45 answers

Buying a Plane Ticket for an Infant

We will be flying to Oregon for Christmas, about a four hour flight for us. Should we buy our 5 month old a plane ticket? My husband does not want to spend the $500 it will cost for her ticket. Airlines do not give discounts anymore for infants unless they fly on your lap, then they are free. I want to buy her a ticket for safety, comfort and a little extra privacy. She does not breastfeed well, so I pump breast milk and bottle feed it to her. I will have to pump during the flight at least once. Using the plane's bathroom to pump is not something I want to experience:) They are not so clean and I don't want to tie it up for half an hour while I am in there. I'd like to just pump right at my seat. Any thoughts about buying a plane ticket or not?

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I'd save the money, good chance there will be a seat for her , just ask at the counter...get a hooter hider and pump away :). I've done it lots of times :) good luck!

Don't waste the money! Trust me, no one wants to sit next to a lady with a baby! :P The airline will work with you to put you somewhere where there is an open seat or switch people around to accomodate you. They don't want everyone po'd with you or them!

Buy the ticket. We flew to Ireland, with bulkhead seating, and bought the extra seat. It was so worth it. We brought the car seat along, and my daughter did great. You will be thankful for the extra space if the flight is full --and since airlines have cut down on flights, expect it to be full.

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My daughter started flying when she was 8 weeks old and I always bought my daughter a ticket...though I was always flying alone with her. Had I been travelling with an exta "lap", I probably wouldn't have done it for the first year. However, there was no way I'd have been able to nurse her if I had a stranger sitting next to me...modesty aside...there just isn't enough room.

I travel for work and breastfed my daughter for 18 months...I've pumped in an airplane bathroom plenty of times (and rental cars and conference rooms and other bathrooms too numerous to count...lol). You just need to let the flight attendant know how long you'll be in there...otherwise, they'll start knocking to ensure that you are okay...lol. If I needed to keep the milk, I would take chlorox wipes. Othwerwise, it would get dumped from time to time.

When my daughter was younger, she spent most of the time in the Moby Wrap. The extra seat always came in handy...not all planes have changing tables in the bathrooms!

I've gone back and forth on the car seat. I used it a few times after she was too big to comfortably be in the Moby Wrap, but then stopped when she got old enough to sit in the seat...just after she turned two. It is just one more thing to carry on, takes up a lot of room, and doesn't necessarily make things any more pleasant considering my daughter has hated riding in her car seat since birth. Also, when you get to a forward facing seat, the buckle of the belt often ends up right in the middle of their backs and can be painful for them.

All that said, I'd be inclined toward getting her a seat. In most airplanes, that will give your family a full row to yourself...maximum room and privacy. There is a CHANCE on some airplanes that there will be some empty seats, but I wouldn't count on it. I've been on 6 flights (4 different airlines) in the last two weeks and, excepting some exit row seating, there have been NO empty seats. Children can't sit in exit rows and now airlines are charging more for them so they don't just shift people around.

Also, I don't know of any airline these days that will allow a child to sit on the floor of the aisle. At your feet maybe, but not in the aisle.

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I would totally recommend buying the seat. You wouldn't think twice about strapping your baby into her car seat in the car, but in a jet traveling at 500 miles per hour with unexpected turbulence? I once saw a special on TV about a plane that had to make an emergency landing and there were lap children in the cabin. I remember the interview with the flight attendant who said she was telling passengers to sit in the 'brace' position, and to place the lap children on the floor! Those children did not survive the landing. The flight attendant will never forget that terrible incident, and wished there was something else she could have done. I honestly believe you cannot put a price tag on your child's safety. Here's a link to a flight attendant's take on the whole "lap child" thing... http://thevacationgals.com/airplane-lap-child-safety/

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I have always bought an additional seat so that we could bring the car seat into the plane but I understand that $500 is a lot! If you decide not to, try to book yours and your husband's seat as far back in the plane as possible and get a window and an aisle. I have found that people don't usually want a middle seat and when they have to take one they would rather be towards the front. This way when you check in, you can see if the seat between you is still empty and when you go to board the plane, you can ask the gate agent if that seat is still free. If it is then great! Bring the car seat and you have a seat for your baby, if not, gate check the car seat with the stroller. I'm sure if there is a person seated between you and your husband that person would be more than willing to move over to the aisle and then you can sit at the window with the baby and have your husband as a buffer between the other person and help you with the baby while you pump under a blanket.

