7 documents LGBTQ families should never travel without

Jun 25, 2021

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In the United States, there are millions of children with a parent who identifies as a member of the LGBTQ community. That means there a lot of LGBTQ families who are earning miles, planning trips and hitting the skies in search of fun and adventure.

While LGBTQ families share most of the very same highlights and lowlights of any family traveling together, there are some challenges unique to LGBTQ family travel. Today we’ll look at the basics of preparing to travel.

While flying in international first class can still capture the glamour of travel, traveling with small children comes with a whole different set of distinctly non-glamorous and nerve-wracking hurdles. From carrying infant formula to having checked baggage to simply keeping up with small humans that somehow take on superhuman speed in airports, it’s a whole different ballgame than anything you experience before welcoming a child to the family.

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Nathan's kids getting ready for another adventure
The kids getting ready for another adventure. (Photo by Nathan Richardson)

The anxiety that can accompany all family travel may increase several notches when you are traveling as an LGBTQ family, especially given some common heteronormative expectations.

As a gay man who has traveled numerous times with my twins, I’ve heard all varieties of “How nice that you are taking the kids for your wife” or “Where is their mommy?” Those comments and expectations all come in addition to the regular challenges of coaching your kids through the airport process.

While most LGBTQ parents are well-equipped to handle typical nosy neighbors’ comments, it is the more formal scrutiny that happens at airport check-ins, security screenings, passport control, hotel check-ins and unplanned visits to the emergency rooms that can trip up even the most seasoned LGBTQ travelers.

With some of these difficulties in mind, we have outlined the one thing LGBTQ families should never leave home without, whether your destination is Peoria or Peru: a bag full of important documents.

7 travel documents to carry

LGBTQ parents should always make sure they travel with the necessary documents to prove custody. (Photo courtesy of Michael Burrell)

We have come a long way in terms of marriage equality, yet there are many places that your family may still raise eyebrows, increase the number of inquiries or cause delays.

The easiest way to head off potential trouble is to prepare a large plastic bag that includes the following “extra” documents. If you do get held to a higher standard, I like to “kill them with kindness,” as my nana used to say, and give them a lot of additional information that might make them blush.

Some paperwork to include in your bag of extra documentation includes:

  1. Copy of your child’s birth certificate
  2. Parentage and/or custody documents for accompanying minor children (especially if your children do not share your last name)
  3. Notarized letter giving your spouse or partner permission to travel with your child if you don’t share the same last name
  4. Child Care Authorization for Medical Care if you don’t share a last name — and one for any additional caregiver
  5. Copy of insurance cards with the child’s name, and ideally, your name
  6. Emergency contact list including your child’s pediatrician, dentist and any specialty doctors (these supporting cast members often calm questioning doctors in strange lands)
  7. U.S. Passport Cards that you can apply for at the same time you apply for a passport

Tips for applying for passports as an LGBTQ family

French passport stamp in American passport
(Photo by Andrew Kunesh/The Points Guy)

Obtaining a passport as an LGBTQ family is not always as simple as just filling out the paperwork.

The U.S. Passport Agency will require an original birth certificate that includes the relevant birth and parent information as well as the registrar’s signature and the seal of the issuing authority. You can obtain this version of the birth certificate by making a request to the Bureau of Vital Statistics in the state of your child’s birth.

If you are a single parent, the agency may return the form looking for a custody agreement. The U.S. Passport Agency did update the form to say “Father/Mother/Parent,” while outdated forms will require a “Mother and Father,” so make sure you are using the latest form. All this said, if you encounter some pushback, don’t despair. If you get caught in a pinch, reach out to your local elected official to help you contact the U.S. Passport Agency. However, there have been instances where the U.S. has denied passports to same-sex couple’s children born via surrogacy abroad. In that case, a federal judge ordered the State Department to issue the child a U.S. passport.

Bottom line

Traveling with a few extra documents can go a long way to giving you peace of mind. While you may never be asked to produce this paperwork, you’ll be glad to have it readily available if someone does. Enjoy your family travels!

Photo credit: Nathan Richardson
(Photo credit by Nathan Richardson)

Featured photo by svetikd/Getty Images

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