Friday, July 18, 2008

Traveling with a Baby - Suite 101

Kelby Carr

Mar 25, 2006

It can be quite tempting to save a few bucks on airfare by sharing your seat with your baby, but it isn’t the safest or sanest way to fly.

Yes, your baby may technically be able to fly for free if he or she is under age two. Airlines do not require tickets for those babies and toddlers who sit in an adult's lap. That doesn't necessarily mean it's a good idea. If you wouldn't dream of traveling in a car with your infant loose, you probably should consider that when flying.

A ticket for baby

There are several pros to just coughing up the cash for baby to get his or her own ticket, such as:

Your baby will be secured in a car seat and in the airplane's seatbelt. Even in the event of minor turbulance, this could prevent major injuries.
You will be freed of holding the baby the entire time. This isn't so troublesome on a short D.C.-to-New York jaunt. Try a trans-Atlantic flight with a squirmy toddler in your lap (I have). Do it once, and you'll never make that mistake again.
Your baby will likely be happier and less fussy secured in a car seat. It is also easy to give your baby a bottle for lift-off and landing in the seat, which will prevent painful ear pressure.
Your mealtime will also be much easier. With baby or toddler in your lap on the airplane, you can forget about eating a decent meal or even putting your tray down.
There is, however, one big con to buying baby an airplane ticket:

You will have to add the cost of the baby or toddler's airplane ticket, instead of the baby flying for free. Sometimes, if it's a cheap $200 round-trip flight, that isn't such a problem. For $1,500-plus international flights, this decision can understandably give parents some pause.
Baby flies free

The big pro to this choice:

Well, baby flies free. As much as things cost these days, especially while traveling, it's pretty hard to turn away a free ride.
There are several cons to this choice, however:

The baby's safety is a big one. The baby cannot travel in his or her car seat, but must sit on your lap. In fact, you as the parent are safer than your baby, since you will have a seatbelt. There is a product that is FAA approved that can reduce the risk somewhat, the Baby B'Air Infant Products Flight Vest Travel Harness. If you've ever flown with a baby tethered to you, however, you'll know this isn't ideal.
Your baby or toddler will not have her own space on the airplane. We all know how cramped airline seats are when it's just you. Add a baby or toddler, and you can count on doing pretty much no moving around for the whole flight.
If you must have a car seat at your destination, you will need to check it, which can be a slight nuisance if it's part of a stroller/car seat travel system.
Making the choice: to ticket or not

This isn't always easy. If there is any way for you to purchase a seat for your infant or toddler on the airplane, however, I urge you to do so.

If you can't, check with the airline ahead of time about any regulations or rules they have for babies in laps. Some planes do have seats next to bassinets, which can be helpful. Find out if you can bring a harness, or if they provide one, to make your baby or toddler safer on board.