Traveling with children or allowing your older child to travel alone can be scary. Know their rights to make traveling easier and smoother for you.
If you’re traveling with children through age 2 do not require tickets for domestic travel in the U.S.; however, they will not be given an assigned seat nor any baggage allowance unless you purchase a ticket for them. If the plane is full, any child 2 years or younger will be expected to sit on an accompanying adult’s lap.
Several airlines are now offering discounted infant fares to allow the use of a child seat as well as reservations and an increased baggage allowance. Discounts for the additional seats to be used by infants in an infant seat are normally 50 percent.
If you’re traveling with children on international flights, children aged 2 and younger are required to pay 10 percent of the adult fare. They receive no benefits, seat or baggage allowance for that payment.
NOTE: While traveling internationally, solo parents traveling with children must carry a letter of consent from the absent parent. Carry these letters especially when traveling to Mexico, Canada, South America and Australia.
HAVE YOUR PAPERS AND YOUR CHILD’S PAPERS IN ORDER. OFFICIALS AT INTERNATIONAL BORDERS CAN BE VERY PICKY ABOUT THESE DOCUMENTS.
One of the challenges for parents, guardians, and chaperones of minors (boys and girls under the age of 18) is travel documentation for the minor. Children, even newborns, need government-accepted identification, proof of citizenship, and often, documentation that the child has permission to travel internationally with the adult(s) accompanying them.
This documentation has become necessary due to the increasing incidents of child abductions, including custodial abduction and illegal trafficking of children for child pornography and prostitution.
Obtaining the necessary documentation for traveling with children can be time-consuming and expensive. It must precisely meet your destination country’s requirements.
The laws governing entry and exit vary widely from nation to nation. If you’re a U.S. citizen, consult the State Department’s country specific information for the documentation requirements when traveling with children for your destination. Here’s a sample of just three countries’ requirements:
“If you plan to travel to Canada with a minor who is not your own child or for whom you do not have full legal custody, CBSA may require you to present a notarized affidavit of consent from the minor’s parents.”
“Where BOTH parents are traveling with a child, parents must produce an unabridged birth certificate of the child reflecting the particulars of the parents of the child.
In the case of ONE parent traveling with a child, he or she must carry an unabridged birth certificate and…consent in the form of an affidavit (issued no earlier than 3 months prior to travel dates) from the other parent registered as a parent on the birth certificate of the child authorizing him or her…”
A consent to travel document is required and can be filled out online, but the form is strictly in Spanish. You can have a consent document created “independently-produced,” but if it is, it must be in Spanish or, if in English, it must be accompanied by a Spanish translation.
Orignially written by Ned Levi — Travelers United https://travelersunited.org/getting-there/essential-documentation-when-traveling-internationally-with-a-child/
Infants and infant seats
Infant seats are now recommended, not required, by the Federal Aviation Administration, but in most cases, you’ll have to pay full fare for the seat your child occupies to reserve and guarantee a place.
If the infant seat is not FAA-approved, some airlines will not allow you to bring it aboard — you may wish to ask the airline for a list of approved infant seats. However, with the exception of homemade car seats or baby feeder seats, almost every car seat manufactured today meets FAA standards. Go online to the FAA — http://www.faa.gov/passengers/fly_children/ -— for their booklet, Child/Infant Safety Seats Recommended for Use in Aircraft.
There are several options for avoiding the purchase of an extra ticket for an infant:
Hold the child on your lap during the flight. If you do this, traveling with children under the age of 2 fly free domestically and for 10 percent of full adult fare internationally. One “carry-on” child is allowed per adult.
NOTE: The 10 percent you pay for an infant on an international flight does not pay for a guaranteed seat — you still are expected to hold the child on your lap should the flight be full.
Some parents prefer a bulkhead seat with a bassinet. The bassinet can be used after takeoff for small infants, but you still must hold the infant on your lap for takeoff and landing. Make your request for a bassinet early. Some airlines are more helpful with bassinets than others. Some provide bassinets, others don’t. Check with your airline. Ask other parents about their experiences and check websites and blogs for more information.
