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What You Don’t Need When Flying With Kids

Matt Villano

Even the most Zen among us has to get a little agitated at airport security checkpoints these days. The reason: It seems the rules are different every time. Take the subject of iPads, for instance. Can we leave them in our carry-ons or not? Sometimes the answer is yes. Sometimes it’s no.

When you’re traveling with kids, this anxiety is heightened. On one level, you’re concerned for their well-being; with scanners and cops everywhere, you certainly don’t want them to freak. On another level, the complexity of managing logistics increases tenfold; on family trips you’re not only keeping tabs of your own stuff, you’re monitoring your kids’ stuff too.

With all of this in mind, here’s a little-known tidbit that should make things easier: When you’re traveling domestically with kids under the age of 18, the kids don’t need IDs. Period.

I learned this the hard way, while traveling from San Francisco to Los Angeles with my 3.5-year-old daughter last weekend. We approached the security checkpoint at Terminal 2 inside San Francisco International Airport, and the blue-shirted TSA agent practically snarfed his coffee when I handed him L’s passport.

“You know you don’t need this, right?” he said.

I had no idea what he was talking about, so I just sort of groaned quizzically in response.

“Her passport,” he reiterated, sounding irritated at me for not having a clue. “She’s under 18. You don’t need ID for kids who are traveling with you if they’re under 18.”

Because I’ve been misinformed at checkpoints before, I didn’t believe him. So I went to the TSA web site. And found a page that said: “Adult passengers (18 and over) are required to show a U.S. federal or state-issued photo ID in order to be allowed to go through the checkpoint and onto their flight.”

Just to be safe, I called the TSA. And a spokesperson said the same thing. (As did this USA Today article.)

To be clear, if you're traveling internationally, all travelers still need passports. But for domestic travel, kids don't need anything. The TSA spokesperson did note that it’s always a good idea to bring a copy of something that proves your child’s age—the aforementioned passport, a birth certificate, or (if you’re from a state where kids can drive before they’re 18), a license.

In terms of the actual documents, however, rest easier; next time you're flying within the U.S., it’s OK to leave them home.

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