Thursday, January 13, 2011

Tips for traveling with a lap child

I talked about the lap child vs. purchased seat decision in my last post. If you do decide to fly with a lap child, a few important notes:

  • Domestically, lap children fly free, but this is not always true internationally! When we flew to Mexico with Littles as a lap child, we had to pay a fee of about $20 each way. I've heard that for longer international flights, the fee can run $100 or more, so it's worth a call to your airline to confirm. That way, you can budget appropriately.
  • Children do not generally need ID to fly, but lap children are an exception. Some airlines ask for proof of age for a child who looks like s/he might be older than 2. Other airlines require proof of age for all lap children. If your airline asks for proof of age and you cannot produce it, you'll need to either buy a seat for your child (at the ridiculously expensive last-minute ticket price) or leave him/her behind... so it's a good idea to bring it, just in case! A vaccination record serves as proof of age, and is easier to replace if lost than a birth certificate or passport.
  • This is probably obvious, but when flying internationally, everyone needs a passport. Lap children included.
  • A lap child does not receive a separate boarding pass. Instead, s/he must be added ("plus infant") on the boarding pass of one of the other people traveling. If you're checking in online or at an automated kiosk, there is usually a question that asks something like, "Are you traveling with an infant?" Be sure to answer yes! If you're checking in with an agent, ask them to add your lap child to your boarding pass if they don't prompt you to do it. Once you receive your boarding pass, make sure that you can see some sort of "plus infant" designation. Trust me, it is no fun to get all the way to the front of the TSA line... and then get sent back to the check-in counter because your lap child wasn't added to your boarding pass.
  • Even if you chose not to purchase a seat for your infant, ask the gate agent whether there are any empty seats on the plane. If there are, you might be able to snag them for free! I always bring the car seat all the way to the gate (rather than checking it under the plane), even if I didn't purchase a seat for my infant, just in case there is an empty seat available

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