When my son was 9 months old, he and I went on a boat trip with my parents. We traveled from Anacortes, WA through the San Juans and into the Gulf Islands of British Columbia, Canada. We had a wonderful trip outside of some horribly rough seas – it was a great 2 weeks! We made at stop at Roche Harbor on San Juan Island in Washington and cleared customs there as it was our first “port of call” on our way back into the US. We presented all of our passports, including one for my son and the agents came to the boat as they usually do to chat with all of us.
Clearing customs was no easy business this trip however. What I didn’t know is that parents that are traveling internationally with their children, without their spouses, need documentation from the spouse who is absent stating that they know the child is traveling with the other parent. The customs agents on this trip let me know this and even threatened that they could take my baby into custody if they wanted to. I had never experienced anything like this and it terrified me.
When I got home I did a quick online search for “Minor Travel Documentation” and found various letters that we have adapted to fit our needs. I didn’t want this to happen again and have shared it with others so they can avoid the situation I faced.
We are currently getting ready for our Europe trip to visit our family and friends and we are getting our documention ready again. I will be traveling alone with our son on our journey home (my husband will be coming home before we are) and we needed to get our letter in order. The link below is the letter we use that you can adjust for your use if you find yourself in this situation. I have listed the main things you need to adjust in blue on the document so you know what to do.
The letter basically states that my husband knows that we are traveling, he knows where we are going, the dates we are traveling, his contact information and gives medical authorization if I am incapacitated for some reason. We have this notarized at our bank so that customs knows I haven’t forged the letter. On one trip this wasn’t quite enough for a customs agent and he asked for a copy of my husband’s ID as well, so now I also carry a copy of my husband’s passport. So far, they haven’t requested I bring anything else.
We are often questioned when we come through customs still and they have even started asking my son questions about the trip now that he is older, but the letter makes things a little easier and sometimes is all we need.
Many countries we have gone to don’t require the letter, although we always present it. Coming back into the US the letter has been required every time I have re-entered.
Happy traveling and I hope this helps you and your family!