Editor's Note: This is a recurring post that will be updated regularly with new information.
One of the easiest ways families can save money on domestic flights with small children is to allow a child to fly as a "lap kid." The safety of this practice is debated, but most parents appreciate the savings, and young children often just want to be in their parents' arms anyway.
Deciding when and how to travel with a baby can be confusing and overwhelming. Here are the rules you need to know about lap babies, along with general tips to make flying with a baby easier.
Related:The best credit cards for families.
Rules for young children
The magic age is strictly "under 2"
To qualify as a lap baby, your child must be under 2 years of age. On the day they turn 2, that free pass disappears out the window.
If you're looking to get away and your child is about to turn two, you can save money by moving your vacation up a month or two (although flying with a baby on your lap and a toddler on your lap are very different things from a travel point of view). logistic). are).
Related:Why you should travel while your baby is still a toddler
If you are traveling before your child's second birthday, only the outbound flight is free.
On the return flight, you will need to buy a seat for your son, who is now 2 years old, with a one-way ticket. (The exeption:British Airways will give you the return airportsame fare for infants if your child turns 2 on the trip).
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Keep in mind that buying a one-way flight can sometimes be more expensive than a round trip. Therefore, calculate both options when your child turns 2 on your trip.
Empty seats and babies on her legs
Wondering if your lap child can snag an open seat?
Every passenger dreams of having a free seat next to them, but when you fly with a baby on your lap, it becomes even more precious. If there is an empty seat next to you, you simply have a seat for your child without having to pay for it.
Related:Checklist for flying with a baby
It is worth talking to the gate staff before boarding to see if there is a passenger sitting next to you. If the flight is not full, they can help you find a new seat assignment with an empty seat next to it.
If you think you could get an empty seat next to you and have oneFAA approved car seat, take him to the door. If you don't have access to an available seat, you can always register the car seat at the gate for free and it will be waiting for you when you land.
Related:Where do you take the children? 7 Vacation Destinations That Are Surprisingly Family-Friendly
Luggage allowance for infants on the lap
Infants traveling on paid tickets get the same baggage allowance as adults on paid tickets, but this is not the case if your child under 2 travels free on your lap.
Children not occupying a paid seat do not receive a checked baggage allowance on most US airlines. Your baggage will be checked in with the child's parent's baggage and is subject to additional baggage charges imposed by the airline.
Related:How to avoid checked baggage fees
Luckily, families can checkcar seats, usually at no additional cost. Also,walkeryou can board or be inspected at the gate at no additional charge, depending on size; they do not count towards your baggage allowance, regardless of whether your child is traveling as a baby on your lap or with a paid fare.
When it comes to carry-on luggage, most airlines allow you to bring a diaper bag on board in addition to your regular airline carry-on. (Note thatAlaska Airlinesdoes not extend this generous diaper bag policy to babies on the lap).
Varying baggage requirements are why Southwest Airlines is such a popular airline with families, as all passengers flying with paid tickets can check inof theFree bags per person. As most parents know, when traveling with children, the amount of extra stuff you need to pack can get out of control. Knowing that you can check bags for free is great.
Traveling with more than one baby on your lap
The strict rule is one baby on the lap per adult.
If you're flying as a single adult and traveling with two or more children under the age of 2, you'll need to purchase a ticket for one of them (and you should also get a gold medal at the other end of the trip).
Two adults traveling together (or even an older teen with an adult) can carry two children on their laps, which is ideal for parents with twins or children born close together.
However, don't be surprised if the flight attendant tells you that you can't sit next to each other in a row. Due to the limited number of oxygen masks, most planes only allow one baby on your lap per row.
Lap infants are also not permitted in emergency exit rows or rows directly in front of or behind exit rows. Some planes have additional rows where lap babies are not allowed.
Related:Your guide to flying with children of all ages
If you're flying with a baby and the plane has cribs, reserve this row if you can. You can usually find baby cribs on international flights, but they may also be available on domestic flights on internationally configured aircraft.
Return fares for infants on international flights
On most international flights, children under the age of 2 can travel on your lap, but with one big difference: it's usually not 100% free.
When you fly on a paid ticket, you typically have to pay taxes and fees per return, and in some cases 10% of the fare. It may not sound like a lot, but it can add up.