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I have flown several times with a nursing infant by myself and never bought him a ticket until I had to at age two. My advice is not to buy the ticket if he is there to help you because chances are the baby will be being held by one of you most of the flight anyway to entertain/keep her from fussing. The extra comfort and space is nice, but that is a lot of money to spend if she never sits in the seat. Can he hold her while you pump? I flew to LA from Chicago with him in my lap by myself when he was 9 months and we did just fine. Maybe you'll luck out and get a non-full flight. We always fly Southwest where you can pick your seating and have gotten lucky a lot that way with not having anybody by us so we got to use the seat for free. Good luck!

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I always buy tickets when my children were babies. There's no guarantee there'd be an open seat that you could take up. 4 1/2 hours is a long flight, and that's if there are no delays. Traveling with children is challenging and tricky enough. By the seat for the babys safety and your sanity.

My daughter has flown 8 times with us and we have never bought a plane ticket (while she was under 2). I would suggest getting a nursing cover to hide your pumping, be proud that you are providing for your daughter and sit near the window. You can wash your items when you get to your destination (just bring an extra ziplock). If you are worried about the sound, it really is not as loud on a plane as it is in your home!

Your husband should sit in the middle and often times...airlines are accomodating, if they see that the plane is not full, they will give you the extra seat. My husband was great about sitting up and blocking while I nursed or pumped. I don't know what it will be like around Christmas, but I know they do try. Between your husband and you, your baby will likely sleep due to the noise and the air pressure.

All the best.

We traveled from California to Michigan when my daughter was 5 months old. We did not buy a ticket. She slept for a bit (1 hour) after nursing on take off, and my husband and I took turns holding her. A year later, when she was 17 months, we made the trip again and bought a seat, thinking she was older and mobile. She still ended up on one of us the whole time, although it was nice at that point to have more room since she was bigger.

And just a note: last year when we flew the couple in front of us had brought their car seat (and bought a seat) for their daughter who was a little younger than ours. The girl refused to sit in it, demanded to be held, and cried every time they put her in the seat. They would take her out so as not to bother everyone. So, they spent money on a seat they never used since no one else could sit where they had installed the car seat. Point being: know your child. If she won't freak out in new surroundings, I might consider the seat/car seat option a little more (although I still think it's a waste of money for one so small). If chances are that she might freak out and demand to be held anyway, don't even consider it.

We have never been in a financial position to be able to buy our infant a seat. However, each time we've flown, I've called the airline in advance to arrange seating and have requested a row with an empty seat. We have flown a TON and so far, we've always had luck with the airline working with us...my husband and I have always had a row of 3 to ourselves. I think the one or two times we did not, we waited until we were actually on the plane and people were more than happy to move around for us. Having said that, we've never flown during peak travel times so since you're going for Christmas, it's likely the flight will be full....in which case buying your little one a ticket would be wise. Good luck!

Adding my two cents: I wouldn't buy a ticket for your 5 month old. My in laws are in Seattle, we fly there at least twice a year (a 4 1/2 hour flight for us) with our now 2 1/2 year old. Once your child turns 1, you may consider buying a ticket (even though you don't need a seat until she turns 2) for her comfort and yours. At 5 months old she can stay on your lap. I also had to pump on the flights and was fine. My husband sat in the middle, I sat at the window. I covered up and pumped, put the parts in a ziplock baggie. The noise from the airplane completely drowned out the noise from my pump (which was a plesant surprise).
good luck!!

I say yes, it is safer and flying is stressful enough, having a baby in your lap can be miserable unless you get lucky (speaking from experience.)

It also gives you a buffer if you need a little more privacy.

Speak to the airline, sometimes they will refund the baby ticket cost if the flight winds up being not full. We've gotten credited back twice for buying an infant seat on United that we didn't end up needing (but is was about 3 - 4 years ago, and we were Star Alliance Gold members - so I don't know if that influenced it or not.)

