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Flying With an Infant

If your infant is going to be flying with you, it pays to do some prior planning and preparation. First, you must decide whether you are buying your baby a seat on the plane (people flying with infants under age two may hold their child in their lap at no cost). Being prepared with plenty of toys, food, clothes, and diapers will go a long way in making the flight comfortable for you and your baby.

Babies and Flying: An Overview

Flying with an infant can be a little hectic at times, but with a few tricks and tips under your belt, you can complete that trip like a pro. Of course, there are several FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) rules and regulations to be aware of that can serve as a guide of where to start.
 

Deciding on Whether to Buy Your Infant a Seat on the Plane

If you are traveling with a baby on a plane and he or she is under two years of age, you may hold your baby in your lap at no cost. This is an enticing option for parents looking to make a trip while sticking to a limited budget. Of course, there are benefits and drawbacks to both.
 
For Those Not Purchasing a Separate Seat
If you are going to hold your child in your lap, you will not have to pay for his or her flight. This is a great and affordable way to fly if the trip is a short one. If you can manage to schedule the trip so that your baby will be able to sleep for most or all of the flight -- all the better!
 
You will, however, need to take care of a few legal items in order to board the plane. Although a boarding pass or ticket is not required for your baby, you will need to get what's called a BVD or ("Boarding Verification Document").
 
To get a BVD for your baby, you need to confirm with the airline's ticketing agent that your baby is under two years old. To do this, you must bring a legal copy of your baby's birth certificate.
 
A few drawbacks of flying without a seat for your baby are:
 
  • Because of the need to get a BVD, online check-in is not possible.
     
  • If a seat was not purchased for an infant, you may not allocate any of your carry-on items to your baby, nor will he or she be able to check any baggage.
     
  • For most airlines, an umbrella stroller and a diaper bag are the two items that the accompanying adult may carry on or check in addition to their regular carry-on or check-in bag allowance. You may want to confirm that this is true for your selected airline prior to your arrival at the airport.
     
For Those Purchasing a Separate Seat
Depending on the airline, infant fares are sometimes available for little travelers who need their own seat. This is the preferred method of flying for most parents, as it is infinitely more comfortable for you and your baby.
 
When you purchase a ticket for your baby, you get to bring their own car seat for them, which often makes things much smoother, as they are in a familiar seat. One thing to note, when purchasing your tickets and getting seat assignments, is that your baby is required to be on the inside seat, as to not block other people's exit (car seats generally stick out more).
 
Some other mentionable benefits to purchasing an infant ticket are:
 
  • If your child is going to be traveling by car in the destination city, you will need to bring a car safety seat anyway. Since you have purchased a seat for the flight, your child can travel safely in her FAA-approved car seat on the plane and in the car.
     
  • Online check-in is available if the infant is traveling on an infant fare and is age verified.
     
  • If you choose not to bring your child's car seat, the FAA has approved a new type of child safety device known as "CARES." CARES uses an additional belt and shoulder harness that goes around the seat back and attaches to the passenger lap belt to provide restraint for the upper part of the body.
     
CARES was specifically designed for small children weighing between 22 and 44 pounds and has been safety tested and approved for air travel. It is much smaller, lighter, and easier to use than a car safety seat. The CARES device is available for purchase at kidsflysafe.com.
 
Whether you bring your child's car safety seat or the CARES harness system, you still need to complete the usual boarding process for your child. You will need to obtain a boarding pass for yourself and your infant, go through security, and check in at the gate the way you normally would.
 
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