Does My Child Need ID to Fly?

Boy playing with toy plane in airplane
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Does your child need some form of identification to board a plane? It depends. When a minor takes a trip on a plane, there are situations where ID is required and others where it is not. Generally, children don't need ID when traveling domestically, but they do need ID when traveling internationally.

Illustration depicting what a child needs to travel on a plane

When Your Child Does Not Need ID to Fly

When flying domestically within the U.S., children typically do not need to show ID.

  • Flying within the United States when accompanied by an adult. The TSA and most airlines do not require children under age 18 to provide ID when traveling with an adult companion who has acceptable identification. This includes family trips when a child flies with their parents. This will continue to be the case when REAL ID becomes a required identification for domestic air travel. Still, every airline has its own rules about minors and identification—and some do require ID for kids—so contact your airline a few days before your trip to know exactly what you need to bring. If your child is traveling with only one parent or with an adult who is not their parent, it is advisable, though not necessary, to fill out a Child Travel Consent Form and send it with your child.
  • Flying as an unaccompanied minor within the United States. Even though an unaccompanied minor does not typically need to show identification, adults accompanying the minor through the airport need to bring their own identification to complete the process. It's also recommended to have your child's birth certificate or passport handy. If your kids are old enough to speak, security might ask them to say their names to confirm identification, so prepare your kids for this. Be sure to contact your airline to confirm all rules regarding unaccompanied minors well before your trip so that there are no surprises upon your arrival at the airport.

When Your Child Does Need ID to Fly

Identification is always required for international travel, and in some cases, you'll need to fill out additional paperwork for your child.

  • Flying internationally. In general, each adult in your party will need a passport, and minor children will need either passports or original birth certificates. The name on the airline ticket must be identical to the name on the passport or birth certificate. Keep each child's passport handy since you might have to show it at check-in and security checkpoints.
  • Flying internationally with only one parent or without parents at all. Documentation becomes more complicated when one parent or guardian travels out of the country alone with a minor. In general, besides passports, you should bring written consent from the child's biological parent(s) and the child's birth certificate. Additional paperwork is required if your minor child travels alone or with someone other than a parent or legal guardian—for instance, on a school trip with a teacher. A Child Travel Consent Form is a legal document that allows a minor child to travel without both parents or legal guardians present. It is advisable to complete such forms for all travel, not just international travel, but it is crucial when a minor is traveling outside the country. Even if the TSA allows your child through the airport in the U.S., immigration officials in your child's destination country may turn your child back if they do not have a consent form.

Getting a Passport for Your Child

Apply for a new passport for your child several weeks before you need it, and make a copy to take with you alongside the original. You can also obtain a less-expensive passport card, which permits U.S. citizens to travel by land within the U.S. and to Canada, Mexico, and some Caribbean countries and territories.