Ellen Croft: Prepare properly before the big family holiday

Amidst the excitement (and stress) of planning for a family holiday, many parents forget to pack an essential item, one which may result in them being turned away at check-in, or at border control.
Make sure your documents are in order before you leaveMake sure your documents are in order before you leave
Make sure your documents are in order before you leave

In an attempt to tackle child abduction, a number of countries have increased security measures for parents travelling abroad with children who either have a different surname or where children are travelling with neither or only one parent. These countries now require specific documentation and certificates to be presented at border control before they will allow entry.

Evidence of your relationship to the child is not always essential, but recommended and can avoid lengthy delays at border control. Where your surname differs to your child, you should take a copy of your child’s Birth Certificate or a copy of your Marriage certificates and if applicable, a copy of Decree of Divorce. If the child is travelling with neither or only one parent, a Letter of Consent from one or both of the child’s parents, with contact details, giving consent for the child to travel with the person accompanying them is recommended.

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South Africa, Botswana, Canada and the USA all have very specific requirements regarding the documentation required for child travelling alone or with only one parent.

For example, where a child is travelling in South Africa with only one parent, a notarised letter of consent of the parent/legal guardian who is not travelling with the child is required. If only one parent has parental rights, evidence of this must be produced. If the other parent is deceased or incapacitated, a Letter of Special Circumstances issued by Director-General of Home Affairs is required.

There’s a lot to get organised before we head off on holiday. Aside from the obvious, passport, residents permit/ID card (if applicable) driver’s license, visa, insurance policy; there’s also the small matter of the less obvious items. Do you have a Will for example? Have you assigned a Power of Attorney?

Many people believe you don’t need a Will and that their assets will be passed onto their loved ones / next of kin automatically. Whilst this is technically true, not having a Will means that the process takes much longer, relationships with family members are not taken into consideration and the estate may be liable for a much bigger tax cut than you may expect.

A Will and a Power of Attorney are two fairly straightforward documents. They’re simple to set up and they’re not expensive. 
And if you own anything, have family and dependants, you should have them in place. They’ll ease your mind about what happens when you’re no longer here or no longer able to manage your own affairs.

We don’t wish to scare you. There’s no need to take the filing cabinet on holiday with you. Most issues that arise during the holiday period can be sorted out even without lugging the necessary documentation around. But like the Scouts motto, it’s good to be prepared.

Here’s a checklist of paperwork to consider when planning that family getaway:


Birth certificates (all children)

Notarised letter from Parents if not the guardian of the child(ren)

Marriage Certificate

Decree of Divorce

Travel insurance documents

Here’s a checklist of the legal bits to organise prior to a holiday


Choose an Executor of your Will

Appoint a Power of Attorney

Ellen Crofts is a Solicitor with Morton Fraser LLP

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