What ID and Documents Does My Child Need to Fly?

Father and Son sitting in Airport

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Getting the family ready for a big vacation can be a lot of fun, but it can also be quite stressful. Even if it isn’t a big vacation, sometimes just the thought of putting your little ones on a plane can bring anxiety.

Making sure that all of your reservations have been made, seats have been assigned, hotel rooms have been upgraded, all while attempting to keep the kids entertained and behaving properly can be exhausting. This is even before you leave the house.

Add in the fact that your child may or may not need some sort of identification to board a plane can be that extra confusion that a new parent just doesn’t need.

Well, we are here to lay it all out clearly for you and let you know exactly what you need to fly with your kids!


As an adult over the age of 18, you need a valid government form of ID in order to board a plane in the United States, according to TSA.

If you are flying internationally, you will need to show your passport or passport card. If you are flying on a domestic flight, you will need to show your driver’s license or another form of government ID with your photo on it.

However, for children under the age of 18, that is a different story. Depending on where they are traveling to, and what age they are, they might not need an ID at all.

Since there is a lot of information out there, it can get a little confusing to understand. We will break it all down for you so that the next time you board a flight with your little one in tow, you will know exactly what you will and won’t need.

Little Girl on tarmac at GRU in front of TAM 767 plane
Getting a closeup view of a 767 from GRU-BOS. Image Credit: Chris Hassan

International Flights

This one is very black and white. Regardless of your age, if you are flying to a different country, you will need to present your passport at check-in, the TSA security checkpoint, and when you arrive at your destination.


Even if your baby is only a month old, they will need a passport to leave the country. Don’t have a passport yet for your little traveler? Don’t worry, we have a complete guide on How To Get A U.S. Passport For Your Baby.

If your destination requires a travel visa, your baby will also need to apply for the visa. Since both of these things take time, it is best to get these done as far in advance as possible.

If for some reason you need to take an international trip immediately after the birth of your child it is possible to get passports and visas expedited for an extra cost.

Global Entry

If you have Global Entry, that doesn’t mean that your child will automatically get it as well.

Unlike TSA Pre-Check, which can extend to your travel party, if you want to take your child through the Global Entry line they will need to go through the same process that you did.

Yes, that means paying the $100 application fee and having your, in some cases, infant complete the interview process. Don’t worry though, there are plenty of credit cards that’ll reimburse this fee.

Although this may seem like a hassle, having an official government photo ID of your child will come in handy for many circumstances down the road.

Bottom Line: If you are flying internationally, your child will need a passport (and maybe a visa), regardless of their age.

International Flight With Only 1 Parent Present

If you plan on traveling internationally with your child, and both parents will not be traveling together, you will need to provide some additional permission forms.

Depending on the airline and the country you will be flying to (and potentially back from), the requirements may be different.

The most important piece will be a notarized parental consent form signed by both parents and a copy of the non-traveling parent’s passport or valid identification.

If the child has a deceased parent, the living parent or guardian will need to sign the consent form and attach a copy of the late spouse’s death certificate.

The only exception is if the parent has proof of sole custody as you may be required to present a copy of your custody agreement signed by both parents.

Father and Son sitting in Airport
Image Credit: Olena Yakobchuk via Shutterstock

Domestic Flights

Here is where things aren’t so black and white…

Sure, you could just travel with your child’s passport every time you board a flight, but depending on the situation that might not be necessary. And if there is 1 thing I hope to never lose during a trip, it’s a passport. So why bring it if you don’t have to?

In most circumstances, children under the age of 18 will not need a photo ID to board a plane if they are accompanied by an adult.

However, there are some circumstances where a photo ID or some official document may be needed for minors to board. Let’s break it down by age group and figure out what documentation your child will need (if anything) to fly.

Age: Newborn

This will vary by carrier, but most airlines will accept infants as young as 2 days old.

If you find yourself needing to board a plane with an infant less than 2 weeks old, you may be required by the airline to provide a note from your physician stating that the child is healthy enough to fly.

