What Do Kids Need for ID During Air Travel?

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Children don't need as much documentation as adults to board an airplane.
Children don't need as much documentation as adults to board an airplane. (Image: Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)

In the years since Sept. 11, 2001, traveling by airplane has become a hectic process that requires a lot of patience and understanding on the part of travelers. Following the correct procedures and bringing the required documents to the airport can make the experience more enjoyable for everyone. While adults must carry photo IDs at all times in an airport, the rules are a little different when it comes to children.

Going Through Security

The first thing a traveler must do is get through airport security screening. While most kids do not need ID at the airport for domestic flights, it is usually necessary to show the child's boarding pass at the security gate.

Domestic Flights

Each airline makes its own rules on whether children need ID to board a plane. In most cases, children do not need ID when flying within the United States, but it is a good idea to call ahead and check with the airline before going to the airport. A few airlines require a birth certificate for proof of age.

International Flights

Anyone flying to any destination outside the United States needs a passport. This includes babies and young children, as well as adults. To get a passport, you must fill out a DS-11 form, have two passport photos, pay a passport fee, show photo ID and provide proof of U.S. citizenship with a Social Security number and birth certificate. To apply for a passport for the first time, a child must appear in person along with both parents. Passport application processing can take six weeks or more.

Unaccompanied Minors

If a child is traveling without an adult companion, the adult dropping off the child at the airport and the adult picking up the child at the destination airport must show ID. Arrangements also must be made ahead of time with the airline to provide the name and contact information of the adult picking up the child once the flight reaches its destination. The adult bringing the child to the airport must stay with the child until boarding begins for the flight.

Safety Measures

Even though a photo ID is generally not required for children traveling by plane, it's advisable to have some kind of ID for a child in case the child and parents become separated, or if a child is flying alone.

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