Flying with kids soon ? Traveling with your little one is complex in a lot of ways – you have to remember what to pack, make sure you’re doing so within travel guidelines, and plan your trip for the whole family to get the most out of it. But there’s one consideration that’s really important when it comes to flying: whether to buy a separate seat for your child or have them sit on your lap the whole time.
Do I Have To Buy My Baby a Seat?
You don’t have to buy your little one a separate ticket if they’re under two years old, at which point FAA regulations require they have a seat to themselves. Whether having your baby rest in your lap will cost you anything, and if so how much, depends on the airline, as well as whether you’re traveling internationally. (If the lucky kid is turning two over the course of your vacation and you decide to lap-child, check with any and all airlines you’re traveling on when you book; some airlines will honor the child’s age when you booked the flight, while others will charge a reduced or even full fare for the return ticket.)
Should I Buy Them a Seat Anyway?
In the end, the decision of whether to lap-child through flights with your baby is up to you. However, do keep in mind that even fully-grown flight attendants can be knocked sideways by turbulence, and you may not be able to keep a secure hold on your child in the event of a sudden start or stop. Not to mention, if your child’s in your lap and the plane comes to a sudden stop, gravity will pull you forward and you might squish them! In addition, during an emergency landing, parents are often instructed to place their children on the floor.
If you have a particularly active child, it’s also worth reconsidering the lap-child plan. They may be used to traveling in their car seat, and not understand why they have to stay in your lap so much. If they have their own seat to be in, it’ll be easier to keep an eye on them, and only have them moving around the plane when they’re with you rather than trying to run off alone while you’re still buckled in!
If you want to purchase a separate seat for your little one and bring your car seat on board, plan carefully. Some car seats don’t work with airplane seats, especially in wider bulkhead rows. Some airlines have stricter regulations about ‘safe’ car seats for flying than others. If you start out intending to lap-child and change your mind at the airport, you might be able to bring your car seat on anyway, but that’s counting on the flight not having a standby list, a rare thing in this day and age.
Where Can I Sit with a Lap Child?
Not in the emergency row, that’s for sure! Other than that, it varies by plane. Most planes only have one extra oxygen mask per row, and some only have that equipment on one side of the plane, or in certain rows – and even with all that careful planning, another parent in the same row might have had the same idea as you.
Can I Get a Bassinet?
Whether you’re resting your baby in your lap for the whole flight or not, some airlines do provide bassinets for use during the flight, giving your child a secure place to sleep and you a few minutes of relative freedom. However, there may not be a lot of bassinets to go around, and they tend to have a low weight limit. If you think you’re going to want to use one during the flight, call the airline ahead of time for the details.
What About Boarding and Carry-Ons?
Many airlines understand that traveling with a baby takes up more time and space than traveling without one. They will likely allow you one extra carry-on within the weight limit, so you don’t have to choose between your diaper bag and your purse or laptop bag. Taking advantage of pre-boarding will also give you a chance to set up your car seat if you brought it, situate your little one, and get settled without getting in everyone else’s way.
No matter how you choose to fly with your little one, it never hurts to call the airlines you’ll be taking ahead of time, to find out what their rules, regulations, and perks for traveling children might be!