Q: I'm planning a week in Paris with my ex-stepdaughters, ages 11 and 14. They have passports, but what additional documentation should I take? I'm concerned that there could be problems at borders traveling with unrelated minors, and I want to be prepared in case of a medical emergency.
A: You need to get a signed, notarized statement from the children's mother and father stating that you have permission to travel abroad with them and to make all emergency medical decisions on their behalf. A State Department spokeswoman said such a document should ensure that you don't run into trouble. "I don't know that they would question her," said the spokeswoman. "But if they do have different last names, officials could think she was abducting them. It's better to be on the safe side."
Some countries, such as Mexico, require that children traveling alone, or with unrelated adults, or even with just one parent, present a notarized permission document from the absent parent or parents to cross the border. France does not have such a requirement, but again, it's better to be safe than sorry. For more information on individual countries, check the State Department's Web site at http://travel.state.gov.
The parental consent form should contain the children's full names and addresses; both parents' names, home addresses and phone numbers, work addresses and phone numbers, and any other contact information if they are also traveling; your name, address, phone number and relationship to the children; medical insurance details for the children; and a brief medical history for both girls.
Q: We would like to find a golf vacation during spring break where my husband and I and our 10-year-old son could attend age-appropriate golf schools. We'd like something in the Carolinas, Bahamas or Florida where we could also swim and sightsee.
A: Nike (1-800-645-3226, www.ecamps.com) is the leader in parent-child golf camps, but its programs are run only in summer. During spring break, your choices will be limited. Most programs group juniors with adults or restrict juniors to ages 12 and above.
But here are a couple of schools that fit your needs:
* David Leadbetter Academy in Bradenton, on Florida's Gulf coast, offers seven instructional golf programs for adults, plus week-long junior camps for ages 8 and up. The junior program consists of morning instruction and afternoon match play. Players are placed in groups by ability. Your son can bunk in the junior dormitory, or you can stay in a villa as a family. Cost for the junior program is $950 without accommodations or $1,140 with meals and lodging. Adult costs vary depending on the program. Information: 1-800-424-3542, www.leadbetter.com.
* If you're interested in one-on-one instruction, the VIP Golf Academy, with 11 locations--including four in Florida, one in South Carolina and one in Maryland--will assemble a custom program for your family. A five-day program, including private lessons and accommodations, costs about $3,000 per adult. Information: 1-800-679-2916, www.vipgolfacademy.com.
Q: During an otherwise enjoyable trip to Athens, I got scammed. Apparently a charge of about $297 was put on my credit card with my signature forged. I believe it happened in a restaurant, but I have no idea which one is the culprit. Any idea how I can chase this?
O.C. St. Cyr
A: First, you are not liable for that charge and do not have to pay it, as long as you inform the credit card issuer within 60 days of receiving the original bill. "The cardholders immediately should send a written letter of dispute to their respective Visa card issuers," said a Visa spokesman. "Assuming that they are U.S. cardholders, they would be covered by our zero-liability clause, although in some instances liability is limited to $50."
Holly Anderson, a spokeswoman for the National Fraud Information Center, said this type of scam is known as "cramming," a fairly common form of credit card fraud. She also said you do not have to pay the charge under the Fair Credit Billing Act and recommended that you send your letter of dispute by certified mail. Anderson noted that most credit card issuers provide a form for disputes on the back of each monthly statement.
Dimy Chryssanthou, a spokesperson for the Greek National Tourist Office, said you should send copies of the Visa statements to its U.S. headquarters (645 Fifth Ave., New York, N.Y. 10022, 212-421-5777). "Our department here in New York will translate all documents and forward them to the investigation and inquiry department at our headquarters in Athens, which will investigate the charges."
There's not much a consumer can do to completely protect against an unscrupulous person in a position of trust, such as a restaurant server, especially if you can't identify exactly where the fraud occurred. Always take a close look at your credit card receipts and statements; whenever possible, don't let your card out of sight; tear up carbons of credit card bills; make sure no one is eavesdropping when you give out your card number over the phone; and share your credit card number only with reputable companies.
Nancy R. Bowen of Potomac has another idea for the family looking for a European vacation with their children (Travel Q&A, Jan. 2). For two summers, she took her sons on a Classical Cruise line trip, "Voyage to the Lands of Gods and Heroes," which visited Italy, Greece and Turkey. "My boys learned history and mythology, ran foot races in the original Olympic stadium, learned to bargain in the Istanbul bazaar and ate exotic foods they would have never otherwise have tried," Bowen said. "These were experiences they will never forget, and even three years later, they still speak with excitement about their travels." Information: Classical Cruises, 1-800-252-7745, www.classicalcruises.com.
Send queries by e-mail (travelqa@washpost .com), fax (202-334-1069) or U.S. mail (Travel Q&A, Washington Post Travel Section, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071). Include address and phone number.