Flying with kids can be stressful enough without also having to worry about all the rules and regulations you have to follow to ensure you won’t run into any problems at the airport.
Thankfully, in this article, we cover all the most common scenarios for what kids need to fly.
This includes for both domestic and international flights according to their age and by airline, as well as if they are flying with just one parent, no parents or completely unaccompanied.
In short, kids, which is anyone under 18 years old, don’t need ID when flying domestically.
When flying internationally, regardless of age, a passport is required. A travel visa may also be required depending on the destination.
Table of Contents
- 1 What Kids Need to Fly Domestic
- 2 What Kids Need to Fly Internationally
- 3 Do the ID and Documents Kids Need to Fly Vary By Airline?
- 4 Documentation Needed to Fly By a Child’s Age
- 5 What Kids Need to Fly With a Single Parent
- 6 What Minors Need to Fly Alone
- 7 Airport Security Process for Kids
What Kids Need to Fly Domestic
When flying domestic within the USA, kids younger than 18 do not need any ID as long as they are traveling with an adult who has an acceptable form of ID.
All that is required is a boarding pass for the child to pass through airport security.
The only exception to this may be with free or discounted tickets, where the airline could ask to see proof of age.
What Kids Need to Fly Internationally
When flying internationally, kids, regardless of age, need ID – more specifically, a passport is required.
If the country you are flying to require a travel visa, a kid will also need to apply for the visa.
Do the ID and Documents Kids Need to Fly Vary By Airline?
On all airlines in the USA, kids do not require ID to fly domestically, but do require ID when flying internationally.
So while the ID and travel documents kids need to fly don’t vary by airline, you should be aware that some airlines are stricter than others when it comes to showing proof of age for discounted fares.
ID and documentation can include:
- Child’s passport
- Child’s birth certificate
- Child’s immunization form or other medical records
Documentation Needed to Fly By a Child’s Age
Age: 0 – 2 Years Old
On all airlines, children under the age of 2 can fly for free as a lap child.
It’s recommended that you travel with a copy of your child’s government-issued photo ID or birth certificate to fly, as some airlines, like Southwest, can be very strict about this.
Age: 2 to 11 Years Old
Some, though not all, airlines offer discounted fares for children aged between 2 and 11.
Again, it’s a good idea to travel with some form of official documentation or ID that proves your child’s age
If a child is 12 years and older, they are usually required to pay the full fare.
On the plus side, no proof of age needs to be shown, which is, umm, something we guess.
What Kids Need to Fly With a Single Parent
The following applies when flying internationally.
If flying domestically, the following documentation is unnecessary.
If a kid is flying internationally with just one parent, additional documents are required:
- A notarized travel consent form that has been signed by both parents
- A copy of the passport or valid identification of the parent who is not traveling
One Parent is Deceased
If one of the child’s parents is deceased:
- A consent form of the living parent or guardian needs to signed
- A copy of the deceased parent’s death certificate is also required
If a parent has sole custody, they may be required to present a copy of the custody agreement that has been signed by both parents.
What Minors Need to Fly Alone
On Domestic Flights
- Children under 5 cannot fly alone
- Children 5 – 7 can travel alone on non-stop flights. Unaccompanied minor procedures are in place
- Children 8 – 11 (and 8 – 14 on some airlines) can usually travel alone on any flight. Unaccompanied minor procedures are in place
- Children 12 – 17 (and 15 – 17 on some airlines) can travel alone on any flight without any restrictions. Unaccompanied minor procedures are on request
On International Flights
Children 12 – 17 (and 15 – 17 on some airlines) can travel alone on any flight, but will require unaccompanied minor procedures
The requirements for a minor traveling alone can vary by airline, but generally a child travel consent form must be completed.
This form states who will be dropping off the child and who will be picking them up at the final destination.
A consent letter signed by both parents may also be required – or by the living parent or guardian in case of a deceased parent.
Airport Security Process for Kids
Infants and children should be removed from their carriers and then carried in arms through the walk-through metal detector.
Children 12 and under can leave their shoes, light jackets and headwear on during screening.
For children 13 years and older, TSA’s standard screening procedures apply.
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).