Flying with kids can be a real hassle. Lugging their stuff through terminals, coaxing them to walk more quickly during layovers, keeping them quiet for hours upon end. It’s tough.

And there are so many things to worry about and questions to ask before an airline trip. Questions like: Do kids need ID to fly?

I swear, the first time I flew with my oldest child, I had a nightmare the night before about the TSA agent turning us away because we didn’t have the right documentation. I took my child’s birth certificate, and, of course, everything went smoothly. But it’s no fun to worry, and the anxiety certainly zaps most of the pre-trip excitement you typically feel.

So, to help you when you’re about to take to the air with your children, here’s a look at the simple answers to the main question: Do kids need ID to fly?

I’ve tried to be as comprehensive as possible in the space below. But two words of warning before you fly. First, make sure to check your airlines’ specific child policy to make sure you have everything you need. And, second, make sure to do extra research when traveling internationally. Your child needs a passport, regardless of age, but make sure you’ve checked all of the other boxes before taking him or her (or them) outside of the country.

ID for Domestic and International Travel

Do kids need ID to fly domestically? For domestic travel, the short answer is: No, your kids don’t need anything to fly domestically. That said, it’s a good idea to have your child’s birth certificate if he or she is under 2 years of age.

Why a birth certificate? Because children under the age of 2 typically fly for free on a parent’s lap. Having a birth certificate handy is the easiest way to validate that your child is indeed under the age of 2 and that he or she is eligible to fly for free.

A copy of the certificate is good; the original is better. Different airlines have different policies on this front. For example, American suggests having a birth certificate, while Southwest requires it. I’ve flown both, and neither airline ever asked to see the actual certificate. That said, I would make sure to have it ready to share if you’re planning on a child sitting on your lap.

Children 2 and up don’t need any sort of identification when flying domestically. The The U.S. Transportation Security Administration makes this very clear on its website. This may come as a surprise to many parents, and you’re welcome to carry a birth certificate or passport if you have one. But you shouldn’t be asked for them, and it’s likely you won’t need them.

For international travel, make sure your child has a passport. If the country to which you’re traveling requires a visa, your child will need a visa, too — no matter his or her age.

Getting a passport for a child isn’t quite as easy as for an adult. A law that went into effect in February 2008 requires both parents or legal guardians to provide consent before a child under the age of 16 obtains a passport. The restrictions relax a little for children between 16 and 18.

Before you try to get a passport for a minor, make sure to do your research. In addition to the regular things you’ll need to get a passport, you’ll also need proof of relationship to the parents and perhaps other materials, too.

Other Things You Need to Know About Flying With Kids

Like I said, every airline is a little different, so make sure to check their policies (which I’ve linked below). But, in general, the following will apply when you’re traveling with children.

Newborns

Newborns may fly when they are 2 days old or older, but airlines often require that a physician fill out a medical report for newborns under 7 or 14 days.

Flying Alone

Infants must be accompanied by someone 16 or older, or the parent’s child — regardless of age. Children can fly alone, but only after a certain age. That minimum age may vary airline to airline, but it’s usually 5.

Making Reservations

You must make infants riding on your lap part of your reservation. This isn’t as hard as it sounds — expect to be asked whether you’re flying with an infant when you check in.

Safety Seats

Bring your car seat for children ages 2 and older who typically use a car seat. Most seats that work in your car also work on airplanes, and each should have some sort of note that indicates it can be used for air travel.

Traveling With Multiple Children

If you’re traveling alone with two children under the age of 2, only one can fly on your lap. The other must have his or her own seat and a safety seat to ride in. Also, some airlines require that everyone (even children under 2) have their own seats for international travel.

Different Airlines, Different Policies

You should always, always, always check with your airline before making assumptions about traveling with children. Here are direct links to the child policies of major carriers:

Will REAL ID Changes Affect Children?

After 9/11, Congress passed the REAL ID Act of 2005. This law outlines security standards that all states must follow when designing identification cards. As of September 2017, only 26 states and the District of Columbia offer IDs that meet REAL ID requirements. A total of 24 states still have to make changes.

Does that affect kids? Nope. The REAL ID Act has nothing to do with whether or not a child must show identification when going through security, and it has nothing to do with passports either.

If you’re curious whether or not your state is currently compliant with the REAL ID Act, use this handy tool from the Washington Post.

Final Thoughts on Kids Needing ID to Fly

Just to make this as simple as possible, know that your child does not need identification to fly domestically. If you have a child under 2 who will sit on your lap, make sure to take a birth certificate (or copy) to show if asked to prove the child is 2 or younger. When flying internationally, your child must have a passport no matter his or her age.

And, lastly, always make sure to check with your specific airline to familiarize yourself with specific requirements. And, if traveling internationally, do your research as you secure a passport for your child and plan travel. You can even contact the U.S. State Department to ensure your child has all the proper documents for traveling to specific countries.

What’s been your experience traveling with children? Let us know in the comments section below, or feel free to use our contact form to get in touch with us directly.

 

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