Since this can vary by airline, it is best to contact your carrier before you travel.

For example, American Airlines requires that a “special assistance coordinator” send a form directly to the physician for them to fill out.

Age: 0-2 Years Old

Once you pass the 2-week-old window, the only age questions you will come across are whether or not your child has turned 2 years old yet.

That is because children under the age of 2 can fly for free as a “lap child” on domestic flights as long as they are flying with an adult.

While you won’t be required to show an ID for the child when passing through security, at check-in the airline may require that you prove that the child is under the age of 2 because, obviously, if they are not, the airline will want to charge you for their seat.

Unless your child already has a passport that can be used to prove their birth date, you may need to bring a copy of their birth certificate.

While some airlines are more lenient than others, it is always best to come prepared. For example, Southwest Airlines is very strict as they always require a copy of the birth certificate or government issued photo ID at check-in if you want your little one to fly as a lap child.

Hot Tip: If your child turns 2 years old during a trip (hello Disney birthday vacation!), you will be required to pay for a full-priced ticket. This would be a good opportunity to book 2 one-way tickets in order to save a few dollars. 

Baby on American Airlines A321 Business Class
Kids under 2 years old fly for free as a “lap child.” Image Credit: Chris Hassan

Age: 2-18 Years Old

Once your child turns 2 years old they will be required to pay the full airfare and no longer be allowed to fly as a lap child — *cue the sad music*.

This also means that they won’t be required to prove their age anymore, which means that you don’t have to worry about traveling with additional ID for them.

Minors under the age of 18 will not need ID to pass through security, only a boarding pass to board the plane if they are accompanied by an adult.

Although it isn’t required, I always feel weird about traveling without some sort of ID for my kids. So, regardless of where we are traveling to, I will always have some sort of ID for them.

Sometimes that may mean a printed copy of their birth certificate or passport, or, at the very least, a photo of their passports on my cell phone.

Bottom Line: As long as a minor between the age of 2 and 18 is traveling with an adult they will not need a photo ID to board a plane. 

Minors Traveling Alone

Here is another circumstance where the information can become a little murky. Since exact requirements may vary by airline, it is best to contact your carrier directly if you plan on sending your child off on their own.

That being said, there are some basics that seem to be standard across the industry.

Child Travel Consent Form

A child travel consent form is a form that provides proof that the child is authorized to travel alone.

This form will often be provided by the airline — for example, American Airlines refers to it as an Unaccompanied Minor Service Form, and needs it to be completed with the information about who is dropping off the child and who will be picking them up at the final destination.

If the child is traveling alone, they may also be required to have a consent letter signed by both parents.

If the child has a deceased parent, the living parent or guardian will need to sign the consent form and attach a copy of the late spouse’s death certificate. Note: This may only be required for international travel. 

Little Girl Pulling Luggage In The Airport
Kids can pull or ride their JetKids BedBox through the airport. Image Credit: Chris Hassan

Minors Traveling Alone Ages 5-14

Children ages 5-14 are not required to show an ID at time of check-in, however, they are always encouraged to have some sort of ID on them during travel.

If your child already has a passport, at least send them with a copy of it in case of an emergency.

Minors Traveling Alone Ages 15-17

Children ages 15-17 may be required to provide some sort of identification including one of the following:

  • Driver’s license.
  • Learners permit.
  • Passport.
  • Passport card.
  • Credit card.
  • School ID.
  • Company ID.
  • Library card.
  • Birth certificate.
  • Social security card.
  • Organization ID (athletics club, theater group, etc.).
  • Proof of auto insurance in the passenger’s name.

Bottom Line: If your child will be traveling alone, it is best to send them with some sort of ID. Even better if it has their photo on it. 

18-Year-Old “Kids”

Even though your 18-year-old is legally an adult, they are still your little baby and you surely will want to have them prepared when they decide they want to go off on a trip with their friends. Spring Break anyone?

Well, now that he or she has turned 18, they are legally required to have a valid, current U.S. federal or state-issued photo ID.

