Important Travel Tips for LGBTQ Families
Here’s what same-sex parents should know to plan a safe and successful adventure, from the important documents to secure in advance to the queer-friendly operators who offer enjoyable itineraries for the entire family.
It shouldn’t be an issue, but sometimes traveling while in a same-sex marriage can present challenges, which can increase when children are in tow. Sure, a temper tantrum or a dirty diaper can derail the fun for any parenting couple. But LGBTQ travelers with children often encounter extra obstacles in travel, such as having to deal with airline or hotel staff who question whether a father in a same-sex marriage should be able to accompany his young daughter to the bathroom (the only option, naturally, when both of her parents are dads).
As a gay couple with two adopted daughters, Jon Bailey and Triton Klugh realize the challenges of traveling while gay—as well as with children. Since 2015, the California-based pair have chronicled their LGBTQ family adventures on an informative blog, 2 Dads with Baggage, which they started after years of traveling with their girls, who are now teenagers. Here, Bailey shares the pair’s insight on how LGBTQ parents with kids of all ages can prepare for an enjoyable family trip.
Get your paperwork in order
Like any family traveling with kids, same-sex parents must be prepared with important documents such as individual passports, proof of travel insurance, and necessary medical documents. With LGBTQ families, however, it’s often beneficial to pull together more extensive paperwork to avoid any issues in transit. Bailey recommends that same-sex parents with young kids bring copies of each child’s passport, adoption papers (if applicable), and birth certificate. The U.S. State Department additionally advises that LGBTQ parents pack parentage and custody documents if your children are minors and do not share your last name—especially when traveling internationally.
“We stopped carrying adoption papers [for our daughters] when they were 10 or 11 years old because they could answer questions for themselves,” Bailey says, recalling a previous situation during which he and his husband had to prove to airline attendants that the two were the legal guardians of their children. “That said, it’s happened so rarely,” he continues. “I usually am the one with all the passports and paperwork, and if there are questions, I try to answer them out of earshot. It’s more relevant when the kids are too young to advocate for themselves.”
Additionally, if you are not a parent listed on your child’s birth certificate, make sure you have a notarized letter from the parent whose name is listed that authorizes you to travel with the child.
Know local customs
Anyone traveling to a foreign country should familiarize themselves with local customs. But for LGBTQ travelers, it’s essential to do research before a trip to avoid potentially precarious situations. “It’s important to know about discriminatory laws in other countries,” Bailey says. “Some are openly hostile [to the LGBTQ community]—why would you bring your kids there? We’ve made the political decision not to travel to specific places because we didn’t want our daughters in a country where the government says we’re evil.”
A section of the U.S. State Department’s website offers general safety tips for LGBTQ travelers, and an interactive map-anchored website, Equaldex, keeps a running tab on LGBTQ rights–related laws around the world. Additionally, the International LGBTQ+ Travel Association (IGLTA) is a comprehensive online resource for all things related to LGBTQ travel planning.
Seek out LGBTQ-friendly accommodations
Finding the right place for a happy family vacation tops every parent’s travel checklist. For LGBTQ travelers, knowing where you’re welcome can make all of the difference, whether that’s within a country at large or at a specific resort. “There are entire hotel brands that train employees on inclusion—Hilton and Fairmont among them,” Bailey says. “There’s a great desire to reach out to LGBTQ travelers to let them know that a specific hotel, resort, or destination is queer-friendly.” Other companies with far-reaching hotel portfolios, such as Accor, Hyatt, and Preferred Hotels, have diversity initiatives aimed toward LGBTQ travelers.
The online travel directory World Rainbow Hotels outlines LGBTQ-friendly hotels in places where lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender travelers are usually welcomed happily and proudly. More recently, Bailey has taken an interest in a newly launched company called FabStayz, which is a short-term accommodation rental service akin to Airbnb for the LGBTQ community.
Plan ahead with LGBTQ travel organizations
Not sure where to begin your search for a destination that suits the entire family? There are prominent travel organizations that exist solely to assist LGBTQ travelers, with and without children. IGLTA consists of a network of highly vetted global tourism businesses—queer-approved hotels, transportation providers, travel agencies, and tour operators—and is a fantastic resource for all things LGBTQ travel. Since 2004, international tour operator R Family Vacations has worked with LGBTQ travelers and their families to help organize trips around the globe. “[Our family] generally visits destinations my husband and I are comfortable with,” Bailey says. “If I can’t independently source enough evidence to satisfy my checklist for safety and comfort, I know I can always turn to one of these services.”
Show the world your family is just like theirs
People have their own preconceived, and sometimes misguided notions of what LGBTQ family life is like. That is, until they meet or spend time with LGBTQ folks—then they usually change their perceptions. “I’ve been asked, ‘Where’s the mommy?’,” Bailey says, explaining that this uncomfortable question sometimes arises when his family registers at a hotel or checks in for a flight. “I’ve answered angrily, but I’ve also used it as a teaching moment to help someone better understand. Now, I say, ‘Right here . . .’ or ‘I don’t know, we’re the parents.’ Usually they’re like, ‘Ohhhh,’ and then will lean in and apologize.
“I don’t like to intentionally embarrass people, but I do try to nicely tell them what’s what,” Bailey explains. “The more we’re visible and operating just like any other family, the more we’re showing the world that we are just like any other family. For a lot of people who haven’t seen LGBTQ families, they realize when they see us travel that we’re all asking the same questions. Our kids all have to go to the bathroom.”