I just traveled to Oregon with my little one in my lap. (6 months) i was very nervous about it and we had to connect flights, so 2 take offs and 2 landings! but i just nursed her and it was a piece of cake!
she nursed going up and then fell asleep in my arms for the first trip. (a small pillow o go under ur arm might be nice) the second flight she still nursed going up, them played in my lap with her toys on the tray.
their were a couple of other kids in their own seats on this flight and they spent most of the flight in thier mothers la[p Anyway!!
and sweetie, even if you have to pump, just do it at your seat. take a light blanket (scarf tied around ur shoulders works well for pumping) and relax!
If someone on the plane is uncomfortable with it, u can give them a blanket to put over Their Head till you are done!!
Also!! you do not have to pump unless u r uncomfortable! I took frozn and thawed b milk that moring and u can ask for a class of hot water they use for the tea to warm it!

I am in the same pickle too! We are going to Hawaii in November and my husband did not buy a ticket for our 13 month old. This is causing me a lot of anxiety!

When we went to New York with our then one year old (he is now seven) we bought him a seat and I thought to myself, this is definitely the way to go. They are safely strapped into their seat and if they fall asleep they are going to sleep better in their car seat.

I understood the saving of five hundred dollars. It's a ton of money so you will need to decide how much your sanity is worth. (For my husband, it wasn't worth that amount).

Good luck!

Save your $. She's going to end up in your lap anyway

Buy the ticket! If there is turbulence, you will be very glad your baby is safe. She will hopefully sleep in her car seat for part of the flight. If you and your husband were trading off holding her, there is just not a lot of room in those seats. Add to that trying to pump with a stranger sitting next to you? Next to impossible. We have always bought seats for our kids. Yes, it is more expensive, but it is much safer and much more comfortable for everyone.

Is she 5 months old now or will be at the time of the flight? If she is 5 months now , then I would not bother , she will be 7 months when you take the flight and her feed schedule will be different to what it is now , she will be able to sit up on your lap and will be more "alert" and 4 hrs is not that long , if she wants to get off your lap you can sit her inbetween you and your husband with some toys or even let her sit on the floor of the aisle with some toys , just take a little blanket for her to sit on. I have done and it really is not that bad , I'd rather save $500

I never bought my babies their own seat. and yes $500 is A LOT to spend. As far as safety, yes there are a million things done that are more dangerous with a baby. If it were that dangerous I think we would be required to buy the ticket instead of given the option. If you think you want the extra seat for privacy then it may be worth it to buy it. We flew from CA to Orlando in Feb. and sat the 4 of us 2 and 2. The flight was basically empty when we booked. I check the night before the flight and the seats next to us were still empty. But when we borded they were not anymore. And that was a random flight in Feb. on a tuesday night. I would not count on a holiday flight to have leftover seats. Especially if they are direct. So for you I would ask what you are will to pay for privacy?

I buy a ticket for my children who are under two. If I cannot afford to buy the tickets, I do not fly. Turbulence, and the possibility of an abrupt or crash landing is enough for me to put baby in a car seat.

I agree with the posters who say to not buy a ticket. I took advantage of the free lap infant until 2 yrs old with all my kids. You can sit in the window seat and have your hubby sit in the middle - no one will see you pump. Keep in mind that you'll need to give her a bottle or something to suck on when you take off and land - so if she can latch on, I'd nurse her but if she can't, just have something handy. And you can bring b'milk in any quantity on the plane. I went on a five day trip and brought back 80 oz. of pumped breastmilk and TSA and customs official didn't bat an eyelash :) The other thing about keeping her on your lap is you can entertain her better. There have been some instances where the kids get tired of the car seat and cry so they might spend most of the time on your lap anyway - save yourself the $$ :) You'll make it work. (And yes, plane bathrooms are icky - just pump under a blanket, no one will know!).

I wouldn't buy a ticket. You get a special lap belt that attaches to your own seat belt. I think we do many much more dangerous things with our babies than flying with them sitting on our lap instead of having them in a separate seat next to us.

It's only four hours and if your husband is with you, you can take turns.