Related:The most familiar airlines in the world
For example, when I went to London with my 3 year old and 11 month old, the child fare I paid was only $376 round trip.
If I had chosen to forego a seat for my infant and let him fly on my lap as a baby, the taxes and fees would still have been nearly $150. For about $200 more, I was able to get my son his own seat on seven-hour flights, which was well worth it to save my back and my sanity.
Related:Planning an award trip with a baby on your lap
AndAdding a baby in a return to a ticket with miles, the amount you pay varies a lot and depends on the airline.
For example,levelhas long had a flat rate for children's award tickets on its lap, which used to range from $50 to $125, but the program will stickeven better when the new program is implemented. Infant tickets are just C$25 ($18.64) or 2,500 miles.
For others, like B. Cathay Pacific, you must pay up to 25% of the adult fare plus taxes and fees.
In a premium cabin, that can easily be a four-digit number just for holding your baby on your lap. (Note: Air Canada had some issues with the system where they sometimes waived the fee.)
Most airlines will charge you 10% of the adult fare for an international ticket or, in the case of British Airways, 10% of redeemed miles plus taxes and fees. Please note that ticket prices fluctuate so you should add your child as an infant on your lap at the lowest price you see, which may be the case when you first book your ticket.
Related:23 Car Seat and Bassinet Guidelines for Airlines Worldwide
If you're traveling relatively close like Mexico or the Caribbean with a baby on your lap, consider JetBlue, Southwest, or Alaska. These airlines do not charge a percentage of the adult fare for infants flying internationally, just taxes.
Compare this to an airline like United that charges 10% of the fare for infants in the lap plus taxes and fees even to Mexico (but not Canada).
Where lap children can't sit
In addition to emergency exit rows, or the rows directly in front of or behind the exit rows, some seats are restricted for infants, particularly those who have an assigned seat with a car seat installed.
This is often due to air bags built into some seat belts. You will usually find this in some business class or first class seats or in the first row of economy class. However, these are not hard and fast rules, they simply vary by airline and aircraft.
For example, United does not allow child seats or child restraints in United Polaris Business Class on the 767, 777 and 787 aircraft.
Related:Travel zones without babies
Tips for flying with a baby
Technically, most airlines require you to do this.Show proof of your baby's age on your lap.
This can include a birth certificate, passport, or sometimes hospital or immunization records. Actually, most airlines won't ask you for this information unless your baby looks like a toddler who may be past her second birthday. If you want to travel internationally after having your baby, you must do soget a passport for your child, Nevertheless.
If you arrive at the airport counter and don't have papers for your baby, airlines can theoretically require you to purchase a regular seat for your child. Same-day flights can not only be quite expensive, but you also run the risk of being sold out.
Related:13 Mistakes Parents Make When Traveling With Children
Southwest is known for requiring proof of age for everyone, including newborns, so don't leave your paperwork at home. It is advisable to carry a copy in your luggage or save an image of the documentation on your phone so that there are no problems.
Fly back in time with your baby's sleep patterns
Babies sleep a lot, but not when they want to.
Try to book flights that coincide with your sleep schedule. For longer flights when you can choose a flight right before bed or overnightRed eyes, you may have a better chance of putting them to sleep for much of the trip. For shorter daytime flights, try to schedule the flight at your baby's usual nap time.
Still, an overtired baby may resist falling asleep, especially in a strange environment. You know your baby best. So if you think sleeping on a plane at night isn't your thing, there's nothing wrong with boarding the day's flight as rested and prepared as possible.
Related:The ultimate guide to surviving jetlag with your baby
Change diapers before boarding
It's no fun changing a diaper in the bathroom of a crowded plane, and there's also the chance of getting stopped on the runway. For these reasons, it's a good idea to change diapers promptly before boarding to potentially reduce the number of changes you need to make during the flight.
Food during takeoff and landing.
You know how your ears get clogged on airplanes and you yawn or chew to make the feeling go away? Well, babies haven't quite mastered the art of equalizing the pressure from their own ears yet, so takeoff and landing can be particularly uncomfortable for them.
Feeding them during this time can help relieve this pressure, as the sucking motion they make will help to even out their ears.
