Q: If I’m flying to Florida in January with my 18 month old twins; can my husband and I hold them on our laps or do we have to buy them seats? —Krissy
A: I’ve got good news for you (with just a little bit of bad news): Most domestic carriers allow a “lap” child less than 2 years old to ride for free on domestic flights on a paying adult’s lap (there are taxes and/or fess for lap children on overseas flights); one child per adult.
However, there can only be one lap sitter per three seat section — FAA rule — so if you have 2 under 2s with you and 2 adults, my advice is always pay for three seats so you can have the entire row, otherwise you’ll be split up.
(Interesting aside: Southwest defines “adult” as “12 and up” — making me wonder how many 12 year olds they’ve met recently).
As soon as you pay for a seat for your child, sign them up for a frequent flier mileage card. My son had enough miles for a free seat before he hit first grade by doing this (you can use miles to purchase a seat for anyone in your family, not just the child).
Note: Some airlines offer discounts for the 2 and under crowd to encourage you to use a child restraint system (CRS). Check the prices, then try to put a dollar amount on your sanity — it may be worth it to purchase a seat for your little one, especially if you’re flying cross-country.
Also note that if you’ve gone the free lap sitter route, then you may not bring a CRS on board. Even if you’re hoping for an empty middle seat (which is almost like winning the lottery these days), you’ll have to gate check your car seat since you haven’t paid for an airline seat.
Here are links to most domestic airlines and their guidelines to flying with infants and toddlers:
Have a family travel question?
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