The holiday season is quickly approaching and that may be an exciting opportunity for many to spend time with their children and family, but for many it can also be a nerve-wracking experience because of the hassle of the commute with children who have more than one household. Nevertheless, do not fret, because despite the chaos the legal battle for custody and parenting time may have been, travel can be a bit less painful if you plan, communicate, and prepare in advance.
Many parents desire showing their children the world, but are unsure of where to begin. A first great step is communication. The traditional dynamic of family has changed throughout the years, and after “COVID”, there is an upward trend of cross-country parenting. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many people were able to relocate, start new ventures, return to hometowns, and even work remotely from other states. As a result, parenting during the holidays may not always only require a simple after school pick up, but may require a road trip, and/ or a flight. The hassle and anxiety working up to the holidays seems a bit universal, even if you are the custodial parent that is planning holiday travels with the children, so they can visit out of state family or experience a different destination during the holidays. Communication is a must, especially when co-parenting. Before the holidays arrive, it is great practice communication with the other parent, whether you desire to travel with the child, when you desire to travel, and even details of how you’d like to travel. Discussing these details in advance are a great way for all parents to align their schedules in advance, make parenting time modifications if necessary, communicate the child’s school schedule, share travel times and needs, discuss travel details, state any special requests and objections, and even collaborate on a packing list. Even if travel isn’t involved, co-parenting requires clear and thorough communication.
A great other first step is saving. Plan in advance to save time by setting aside vacation days for work, but also plan ahead to save additional funds to covers all costs of travel during the holidays, just in case you have to bear all the costs, despite the parenting plan agreement to split all costs equally. Setting aside vacation days for work is a great way to be intentional about getting the most uninterrupted time when exercising parenting time during the holidays. With the impact of inflation, traveling during the holidays with children also requires saving more money to get the most out of the travel experience. Throughout the year, set aside a bit more in order to create more balance for the budget and unintentional rate increases. Saving time and money may also be beneficial and as essential if you will need to apply for, or renew, the child’s travel documents such as a passport.
When traveling with children, ensure that they have adequate identification to avoid any security hassles, or delays, especially if you are traveling by plane and/or internationally. For all children under age 16, passport applications must be submitted in person with two parents or guardians using a “DS-11″ form. Passports for children under the age of 16 are only valid for 5 years, so check your child’s passport to see if it needs to be renewed. Communicate with the other parent the needs of applying or renewing the passport, and save time and money to avoid delays. Communication is vital as it is requires, when renewing/ applying for the passport, that parents submit documentation that lists the parent(s) or legal guardian(s) of the child applying for a passport. To show parental relationship, you may submit originals or certified copies of a birth certificate, Consular Report of Birth Abroad or Certification of Birth, Foreign birth certificate, Adoption decree, and/or Divorce/Custody decree. Co-parenting communication is essential as both parents/ guardians must authorize the issuance of the child’s passport. The best way to do this is for both parents/guardians to go with the child in person to apply for the passport. If both parents/guardians cannot appear in person, they can give permission by completing a Form DS-3053 “Statement of Consent”, that must be submitted with the child’s passport application. The form must be signed and dated-3053 in the presence of a certified notary public, along with a photocopy of the front and back side of the ID that they present to the notary public.
Other options are available for the application and renewal of a child’s passport, no matter the family’s unique dynamic, such as if a parent is unable to locate the other, one parent has sole legal custody, neither biological parents can apply for Child’s passport, etc. Please check the status of your child’s passport and plan ahead to avoid travel cancellations and delays https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/passports/need-passport/under-16.html
Some additional travel tips during the holidays with children:.
• Obtain parental consent to avoid being held in contempt or charged with kidnapping
Know your rights; be aware of what limits there may be on your parenting time based on whether you have physical custody, or legal custody, or joint.
• Communicate in advance to prevent parenting schedule conflicts.
Compromised to allow parenting time modifications.
• Communication is essential regarding the desires to travel, accommodations for travel, updates regarding travel, scheduling travel, travel concerns, etc.
• Create a packing list, especially if you are not the custodial parent, so you and the custodial parent can collaborate about what items the children will need before hand
• Be mindful of travel necessities, weather change (special clothing), snacks, books or tablets, snacks, medications, luggage, etc.
• Know your child; depending on their age and temperment, aisle seats with children may be preferred if they will need to use the restroom often, will get restless so may benefit from being able to occasionally walk through the aisle, or window seats if they are more self entertained and will enjoy the window’s view.
• Keep your travel documents safe and handy.
**Always keep a xerox of your originals and never keep all the original documents in the same place or same bag.**
• If your children are known to stray often, keep close watch on them, but just in case they manage to slip thru the cracks, put an ID in their pocket or backpack with your contact details, and anything else one might need if the child gets lost.
• Consider travel insurance so that the child will be covered if they fall ill or have an accident.
• Book hotels with kid-friendly amenities like a pool, playground, or Kids Club whenever possible.
• Pre- arrange transportation when possible to limit wait times with restless children.• Pack snacks and for babies/ infants/ toddlers better safe than sorry to pack lots of diapers, wipes, and change of clothes .
• Remain calm at all times in order to not displace your frustrations or unintentionally causing your child to become an anxious flyer in the future.
• Have fun, let your hair down, life happens, live in the moment and create positive memories out of all opportunities spent with your child.
There’s no perfect formula for the perfect trip but communication and preparation can save you hassle and anxiety leading up to the day of travel and during the commute .Communicate, save, plan, be diligent, be intentional, have fun.