The identification must contain a clear photo, date of birth, gender, expiration date and a tamper-resistant feature for travel to or from a U.S. territory. Expired documents will not be accepted.

The following is a list of acceptable forms of identification for boarding a U.S. domestic flight:

  • U.S. passport.
  • U.S. passport card.
  • DHS “Trusted Traveler” cards (Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, FAST).
  • U.S. Military ID.
  • Permanent Resident Card.
  • Border Crossing Card.
  • DHS-designated enhanced driver’s license.
  • Drivers’ licenses or other state photo identity cards issued by a Department of Motor Vehicles (or equivalent) that meets REAL ID requirements.
  • A Native American Tribal Photo ID.
  • An airline or airport-issued ID (if issued under a TSA-approved security plan).
  • A Registered Traveler Card (that contains a name, date of birth, gender, expiration date, and a tamper-resistant feature).
  • A foreign government-issued passport.
  • Canadian provincial driver’s license or Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) card.
  • Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC).

Hot Tip: TSA ID requirements are always changing, so if you have any concerns, it is always best to check directly on their website

Admirals Club Kid Room GRU
Admirals Club Kids Room at GRU. Image Credit: Chris Hassan

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, the answer is pretty simple: It’s better to be safe than sorry! If you have an ID for your little one, bring it! You might not need it, but it is better than being denied boarding.

But, to break it down, if you are flying internationally, your child will need a passport and potentially a travel visa as well.

If you are flying domestically and your baby will be flying as a lap child, you may be asked for proof at check-in that they are indeed younger than 2 years old.

If your child is flying domestically on their own ticket (not as a lap child) they probably won’t need any sort of ID until they are 18 years old.

Of course, there are always unique circumstances which we highlighted above, but in most cases, 1 of the 3 situations listed above will cover you.

Now, grab your little traveler and start exploring this crazy world! 

Frequently asked questions

Does my baby need a passport?

If your child will be flying out of the country, they will need a valid passport.

What kind of ID does a child need to fly?

Children under the age of 18 do not need an ID to fly on domestic flights inside of the United States as long as they are traveling with an adult.

What documents does a child need to travel without parents?

If a minor is traveling alone, they will need a signed parental consent form. More information in the above article.

Do kids pay for flights?

Children under the age of 2 can fly as a “lap child.” On domestic flights there is no cost; on international flights, it can cost up to 10% of the ticket value.

Chris Hassan

About Chris Hassan

Chris is from Boston and is currently living in Rio de Janeiro with his wife, two kids, and their dog, Shelby. When Chris was in college, he spent a semester abroad studying hotel and business management in Switzerland. That is where he caught the travel bug and met his wife. Quite a successful trip!

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  1. What about if he just turned 18 and has no ID?


  2. My husband and I are planning to travel to Florida with our daughter and my younger sister who is 13 years old. What kind of forms or ID will my sister need in order to travel with us since she is still a minor? Thank you!


  3. Can an adult travel with a God child with parental consent and what forms are necessary?


  4. My husband and I have custody of my grandson and will be traveling to Las Vegas for a wedding in September. What will I need to be able to get him through security? His dad will also be traveling with us but we have legal custody of him.


    • Hi Dawn,

      It shouldn’t be necessary to bring anything special if you have legal custody. Children under the age of 18 will not need an ID to board a plane if they are accompanied by an adult.


      • So if that’s the case why did you mention to someone else that “TSA recommends a signed and notarized consent letter from the child’s parent or parents”? They are clearly a minor from the question asked. So why the different answer?


        • Hi Daniel,

          Because the commenter mentioned that they are the legal guardian of the child. They also mentioned that the child’s birth father will be traveling with them. In the previous comment that you referenced the person in question was the godparent of the child, which is a religious deignation, not a legal one. So in that case, they are required to have consent from the legal parent or guardian in order to travel alone with the child.

          I hope that clears it up!


  5. Shane Worth January 23, 2020

    What will my 17 year old high school student need to travel on a domestic flight for a school trip? He will be accompanied by adults.