Many parents feel bulkhead seats are undesirable since there is no under-seat storage, the armrests don’t fold up and down, and some don’t have tables. Unless using a bassinet, another seat may be best.
Bring your own infant seat with you on the plane and hope for an empty seat next to you. Most airlines will allow you to use the infant seat on a space-available basis. But the seat must be small enough to fit under your seat or in an overhead compartment should the seat next to yours not be empty.
Most major airlines will reserve the seat next to you if you are traveling with an infant. That seat will only be used if the flight is full.
Bring your own infant food or ask the airline specifically whether baby-food meals are available. Call at least 24 hours in advance.
Unaccompanied minors (and older children)
There are no Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations concerning travel by “unaccompanied minors,” but the airlines have specific procedures to protect the well-being of youngsters flying by themselves.
DOT has an online booklet to help families who need to send children on airlines alone. It can be accessed at — http://airconsumer.ost.dot.gov/publications/kidsalone.pdf.
Though the charges are the same for minors and adults, the rights to travel are not. On most airlines, unaccompanied children under the age of 5 are not permitted.
Unaccompanied minors 5 to 15 years of age may be accepted on a flight and must be accompanied by a responsible adult until the child is boarded. The child must be met by a responsible adult. The unaccompanied minor fee depends on the airline — some major airlines only charge $50 and others as much as $150.
Reservations must be confirmed to the destination. Children making connections will be assisted by the airline (if your child is changing airlines, make sure airline personnel will “hand off” your child to the next carrier — most won’t, so plan on a single airline flight). Again, the child must be accompanied by a responsible adult until boarding and met by a responsible adult with proper identification upon arriving.
Unaccompanied children 16 through 17 years of age may receive assistance making connecting flights upon request, depending on the airline.
Many airlines charge an additional fee to escort a child onto another plane when making connections.
When sending a young child on an airline journey alone, check the airline policy. Also, make arrangements to take your child to the gate. If parents are not allowed to enter the secure airport area, make sure that the appropriate airline personnel are there to take over supervision of the child.
Tips for parents sending their children on a flight:
- Try to make the reservations on a nonstop or direct flight. In some cases this is required.
- Introduce your child to the gate agent and REMIND the agent that your child will need assistance changing planes when appropriate.
- Let the cabin crew know if this is the child’s first flight — they will do their best to reassure the child.
- Do not book your child on the last flight of the evening. In the event of a delay or missed connection, the child will have to spend the night alone in a strange city.
- Tuck in a pocket or in a pouch around the child’s neck all identification information, with the child’s name and destination, the flight numbers and schedule, your name, your address, your phone number, and whether any luggage was checked.
- Give the child some spending money for movie headsets, phone calls, or food in case of a delay. Let them know what is free and what they have to pay for.
- Try to get a window seat.
- Give your child games and books to help keep him or her occupied during the flight.
- Order a child’s meal 4 to 24 hours in advance, depending on the airline.
- Let children know who will be picking them up at the airport when they arrive.
- Tell the person picking up your child on the other end of the flight to bring proper identification. No airline will release a child without it. Children will only be released to adults listed on a travel card or the Unaccompanied Minor Forms, provided by the airline.
- Do not leave the airport until the aircraft has actually taken off.
- Call ahead to let the folks meeting the flight know what time the plane actually took off.
- Review the airline policies for dealing with unaccompanied minors.
- Make sure the child/children have a cell phone and know how to use it.
- Use websites such as FlightStats to track the flight.
Older children who are too old to travel under an airline’s unaccompanied child program, face many issues. The most important is that the child will have to deal with any travel problem that comes up.
- Lost, stolen, damaged baggage
- Airline security issues
- Flight delays and cancellations
- Personal safety
- Remember most hotels will not accept young people who are not accompanied by an adult.
- Make sure children have some money and know that they can contact police or airline personnel should they have any questions.
Prepare children for common air travel problems and make sure that your child understands what to do in these situations. Traveling with children can be a fun and exciting experience, but know your rights!