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Preparation is key to hassle-free vacation with the kids

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Linda Gorman

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Posted: Saturday, June 9, 2012 3:45 pm

The end of the school year is quickly followed by the most anticipated event of the year: summer vacation. And, while most families look forward to the lasting memories that are sure to follow, many may experience a snag in their plans if not properly prepared. This is especially true if vacation plans include international travel, children traveling alone, with one parent or with grandparents.

To avoid unwanted vacation surprises, AAA recommends that families are prepared and heed the following tips:

• Obtain authorization to travel abroad. All children must have a valid passport to travel internationally by air. For minors younger than 16, both parents must provide consent authorizing issuance. If traveling to Mexico, Canada or the Caribbean by land or sea, children up to age 15 only need proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate. However, AAA urges all travelers to obtain a full passport in the event an emergency requires re-entry to the U.S. by air.

• Know cruising dos and don’ts. Cruise lines generally require at least one adult who is a legal parent or guardian per stateroom to prevent children from cruising alone. If a child is sailing with only one parent, or noncustodial adults, or has a different last name than the responsible legal adult, it is recommended that travelers obtain a notarized letter of authorization, as this will likely be required by the cruise line.

• Ensure medical needs are covered. When a child is separated from his or her parents, receiving emergency medical care can become complicated. As such, the child should carry a medical proxy, which is a notarized letter granting permission to authorize emergency care, including dental emergencies. The letter should include a permission statement, any allergies or health issues, the child’s health insurance information and Social Security number, and full legal names of the child and accompanying adults. If the child remains at home while a parent travels, the proxy should be supplied to the child’s caregiver. Also be sure that any needed prescriptions are filled prior to your trip, to ensure he or she is equipped with any necessary medications.

• Know the rules of flying solo. Most airlines offer fee-based unaccompanied minor programs that facilitate air travel for children without an accompanying adult. Policies and procedures of these programs, including age requirements and fees, vary by airline. However, most airlines require an authorized adult escort the child to and from the departure and arrival gates. In flight, unaccompanied minors are under the care of the cabin crew.

For more information on trip planning, visit

• Linda Gorman is communications and public affairs director for AAA Arizona. Reach her at (602) 650-2716 or

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