Pack extra earplugs
Sometimes a baby will cry on a plane no matter what you do. You can help make it a little less painful for those around you by bringing and handing out extra earplugs…if you'd like. Sometimes parents choose to make small gift bags as a friendly gesture to other passengers, hoping to gain sympathy and understanding.
Don't feel obligated to do this;it's just an option if you doOfLess afraid of the trip.
Think about the seating arrangement in advance
Before you go inside, it's important to plan and find out how your baby can sit most comfortably. Think about where her child feels most comfortable: does she prefer to snuggle up with a human, or is she more relaxed in a car seat?
Your child's seating arrangement depends on the preferences of the parents and the child. Just remember that if you want to guarantee that you can fit that child in a car seat next to you, you must reserve an airplane seat for your child.
Related:6 tips to always choose the perfect airplane seat
Minimum age to fly
The minimum age to fly varies by airline. Some theoretically allow you to fly the same day the baby is born, and others require the baby to be at least a week or two old. Some airlines also require a medical certificate, giving younger passengers a green light.
Actual airplane or doctor requirements aside, how young is too young to fly?
Candice Dye, a pediatrician at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, says it's a good idea to wait until the baby is at least two to three months old.
"Because they are vaccinated at this point, even if they get sick after the flight, they may need less invasive treatment," he said.
Of course, there are times when flying with newborns cannot be avoided, such as after adoption, to visit family or for professional reasons.
Related:Tips for flying with a 3-month-old baby
It is important to consider your child's vaccinations when planning your trip and it is best to wait until your child has at least a few vaccinations if possible.
While a few extra hours of time nestled above the clouds isn't always the most comfortable way to fly (for adults), it's a great way to keep travel costs down.
Many babies prefer to sit on their parents' laps, especially if the mother is breastfeeding anyway, so buying a seat may ultimately be a waste of money.
Of course, as long as the child is under the age of 2, the final decision is yours, and that equation can change as babies transition from lap kids to lap toddlers.
Additional reporting by Summer Hull and Melissa Klurman.
Editorial Disclaimer: The views expressed in this document are solely those of the author, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline, or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of those entities.
Don't do it. Flying with a baby—no matter how small—in your lap puts him at risk of injury or even death if the plane hits severe turbulence. So it's worth paying for the additional seat, even if there's no discount for infants.How do you take a baby on a plane with a lap? ›
On most airlines, babies under the age of two can sit in your lap on a flight, sometimes with a special lap belt that you attach to your seatbelt. You may have to pay a fee—primarily on international airlines—which may come with a special boarding pass. It helps to call the airline before booking to confirm.Do I need to tell the airline I'm flying with a baby? ›
Regardless of age or destination, every passenger on an airplane will need a ticket to board. Even though your child isn't going to be occupying a seat, you will still need to inform the airline that they will be flying with you.What does it mean to be a baby on lap? ›
Most airlines define an infant or lap child as one who is under 24 months of age and is flying without their own seat. Note that babies don't have to be lap infants -- you can choose to buy them their own seat.Do airplanes hurt baby's ears? ›
Be ready for ear pain.
During the climb after takeoff and descent before landing, changes in pressure between the outer ear and middle ear can cause discomfort. If your baby has had ear surgery or an ear infection in the past two weeks, ask his or her doctor if it's OK to fly.
Only 1 infant may be seated in the lap of each ticketed accompanying adult and the infant must be included in the reservation. Additional infants under 2 years old must be ticketed and occupy an infant safety seat or in a separate aircraft seat. The infant must be under 2 years of age for the duration of the trip.How long can a baby sit on your lap on a plane? ›
The most important thing to note is that infants are welcome above the age of 2 days old and can fly as a lap child until they turn 2 — just be sure to bring proof of age. Additionally, your lap child will be allowed to bring 1 diaper bag, 1 car seat, and 1 stroller for no extra cost. Checked bags are not included.What is the best way to fly with a baby? ›
I recommend you book a separate seat for your child, even though lap children under age 2 typically fly free. Not only is providing a baby or toddler with their own seat the safer option, but also it gives your family more room to spread out and relax on the plane.What baby items are free on flights? ›
If you're traveling with a child of any age, you can bring the following on your flight for free in addition to your carry-on and personal items: Diaper bag. Breast pump, milk or formula. FAA-approved car seat.Do I need any documents to fly with my baby? ›
TSA does not require children under 18 to provide identification when traveling with a companion within the United States. The companion will need acceptable identification.
