Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Booking Airline Tickets for a Baby: What You Should Know

Booking Airline Tickets Baby

Some exciting news for this new family: we are headed to Costa Rica in November!  The tickets are booked, hotels taken care of, and a list of fun activities and destinations drawn up.  My husband and I have been to Costa Rica before (we even got married there), but this is the first time we've ever been there with our wee babe, let alone traveled on a plane with her.  This is a whole new ball of wax!

While prepping for the trip, I had no idea what I was doing baby-wise.  I was on the phone for literally hours with the airline trying to figure out how to book Peanut and get all my T's crossed and I's dotted.  In order to save others the trouble, I've compiled a handy-dandy compendium of things new parents need to know about booking flights for babies over 7 days old and under 2 years old!


1. Book Your Own Flight First

If you are an online flight booker, like myself, you need to follow this first step.  Children under 2 typically cannot be booked online.  I am speaking only in general terms - there are probably airlines somewhere that have a system prepared for infant booking, but I've yet to encounter it.  I researched about four airlines in Canada, and none of them had the option to book a baby online.  So, simply book the flights for all the passengers in your party over the age of 2 as you normally would to get the ball rolling.

Don't cry Peanut!  We're not leaving you - we just booked ourselves first...

2. Call In To Book Baby's Flight With The Airline After

Once your tickets have been e-ticketed, you can then call in to the airline itself to add-on your baby. You will need your confirmation or e-ticket number to do so.  I didn't have a confirmation number due to, well I don't actually know why my ticketing website didn't issue me one, but it turned out to be a huge pain with the stupid automated system.  After yelling, "AGENT!" into the phone about a billion times, I finally was able to connect with a person who found my confirmation almost instantly.  (As you can tell, I am not a fan of automated phone systems...)

Once my confirmation was located, we were able to book Peanut as a passenger, albeit one that needs to sit on my lap for the duration of the flight.  You CAN book a seat just for the baby, as long as you bring a safety seat for them to be placed in, but it will cost you the same as booking a flight for an adult.  I'm assuming she'll be a little fussy, and I'll probably have to hold her anyway, so I saved the cost of buying a third seat by agreeing to hold Peanut for the duration of the flight.

** If you like to call into the airline to book your flights right off the bat, or you visit a travel agent to get your flights booked, the first two points in this article are probably of no help to you.  Sorry, but I am an online booker through and through! **

I wonder how interested the baby will be in looking out the window....

3. Babies DON'T Always Fly Free

Somewhere, someone told me that babies under 2 always fly for free, if you haven't bought the aforementioned adult seat for them.  However, this is untrue (and again, I'm not speaking for EVERY airline out there, only the ones I researched.  If you know of any airlines that don't fit this mold, please tell me in the comments section.  And I highly recommend you quickly Google your chosen airline for their specific policies before assuming what I'm saying applies.)

Babies typically fly for free only on domestic flights.  If you are flying intercontinental, say from Canada to the USA, taxes are charged but that's all.  And if you are flying international, the cost for a baby to fly is 10% of an adult rate plus taxes. So armed with that knowledge, you can adjust your flight budget accordingly!

On another note, if you have TWO babies under 2 (for example, twins) you need TWO adults with you in order for them to fly at the discounted or free rate.  One adult cannot be holding two babies on his or her lap.  If you are stuck in a situation where you are the only adult for two kids under 2, one of those little dollies needs to sit in a safety seat and pay the full adult price.

So what if Peanut's ticket was 10% of an adult flight? It's worth it to bring her here...

4. Check Your Strollers At The Gate (If They're Big)

Common sense dictates that if you are traveling with a large stroller, you'll have to fold it (or even better, dismantle it), bag it, and check it at the gate.  So keep in mind that you'll be carting your baby around the airport on your hip for awhile.  Smaller, fold-able umbrella strollers can be taken right up the jet bridge and checked with the stewards there.

As for the rest of your luggage requirements (car seat, playpen, baby's bag, baby's carry-on), you'll have to check with your chosen airline.  EVERY airline that I researched all had different allowances and requirements.  Some let you check a car seat and stroller or playpen for free (2 free items maximum) while others charged for everything that needed to be checked.  It seems to be pretty individual according to airline.  Make sure you research this aspect beforehand.

On a related note, if you are formula feeder or like to pre-pump breast milk for your little one, check your airline's guides on bringing bottles on-board.  They legally cannot deny you the right to feed your child, but they can dictate the size of bottle you bring on board.  Some airlines encourage you to bring small coolers as they can't guarantee fridge space to keep your milk at the proper temperature.  Once again, I beg you to check with your airline first before getting stopped at security in a really awkward situation.

Our stroller will have to be checked - it's massive!

5. Layovers Are Not Necessarily Bad

Both flights to and from Costa Rica that we booked have layovers in Houston.  (We are too poor to fly direct - I'm just happy we are able to afford going at all, and that's mainly to my Air Miles points that I've been saving for, oh, ten years!)

I fretted over those layovers, thinking they were going to make the trip so much longer and more difficult for Peanut, but as I discussed it with my husband, we both realized they might be small blessings.  The baby will be tired from leg one of the flight, and a nice sleep in a comfy room rather than conked out awkwardly on Mommy's or Daddy's lap will be much needed.  Not to mention that there is a pool and our little one is a water baby to say the least.

The hotels add an extra couple of hundred dollars to our trip, that is true.  But it will save us that much in therapy bills after we lose our sanity from dragging around an exhausted crying baby who has been flying for 10 hours and hauled through three airports.  Balance, people - that's what you are looking for!

Exploring new hotels is part of the fun of a layover, not to mention a well-rested baby!

I hope these little tips help!  I learned a lot the other day while speaking to about three or four different airline associates, trying to glean this information from them.

Do you have any other really helpful "booking for baby" tips?  I'll be posting an article on "flying with baby" just as soon as we make it through that process, but if I've missed anything about the actual booking experience, feel free to add it to the comments below!

2 comments:

  1. Thanks for the great information! I'll be flying to NYC with my 11-month old, she'll be 13 months old when flying. I wonder what is actually considered a baby? Under one year? For my hotel reservation on Hotel deals in NYC they booked her as a baby at only 10% higher room rate for the water, noise and the added baby bed, but I fear that the airline won't be that nice to me and I really want to keep the travel costs down, I'm trying to travel on the cheap.

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    1. Babies are considered to be 2 years and under. The sleeper bassinets are only for babies 22 pounds and under though, so you'll have 2 choices: hold your child on your lap during the flight, or bring a safety seat and buy an adult ticket for the wee one. Call your airline: they'll walk you through it! Good luck!!! :)

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