On international flights, you can call the airline to request the bulkhead seats and a bassinet that attaches to the wall. I've seen this on at least one smaller plane (in Europe), so it may be available domestically as well. This is a GREAT way to travel with your infant. They usually outgrow the bassinet's weight/height requirements sometime between 6 mos. and a year, but until then, take advantage of it!

I have not read all the responses, and just going to give my opinion. Buy a seat!!!!! Anymore it is rare to be on a flight that is not jam packed with people and luggage. You will be more relaxed to not have to worry that you are bothering the person next to you. You will have more privacy to pump, more elbow room, more space to pass the baby back and forth between you and your husband. Just a better time. Good Luck.

Don't waste the money! Trust me, no one wants to sit next to a lady with a baby! :P The airline will work with you to put you somewhere where there is an open seat or switch people around to accomodate you. They don't want everyone po'd with you or them!

Buy a ticket! You'll be so glad you did! We flew one time with our first on our laps, and it was okay, but not that comfortable for hours on end. We decided we would always buy him a ticket from there on out! Plus, it's safer for them to be in their car seats strapped into the plane seat, and mine sleep much better like that on the flight.

Buy the seat for her! She will be so much more comfortable, and so will you! I know $500 is a lot, but there is no price for my kids safety! I think the best thing we did was get our kids their own seats. They had their space and we had ours. We were even complimented by a US Marshall about how well behaved our girls were the entire flight. I know she is only five months old, but she would probably sleep most of the flight if she had her own carseat.

Hi M., I am totally in your shoes. We will be flying to California from the East Coast for Christmas on a 5+ hour flight...and my husband also did not want to buy my daughter a ticket. She's a year old. I am pretty adamant about buying her a ticket because it's her first flight (and a long one at that) and I want her (as well as myself) to be comfortable. I don't think she'll fall asleep comfortably on my lap but I'm pretty sure she'll pass out in her car seat which is what she's used to doing. I just think the flight is too long (at least for me) to worry about her comfort. To me, the extra seat is a small piece of extra insurance that might help me to get her to settle down easier. Just something to consider...good luck and happy holidays!

I would not buy the ticket. My son is now 15 months old and has been on 4 flights and we have never bought him a ticket. $500 is a lot of money and not worth it for me personally.

That being said, if you consider not buying a ticket for her there may be things you can do to try and get a chance at a seat for her. Sometimes the plane is not full so there may be extra seats. I would book seats at the back of the plane. If it is 3 seats across, book the window and aisle. The seat in the middle, on the back of the plane will be one of the last to be booked. We do this ALL the time. If there is a person that comes for it then they are quite happy to switch out the middle seat for the aisle at the last minute. Not worries either way for you. But we have had luck with this and have gotten my son a seat for free! They can tell you at the gate counter if the plane is full or not, so you can decide whether to bring the car seat on or check it in at the gate. BTW, this works great on Southwest Air when it's not a full flight (people will take any seat that is not by the baby!) since there is no reserved seating. And they priority board families!

Good luck which ever way you decide! Go to www.travelswithbaby.com for more tips on flying:)

Buy the ticket. We flew to Ireland, with bulkhead seating, and bought the extra seat. It was so worth it. We brought the car seat along, and my daughter did great. You will be thankful for the extra space if the flight is full --and since airlines have cut down on flights, expect it to be full.

If it were me I would pump and store beforehand and purchase the 2 adult tickets only. It may be uncomfortable but you can make it through the flight without pumping and your daughter can drink the stored milk (they should be able to warm it for you). $500 is a lot of money for the convenience of being able to pump while in flight and you still wouldn't have total privacy because everyone that hears the machine is going to be looking your way as they pass by to go to the bathroom, etc...Good luck...I hope, no matter what you decide, your flight is quick and easy for you, your husband and daughter!

