In the United States, no laws exist that prevent minors from traveling with an aunt or any other relative or friend. No special permission slip is required, even when crossing state lines. However, some experts such as Ed Perkins with SmarterTravel.com recommend carrying a notarized letter of consent, particularly if your last name is different than the child’s. Although it will likely never come out of your bag, a letter of consent acts as an insurance policy for unlikely situations.
Domestic Flights and Train Travel
According to the Transportation Security Administration, only adults aged 18 and over must show identification at airport security checkpoints. The airlines, as well as Amtrak, do not generally require identification for children traveling on regular adult fare tickets. A birth certificate or other proof of age is required for specially priced age-based tickets. Secondary security screening or proof of age checks could theoretically raise the question of how you are related to the child and whether you have permission to travel with him. A letter of consent could smooth out difficulties in this extremely unlikely scenario.
AAA recommends that aunts and all adults traveling with minors carry a notarized medical proxy. Although emergency medical care will always be provided, without the medical proxy, more routine procedures could be delayed until the parents are reached. Include the full names of the child, parents and all accompanying adults, along with the child’s social security number. Carry a copy of all relevant insurance cards including primary and secondary medical insurance, prescription programs and dental insurance.
If your last name happens to be the same as your nephew’s, you are unlikely to be questioned at all. However, if your last names are different, you might run into reluctant tour operators who are hesitant to let you sign waivers for activities such as kayaking, helicopter tours or other types of adventure travel. A letter of consent assures the tour operator that you have the right to make decisions and give consent for the child to participate.
Letter of Consent
AAA provides a free sample letter, or you can create your own. Provide the full names of the child, parents and accompanying adults. State the dates of the trip and the destination, as well as any travel information you have such as flight numbers or train schedules. For the best protection, sign the letter in front of a notary public. Many families combine a letter of consent to travel with the medical proxy, while others prefer to carry two separate documents.