How old does a baby have to be to fly? This question is a popular one and I’m constantly asked how old my daughters were on their first trip. As someone who loved to travel prior to having kids and frequently traveled pregnant I knew having kids wouldn’t limit my travels. My eldest took first trip was at 6 weeks on a flight from New York to Miami to visit family. Her first international flight was to Jamaica at 8 months doing an island tour and visiting Ocho Rios, St. Elizabeth, Negril and Portland.
With my youngest we had to move cross country immediately after her delivery and flew with her at 11 days old. When I was telling friends and family how soon we were traveling with her they all said “Can a baby fly that young?” Yes a baby can! Here is more information on how old a baby has to be to fly and practical tips for traveling with young kids.
Get the Go Ahead From Your Pediatrician to Fly with a Newborn
When we flew with our newborn we got the go ahead from her pediatrician before buying our plane ticket. Everyone has different views on vaccinations but as we flew with one child for the first time at 11 days old she obviously hadn’t completed her first round of vaccines. We spoke with our pediatrician and she gave us the go ahead to fly. She moved one of her visits up as a last check up and we got the final go ahead the day before our flight. I suggest purchasing travel insurance for any flights with newborns in case you need to cancel. We needed to travel so early because we had to move from New York to Miami and I wasn’t really about a 16 hour+ road trip with an infant. Just imagine all the stops we’d have to make to nurse, burp, and change her diaper!
How Old Does a Baby Have to Be to Fly on Each Airline
No matter how comfortable you are with traveling with a newborn the airline you book will dictate the age they’re okay with. Always check their age restrictions before booking a flight with young kids. While one airline may allow babies as young as two days others may have age minimums as high as 7 or 14 days. American Airlines allows babies as young as 2 days old to fly. JetBlue has a restriction of 3 days, however they do require a doctors note for children under 14 days old. Other airlines start allowing babies to fly at 14 days old and do not require a physicians note. Be sure to double check with the specific airline below as rules are always changing.
Documents Needed When Traveling with Young Children
While kids under 16 don’t require any ID to fly domestic, if you’re traveling with a newborn or lap infant you’ll want to travel with some documents. When the airline you’re flying requires a doctors note for kids under a certain age be sure to get one! Whether they are just a few days old or even two weeks from the minimum age bring their birth certificate or immunization forms to verify their age. Seriously, who can tell the difference between a 7 and 8 day old!
The same goes for traveling with lap infants. Even though without a seat infants under two fly for free sitting in an adults lap always bring their birth certificate, immunization records, or passport if they have one. While most people can tell a six week old isn’t two, Southwest Airlines has been notorious for asking to see proof of age even for kids clearly under two.
I have yet to be asked for ID for my children but I carry their passports with me each time to be safe. Once at the airport I saw a very angry parent get turned away when the he couldn’t provide proof of age for his lap child. The gate agents would only allow him to board the flight with his daughter if he paid for a ticket for her on the spot since he could not prove she was under two. Not only is buying a plane ticket the day of expensive, there is no guarantee the flight will have available seats to purchase. Better to be safe than sorry!
When my daughter was 10 weeks we had an amazing time in Cartagena, Colombia but before you book an international flight make sure your child has a passport. All kids regardless of age require one, here is an easy guide to applying for your child’s passport.
Documents Needed for Traveling with Kids Without Both Parents
If you are traveling internationally with a child without one or both parents you may be required to provide proof of consent. Some countries require this while others don’t but it’s better to be safe than sorry. Cruise lines also require this form or one found on their website. I traveled to Italy with my daughter without my husband and while Delta Airlines didn’t ask me for a consent letter when checking in for our flight Royal Caribbean requested one when embarking the ship. The agent really looked through my letter and we would have been turned away if we didn’t have one. You can make a free travel consent form here.
If you have sold custody of the child you will need to provide proof of this in the form of:
- Court order granting sole legal custody
- Judicial declaration of incompetence of the non-present parent
- Death certificate of the non-present parent
- Certified copy of the child’s birth certificate listing you as the only parent
- Certified copy of an adoption decree listing you as the only parent
Once you have all the document needed to fly be sure to prepare yourself for getting through security with kids, flying with babies, flying with toddlers, or surviving long haul flights with kids.
Flying with Newborns is Typically Easier
People were always surprised I traveled with my daughters at such a young age. Since we’ve continued to travel with them I can confidently say traveling with kids 5 months and younger is actually the easiest. When traveling with kids in the newborn stage they don’t need anything! Just nurse or give them a bottle and change their diaper and you’re set. You don’t have to worry about them wanting to crawl or be on the move or entertaining toddlers.
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Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help
The hardest part of flying with young children is using the bathroom! My go to trick was to always wear my baby in her carrier and use the toilet that way. However, often times the flight attendants at the back of the plane would offer to hold the baby while I used the bathroom. Don’t be afraid to ask, most people are quite helpful.
Deciding How Young is Too Young to Fly is a Personal Choice
At the end of the day deciding how old a baby has to be to fly is really up to your comfort level. At the same time it’s always great to learn from others’ experiences. We had an Instagram conversation around this question where many parents weighed in about how old their child was on their first trip and their experience. Check it out for insight and it’s not too late to add your own comments to help other parents in the future as well. You can leave them below and/or on that Instagram post. If you’ve made the decision to fly with your infant here are 8 tips on flying with babies and 3 things to consider when traveling with young kids.
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