Lap kid vs seat kid: the choice is yours (2020 )
I suggest you to figure out what you should think about if you are planning a flight with a baby on your lap, about lap baby safety, about the cost of such a flight compared to a sitting baby, and about the problems of the comfort of flying with a baby on your lap.
Why flying with a baby on the lap is allowed
There are two important reasons why flights with a baby on your lap are allowed today.
First, the airlines successfully lobbied for the preservation of this option. Thanks to it, there are many families traveling with young children on flights to Orlando (and other places for families with children) who might otherwise find the cost of a flight vacation out of reach. We know a lot of families who traveled more when their children were babies because they didn’t have to buy a place.
Second, flying is still safer than driving according to the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, if more families went on vacation, more children would probably be affected than if the same families flew.
Lap child safety considerations
Safety is the main concern of every parent. There is no denying that it is safer to roll a child in a car seat on an airplane than to try to hold them in your arms during a runway accident or turbulence. Fortunately, plane crashes are extremely rare. The most common injuries to infants during flights, which are not as significant for headlines but are still traumatic for the families involved: burns from hot drinks, falls from parents ‘ hands, and incidents involving service carts.
The risks of many of these injuries can be completely eliminated by putting the child in their own seat and holding them in either a road car seat or a CARES seat belt. In addition to the fact that the child cannot fall or writhe in the aisle, car seats are usually installed on the window seat and do not have the same “visibility”.
In some countries, children under 2 years of age (even if they have a purchased ticket and a car seat) must be provided with an infant safety belt (also called a ” belly belt “) for their parents to take off and land. These devices are banned in the US and Canada because they pose various risks, such as when a parent accidentally crushes their child or the child hits their head on the front seat. Often, the belt on the belly sages so much that the moving child can still fall and hit his head.
Some parents like to use the stroller during the flight. They are not allowed to take off and land because a parent might crush their child. Some flight attendants will allow you to use a baby carrier during turbulence, but others won’t because of the safety risk.
The other safety challenge when it comes to bringing a lap infant on an airplane is what you’ll do with the car seat if you need to bring it for travel at your destination. Checking a car seat comes with quite a few risks that are worth evaluating.
Lap baby cost difference
Why do so many parents fly with an infant? Money.
In the US, babies can usually fly for free with an adult who has a ticket.
If this is your main motivation for not buying a plane ticket for your child, pay attention to the accompanying passes from Southwest Airlines and Alaska Airlines, or at discount Den from Frontier Airlines, where you can get free plane tickets for children or tickets with a big discount.
When you fly abroad, everything is different. Tickets for international children’s planes usually cost only 10% of the basic fare for adults! But you will still be on the hook for up to 100% of taxes and fees. This part depends on the airline, which countries you are flying to and from, and even where you can transfer.
On the other hand, many international carriers also offer discounts on children’s tickets – we usually saw about 10%. This is not so generous, but it helps to partially close the gap.
Be sure to compare ticket prices for babies in the seat and babies in the lap before making a decision. For one 15-hour flight, the difference was only a few hundred dollars. Although this is a significant amount of money, it was small compared to the total travel expenses for our family.
Even if you didn’t buy a ticket for your child, often if there is an empty seat on the flight, the crew will allow you to use it with the car seat, as it is safer for everyone. This is another reason not to check your car seat!
Lap infant comfort comparison
For many families, comfort in flight pushes them to fly with a baby on their lap or to buy a seat for a child – and there is no right answer to this question! Each child and each parent has different preferences. Here are some options for flying with a baby:
Hold The baby on your lap
Some parents like this option in terms of comfort. Maybe they plan to breastfeed during flights, or their baby will sleep only when held in their arms. No matter how much you love snuggling up to your baby, if it’s a long flight, it’s probably the least comfortable option (and can be dangerous if you plan to fall asleep).
Some parents bring a Baby Lounger with them to give their child a cozy place to lie down and reduce the strain on their hands a little, although it probably only works if you have two adults traveling next to each other. If you are traveling alone with a small child on your lap, this option will not provide such support, but it can help if the flight is long.
Of course, there are parents who raise their children on their knees up to 23 months and 29 days. In most cases, this is an awfully big baby that needs to be held (and held physically) for a long time. In an era of reduced legroom on planes, it’s worth considering whether it will be comfortable for you, and how you will prevent a child from colliding with the seat in front of them when there isn’t enough legroom.
Squirmy babies of any age may not make for great lap infants. If they like to jump over you, pull your hair, refuse to stay still during turbulence – you might need a glass of wine, but you probably won’t have the hands or personal space to handle it!
Whether the comfort issue is important to you or not may depend on the situation. If you have a long night flight across multiple time zones to another continent, it may be more important for you to get enough sleep, even if it requires more money. On the other hand, for a short flight to visit family the cramped space might be more tolerable.
And let’s not talk about how you’re going to manage that tray table during meal service.
Use an airline bassinet for baby
Cradles are usually only available on international flights (sometimes you can catch them on a domestic flight that is part of a longer overseas route), where they are attached to a bulkhead. There are only a few of them on each flight, and they are very popular.
