When planning to travel by land, sea, or air with your little one, you’ll need to be prepared with the correct documents in hand to prevent avoidable heartbreaks or delays. We started traveling with our son when he was 3 months old and I know that I wanted to be overprepared — Detailed explanations and exceptions will follow (below), but here is a quick list of the 6 documents that you may need to travel with an infant internationally:
- Birth certificate
- Boarding Pass
- Vaccination record
- Physician’s note
- Notarized parental consent letter
*The following information applies to infants who are US citizens.
What Documents Does a Baby Need to Travel Internationally?
Your baby (aged 0-2) may need up to 6 important documents to fly internationally, depending on your airline, destination, and the circumstances of your travels (such as whether or not it’s a land border, whether you’re flying or driving, or whether you’re traveling alone or with the other parent present — these kinds of details are important).
Please carefully review the table below to find out which documents you’ll need to travel with your infant.
|Document||Is it Needed? + Important Details|
|Passport||Yes, when flying internationally, your infant will need to have a passport.|
The exception: Minors (aged 0-15) traveling between the US and Canadian border or the US and Mexican border, by LAND or SEA, can cross with just their birth certificates (this is not applicable to flying). (Source; Source)
|Birth certificate||No, a birth certificate is not required if you have a passport for your baby, but it is a good idea to have it with you just in case you need to prove that you are indeed the legal parent(s). |
Your child’s birth certificate has your name(s) on it and is a quick and simple way to prove your parentage if asked (this is rare but a possibility).
|Boarding pass||Yes, your infant will need a boarding pass even if they are flying for free as a lap infant or at a reduced rate. |
Airlines will require you to include your lap infant on your reservation and they will be issued their own boarding pass or their name will be included on your boarding pass.
Make sure to let the airline know that you’re bringing a lap infant with you, even if they are flying for free or at a reduced rate. They will often try to seat you in a row more appropriate for a baby (such as a bulkhead row and not an emergency exit) and may even try to keep the seat next to you empty if possible.
|Vaccination record||No, for most international travel destinations, infants will not need to show proof of vaccination. |
However, there are exceptions depending on the country where you are traveling, so it’s always best to research the specific area you’re going — For example, some subtropical areas require a yellow fever vaccine.
Even if you don’t need the documentation to fly, the CDC recommends that all infants and children have their routine vaccines, including their first dose of measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) before international travel. (Source)
|Physician’s note||Yes, if your infant is 7 days old or younger, many airlines will require a physician’s note stating that they are healthy enough to fly.|
If your infant is older than 7 days, you will not need a physician’s note for most airlines.
Air travel is appropriate for most healthy, full-term infants but there are some issues to consider, such as maintaining good hygiene and protecting their ears. (Source)
|Notarized parental consent letter||Yes, if you’re flying alone with your infant (without the other legal parent present), airlines or immigration may ask you to present a Minor Travel Consent Form or a notarized letter signed by the other parent stating that it is okay for you to be taking the child abroad.|
This has become increasingly necessary due to the rise in instances of child abduction – particularly instances of custody cases and human trafficking. (Source)
Even though the airlines and/or immigration officer may not ask for this, it is in your best interest to bring one anyway just in case, if you are traveling alone.
Does a Baby Need a Passport to Travel Internationally?
An infant (aged 0-2), just like anyone else, needs to show a passport to travel internationally — The exception being that minors (aged 0-15) traveling between the US and Canadian border or the US and Mexican border, by LAND or SEA, can cross with just their birth certificates (this is not applicable to flying) [Source; Source]. Everyone, including infants and minors, need a passport to travel internationally by air.
It’s better to be on the safe side and get your baby’s passport as soon as possible if you’re planning on traveling internationally with them. To get your baby a passport, follow the State Department Travel guidelines.
At What Age Can a Baby Travel Internationally?
Although there is no age at which babies are officially prevented from traveling internationally, infants less than 48 hours old are advised by the WHO to avoid air travel, and advise parents to wait until the infant is at least 7 days old. Still, many parents will wait until 2-3 months, due to concerns such as lack of routine infant vaccines and passport requirements.
Many airlines have policies requiring that babies less than 7 days old carry a physician’s note with them, clearing them for air travel.
In many cases, you will need time in order to complete the paperwork for your baby’s passport anyway, and will have to wait for it to be processed — unless you are planning on traveling with your baby’s birth certificate only (by land or sea between the US and Mexico or Canada).
Additionally, the CDC lists many, many health considerations that parents should be aware of when traveling with an infant internationally (including preventing food and water illnesses, and making sure to buy family health insurance).
Because of these concerns, it may be more appropriate for you to wait until your infant is at least 2-3 months old before traveling with them. Of course, talk to your doctor to find out the best course of action.
The Mayo Clinic states that air travel is appropriate for most healthy, full-term babies but that parents should be aware of certain issues and make the proper preparations before taking your baby on a plane. These include:
- Hygiene — Your baby’s immune system is not yet fully formed and they will not have their first round of routine vaccinations until 2 months of age. We can make sure to practice good hygiene during our travels, such as wearing a mask and wiping down the seat armrests and tray table.
- Ear pressure — The changing pressure in an airplane may upset your baby so having a pacifier or something for your child to suck on is important.
- Safety seat — it’s recommended that your child be in a safety seat (which isn’t always in our plans for a lap infant flying for free)
Documents Needed for Child Traveling Alone with One Parent
If you’re traveling alone with your baby internationally and your partner also shares custody of your child, make sure to bring a notarized and signed consent letter with you. Because of international parental kidnapping cases, there are some protections in place that require one parent to present a letter or a Minor Travel Consent Form in order to take a child abroad on their own.
This is actually for your best interest — your partner also needs a consent letter to take your child abroad without you present — and this is a good thing, despite being a bit of a pain.
Download the travel consent form linked above or write a letter and have your partner sign it. Visit a local notary and then have this letter ready to present in case an airport worker or immigration officer happens to ask you for it.
If your partner refuses to sign a consent letter or form, you will most likely need to get a court order issued.
Can a Child Enter the US with a Birth Certificate?
A child (aged 0-15) can enter the US with a birth certificate (and no passport) only if:
- They are traveling by land or sea (not flying)
- They are entering from Mexico or Canada
- They are a US citizen
In all other cases, a child entering the US will need a passport.
The Documents I Carry With Me For My One-Year-Old Baby (Internationally)
I hope the table above helps to answer your questions regarding your infant and the documents they’ll need to travel! We have been traveling with our 13-month-old son for almost a year and have taken multiple international flights with him.
We always travel with: his passport, his birth certificate, and his vaccination record (with all of his up-to-date routine childhood vaccines). Additionally, we make sure to have a boarding pass/ticket for him. Sometimes, this means calling the airline ahead of time and making sure that his name is included on my ticket as a lap infant.
Because he’s older than 7 days, we’ve never needed a physician’s note. And because I’ve never flown with him solo between countries (only domestically in Spain), we have not needed a notarized parental consent letter so far. If I travel alone with him internationally in the future, I will be sure to bring a parental consent letter or form signed by my husband.