If you are expecting and are trying to plan future travel, you might be a bit confused how you can book a ticket for someone who is yet to enter the world.

I had this problem myself and was as equally confused when I needed to book a ticket for my unborn child a few years ago.

Fortunately, it’s actually pretty easy, though it is a bit of a gray area.

When You Don’t Need to Buy a Ticket

You don’t actually have to purchase a ticket for babies that will be brought onto the plane as a “lap child”.

A lap child is simply when you bring your baby onto the plane, take your seat, and hold onto them during the flight.

If you are traveling domestically within the U.S., all children under 2 can fly for free as a lap child, though practically all airlines will require a boarding pass.

a newly born baby

The exception is United, where a child under 2 isn’t required to have a boarding pass at all.

You can obtain a boarding pass for lap children at the check-in counter at the airport.

When You Do Need to Buy a Ticket

Holding your baby throughout the entire flight can soon get pretty tiring, and the FAA actually recommend that children under the age of two should be place in an “approved child restraint system (CRS)” for safety.

If you don’t want to bring your little one onto the plane as a lap child, you will need to buy them a plane ticket.

You will therefore need to do the following:

  1. Enter a fake name, or the name you are planning to give your baby, or simply “Baby”.
  2. Enter their surname
  3. Enter a fictitious date of birth that is before the due date, as you will likely run into an error if you try to input a date in the future.

For children who are up to 40 inches tall and who weigh between 22 and 44 pounds, the FAA recommend AmSafe’s Child Aviation Restraint System (CARES).

Related: Can You Fly With a Newborn? (What the Experts Say)

You Probably Won’t Need to Bring a Birth Certificate

An airline might ask you to present your baby’s birth certificate if they look older than 2 years old, and you are trying to take advantage of lap children flying for free.

A U.S. birth certificate issued by the Department of Health
A U.S. birth certificate issued by the Department of Health

But considering that if you are reading this article, you are unlikely to be making travel plans for two years in the future, you likely won’t need to present a birth certificate.

What About Frequent Flyer Programs?

When it comes to flying with an unborn baby and the airline’s frequent flyer program, you have two choices.

  1. Wait until your baby is born, and then allow them to earn miles through the airline’s frequent flyer program.
  2. Once your baby has been born, contact the airline to amend their details associated with their frequent flyer account, including their name and date of birth.

What About International Travel?

Regardless of age, all flyers need a passport to be able to travel internationally.

In other words, it will be impossible to book a flight for an unborn baby because you won’t know their date of birth.

World map with a plane covering North America

However, you might be able to book a ticket and then contact the airline to amend their date of birth.

The name of the ticket must also match their passport.

Ella Dunham, a Freelance Travel Journalist and Marketing Manager, boasts an impressive career spanning eight years in the travel and tourism sectors.

Honored as one of "30 Under 30" by TTG Media (the world’s very first weekly travel trade newspaper), a "Tour Operator Travel Guru" and "Legend Award" winner, Ella is also a Fellow of the Institute of Travel, a Member of the Association of Women Travel Executives, has completed over 250 travel modules, and hosts travel-focused segments on national radio shows where she provides insights on travel regulations and destinations.

Ella has visited over 40 countries (with 10 more planned this year).