Children age 12 and younger may use the TSA PreCheck® lane when traveling with a parent or guardian who has the indicator on their boarding pass.Where is best to sit on a plane with an infant? ›
According to Doug and Sanjay, the back row of the plane is the best place to sit when traveling with a baby for 5 reasons. Over the next shot of the aircraft's galley, they explain that since the back of the plane is near the galley, it's easier to get up and walk around if a fussy baby needs settling.Does diaper bag count as carry-on? ›
Dimensions should not exceed 18 x 14 x 8 inches (45 x 35 x 20 cm). These don't count as your personal item or carry-on: Diaper bags (1 per child) Breast pump.How much baby food can I take on a plane? ›
Inform the TSA officer at the beginning of the screening process that you are carrying formula, breast milk, toddler drinks, and baby/toddler food (to include puree pouches) in excess of 3.4 ounces. Remove these items from your carry-on bag to be screened separately from your other belongings.What time of day is best to fly with baby? ›
With young babies, the later in the day, the more fussy they become. I learned the hard way not to book a flight in the 3 to 7 p.m. window. Travel with baby is best done in the morning because babies are better rested, happier and therefore more adaptable.Where do you change diapers on a plane? ›
If the airplane has a changing table in the bathroom, you're all set. If it doesn't, you've got two options: using the closed toilet seat in the cramped bathroom as a changing table, or standing up and turning your airplane seat into a changing area.Is flying with an infant hard? ›
Traveling with a baby is not as stressful thanks to modern-day conveniences. From flights offering bassinets to specially-designed travel gear, comfort is possible on both long and short flights. What is this? There are so many new travel items that make traveling with your baby easier than ever.What can I give my baby to sleep on a plane? ›
Helping with nausea is one of the benefits of Gravol, but it and the antihistamine Benadryl are also known to make kids sleepy. Because of this, many parents choose to give their kids these medications to help them settle and get some sleep on a plane ride.How much water can I take on a plane for baby? ›
You can pack more than 3.4 ounces of formula — and more than 3.4 ounces of water for babies, such as for mixing formulas powders — in your checked luggage and carry-on.
Typically, minors under the age of 18 do not have to present identification for domestic U.S. travel. Airlines will accept identification from the responsible adult on behalf of the minor(s). For international travel, minors under the age of 18 must present the same travel documents as the adult.
When flying with infants, you will be allowed to check in one free bag, a collapsible stroller, and a car safety seat. Children aged 2-11 are entitled to the same hand luggage and checked baggage allowance as adults.Do airlines provide baby strollers? ›
All airlines have them, and while some are very similar, many have slight variations in terms of what they allow when it comes to strollers. So here are the rules for the 15 most traveled airlines in North America. American Airlines – “Each ticketed customer is allowed 1 stroller.Are strollers free on airlines? ›
Generally, most airlines allow you to bring a stroller AND a car seat (to be placed in the aircraft hold, with the rest of your luggage) free of charge in addition to your normal baggage allowance, when flying with a baby under two.Which stroller is allowed in flight? ›
A stroller with a collapsed diameter not exceeding 25.5 cm (10 in) and a length not exceeding 92 cm (36 in) is allowed, in addition to your carry-on allowance, regardless of destination. It can be checked at the gate to be delivered to you at the aircraft door at the end of your flight.Do airlines ask for birth certificates? ›
Although TSA does not require a baby to have identification documents when traveling with their parents, they may be asked by the airline at check-in to prove their child is, in fact, under 2. The easiest way to prove a child's age is by presenting their US birth certificate.Can you bring carseat on plane? ›
Not only can you bring your child's car seat on the plane, it's strongly encouraged that you do so. Both the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recommend that all babies and young children travel in an FAA-approved car seat or airplane harness device.Do babies need ID proof for domestic flights? ›
There shall not be any requirement of identity proof in respect of Infant/Minor accompanied by their parents/guardian who is a bonafide passenger having a valid identity proof as listed above. However, an unaccompanied minor shall be required to produce a valid identity proof as listed above. Was this helpful?How do I get my stroller through TSA? ›
Taking a Stroller Through Airport Security
All items in your stroller should be removed and put in your carry-on bag or in a tub to go through the X-Ray. You should fold the stroller and put it through the X-ray.
