which police do not take lightly.

Even if you don’t think you’ll need it, having a copy of your custody documents can save you a lot of time and issues should there be questions about whether or not you are legally allowed to have your child out of the country. If you are required to notify your ex before traveling, you need to do this, even if you don’t think they’ll care. Covering your bases before you leave and not needing to do so is much better than being detained under the suspicion of parental kidnapping.

Current Photo and Vital Statistics

No parent wants to imagine losing their child, even for a brief period of time, in a foreign country. Before going out on your first venture in a new place, you should impress upon your child the importance of staying with you and what they should do if they get separated. Having a current photo and vital statistics in addition to a passport can help local police reunite you with a lost child easier than if you are simply trying to fill in details from memory.

Traveling with children is always stressful but that stress is multiplied when traveling to a strange country with unfamiliar customs and languages. However, with some planning and forethought, parents can ward off some very major potential trouble just by having five simple items on hand. With potential trouble warded off by good planning, you can get down to having a memorable, incredible vacation overseas with your family.

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