Some airlines will reserve one for you if you call right after you buy your ticket, but usually, they are either served at the airport on a first-come, first-served basis, or the airline gives preference to the youngest children. So you might think you have a cradle reserved for your six-month-old baby, but then you find that a family with a one-month-old baby bumped into it the day before the flight. And there’s nothing you can do about it.
Like the babies that ride in them, bassinets vary in size: some are outgrown at 4 months old, others will hold small toddlers! But usually, you shouldn’t use them if your child can sit up on their own, as they can easily fall off.
Bassinets are not considered a safety device, they are just a convenient place for your child. What does it mean? If you are caught in a zone of turbulence in the middle of the night, you will have to take the baby out of the cradle. Do you know what people say about “never Wake a sleeping child”?
If you buy a child’s plane ticket, you have two safe options.
CARES harness + (optional) inflatable pillow
CARES harness is an FAA-approved restraint that adds shoulder straps and a chest clip to the aircraft’s seat belt, turning it into a 4-point seat belt (there is no groin belt that distinguishes it from a car seat). The CARES harness is approved for weights between 22 and 40 pounds and up to 40 inches, but most parents report that up to 30 pounds it doesn’t fit.
The CARES child seat is best suited for children who are not only heavy enough, but also strong enough to sit on their own for the entire flight. It is not intended for infants, but rather for young children (including those under two years of age who are technically eligible for lap baby status but are large enough to sit well).
It is also best for children who are not too restless. Curious kids can easily undo their seat belts on an airplane, even by accident. Toddlers under 30 pounds can also wiggle under the lap belt, referred to as “submarining”. You can limit this by placing a rolled-up towel under their knees so they don’t fall over.
One big drawback of young children using the CARES harness during a long flight is that it can be uncomfortable for them to sleep. The seats on the plane can be slightly tilted back, while most children are used to sleeping perfectly even from birth to two years.
Bring a car seat
For safety and comfort, we prefer to take a travel car seat with us on the plane. Small babies who are used to riding in their car seats will love the convenience and habit – there are several lightweight baby car seats that will make travel even easier. Backward-facing car seats (which are recommended for at least 2 years old, but ideally longer) are ideal for children to recline to sleep. Car seats are also the safest option for children under 40 pounds. The biggest drawback of flying with an infant in a car seat is taking care of the baby. You need to fasten your child before takeoff and landing, as this is the most dangerous time during the flight. When your child is older, it may take longer (when the seat belt sign is off) to crawl around in the car seat, bounce on your lap, or walk on the plane.
But here’s the good news: the time on the tarmac isn’t when your baby will feel uncomfortable from the changing air pressure. That usually happens about 10 minutes after take-off or 10-20 minutes before landing. At those times it’s generally safe to take your baby out to nurse. Alternatively, you can offer a pacifier for a little baby or some puffs to chew on for an older baby.
Lap infant vs seat infant: what should you do?
Once you know the pros and cons of traveling with a lap infant, it can be even harder to decide how to travel with your little one. While we traveled a handful of times with a lap baby before we realized the safety risks for our kid (and his car seat), we opted to change course once we had more experience and knowledge under our belts. As you can tell by the name of this website, we’re advocates for buying plane tickets for babies and restraining them safely!
Infant on lap vs infant on seat FAQs
What is a lap infant?
A lap infant is a child under 2 years old who flies without his or her own seat.
How old is a lap infant?
A child can travel as a baby on lap until the day before her 2nd birthday. On her 2nd birthday, she needs to have her own seat.
Is it safe to fly with an infant on your lap?
Infants are injured every year when traveling as lap babies and in greater numbers than infants traveling in their own seats. That said, flying with a baby on a lap is statistically safer than driving. That’s why the FAA strongly recommends using an infant seat in flight but doesn’t currently require it – government agencies are concerned that the additional infant flight ticket cost would push more families to drive.
Should I book a seat for my infant?
Booking an infant airplane seat is the safest way to fly with a baby. It protects your child from runway incidents and severe turbulence. If you’re bringing a car seat for your trip, bringing it on board for your baby to use prevents the car seat from being lost or damaged while checked.
What happens if the child turns 2 during the trip?
If you’ll be flying one leg before her birthday and flying the other leg after her birthday, she needs a seat for the whole itinerary (unless you book two one-way tickets, in which case only the leg after her birthday requires a ticket). Regardless of age, the safest choice is to buy even young babies their own plane ticket and bring their car seat on board.
Can a child under 2 occupy an airplane seat?
Absolutely! That’s the FAA’s recommendation. It’s safest to use an infant seat in flight (or a convertible car seat if that’s what you have, though they can be tougher to fit) if your child is under 40 pounds. For kids between 30 and 40 pounds who can sit independently, you can consider the CARES harness. Note that some airlines require the use of a car seat or CARES if you’re booking a seat for your child under 2 years old – it’s for their safety and the safety of everyone else on board.
Do babies under 2 fly free internationally?
No, babies under 2 do not fly free internationally. Buying a seat for a baby usually carries a 10% discount off the base fare, while an infant on a lap usually pays 10% of the base fare. In both cases, the full taxes and fees are generally assessed. For some international tickets, those taxes and fees can be more than the base far – so the financial savings aren’t as big as they initially appear.