Holiday travel with children: beware the unknown international traps

As the current sunny spell is coming to an end, with storms and rain forecast, our thoughts naturally turn to summer holidays – when and where we are next going to get our fix of vitamin D.

Increasingly, we are seeking out more interesting destinations, guaranteed sunshine and a trip that offers an unforgettable experience, over and above a typical “fly and flop” holiday.  Nowadays, we are a global society with connections across the world.

However, the laws of our new favourite destination countries don’t always make travel easy for modern family set-ups.

If you are travelling with children and are a single parent, or a parent travelling abroad without their spouse, it is worth checking out travel requirements of your destination country well in advance of booking your trip.

I have had a few clients recently caught out by stringent travel restrictions, particularly in relation to travel to South Africa.

Travel to South Africa

For any child travelling to and from South Africa (whether with both parents, one parent or none), you will need to take a full, unabridged birth certificate, listing the details of the child and both parents.

There are additional requirements when a child is travelling with only one (or neither) biological parent or on their own:

  • In cases where parents are still together, a parental consent authority is also required;
  • If parents are divorced, either a court order or parental consent authorising travel is required, together with a court order providing for parental responsibility; and
  • Where a parental consent authority is provided, ID documents for the non-travelling parent also need to be provided.

There are further requirements for children travelling in circumstances that do not fit into these categories (such as children not travelling with a biological parent, adopted children and children travelling alone), and so seeking advice is recommended.

South Africa is just one example of where a country has stringent travel requirements, but is probably the destination country whose requirements result in increasing more enquiries from clients and requirements for applications to court.  The Government website can prove a useful starting point to understand the travel requirements for your chosen destination.


Below are some “top tips” on ensuring your family are ready to meet any foreign travel requirements:

  • Do your research early, ideally before you book your tickets;
  • Understand the rules of the country you and your children are travelling to;
  • Gather the required documents; and
  • Get the written consent of any other biological parent early.

If you experience any problems with this process, consent from the other parent is not forthcoming, or a court order is a required travel document, we may be able to assist you.

For more information, please get in touch.


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