  6. Melzi Tabora February 4, 2020

    Do I need a letter of consent if travelling with my niece and we have the same last name? Will I need her birth certificate? TIA


    • Hi Melzi, there are a few important things you didn’t include in your question – how old is your niece and are you traveling internationally or domestically?

      To start, I would refer to the requirements in the section in the article as if your niece were traveling alone. Then, I would go ahead and contact your airline directly since exact requirements may vary by airline. Hope this helps!


  7. Marie Gutierrez March 6, 2020

    Hi! My 7 year old son just informed me that he will be traveling out of state (on a plane) with his father & girlfriend for spring break. Are there any loop holes he can jump through without my consent? He obviously had no intention of letting me know. This is not the first time… last time they drove out of state & never notified me.


    • Hi Marie,

      This can largely depend on the type of custody agreement that has been arranged between you and your child’s father. I recommend you consult with your attorney as, since we are just a travel website, we cannot give any sort of legal advice.

      Thanks for reading!


  8. Sibahle Magwele May 14, 2020

    I would like to know if my twelve-year-old son would be able to fly alone internationally with his birth certificate and if I would have to fill in out documents?


    • Hi Sibahle,

      Unaccompanied minor policies can vary from airline to airline. But generally speaking, anyone under the age of 17 who is flying alone on an international flight may be required to produce a signed letter of consent from a parent or guardian.


  9. Lisa Williams June 18, 2020

    My daughter is 15 years old and her New York state ID just recently expired on her 15th birthday. I want to know if she can ride on a plane without an adult and do I have to purchase a new ID for her?


    • Hi Lisa,

      Yes, your daughter can fly alone, but she will need some form of identification to do so – perferably one that has her photo on it. A state ID, passport, passport card, etc.

      Thanks for reading!


  10. We are flying in a week, domestic, with Delta and when I called the airline to ask, they said my kids (ages 2 and 4) would need their birth certificates. We have my daughters, but for some reason my son’s (4 yo) is not where it’s supposed to be. I have tried twice to call Delta and they keep hanging up on me saying to call back later because of call volumes. So does this go for all airlines? That they won’t need any sort of ID? They are traveling with both my husband and I.


    • Hi Tourin,

      That is very strange and I’m thinking that perhaps the phone rep at Delta was misinformed as you should not need to provide ID since you are traveling with them. Just their boarding passes should be sufficient.


  11. Kelly Pudvah July 4, 2020

    Does my 16 year old need and ID if he is traveling with his brother who is 18 years old?


    • Hi Kelly,

      No, your 16 year old should not need an ID since his brother is 18 and considered an adult.

      Thanks for reading!


  12. Ashlei Nicole July 13, 2020

    Will this also be true after the new October 1st 2020 United States domestic flights need a REAL ID or passport?


    • Hi Ashlei,

      Yes, this should still be the case as of October 1st, 2020. Children traveling with an adult should not need a REAL ID for domestic flights. They will still need a passport for international flights though.

      Thanks for reading!


  13. Hello!! I am 17 years old and I want to know if I can board the plane only with my school ID


    • Hi Adriana,

      If this is a domestic flight, minors under the age of 18 will not need ID to pass through security, only a boarding pass to board the plane if they are accompanied by an adult. If you will not be with an adult, a school ID is often acceptable, but it would be best to contact the airline directly.

      Of course, if you are flying internationally, you will need a passport.

      Safe travels!


  14. Jeremy Shepherd August 12, 2020

    I have 50 percent custody of my kids. Do I need a letter from there mother in order to take them on a plane? Flying from Alabama to Washington.


    • Hi Jeremy,
      Generally, whether you need written permission or not depends on your individual custody and visitation orders. Even if it isn’t spelled out clearly in the agreement, it is probably a good idea to get written permission as proof of the other parent’s consent to prevent any issues in the future.
      To be 100% certain, you should check with your lawyer.
      Safe travels!


