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Travelling with a child who has a different surname to you

For many families, preparing for a trip means searching for and booking the best flights, finding a family-friendly hotel and packing.

Yet for parents who do not share the same surname as their children, there are a few extra precautions and steps you need to take. A lovely mother-daughter trip can be cut quite short if your surname doesn't match your daughter's and you don't have the necessary extra paperwork needed to prove your relationship. Such precautions are in place to help prevent child abductions. It is, however, very easy for parents to prepare for such a situation in advance.

If your children don't share your surname and you're travelling without their father or vice versa - or if you are travelling with your grandchildren and their last name is different to yours? Then check out this handy guide of need-to-know information!

How to travel abroad with a child whose surname is different to yours

Border control will want to establish your relationship with your child. To help make the process smooth, follow these steps:

  • Have a copy of the birth or adoption papers
  • Have a copy of your divorce or marriage certificate
  • Have proof of sole custody
  • Have letters from your spouse or the child's parents that include contact details (if you are the grandparent or another family member).

Can you travel without both parents' consent?

It depends on your destination whether or not you need to have notarised consent from one or both parents when you travel. However, it is often best to play it safe and have one ready. In America, for example, the policy states that you do not need a notarised letter of consent, but in practice, they often require you to provide this proof. In other cases, though, you will also need to bring original copies of their birth certificate if travelling to certain countries like South Africa.

These parental consent letters are often valid for four months or less. If the other parent is deceased, incapacitated, or doesn't have custody, then you must also bring proof of this situation. Each country has its own requirements, as do airlines, so do your research beforehand. Have the appropriate documents in order, along with passports, photocopies of all documents as well as children's travel insurance. Always check the destination and have the child's birth certificate on hand.

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If you'd like some more tips and advice on travelling with the kids or inspiration for the next family holiday, check out our other pages below:

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