Tips for Gay Dads Traveling Internationally with Adopted Kids
By Jon Bailey - October 10, 2019
We often find ourselves in the position of being 2 gay dads traveling internationally with adopted kids who don’t look like us. It shouldn’t matter. We shouldn’t have to think about it. Yet, it does. And we do. We have found traveling internationally with adopted kids to be wonderful, eye-opening, and sometimes scary. We decided early on to push through the fear and go to some of the world’s most far-flung places. With some additional planning, we have had amazing experiences and kept everyone safe and together.
There are millions of families with adopted kids, many of which include LGBTQ parents. We have found that there are unique challenges to 2 gay dads traveling internationally with adopted kids. In addition to the issues every parent has to negotiate, we have to be better prepared and more patient with strangers. However, we believe the value of travel is worth it! We now have two teenage daughters who have definitely caught the travel bug!
See the World as a Family
We believe visiting places around the world helps us see the world differently. Our families has traveled from Ireland to the Mexican Riviera to Cambodia, and we’ve learned people are much more alike than we are different. Our family truly enjoys that exploration.
LGBTQ parents traveling internationally with adopted kids requires some organization and planning. We wanted to offer other families some of our tips and tricks to make their family travel safer and more pleasant.
Family Travel Tips from 2 Gay Dads
When you are traveling internationally with adopted kids, you may need more than just passports for your whole family. You may also need to carry additional documents. We had a situation where my husband and I had to actually prove to several flight attendants and crew that we were the legal parents of our two girls. Luckily it worked out for us, but it was a harrowing experience we’d hate to see anyone else go through. These tips are especially important if you are traveling with younger children who can’t advocate for themselves.
6 Travel Documents to Carry When Traveling Internationally with Adopted Kids
Think about what you will need to feel safe and secure when your family is moving through security screenings, passport control, and the check-in process. We suggest carrying these extra travel documents in a sealed plastic bag in your carry-on baggage. Better to be safe than sorry!
- Your child’s birth certificate. If you or your partner is not a parent listed on your child’s birth certificate, make sure you have a notarized letter from the parent whose name is listed that authorizes you to travel with the child.
- Adoption papers so you can prove your child is legally yours. We stopped carrying adoption papers for our daughters when they were 10 or 11 years old. At that point we felt comfortable they could answer questions for themselves.
- Custody documents for minor children. This is essential if your children do not have the same last name as you or your partner.
- Notarized ‘permission to travel’ letter. If you and your child don’t have the same last name, it is smart to have a letter from your partner (or someone who does share the child’s last name) stipulating that you have permission to travel with your child. This is particularly important if you plan to travel alone with your child.
- Copy of insurance cards with the child’s name. In addition to your own insurance cards, carry your child’s copy as well. Also take a picture to get a digital copy. Ideally the card will have both your name and your child’s name.
- Emergency contact information. On a written sheet of paper (not digitally) create a list of contact information you can get to in a hurry. Include your family’s pediatrician, dentist, and any other medical professionals, as well as family members. Don’t count on being able to remember phone numbers in a stressful situation. Or if your phone runs out of battery!
While having these travel documents is important, it is not the whole story to keeping your family safe and sane when traveling internationally. If your family includes adopted kids and/or you are a LGBTQ family like ours, we have some other tips you might find useful.
4 Tips from 2 Gay Dads Traveling Internationally
- Choose your destination wisely.
Did you know that even in 2019 there are more than 70 countries that consider consensual same-sex relations a crime? These “crimes” may carry a severe punishment. There are also some places that are openly hostile to the LGBTQ community. So why go there? Why would you bring your kids there?
We decided not to travel to specific places because we didn’t want our daughters in a country where the government says we’re evil. You can check out the U.S. State Department’s website for safety tips for LGBTQ travelers. Also use International LGBTQ+ Travel Association (IGLTA), as it is a comprehensive LGBTQ travel planning resource.
- Be ready for dumb questions.
There’s one truth I’ve found everywhere I’ve traveled: People all over the world can be pretty dumb. Due to closed minds, misguided information, or lack of diversity you may be asked cringe-worthy questions. I’ve been asked, ‘Where’s the mommy?’ when checking into a hotel or for a flight. It is uncomfortable but I try to be prepared. Instead of reacting angrily, I use it as a teaching moment to help the person better understand my family. Most times the person apologizes when corrected. If your kids are of a different race or ethnicity than you, be ready for strangers to ask things like “where did you get her” or something else insulting. Having a quick reply at the ready can diffuse a bad situation. No need for international snark – just find a pat answer and move along.
- Support companies who support us.
Everyone who travels wants to feel welcome. That is even more important for LGBTQ families and those with adopted kids who may feel the anxiety of not knowing how they will be received. Take away some of that anxiety by using travel brands that train employees on inclusion and make a concerted effort to be queer friendly. Hilton, Kimpton and Fairmont are three of my favorite brands for this very reason. I’m also a big fan of the new company, FabStayz, which is a short-term accommodation rental service which is like Airbnb for the LGBTQ community.
- Be prepared for the paperwork headaches.
Before you can plan your next fabulous adventure, you have to obtain passports for your family. And for LGBTQ families, that is not always straightforward. You will need an original birth certificate to obtain a passport from the US Passport Agency. Get the birth certificate by submitting a request to the Bureau of Vital Statistics. The request must be submitted in the state of your child’s birth, not necessarily the state you live in now. Single parents may get pushback from the agency because of lack of a custody agreement. Look for the newest forms which stipulate “Father/Mother/Parent” to help alleviate this issue.
While it can be difficult for 2 gay dads traveling internationally with adopted kids, it is so worth it. I honestly believe that the more families like ours are visible just like any other family, the better. Every time we travel, we’re showing the world that we are just the same as any other family. For a lot of people who haven’t seen families like mine, we are changing their perspective.