How to Book a Plane Ticket for a Baby Before They Are Born

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Like many of you I am a serious advance planner.  Probably a border line OCD advance planner, but I’m okay with that and have learned to work with what I got.  This means I am mentally planning trips about two years out, and actually booking flights about 11 months out when the airline schedules open – at least if the award seats are there or fares happen to be awesome that far in advance.  This means that Baby S had many trips planned for her before she was actually born.  Welcome to the world, here is your itinerary!

Photo by Jamie Kutter Photography

Photo by Jamie Kutter Photography

Now, I don’t recommend booking flights for babies before they are born for the first couple months of life unless you are very brave or have no alternative, but once you and your baby settle into a nice routine they can actually make pretty good travel partners.  Or at least they make for better travel partners than toddlers, but that’s another post altogether.

In this post I want to talk about booking a flight for a baby before they are born.  My first-hand experience doing this is only with United, and the process may vary some with other carriers, and will not be possible in cases where your passport number and exact identifying information is required to book.  That said, there are plenty of situations where the following three tips will help get the job done.

  1.  Simply book the ticket as you would for any other passenger if you already know the gender and have picked out a name.  I have read reports of using Baby YourLastName when you don’t yet know the name.  I didn’t do that myself, but I know that has worked for others on various airlines.  For the TSA required birth date, I simply used the date I bought the ticket.  It never mattered that my daughter’s actual birth date was several weeks after that.  Note that for international travel the exact data entered will likely matter more than for domestic tickets where no ID is required for babies.
  2. Update the necessary information with the airline once the baby is born.  In my case I already knew the name and gender before she was born, so I didn’t need to update that information on her ticket.  However, I did need to add her frequent flyer number to the reservation once she was born and it was assigned.  The non-matching birth dates on the ticket and the frequent flyer account were not a problem in my case.
  3. Don’t worry about booking before birth for domestic lap child tickets.  If your baby will be flying as a lap child on a domestic flight then do not worry about booking them a ticket before they are born since it won’t cost any more to do that closer to the date of travel (since it’s free).  However, if you are flying internationally with a lap infant then when you book that lap infant ticket can matter since it is often a 10% charge of the current selling price of the ticket, which can jump if you wait until the last minute to book.  If you are trying for a bassinet seat you may also want to do this sooner rather than later since those seats can fill up well in advance of the flight.

You will not always be able to book airline tickets for infants before they are born, but sometimes it is possible and logical in order to lock in award availability, lower fares, and get assigned seats together.

I’d love to hear your experience booking a seat for your baby before they were born!


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  1. So a plane ticket can be booked for the unborn? But what if they require a VISA to enter the country you are going to? Since a passport does not require a social security number, a delivery date can be scheduled, and a headshot can be cropped from an ultrasound photo would the unborn be able to get a passport and VISA? Technically, it might be possible to file a Delayed U.S. Birth Certificate to cover a future birth. If a Baptismal Certificate is considered an Early Public Record which can be used to support a Delayed U.S. Birth Certificate, then the trick would be to find a church to baptize the unborn child.

    According to the US passport wizard, the date of birth must be prior to the application, but as learned from auditing, manufactured spending and Jurassic Park, life will always find a way (around intended controls).

  2. Interesting. When I talked to an American Airlines representative last week they said I could not book an award reservation for my unborn daughter. We booked a trip to Maui in May. She is due in January. I’m sure the award redemption I’m looking at won’t be available after she is born and I’d really like her to have her own seat and not be a lap infant. She doesn’t have a first name yet, unfortunately. Any thoughts on this? What would you do in this situation?

    • Honestly with a domestic award I’d just book it myself. She won’t need any ID so you can put any first name you want.

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