Essential ID Requirements For Flying with Minors

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If you’re a US citizen planning domestic or international travel, here’s a list of essential ID requirements for flying with minors. Our comprehensive guide will walk you through everything you need to know about essential documents when traveling with children, from passport requirements to consent letters and more.

mom and baby on airplane

We love traveling with kids! Traveling with children, offers so many benefits. It exposes children to diverse cultures, traditions, and ways of life, fostering open-mindedness and global awareness from an early age. It provides experiences to enhance education, bring textbook knowledge to life and spark curiosity about the world.

We hope you travel early and often with your children. However, it can be challenging, especially when it comes to understanding the proper documents you need for travel. Before you set out with your kids, make sure you gather all the essential ID requirements for flying with minors.

Passport Requirements for Children

All US citizens, regardless of age, must have a valid passport for international travel. Parents can apply for passports on your own or use expediting services like Travel Visa Pro services to make the process quicker, easier, and smoother. Here are the key points to remember when obtaining a passport for a child:

  • Both parents or legal guardians must be present when applying for a child’s passport.
  • If one parent cannot be present, they must provide a notarized Form DS-3053 (Statement of Consent).
  • Children under 16 must apply in person at a passport acceptance facility.
  • Passports for children under 16 are valid for 5 years, while those for 16 and 17-year-olds are valid for 10 years.

Required documents for a child’s passport application:

  • Proof of US citizenship (birth certificate, previous passport, or naturalization certificate)
  • Proof of parental relationship (birth certificate, adoption decree, or court order)
  • Parents’ identification documents
  • Passport photo meeting specific requirements
  • Completed DS-11 application form.

Make sure you apply for a child’s passport well in advance of your travel dates, as processing times can vary. Standard processing can take 6-8 weeks, while expedited service (for an additional fee) typically takes 2-3 weeks. In urgent situations, you can make an appointment at a passport agency for even faster processing, but you’ll need to provide proof of imminent travel.

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A travel consent letter is a document that gives permission for a child to travel without one or both parents or legal guardians. While not always legally required, having a consent letter can prevent misunderstandings and potential delays. Here are scenarios where a consent letter is recommended:

  • One parent traveling alone with the child
  • Child traveling with grandparents or other relatives
  • Child traveling with a school group or sports team
  • Child traveling alone as an unaccompanied minor

A well-drafted consent letter should include:

  • Full names and contact information of all parties involved (child, parents/guardians, accompanying adult)
  • Child’s date of birth and passport information
  • Travel dates and destinations
  • Purpose of travel
  • Any special medical needs or allergies
  • Emergency contact information
  • Signatures of consenting parents/guardians.

While there’s no standardized format for consent letters, many templates are available online. It’s wise to have the letter notarized to add an extra layer of authenticity. Some countries may require the letter to be in their official language, so consider having it translated.

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Domestic Travel Documentation

For domestic flights within the US, children under 18 don’t need to show ID at the TSA checkpoint. However, it’s always better to have some form of identification for your child, for example:

  • Birth certificate
  • Passport (if available)
  • School ID

Airlines may have their own policies regarding unaccompanied minors or children traveling with only one parent, so check with your specific carrier before traveling. Some airlines may require a consent letter or other documentation even for domestic travel, particularly if the child is traveling with only one parent or someone who is not their legal guardian.

International Travel Considerations

When traveling internationally with children, additional documentation may be required:

  1. Visas: Check the visa requirements for your destination country. Some countries require visas for all travelers, including children. The application process for child visas may differ from adult visas, so start this process early.
  2. Immunization records: Certain countries may require proof of specific vaccinations. Carry your child’s immunization records, especially when traveling to developing countries. Some nations may require vaccinations that aren’t standard in the US, so consult with a travel clinic well before your departure date.
  3. Medical authorization: Consider carrying a notarized medical authorization form allowing you to make medical decisions for your child in case of emergencies. This can be crucial if your child needs urgent medical care while abroad.
  4. Birth certificate: Even if your child has a passport, carrying a copy of their birth certificate can be helpful in proving parentage if questioned. Some countries may require an apostille on the birth certificate for it to be recognized internationally.
  5. Custody documents: If you’re a divorced or separated parent, bring copies of relevant custody agreements or court orders. These should clearly state your right to travel with the child.

