My family recently traveled by plane from Oklahoma to Florida for vacation. This was the first time my 2 under 2 rode on an airplane, so I was understandably a nervous mama.
The biggest pro of flying with 2 under 2 is that children under two years of age can ride for free as “lap children.”
The biggest con of riding with a lap child is self-explanatory: 2+ hours of having a squirming, fussy child riding on your lap.
Tips for Flying with a Lap Child
- If you plan to fly with a lap child, make sure and bring a copy of your child’s birth certificate, as the airline may require proof that your child is under two years of age. (Our departing flight did not ask for the birth certificates, but our returning flight did).
- If possible, book a nonstop flight. You do not want to deal with the hassle of loading and unloading and then racing to reach a connecting flight any more than necessary.
We flew Allegiant Air and our flight was nonstop from Tulsa, OK to Orlando/Sanford FL.
- Check your airline’s policies to see if you can check or gate check a car seat and stroller for free. If so, bring both.
I only brought car seats for my kids, because I knew that we would be renting a double stroller for the week once we arrived. To get through the airport, I wore my 9-month-old daughter in a carrier. My husband either carried our 21-month-old son or let him walk on his own.
- Bring a bottle for your baby, but dump it out right before you go through the security line, since liquids are a big no-no for TSA. Once you get through security, find a water fountain or buy a bottled water to refill and mix some formula bottles for the plane. Don’t forget to fill up a sippy cup for an older lap child.
- Pack plenty of snacks for the plane ride. Snacks=a distraction for a misbehaving child. We brought Puffs, trail mix, Nilla Wafers, and Pringles.
- Change your baby’s diaper right before you board the plane to try and prevent any leaky diapers or blowout diapers.
- If you have 2 lap children, be advised that you probably will not be allowed to sit in the same row due to a lack of oxygen masks. For example, my husband booked my family of 5 to sit in a row of 3 seats across, but since the airline only has 4 overhead oxygen masks for every 3-seat row, I had to switch seats with my mother-in-law and sit up a row with my 9-month-old.
It wasn’t that big of a deal since I was flying with extended family, but it is still something that the airline should have informed us about when we booked our tickets. I could see it becoming a hassle if you had to scramble at the last-minute to switch seats with a stranger.
- The best seat for a lap child is the window seat. Pros of the window seat include keeping the lap child somewhat entertained by looking out the window and opening and closing the window shade, and also keeping the child away from the plane’s main aisle.
(This is not as important if you are traveling with a newborn or non-mobile lap child, but if you have a nearly two-year-old like my son, you want to do whatever you can to keep him away from the aisle, and the urge to run up and down the aisles.)
On our return flight, a mother sat in an aisle seat near where I sat with my 9-month-old, and her nearly 2-year-old daughter frequently walked up and down the main aisle of the plane instead of staying in her seat, which became a hazard both for the flight attendants and other passengers who were making their way towards the bathroom in the back. So, save yourself the trouble of fighting your toddler’s natural inclination to get up and move around by seating your child as far away from the aisle as possible!
- Do whatever you can to try and get your lap child to sleep on the plane. My daughter gave me 30 glorious minutes of sleep on both flights after I filled her belly with milk and spent some time rocking her in my arms.
- If your baby poops on the plane, don’t panic. On our return flight, as luck would have it, both my son and daughter pooped on the plane. Note that there is a changing table in the super-small plane bathroom. It is hidden on the slanted wall above the toilet, (something I only realized after I struggled to change my son’s diaper by laying him across the toilet seat.)
- Above all, remember that the discomfort of flying with a lap child (or 2 lap children in my family’s case) is only temporary. Two hours and fifteen minutes with a squirmy child on your lap is surely better than a 24-hour road trip.
Lap Children and Big Sister
Readers: have you ever flown with a lap child? What was your experience?
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