31 answers

Infant in Lap Vs. Seat on Plane

We have always bought plane tickets for our kids when they were infants. I tend to be ultra cautious, and having them in a car seat in the plane seemed safest.

However, now there are five of us. And flights this summer are ridiculously expensive, presumably driven by the high cost of oil. And when we flew last summer, our youngest was so fussy that I ended up holding him for 95% of the time we were on the plane, even though we had bought him a seat and schlepped the car seat onboard.

So, we are considering NOT buying a ticket for our 20 month old this summer. Will I be able to lower the tray table with him in my lap? (He is big, about 75th percentile for his age.) Will we be able to put down the armrest and have the three kids share two seats for parts of the flight? (I know that wouldn’t be allowed for take-off and landing, but do they allow it in-flight?) It’s a >6 hour flight. If we don’t get him a seat, will I totally regret it?? (P.S. I know I will end up being the one holding him the majority of the time, especially since my husband thinks we should cough up the money for the extra ticket.)


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It really depends how long the flight is. A 20 month old is not going to be willing to sit still for long in your arms.

As a mom who once tried to hold a 22 month old on a 2 hour flight to Seattle, I really recommend getting the seat- for your own sanity.

I would buy the ticket. I guess it depends though on if you're going to bring a car seat. If you are and he'll sit in it all the way, then that's worth the extra money right there. I'm assumming you'll all be in a row. Cuz if you have a stranger in the row and your baby is crawling all over you and fussing, that could get tense. We just flew across country with our 10 1/2 mo and we bought a ticket for her. She was crawling all over me and fussing but it was nice to have that extra space for her to play. I don't think I could've dealt with having her on my lap for 5 1/2 hours in the air. Cheers to you if you can : )

Good luck!

D., I agree with your husband, buy the ticket and take the seat. I just flew back on a non-stop flight from JFK (New York) to Oakland and I can't imagine not having the car seat for your child. That flight was almost 6 hours long and every baby on that flight had some type of issue by the time we got to Oakland. Your baby is sure to get restless, cranky or sleepy (or all 3). Plus you never know when the flight might become turberlent. Your baby will be much safer in the car seat than on your lap!!!!!!


I don't think they will allow 3 kids to share 2 seats even in flight. They usually keep the seat belt light on for when you are sitting. My husband & I held our 1 year old twins on a flight from Oakland to Washington DC and I totally regretted it. If you think he will relax on your lap but that just seems uncomfortable for that long of a flight. Sometimes we have to pay for convenience and having that extra seat will at least let you put him down sometimes. Your poor legs will probably cramp up. Hope it works out for you! Flights are tough if little ones. I now give my kids dramamine and they usually sleep for the flight.

I would spring for the ticket on a flight that long.

This decision depends A LOT on how your son travels. I've been travelling alone with my son since he was 6 weeks old, and lucky me, he's a GREAT flyer!! We've never bought a ticket for him, and we're totally dreading having to come October because like you said, flights are ridiculous right now! Here are some other tips that have worked for us.

1. We almost ALWAYS fly Southwest because there are usually empty seats and it's festival seating, which means you don't have an assigned seat. I usually ask the flight attendant as we board if the flight is full, and if it's close, he/she will tell you that they'll let you know if they need the seat next to you.

2. I usually sit towards the back of the plane (where no one else really wants to sit) by the window with him or my jacket, etc in the middle seat, and if someone wants to sit on the aisle, that's fine. Only once in 19 months have we been on a full flight. Other airlines are another story....

3. I try to schedule our flight early in the morning or around naptime, so he would nurse during take-off and sleep for the flight. I put him in the sling and have a great flight! Festival seating also works for nursing because you can sit against the window on the side of the plane that corresponds to which side is next.

You won't be able to put the tray table down regardless of his size, but being lucky enough to have an empty seat next to you allows you and your child to have their own tray tables. 75% of flight attendants LOVE kids and will help in any way they can.

I wouldn't recommend putting 3 kids in 2 seats because of the armrest base, but I also don't like the idea of strapping my kid in his carseat. He loves to climb around and look out the window and stand in my lap so he can see the other passengers. We usually get lucky and have a couple around us who like to play peek-a-boo or just talk silly to him, and he laughs!

I'm also one to try almost anything once. With your child being 20 months old, even if the flight is miserable, it'll probably be the only one because he/she is so close to turning 2 anyway. I wouldn't buy a ticket unless you get a good price on your flight. Good luck!

My boss' daughter is 6 months old and it is manditory that you pay for them to sit on your lap it was something like 175 so i think u should just buy the seat?

Hi there,
In my experience, my son always ended up on my lap most of the flight regardless of having an extra seat. The advantage of the extra seat is just having the extra room - but that is expensive extra room. If you have 5, I would suggest buying the 4 seats, and reserve 3 together and 1 across the aisle. That way you can sit with the other two kids and have all 3 share the seat (the flight attendants might discourage it, but it should be okay if the seatbelt sign is off.) Then you can hand the little one across to your husband when you need a break. I would save the money, but I am always on a budget, and splurge somewhere else on your trip. Good Luck!

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