Having flown across the country, and internationally, with my baby, both with my husband and by myself, there are a couple of things to consider:

a) comfort & ease
If you're traveling with your husband then you can share the 'holding'. Your husband can hold your daughter while you pump (and other times too, naturally).

b) safety
Our son was a lap child on his first int'l flight, when we all went as a family, but he was small enough to be in the bassinet. However, I didn't sleep a wink the whole 30 odd hours because even in the bassinet I kept half an eye on him in case of turbulence.
The safest place for your child is in an approved car seat. In case of very bad turbulence you are not strong enough to hold your child. No, bad turbulence doesn't happen all the time, but what if it happens the one time you're on the plane with your daughter? Then you'll consider her life and safety worth far more than $500. Think about the 'brace' position - you can't hold your baby and be in the brace position at the same time. I think they want you to put the baby on the floor in that case. WHAT?!! That's just crazy.
I say buy the plane ticket, and if you can't afford it, then make the decision not to go. It's a hard choice, but I'm sure we'll have much harder decisions to make down the road as parents.

All the best.

We have flown with both of our boys since they were infants. We fly Southwest a lot, and if the flight isn't full (they won't tell you until you ask in person when checking your bags), you can bring the carseat on the flight, but the carseat must go in the window seat. When our kids were infants, this worked pretty well for us when we didn't buy tickets. Once they reached about 9mos and were active and squirmy, we started buying tickets for any flight longer than 2-1/2 hours and bringing the carseat. The majority of the time, they were perfectly content in the carseat. At 5mos, hopefully your daughter will sleep for much of the flight, especially if it's scheduled around her usual naps. You could hold her since she's still pretty small and doesn't move too much. It's a lot of money for the ticket. If you're going to be the one holding her for most of the flight while your husband reads or sleeps, then buy a ticket for the baby. If your husband will be sharing duties holding and entertaining the baby, then don't buy the ticket.

Dear M.:

For the safety and comfort of your infant and you, buy a seat for her. Even if you don't buy a seat and your husband holds her, the high discomfort level of pumping on an airplane might affect your let-down. I flew once with my son -- when he was nine months old. Since then, we've realized we can't comfortably afford a seat for him so we don't travel anywhere that we can't drive to for now. It kind of sucks but it's for the best.

If you are planning on her staying in your lap, you don't need to buy a separate plane ticket. If she is going to be in a seat (with her car seat of course), then yes, you do. We traveled on planes a number of times while our daughter was still a baby - we just held her and we did not need another ticket for her. A couple of times, when she was 1, I flew with her solo. When I booked the flight, I chose a seat that had an empty one next to it, and when that seat did not get taken, I could have her in that seat without having to pay for another ticket. Now she is 3, and we are planning a trip to Florida this winter which will involve flying, and she will need her own ticket for her own seat. Check with the airline and see what their policy is, but most will let you keep her in your lap if she is under 2 years old.

I'd save the money, good chance there will be a seat for her , just ask at the counter...get a hooter hider and pump away :). I've done it lots of times :) good luck!

if it was me, i would not buy a ticket. you will pay a lot for it and still have the baby on your lap most of the time anyway. as far as pumping goes, you should be able to sit by the window and cover up with a blanket to pump, but know that other people are going to hear it and if that bothers you, then you should go into the restroom

I would want a seat for both safety and convenience. How is your baby about being held or being in a baby carrier? 4 hours is a long time. My older one was just too squirmy even for an under 2 hour flight.

We travel once a year from NJ to MI and back to see family. It is a 2 part trip because we need to take a small propeller jet to Northern MI. We have a 4 year old and a 22 month old (she was 18 months when we last traveled) and have always bought a seat for the car seat for each. It is expensive. My son is 4 and very active so even as a baby we wanted to put him in the car seat. Both my kids will sit in the car seat for about the 90 minutes of the longer part of the flight (with only small protests). I also bring a ton of small toys and snacks. Keeping a toddler busy is harder than with a smaller baby. My older one is getting better with traveling now but under age 3 was hard.

no don't buy it. the baby will be in your lap the entire time. chances are there will be an emppty seat and flight attendants will accommodate you. trust me, you'll get to spend money on tickets from 2 yrs and up. i am not saying this to save you money. i have travelled with my twins when they were infants, i have travelled with seats purchased for them, and times not purchased for them. either way, we always had an extra seat, which we didn't use because twins were on our laps the entire time. take my word for it.