Special Considerations for Adoptive Parents

Adoptive parents should carry additional documentation when traveling with their adopted children:

  • Adoption decree or court order
  • Post-adoption birth certificate (if available)
  • Original birth certificate and any documents that certify name change
  • Naturalization certificate, if the child was born abroad and has since become a US citizen.

These documents can help prove your relationship to the child if questioned by border officials. It’s also wise to carry a letter from your adoption agency explaining the situation, especially if traveling shortly after the adoption or if the child’s appearance differs significantly from yours.

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Traveling with Children Who Are Not Your Own

If you’re traveling with children who are not your own (e.g., grandchildren, nieces, nephews), you’ll need to take extra precautions to make sure you have all ID requirements for flying with minors.

  • Have a notarized consent letter from their parents or legal guardians.
  • Carry copies of the children’s birth certificates.
  • Have contact information for the children’s parents readily available.
  • Consider obtaining temporary guardianship if traveling for an extended period.

In addition to these steps, it’s wise to have a letter from the parents explaining the reason for travel and your relationship to the child. If possible, have the parents provide a power of attorney document allowing you to make medical decisions for the child in case of emergencies.

Unaccompanied Minor Travel

If your child is traveling alone, most airlines offer unaccompanied minor services. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Age restrictions vary by airline, typically ranging from 5 to 14 years old.
  • Additional fees apply for this service, which can range from $50 to $150 each way.
  • You’ll need to provide detailed information about the person meeting the child at their destination, including their ID details.
  • The child should carry identification, travel documents, and a copy of the unaccompanied minor form.
  • Pack a small carry-on with essentials, including any necessary medications, snacks, and entertainment.

When using unaccompanied minor services, you’ll typically be allowed to accompany your child to the gate. The airline staff will escort the child onto the plane and ensure they’re comfortable. At the destination, the designated person picking up the child will need to show ID and sign for the child’s release.

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Tips for Smooth Travel with Children

  1. Start planning early: Begin gathering necessary documents well in advance of your trip. Some documents can take weeks or even months to obtain, so don’t leave this to the last minute.
  2. Make copies: Create multiple copies of all important ID requirements for flying with minors. Three sets of them should be kept: one in your luggage, one on you, and one at home with a reliable friend or relative. This can be a lifesaver if documents are lost or stolen during your trip.
  3. Use digital backups: Scan all documents and store them securely in the cloud for easy access if physical copies are lost. Make sure these are password-protected and encrypted for security.
  4. Check expiration dates: Ensure all passports and other time-sensitive documents are valid for at least six months beyond your return date. Some countries won’t allow entry if your passport is due to expire within six months.
  5. Research destination requirements: Different countries may have specific rules about how kids can enter. For the most up-to-date information, contact the embassy or consulate of the country you want to visit. Don’t rely solely on travel websites, as requirements can change quickly.
  6. Prepare your child: Discuss the travel process with your child, including what to expect at security checkpoints and during the journey. This can help everyone feel less anxious and enjoy the experience more.
  7. Pack smart: Keep all important documents easily accessible in your carry-on luggage. Consider using a document organizer to keep everything in one place.
  8. Allow extra time: Arrive at the airport earlier than usual to account for any potential document checks or questions. A good rule of thumb is to arrive at least three hours before international flights when traveling with children.
  9. Be prepared for questions: Border officials may ask children questions to ensure their safety. Prepare your child for this possibility and reassure them it’s a normal part of the process. Practice some simple questions and answers with your child before the trip.
  10. Stay informed: Keep abreast of any changes in travel regulations or documentation requirements, especially in light of global events that may impact travel policies. Sign up for travel alerts from the US State Department for your destination countries.


Traveling with children requires extra preparation and documentation, but the rewards of sharing new experiences as a family are immeasurable. By understanding the necessary documentation, obtaining appropriate consent letters, and following best practices, you can ensure a smoother, more enjoyable journey for everyone involved.

Remember, regulations and requirements can change, so always check with official sources such as the US Department of State, Transportation Security Administration, and the embassies or consulates of your destination countries for the most current information. With careful planning and the right ID requirements for flying with minors, be well-prepared for all your family adventures.

About Michelle Marine

Michelle Marine is the author of How to Raise Chickens for Meat, a long-time green-living enthusiast, and rural Iowa mom of four. She empowers families to grow and eat seasonal, local foods; to reduce their ecological footprint; and to come together through impactful travel.

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