  15. I am traveling with my 3 year old this month, Do I need to bring along his birth certificate? or any documents? He does not have any ID yet


    • Hey Zee,

      On domestic flights, children under the age of 18 will not need a photo ID to board a plane if they are accompanied by an adult. If you are flying internationally, you will obviously need a passport 🙂

      Thanks for reading & safe travels!


  16. What ID will my 15 year old need to travel from PA to Hawaii alone?


    • Hi Erin,

      Since your daughter will be traveling alone, she will need some sort of official ID with her photo on it. It could be a state ID, passport, passport card, or similar. You can double-check with the airline to see what other options might be acceptable.

      Thank you for reading!


  17. My daughter is two and I’m trying to travel from California to Florida. Would a birth certificate be okay to travel? Both her father and I will be traveling, or would I need a photo ID?


    • Hi Katie,

      Since you’re flying domestically, you won’t need to provide any sort of ID. Minors under the age of 18 will not need ID to pass through security, only a boarding pass to board the plane if they are accompanied by an adult.


  18. Sandra Garcia October 29, 2020

    My 16 year old needs to travel to Florida alone, she has not type of id since some DMV are closed and school too. Will she need one to travel?


    • Hi Sandra,

      Since exact requirements may vary by airline, it is best to contact your carrier directly if you plan on sending your child off on their own. They likely will need a child travel consent form and some sort of identification, but again these can vary from airline to airline.


  19. Erick Naran October 30, 2020

    My 15-year-old son’s id card expires next year, and it has his 3-year-old picture. Can he travel domestically with his parents? My younger daughter is 8 years old and her passport is expired. Can she also travel domestically with her birth certificate, because the passport renewal process is too long and our trip will be soon.


    • Hi Erick,

      For domestic travel, minors under the age of 18 will not need ID to pass through security, only a boarding pass to board the plane if they are accompanied by an adult.


  20. Can my 16 yr old granddaughter fly with her adult cousin and aunt from NJ to Florida without documentation? Or what would she need?


    • Hi Nancy,

      Minors under the age of 18 will not need ID to pass through security, only a boarding pass to board the plane if they are accompanied by an adult.


      • Tracie Queen March 23, 2021

        My sons’ 16-year-old friend wants to fly to Oregon with us. Is he able to since I’m not his parent?


        • Hi Tracie,

          Yes, he is able to travel with you all, but he will be required to provide some sort of identification at the airport in order to get through security.


  21. We want to travel out of state with my Fiancé’s 16-year-old brother. He doesn’t have an ID or passport. Can he still go with us? And would we need a letter from his parents saying he can fly with us?


    • Hi Vanessa,

      Minors under the age of 18 will not need ID to pass through security, only a boarding pass to board the plane as long as they are accompanied by an adult.


  22. I am 16 years old. I have a birth certificate for myself, I will be traveling with my 9-month-old son. But I only have his social security card. I will not be traveling with my parents. I will be traveling to my mom’s since I am with my dad this Christmas. What documents would I need?


    • Hi Sarah,

      All you should need is the boarding passes for you and your child, and some sort of identification for yourself – but your birth certificate should be sufficient.


  23. Nancy Watson December 25, 2020

    My daughter is traveling to Florida from South Carolina with her 4 yr old daughter. Her daughters last name is different than hers will she need any form or I’d to prove she is her daughter by birth?


  24. Michael Taylor December 29, 2020

    Do I need a REAL ID to fly from state to state?


    • Hi Michael,

      Starting on Oct 1, 2021, everyone 18+ will need either a REAL ID or another TSA-approved form of ID (like a passport) to fly. We have a whole article about the requirements and how to go about getting a REAL ID if you’re interested!


  25. caiden fryer January 4, 2021

    What does my son need to travel to New Jersey? He is 16 and he will be going alone.


    • Hi Caiden,

      Children ages 15-17 may be required to provide some sort of identification including one of the following:

      Driver’s license, Learners permit, Passport, Passport card, Credit card, School ID, Company ID, Library card, Birth certificate, Social security card, Organization ID (athletics club, theater group, etc.), Proof of auto insurance in the passenger’s name.