$500 for your child's safety? That doesn't seem like such a bad deal to me. If there's turbulence she'll be strapped in her seat instead of falling or flying around the cabin. I can't imagine letting a 7-month-old baby play on the floor of a plane. I would pay the money to ensure my child's safety and for a more stress-free flight.

Michelle, As a flyer who has been seated next to a family with a baby with no seat I can tell you that you will be a whole lot more comfortable if you have a space to put the baby down. 4 hours is not a long time. but if your holding an armful of baby for that 4 hours then yes it can seem like forever. you might want to read a book, drink a soda or eat some chips. you might need to go to the bathroom etc. get an extra seat to put her and her toys in and ask for the bulkhead seat it gives a little more room. if your in a seat next to someone else that someone else may not want a baby leaning over and drooling on them. as cute as babies are not everyone on a flight will think they are fun, beautiful etc... I love babies but was not happy with the women next to me on a packed flight who had to keep leaning over to get stuff out of the diaper bag. each time she had to lean over the baby's head was in my lap. not good for either one of us. not to mention the mom needed to get up into her carry on stashed overhead. baby was awake and unhappy most of the flight. she might have slept if she was in her carseat in the seat. depending on the kind of plane your on there may be an extra person sitting next to you. so the earlier poster who choose a row with an empty seat got lucky. airlines in this economy are over booking flights on purpose very few have lots of empty seats left anymore.

I would not buy a ticket for a child under 2. I flew with a 3 month old and he slept in my arms the whole time.

I would save the money. It really is not so bad having them on your lap. I flew from London to Montana with my 5 month old on my lap, and it was fine.

NO, at 5 months old, that baby will probably be sleeping the whole time!!! I would definitely save the $$!!! And definitely try to see if she will nurse, she might just because she may be nervous...but if not, definitely save the bottle for the plane, so she will sleep right afterwards! Good luck!!!

If you can swing the $500 I would do it. I have two kids (3 and 1 year old). We fly alot since my parents live in AZ and my husband's in Italy. Never bought a seat for my daughter and always had difficult flights. We decided to buy a seat for my son and WOW, does it make a difference for everybody - and it's safer for your baby of course.

We never bought our daughter a seat. We travelled a lot with my husband for work. I have pumped at airports in thier family room (yes many people knocked but oh well). I have also pumped in the plane seats. I used my manual pump so it would be quiet. I just put a blanket over and my husband held the baby. I even did it once with someone next to my husband on the aisle. I always took the window. If you did buy another ticket you would at least have the entire row and if you have a manual pump, I bet no one would notice. I also pumped many, many times in the car while my husband was driving. Have sat in parking lots while my huband is at the football game. You gotta do what you gotta do. I pumped for 15 mo with each child. Got very good at it.

I agree with EM. That's what we did, we booked a window and an aisle. On our flight out to Cali no one sat there, on our way back someone did, but we asked her if she would mind moving to one of the other open seats and she did no problem...good for her since the flights were both crazy!!! Our dd was almost 2 and just couldn't sit. We didn't bring our carseat and didn't plan to since our friend picking us up had borrowed one for us. I wish I would have had a carseat for her, but at 5 mths, I can't see an issue with you holding her the whole time. I know my dd always wanted/wants to still be held and she's 4 now!

I am having the same debate with myself. We are flying for Christmas and our daughter will be 10 months when we go. We didn't by a ticket but I am feeling like we should have for us it would be an extra $700 that we just don't have. It is honestly easier to have a seat for them, they do SOOOO much better when they are contained in a familiar car seat.
I also agree with what someone else said, you should be able to make it the 4 hours with out pumping. Just pump ahead of time and bring it on the plane with you. Breast milk is allowed through security in amounts larger than 3 oz. Check out the TSA website and flying with children, breastmilk, and formula.
Something to think about is that if you don't have a seat for the baby then you will need to check the car seat. Luggage gets thrown and banged and you have no idea what happens to your car seat once you check it, it could easily get dropped or thrown and have damage that you cant see that will cause it to fail in a car crash. We keep the original shipping boxes for our seats and if we are checking them we pack them in the box and pad them as best as we can to prevent damage.

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