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Travelling with children

This page provides general tips for travelling with children, information for parents whose children are travelling without them, and information about child custody and abduction.

This information should be read in conjunction with the travel advice for the countries the child will visit and our advice for all travellers.

Get the right travel insurance

It's important to take out comprehensive travel insurance for yourself and your children before heading overseas. Make sure your policy covers all medical expenses for injury or illness, including for pre-existing medical conditions, and is valid for all activities you plan to undertake on your trip. Accidents can happen to anyone, and medical costs overseas can reach hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Your insurance should also cover theft of valuables, damage to baggage and cancellations or interruptions to flight plans. See our Travel insurance buying guide for information about how to make sure you get the right insurance for your circumstances.

Travelling with young children

Being well prepared will help things go smoothly when travelling with young children.

  • Minimise the number of bags you will be carrying. Being overloaded with bags while taking care of your children can make you a target for thieves.
  • Be aware that child safety standards including for pools, balconies, car seats, cots and play equipment may not be as strict as they are in Australia.
  • Check restrictions on carry-on luggage before travelling. Restrictions on powders, liquids, aerosols and gels can include baby foods. There are usually exceptions for baby products, so contact your airline in advance.

  • Be aware of cultural norms and laws at your destination. Local attitudes towards breastfeeding in public and laws for disciplining children can be vastly different to those in Australia. In some countries, any form of corporal punishment (including smacking children) is illegal.

Child care facilities

If you're planning to place your child or children in a child care facility or employ baby sitters or nannies overseas, plan ahead. The standards of child care provided in other countries may differ from those in Australia. Research issues such as:

  • accreditation standards of child care providers
  • whether the child care provider has in place appropriate strategies to prevent child abuse
  • the hiring and screening procedures of staff including background criminal record checks
  • qualifications of the staff caring for children
  • the ratios of staff to children; training of staff, including training in first aid and emergency procedures
  • the security arrangements of the child care centre premises
  • validity of personal injury liability insurance
  • children's health and vaccination issues.

Staying healthy

Visit your doctor or travel clinic at least eight weeks before you depart to discuss any health issues and any destination-specific vaccination requirements for you and your family.

If your child takes medication, confirm that it is legal in the country you are going to by checking the travel advice and contacting the high commission, embassy or consulate of that country. In some countries for example, medication to treat ADHD is restricted.

More information:

Children travelling alone, with guardians or with one parent

Children travelling alone, with a guardian or with one or both parents are able to depart Australia just with their passport and the appropriate visa for their destination. No additional documentation is required.

However, many foreign countries require additional specific documentation to be carried by children travelling alone, with a guardian or with one parent. Check the entry requirements for children before travelling by contacting the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country you plan to visit.

In addition to a valid passport and the appropriate entry visa, the sorts of documents required for a child to enter, travel in or depart another country may include:

  • documentary evidence or a letter that proves the child has the permission of an absent lawful parent or guardian to travel
  • a copy of any separation, divorce or custody decree that proves that you have custody of the child
  • a court order granting you guardianship of the child
  • adoption papers if the child is adopted
  • a certified copy of the child’s birth certificate, particularly if only one parent’s name appears on the birth certificate and the child is travelling with the other parent.

Most airlines have rules regarding unaccompanied minors. Children under the age of 15 who are travelling alone are generally regarded as unaccompanied minors. In most cases, parents or guardians will need to fill out a permission form for the child’s travel. For further information, including on in-flight protocols for unaccompanied minors, contact your airline.

Child custody

If you are required to make child support payments, you must ensure that payments are up to date as a Departure Prohibition Order can be issued to prevent you from leaving Australia if you are in arrears. If you plan to travel but have outstanding child support and have not made a payment arrangement, call 131 272 to discuss your options or visit the Department of Human Services website.

Some countries do not recognise dual nationality. This can affect the future guardianship of a child, as decisions on custody may be based on local law. Seek advice before travelling with children who may be considered nationals of another country, or if in doubt about particular circumstances relating to your children.

Women and children of any nationality can be subject to 'stop orders' in some countries, including Lebanon and Egypt. Under a stop order, their husbands, fathers or other relatives can legally prevent them leaving the country.

Child abduction

If you are concerned that your child may be taken out of Australia without your consent, you can register your child on the Family Law Watchlist, administered by the Australian Federal Police.

If you believe your child has been abducted, taken overseas against your wishes or wrongfully removed or detained overseas, assistance may be available from the Attorney-General's Department or the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade as set out below.

If your child has been taken to a country that is a signatory to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction you can apply to the Attorney-General's Department for assistance with the return of your child. Contact the International Family Law Section:

If your child has been taken to Lebanon or Egypt, you can contact the Attorney-General's Department about applying for assistance under the Lebanese or Egyptian Cooperation Agreements on Protecting the Welfare of Children. Contact the International Family Law Section:

If your child has been taken to a country that is not a signatory to the Hague Convention, matters of custody will need to be determined by the courts in the country where the child is located. However, you can apply to the Attorney-General's Department for legal financial assistance to pursue your case in the other country.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade may also be able to assist in both Hague and non-Hague Convention countries by providing a list of local lawyers, information on local child welfare agencies or organisations, and providing consular assistance and information to the left behind parent.

Lists of lawyers overseas are available from either the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade on 1300 555 135 or the ​​​​​​​Attorney-General's Department on 1800 100 480.

The following websites may help you find a lawyer overseas:

Before you leave Australia with your children, you should ensure that you have the consent to do so from any person, institution or other body that has a right of custody in relation to those children or a court order permitting their departure.

Australian parenting orders will be recognised overseas and overseas parenting orders recognised in Australia where there is a reciprocal arrangement between Australia and the relevant country. For information about the countries that are party to such an arrangement, contact the Attorney-General's Department International Family Law and Children area.

Additional resources

Final tips before you go

  • Read the travel advice for the countries you plan to visit and subscribe to receive a free email notification each time the advisories are updated.
  • Purchase comprehensive travel insurance that covers you and your family for all your planned activities and pre-existing medical conditions
  • Read guidebooks and online forums for tips on travelling with children at your planned destination
  • Register your contact details and travel plans with Smartraveller so that the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade can contact you in case of a serious emergency.