Planning a holiday abroad - some legal issues to consider

By Lenore Rice

The summer holidays will soon be upon us and it is increasingly common for families to go abroad, but there are certain legal issues to consider before packing your suitcases. Going abroad with children can raise legal issues, driving is not always straight forward and you may want to make sure you are fully prepared to take part in all the activities on offer when you are away.

Driving abroad

Many people choose to rent a car when they go abroad and intend to drive around on their UK drivers licence. It is important to inform yourself about the regulations of the country you are going to when it comes to UK drivers, as not all countries allow you to simply drive on the basis of your standard licence.

If you are going to one of the EU/EEEA counties (click here to see a list) you can drive on your Northern Ireland driving licence without any problems. You should however check the age limit for driving in the country you are holidaying in, as this varies widely, so your 17 year-old might not be able to act as your designated driver if you go out in the evening!

Some countries require an international driving permit (IDP) to be carried alongside your domestic drivers licence. This can be applied for from the AA, RAC or the Post Office. For more information on IDPs and which countries require them click here.

Taking children abroad

If you are taking children abroad, but one of the parents will not be going on the holiday, it is recommended that you have something in writing from them to confirm their consent to the child being taken out of the UK. The Customs and Border Protection will not always ask to see any documentation but it is prudent to have it just in case.

If there is no other parent with legal claims to the child it would be wise to take some kind of paperwork to substantiate this, such as a court order, birth certificate or death certificate.

If you have divorced or separated from the other parent of your children it is preferable to obtain written permission from them if you are planning to take them abroad. If a residency order has been made in your favour you can take the child away without consent as long as they are not abroad for longer than one month. If the other parent is required to consent to any holiday abroad, and they refuse to do so unreasonably, you can make an application to the court.

Do not assume that a parent will consent to a holiday just because they have consented to previous holidays. Different circumstances may change their view on how suitable a holiday is, such as the destination country, and the people you may be going on holiday with. Speak to your ex-partner before booking your holiday and try to have them on board before confirming your plans.

High risk activities

Many people engage in what are considered high risk activities when they are on holiday - bungee jumping, paragliding, diving, renting motorbikes or quad bikes despite being very inexperienced, among other things. Add to that the exposure to high temperatures without taking sufficient precautions, and a more relaxed approach to the consumption of alcohol, and it is not surprising that the risk of serious or injury or death increases significantly when we go abroad.

Adequate travel insurance is essential to cover any treatments in hospital without facing the financial burden of a huge medical bill. It is also a good time to consider the need to make a Will. Only 3 in 10 adults in the UK actually have a Will, and while most people recognise the need to write one, it is something we all manage to put off for years - sometimes, until it is too late. It is the last thing anyone wants to think about when making holiday plans, but it is an ideal time to update an existing Will, or to make your first one.

If you require legal advice in respect of any of the above issues from a solicitor in Northern Ireland click here to submit a contact form and we will call you back. Alternatively, you can call us on 0800 840 1363.