  26. I’m 15 and I’m going to travel to aurora colorado. I live in Bakersfield Ca and I’m going to travel alone. I want to know what I will need other than my parent’s consent?


  27. I’m going to be traveling with my 15-year-old friend. Will she need any form of parental consent? We are both considered minors.


    • Hi Jen,

      Yes, your friend should need a child travel consent form, along with some type of identification card.


      • My 15 year old son will be flying alone next month. Is it ok if I send him with a non-photo ID such as a birth certificate, learner’s permit, and/or SS card? I have all that and don’t want to mess with going to the DMV for a picture ID if he really doesn’t need it. It is a domestic flight.


  28. Cesar Mendoza January 31, 2021

    I’m 16 trying to travel with my 18-year-old sister. We are from Minnesota trying to go to Florida, what forms of ID would I need?


    • Hi Cesar,

      You would need to provide some sort of identification like a driver’s license, learner’s permit, social security card, etc. You’ll also need to provide a child travel consent form that has been signed by your parents.


  29. I’m turning 15 in February and plan to travel internationally to Mexico in June as an unaccompanied minor. Other than a form of ID, Parental consent, COVID-19 form, and passport, what other legal documents do I need to travel?


  30. What if a child only has one parent via invitro. Do they still need some type of consent form if traveling with their only parent?


  31. I’m from New York and I’m going to travel with my daughter who is 8 yrs old. I applied for her passport and I don’t have her birth certificate because it was needed for the passport application, which could take 10-16 weeks! We are flying in 14 days. Do I need to cancel my flight?


    • Hi Osmary,

      Is this a domestic flight? If so your daughter will not need an ID to fly with you. If this is an international flight then she will have to have her passport with her in order to fly – so if it does not arrive in time then unfortunately you will need to cancel your flight.


  32. I will be traveling to San Diego with my younger siblings who are 4 and 7. Will they need any sort of I’d or additional documents that I need to bring for them?


    • Hi Kalin,

      Minors under the age of 18 will not need ID to pass through security, only a boarding pass to board the plane if they are accompanied by an adult.


  33. Kristhine Martin February 26, 2021

    My son flew all the way to the Philippines from USA LAX. He was traveling with his grandmother, and I, the parent, had gotten a notarized travel consent for them to bring. It is seeming like with the pandemic, there was an extra form was needed called a WEG that was needed for him to enter the Philippines. The check-in desk at PAL at LAX failed to check if he had that paperwork and let him through and got him all the way to the Philippines. When they got to the airport in the Philippines, immigration stopped him because he didn’t have the right documents with him since he was considered a foreigner. Now he is basically being deported and needing to fly by himself back to the states at 14 years old. I don’t know what to do and what to think of this situation. I need help, please.


    • Hi Kristine,

      I’m very sorry to hear about your situation, and I’m sure it is very frustrating for both you and your son. Do you know what airline he will be flying back to the US with? If so, I recommend you contact the airline and see if they have what’s called an “Unaccompanied Minor Program”. Many airlines offer this as a way to make sure a minor flying by themselves is looked after and gets where they need to be.


  34. My daughter turner 18 in Dec. She is still in school and her hard copy state ID has not come in the mail yet. I have the temporary ID, her birth certificate, school ID and SS card. We fly out today, domestically. Is that enough for her to fly with us?


    • Hi Sheka,

      Yes, that will be fine. Minors under the age of 18 will not need ID to pass through security, only a boarding pass to board the plane if they are accompanied by an adult.


  35. My son will be 16 in May. He lives with me full time and has no relationship with his Dad but the court order says 50/50. We are flying from Canada to the US in April. Do I still need to get a letter from his Dad to fly? I know his Dad will not sign one just to be difficult. When I took my boys to Disneyland last year they said I really didn’t need the signed forms from their Dad especially because they where old enough to tell someone if they didn’t want to be with me.


Any thoughts or questions? Comment below!

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