Travelling with children
Travelling overseas with children can be a rewarding experience for the whole family. If you're travelling with children, or your children are travelling without both parents, there's more you need to know.
Explore this page for information and general advice on:
- travelling with children
- children travelling without both parents
- child custody
- international child abduction
Travelling with young children
- Carry less bags. If you're carrying lots of bags and the kids distract you, you're an easy target for thieves.
- Check the safety standards of any equipment you use. Pools, balconies, car seats, cots and play equipment overseas may not meet Australian standards.
- Find out about carry-on luggage restrictions, before you travel. Contact your airline in advance to find out.
- Understand local attitudes towards breastfeeding in public.
- Learn the laws around disciplining children. In some countries any corporal punishment, including smacking, is illegal.
Child care facilities
If you plan to use a child care facility or to use babysitters or nannies overseas, plan ahead. Child care standards in other countries may vary.
- the accreditation standards of child care providers
- if the provider has appropriate strategies to prevent child abuse
- hiring and screening procedures for their staff, including criminal record checks
- staff qualifications
- the ratio of staff to children
- training of staff, including training in first aid and emergency procedures
- security arrangements of the premises
- their personal injury liability insurance
- what common children's health risks exist
Take your children to a doctor or travel clinic. Do this at least 8 weeks before you leave.
- Get a basic health check-up.
- Ask if your travel plans may affect their health.
- Plan any vaccinations they need.
If your child takes medication, confirm it’s legal in the country you're going to. For example, medication to treat ADHD may be restricted.
- Check the 'health' section of your destination's travel advice.
- Contact the high commission, embassy or consulate of that country
See our general advice on taking care of your health.
Children travelling without their parents
There are laws around children travelling without both parents. Airlines also have rules you must follow. This can apply if your child is travelling alone, with a guardian or with just one parent.
In many cases, a child can leave Australia with their passport and the appropriate visa. Unless there are family court issues, they don’t need anything else.
Most airlines have rules around children under the age of 15 who are travelling alone. Parents or guardians will usually need to fill out a permission form for the child’s travel.
For more information, including on in-flight protocols for unaccompanied minors, contact your airline.
Entry requirements in other countries
Many countries require children travelling without both parents to carry extra documents.
To enter, travel in or leave another country, your child may need:
- documents or evidence of the absent parent or guardian’s permission to travel
- a copy of any separation, divorce or custody decree, that proves custody of the child
- a court order granting guardianship of the child
- adoption papers, if they're adopted
- a certified copy of their birth certificate, particularly if the travelling parent isn't listed on it
It's your responsibility to find out if your destination has special entry requirements for children. Contact your destination's embassy or consulate.
Before you leave Australia with your children, make sure you get consent to do so from any person or institution that has parental responsibility for the children. Or get a court order permitting their travel.
If you don’t do this you may be committing a crime.
Some countries do not recognise Australian parenting orders. Many countries have reciprocal arrangements with Australia. In these countries, parenting orders are recognised by both countries.
For information, see the Attorney-General's Department.
Child support payments
If you make child support payments, they must be up-to-date. If they aren't, courts can issue a Departure Prohibition Order to stop the child from leaving Australia. If you plan to travel, but have outstanding child support and haven’t made a payment arrangement:
- call 131 272 to discuss your options
- visit the Department of Human Services website
Dual nationality and child custody
Some countries don’t recognise dual nationality. This can affect how local authorities make decisions on custody issues.
Get legal advice before travelling with children who may be nationals of another country.
Stop orders on women and children
In some countries, husbands, fathers or other relatives can place a 'stop order' on women and children. This includes Lebanon and Egypt.
A stop order can prevent women and children from leaving the country, regardless of their nationality.
International child abduction
If you’re concerned someone may try to take your child out of Australia without your consent, obtain legal advice and report it. You can, with a court order, register your children on the Australian Federal Police’s Family Law Watchlist. You can also submit a Child Alert Request with the Australia Passport Office.
Help from the Attorney-General's Department
If your child has been wrongfully removed, detained or taken overseas against your wishes to a country that is a member of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, the Attorney-General’s Department may be able to assist you.
If your child has been taken to Lebanon or Egypt, the Attorney-General's Department may be able to help. Australia has Cooperation Agreements on Protecting the Welfare of Children with both nations.
If your child has been taken to a country that is not a signatory to the Hague Convention, custody will be determined by the courts where the child is located. You can apply to the Attorney-General's Department for legal financial assistance to pursue your case in the other country.
Contact the Attorney-General's Department International Family Law Section:
- 1800 100 480 (within Australia)
- +61 2 6141 3100 (from overseas)
Learn more about international child abduction (Attorney-General's Department).
Help from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
If your child has been taken to a country that is not a member of the Hague Convention, you may be able to get assistance from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Consular Emergency Centre.
DFAT can provide:
- a list of local lawyers in the destination
- information on local child welfare agencies or organisations
- consular assistance and information to the parent who is left behind
The following websites may also help you to find a lawyer overseas:
Final tips before you go
- Read the travel advice for the countries you plan to visit and subscribe for updates.
- Buy comprehensive travel insurance that covers your whole family. Make sure it covers all planned activities, and any pre-existing medical conditions.
- Read guidebooks and online forums for tips on travelling with children at your planned destination.
- Leave a detailed itinerary with someone at home, and plan to keep in regular contact.
- Pick a destination where you'll feel safe, comfortable, and prepared for any issues you may face.
- Find out what to consider when purchasing travel insurance.
- Check which vaccinations you should get.
- See our information for pregnancy, adoption and surrogacy overseas.
- Carry-on luggage restrictions (Department of Home Affairs).
- Separated parents (Department of Human Services).
- International family law and children (Attorney-General's Department).
If you're pregnant and planning to travel overseas, research your destination before you go. Being informed about the risks will help you manage them.
Read more about the legislative protections designed to prevent child sex offences abroad.
In many countries age, gender and sexual preferences can pose challenges. Understanding the culture and laws in your destination will help things go smoothly.