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Traveling with Infants & Toddlers –Know before you go!

Sooner or later many of us find ourselves online searching for the best travel deals. This is especially true when traveling with kids.  Family travel can be costly and stressful. 


The key to almost stress free travel with kids is planning.  Know before you go!  Avoid surprise charges; know luggage fees and limits; know airline, car rental, and hotel policies and amenities.  Pack wisely and budget around the “extras”. 


I’m online several times a year searching for the best deals when planning vacations with my kids and grandkids.  Here are a few tips to help you plan.



Making travel arrangements:


Be informed about ticket options for kids and know what to expect.  Infants on your lap saves money but can make travel challenging. Babies travel with strollers, diapers, and feeding supplies.  Not only do you have to carry and keep track of baby, you must carry her stuff as well.  Toddlers aren’t much easier, but at least they can carry some of their things. 




Air travel:



  • Child fares can cost more than discounted adult fares, especially from consolidators like Orbitz.com.  Compare fares between consolidators and the airlines’ sites. 


  • Consolidators don’t allow online booking for unaccompanied minors – you must call them or the airlines for instructions on how to proceed
  • Infants under 2 traveling domestically on your lap usually travel free but may not have any bag allowances.  Check with your airline to avoid surprises.
  • Know checked luggage fees, first and second bags are usually $25 and $35 respectively.  A third checked bag can jump to $100+.  Airlines constantly change luggage fees check luggage policies before you purchase and again before you pack.


  • If you have a “lap” child and purchase tickets online, you must notify the airlines so that a “lap ticket” can be issued.


  •   “Lap” infants under 2 traveling internationally are charged an infant fare.  Infants paying a fare can usually check and carry-on bags.


  •  First check bag is usually free on international flights but, infants may have a lower weight limit.  Check with the airlines to be sure.  Travel within a specific region may not be considered "international" by the airlines even if flying to different countries (i.e. Barcelona to London, Paris to Denmark, etc.)  This means "domestic" baggage policies and charges may apply.  However if your originating flight is from a different region and you connect somewhere then the international luggage policies will be followed (i.e.  New York to Barcelona with a connection in London)


  • Consolidators do not show a “lap” child fare for international travel, you must call them or the airlines for the fare. 


  • Booking on the airline’s site, such as United.com, allows you to include your “lap” child with your reservation and will quote the child an international fare.  They will also issue a “lap ticket”.


  • A “lap” child may be assigned a seat before boarding if the flight has empty seats.  Check with your airline if this is among their policies.These seats will be assigned at the gate if it is available.


  • Children 2 and above must pay a fare and must have a seat.  They have the same luggage allowances as adults.  Check with your airline to be sure.


  • You may purchase a seat for your child under 2, in this case the child will have luggage allowances.


  • Check luggage dimensions and weight limits.  You’re usually allowed 2 carry-on bags, a small suitcase and a personal item (purse, laptop case, or camera bag).  Items must fit in the overhead compartment or under the seat in front of you. When traveling with lap infants check with the airlines if the non-paying infant is allowed a diaper bag as well, if not you must pack creatively.


  • If your child has a paid seat his FAA approved car seat can be strapped to the plane seat.  The car seat must be labeled “This restraint is certified for use in motor vehicles and aircraft”.  Flight attendants look for this label, you may run into problems if it’s missing.  If you get lucky and your "lap" child gets assigned a seat at the gate you can use your car seat if you haven't already checked it in.  Should your child not get a seat you can gate check your car seat.


  • To fit a coach seat the car seat should not be wider than 16”, lifting the armrest may accommodate a slightly wider car seat.  Check with the manufacturer for instructions on how to install it on an airplane seat.


  • Some airlines offer child meals on international flights it must be ordered before your flight. 


  • Some airlines provide portable cradles for infants to use during the flight.  Check with your airlines to see if they have them.  Make sure your seat assignment will accommodate its placement.


  • Check your seat assignment when you get your ticket.  Children are not allowed to sit in exit rows.  If you’re seated in those rows you will be moved, it’s easier to change seats before your departure date.  If that’s not possible, the gate agents will re-assign seats, but you may not get what you want, or large groups may be separated.


  • Exit row seats and those in front of and behind them are sometimes cooler than the rest of the plane.  If you’re in any of these rows you might want to bring a jacket or blanket to keep warm during your flight.


  • Car Seats and strollers are checked free at check-in or at the gate.  Be sure tags have your name and contact information. Consider purchasing a cover or bag for your gear to keep them clean in transit.  Luggage handlers rarely treat items with care.  Checked strollers and car seats are considered "special items", airlines may not pay for damage.


Ground Travel:


  • If you don’t bring your own car seat you must contact the car rental or car service to request one.  You can add car seats to your car reservations, there is a daily rental fee.  Most car services I have used provide car seats for free, just let them know you need one.
  • If you are renting a car from an airport location look for the signs for your rental company's shuttle.  In most larger airports car rental facilities are located outside airport property and companies provide free shuttle service to their lots.  You may bring your luggage on the shuttle, in most cases you must load your own luggage onto the shuttle.  When we travel with several kids and have a lot of luggage we find it easier for one of the adults to pick up the rental and return for the others at the luggage claim area.
  • If the hotel/resort you will be staying at offers airport shuttles look for signs in baggage claim directing you to hotel shuttles. 
  • If you have hired a car service look for your driver.  Drivers usually wait right outside of baggage claim, they will be holding a sign with your name.
  • If you've opted to take a taxi head to the taxi stand located outside of the baggage claim.




  • Check children’s sleeping accommodations – some hotels provide cribs, and cots but may charge extra for them.


  • You can bring your own portable crib; you must check it in at the airport.  It will be considered luggage and may incur fees. Check with your airlines.


  • Domestic hotels usually have larger rooms than foreign hotels.  They usually allow kids to stay free with parents.  Foreign hotels may charge per child and may limit occupancy to 3 people per room.


  • Consider hotels that include breakfast with the rate.


  • Consider a suite or executive level room.  Included extras like breakfast, cocktails, and snacks  might be worth the higher rate. 


  • Hotels closer to attractions may have higher rates but the cost may be offset if you don’t need ground transportation and have to pay for parking.

Last modified on Wednesday, 02 December 2015 11:47

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