Tips for Traveling with a Lap Child on an Airplane

Tips for Air Travel with a Lap ChildAs I was flying to Orlando a few days ago, I saw a family traveling with lap children. It was a lovely family, a dad, a mom, and two adorable daughters. Unfortunately, due to lack of information, airline controls, and planning, both parents’ nerves were frazzled before we reached 35,000 feet. Hopefully these tips will keep others from having to go through what they went through.

There is only 1 lap child allowed per section of seats. If you are traveling with more than one lap child, you will have to sit separately or at least across the aisle from each other (check your airline’s policy to verify, some may have different policies). This family, unfortunately, did not know that and booked seats next to each other… and the online booking form let them. When they arrived at the airport with two lap children, the airline left the dad in the original booked seat, but moved the mom to a middle seat in another row, which was all that was left by that time. The mom was very upset because they had purposely booked the bulkhead row so the girls had room to play on the floor during the flight and now she was in a regular row in a middle seat. The other daughter was also upset because now mom wasn’t nearby. Fortunately, there was a “hero” to save the day. The man sitting in the aisle seat of the bulkhead row across from the husband volunteered to change seats with the wife, but that won’t always happen. It’s best to know the policy first and book the seats accordingly right from the beginning.

Have a bottle, pacifier, or any other “necessity” available during takeoff and landing. With the first issue resolved, it should be smooth flying now, right? Nope. Just as we’re about to take off, the baby in the mom’s lap started screaming. It was loud and nonstop. That poor mom was doing everything she could to soothe the baby, but there was nothing that could be done. The mom said something to the dad about a bottle, but being in the bulkhead row, everything that they brought was in the overhead compartment, completely inaccessible during takeoff. Something as simple as having a lidded bottle in the seat next to her may have calmed the baby and would have also calmed the mom or at least given her something else to try.

Which leads me to the bulkhead row seems like it would be better because of the extra room, but it may not be. As I watched these parents with their girls, it seemed to me that a regular seat may have been better for them. The older daughter did get down on the floor and play for a little while, but for the most part, both girls were in their parents’ laps. The younger one fell asleep. In the meantime, every time the girls wanted something, they were getting up and getting it out of the overhead. They did get one bag down, but for the most part, they were up, down, up, down, up, down, which was made more difficult because they had a child in their lap. In a regular seat, they would have had their bags under the seat in front of them, readily accessible.

This, though, leads me to my number one tip about lap children – buy them their own seat. I know plane tickets can be expensive, but it’s worth it. First is the extra room. With three of us, we took an entire section of seats so he did have some space to move about. Second is that when he was asleep or strapped in but entertained, I had at least some limited freedom to read or relax. None of those are what made it worth it for me, though. One time when I was traveling before I had my son, I was on a plane that had to make an emergency landing. While we braced for landing, I saw what a woman near me had to do with her lap child. She had to put her child on the floor by her feet and hold him as best as she could there. The child was crying, she was crying, and I wanted to cry. How could that be safe? It’s not! Those emergency landings are rare, but heavy turbulence is not. The reason that bags have to be stowed is so that they don’t go flying and injure someone. An adult cannot hold a child in a 60mph crash, it only stands to reason that a child can’t be held easily at 500mph. Flight attendants have been calling for a ban on lap children for years (http://www.jetwithkids.com/lap-child-policy-10-veteran-flight-attendants-perspectives/) and numerous government agencies including the FAA and industry organizations also warn it isn’t safe (http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/travel/columnist/mcgee/2008-07-29-lap-children_N.htm). Only you can ensure your child’s safety when traveling. What’s an extra few hundred dollars when traveling if it could mean the difference of your child being safe?

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