6 Things You Should Know Before Taking Your Child On Holiday

Posted on: 6 mins read
Last updated:
Lidia Foster

Partner, Care Proceedings

Share Article:

When school breaks approach and travel with the family is an option, many parents are eagerly anticipating taking their children on holiday. These getaways might mean soaking up the sun for some, while for others, it’s a chance to reunite with friends and family residing in different countries.

For parents who are no longer together, dealing with the intricacies of travel consent is really important as you need to know how to avoid conflict. Understanding your rights and responsibilities in this regard is paramount. Before going on any international trip with your children, there are essential aspects you should be aware of to ensure a smooth and legally sound travel experience.

Mother and daughter walking on beach

Here are some things you should know before taking your children abroad:

Get in touch today!

To better understand your rights to take your child on holiday, call us on 0808 239 3465 or

1. It’s a myth that you can’t abduct your own children

Some people wrongly believe that if you’re a child’s parent, you cannot ‘abduct’ them in law, and you have the right to go abroad with them whenever you want. This is not the case.

In England and Wales, whether you need the consent of the other parent (or other family members) will depend on:

  • Who has parental responsibility for your child or children
  • Whether there are any Court Orders in place either granting permission or prohibiting travel
  • If two people or more share parental responsibility and there are no Court Orders in place, you’ll need the consent of the other parent before travelling abroad, even if it’s only for a

If you go without consent, this could be classed as international child abduction, which can have both criminal law and civil law consequences. If your child’s other parent is refusing consent for a holiday you want to take with your children, you can make an application to the Court to be given permission.

If you are unsure whether you have permission to travel or not, or need permission, it is always important to check. A Family Law Solicitor will be able to explain where you stand, and what to do if you need to get permission you don’t have.

2. Be mindful of your Child Arrangements Order

Consideration of your Child Arrangements Order is of utmost importance when planning to travel with your children. The following factors should be taken into account:

Existing Child Arrangements Order: If you are separated or divorced from the other parent of your children, the first step is to check whether you have a Child Arrangements Order in place. If your existing order designates that the children live with you, you have the legal authority to take your children out of the jurisdiction of England and Wales for up to one month at a time.

Holiday Provisions: Some Child Arrangements Orders include provisions explicitly addressing holiday arrangements, allowing one or both parents to take the children abroad during vacations.

Carry the Order: If your Order grants you this privilege, it is advisable to carry a copy of the Order with you as evidence during your travels. While it is not legally mandatory to obtain a consent letter from the other parent, it is generally considered a good practice, especially if you are separated or divorced. Some borders will request this, especially if you have a different surname from your children.

No Existing Order: In the absence of a Child Arrangements Order, and if you intend to take your children abroad for a holiday, you must obtain written permission from individuals who share Parental Responsibility. This typically includes the mother and the father (if married at the time of the child's birth, if unmarried the father has acquired Parental Responsibility another way such as being  named on the child’s Birth Certificate) Step-parents and grandparents may also have Parental Responsibility through a mutually signed agreement or Order.

Child Abduction Risks: Taking the children out of the jurisdiction without the necessary consent could lead to charges of Child Abduction.

Specific Issue Order: As a last resort, you can make an application to the Family Court for a 'Specific Issue Order.' This legal recourse seeks the court's approval for a specific holiday and permission to take the children out of the jurisdiction. However, it's important to make this application with plenty of time before the planned holiday and if possible before it is booked. Please note that the court may not process this application as an urgent matter, potentially causing delays in your holiday plans.

Open Dialogue and Agree Dates

It's crucial to maintain open communication with your former partner and collaboratively agree on the holiday dates and broad arrangements for each calendar year, whether you have permission from an Order or if you are taking the children away with consent. This agreement can be facilitated through various means, such as email correspondence, a dedicated parenting app, or by formalizing the details in a parenting plan.

When you are planning a specific holiday trip, make it a priority to discuss the proposed dates, travel arrangements, and accommodation details with your former partner. Seeking their express permission before finalising your travel plans is important. Also, ensure that any agreements relating to the release and return of passports are clearly established, and check if any passports need renewal or updates before setting out on your journey.

Children jumping into a swimming pool

4. Make sure you have all the right paperwork

As a separated parent it’s always important to make sure you have paperwork with you to show you are entitled to travel with the children, just in case.

Sometimes it is a good idea to have copies of their birth certificates, especially if you have a different surname, as well as a copy of any Court Orders that are in place. Written confirmation from the other parent is always a good idea too, if you can get it.

You should also know that some destination countries insist on the completion of specific, formal forms, or signed and witnessed written permission. So, you should always check to make sure you have what you need to enjoy your holiday without unexpected drama.

5. You should share contact details

There are always exceptions, but as a general rule, the Court will expect separated parents to share information about where they will be taking the children and the specific arrangements for travel. This will usually include an address and emergency contact details. So it is a good idea to write down all the details for the other parent, so they know exactly where the child is staying, and how to contact them and you whilst they are on holiday with you.

A young girl on the beach running towards the sea

6. What to do if you decide you want to stay

It is not unusual for people to return ‘home’ to visit friends and family and decide they want to move there to live.

Sometimes, it can be tempting just to stay, and try to agree the move from there. But in many cases, staying abroad longer than was agreed will be classed as child abduction, even if you had permission to go on the original, shorter trip.

If your plans change and you decide to stay longer than you originally intended to, it is important to get the other parent’s consent and get legal advice, so you know where you stand.

Your child’s other parent could urgently issue special Court proceedings to secure a child’s return home if they are not returned on an agreed date. They can be stressful and costly, and it can also be a criminal matter, in some circumstances, so it is always important to avoid these complications.

A good Children Law Solicitor can explain where you stand, and what you need to do to get permission to stay, or relocate permanently if the other parent does not agree.


UK Government. (Year). Permission to Take a Child Abroad. GOV.UK. https://www.gov.uk/permission-take-child-abroad#:~:text=Taking%20a%20child%20abroad%20without,you%20take%20the%20child%20abroad.

Lidia Foster

Partner, Care Proceedings

Areas of Expertise:
Care Proceedings

Lidia Foster is a Partner and a Manager in our Care Proceedings department, based in our Leeds office.

Lidia supports and represents parents, children and other family members when the local authority becomes involved in their family life. This includes advising on pre-proceeding involvement and representing in child care proceedings if matters are brought to court.

Get in touch, today!

Fill in the form below to get in touch with one of our dedicated team members, or call our team today on: 0808 239 3465

This data will only be used by Simpson Millar in accordance with our Privacy Policy for processing your query and for no other purpose