You can bring your stroller through airport security.
But you will need to take the baby out.
Simon Baer, a consultant ear, nose and throat surgeon in the United Kingdom, told Live Science that, “Certainly, one of the main reasons babies cry on planes is that they are not good at pressure equalization in the middle ear, as the infantile Eustachian tube does not generally function as well as [the one in] adults, ...
Also, airplane cabin noise levels are loud, especially during takeoff. Consider using cotton balls, noise-canceling headphones or small earplugs to limit your baby's exposure to this noise. This may help make it easier for your baby to sleep.Do airlines provide bassinets for infants? ›
On any given flight, there is only a limited number of bassinets available. Bassinets are often free. But, sometimes you must pay extra to secure the bulkhead. Prior to booking, familiarize yourself with the policies of the airlines you will likely fly on.Can I change my baby's diaper on a plane? ›
If the restroom doesn't have a changing table, you could try changing your baby on the toilet seat, taking care to keep a hand on your baby at all times. Use a disposable changing pad. Another option may be changing your baby on the cabin floor, but be sure to ask a flight attendant's permission first.What Cannot be in a carry-on bag? ›
Liquids, gels, or pastes in bottles larger than 3.4 ounces (100 ml) Guns and ammunition (including BB guns and cap guns) Stun guns and tasers. Sharp objects (knives, axes, razor blades)How many 3 oz bottles can I take on a plane? ›
How many 3-ounce bottles can I carry on? You must be able to fit all your 3-ounce bottles into a 1-quart bag, which is 6 x 9 inches. This usually equates to nine bottles. FYI, you can use a Ziploc or any anything that's about that size, but the TSA doesn't officially approve or disapprove of any bags.Can you bring squeezable baby food on a plane? ›
Baby food is allowed in reasonable quantities in carry-on bags. Remove these items from your carry-on bag to be screened separately from the rest of your belongings.How do you bottle feed a baby on a plane? ›
Carry the sterilised bottles in a sterilised, lidded container. You can give your baby ready-made formula at room temperature, or you can warm the milk if your baby likes it like this. To do this, you could use a travel bottle warmer.How many 4oz bottles can you take on a plane? ›
The TSA's liquid limit for carry-ons—known as the 3-1-1 rule—allows travelers to pack liquids, aerosols, gels, creams, and pastes under 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters) in their carry-on bags. This amounts to one quart-sized bag per person, or roughly nine 3.4-ounce containers in a single quart-sized bag.What is the safest way to fly with a baby? ›
Save a spot.
Just make sure your child-restraint system (CRS) is approved for use on an airplane. If your child weighs less than 20 pounds, she should use a rear-facing CRS; if she weighs between 20 and 40 pounds, she should use a forward-facing child safety seat.
Employees may ask for age verification at any point, so please travel with a copy or original form of any government-issued ID, such as a birth certificate or passport for your child. A medical release for travel is required for any infant under 14 days old.
Children swallow more often when they are awake. Also, waking up with ear pain can be frightening for the child. Give your child acetaminophen or ibuprofen about 30 minutes before takeoff or landing.How do you change a diaper on a plane? ›
If the airplane has a changing table in the bathroom, you're all set. If it doesn't, you've got two options: using the closed toilet seat in the cramped bathroom as a changing table, or standing up and turning your airplane seat into a changing area.What do babies sleep in on plane? ›
Where will my baby sleep on a plane? On long-haul flights, you can request a bassinet/sky cot for your baby to sleep in. You'll need to book a bulkhead seat (a row with no other seats in front) to get those though.What can help a baby sleep on a plane? ›
- Tip # 1: Choose a night flight. ...
- Tip # 2: Choose your seats well. ...
- Tip # 3: Be ready for ear pain. ...
- Tip # 4: Stick to your home routine. ...
- Tip # 5: Feed your baby well. ...
- Tip # 6: Make a comfortable space for your baby. ...
- Tip # 7: Wear your baby.
A child is eligible to sit on an adult's lap during flights from ages 7 days to 23 months. Free if held in lap; ticketed fare if in reserved seat. An adult traveling with a lap infant is allowed a second personal item, such as a diaper bag, free of charge.