Before you even get started with flying with your baby, you have to book your tickets first. I was lost when it came to booking tickets for infants. I didn’t know if they were free, did you have to pay, did they need an ID, etc. Here are a few of the things I’ve learned along the way:
Birth Certificate: Whenever you fly with an infant, you have to take their birth certificate with you. It’s their form of ID and also allows the airlines to check their age (if they are considered a lap-child). Our county has you request a birth certificate online once you get home from the hospital so we made sure to do this immediately and not wait. And we ordered 2 just in case we lost one. Some airlines require you show it to them when checking in so we always take it with us in our carry-on when flying.
Tickets: I know I said this in multiple posts, but we always fly with Eli as a lap baby. On domestic flights, lap babies are free until they are 2, and even if we purchased his own seat, he would end up sitting in our lap for most of the flight. When booking tickets, most airlines let you add a lap child on your ticket online, but I know American Airlines makes you call customer service to add them (which is a little annoying to do, but still not that difficult). Keep in mind when selecting seats, they may move you when you board because not all seats are equipped with the extra oxygen mask for the infant – and remember you also cannot sit in an exit row.
Side-note – a lap-child is not free on an international flight! I did not know this on our first flight, but you have to pay for them. Every airline is different, but most you pay 10% of the purchase price on the day you fly, not the lowest purchase price or the price you paid. More on that in my post about flying internationally with a baby here.
If you do want to purchase a separate seat for your infant, they can sit in their carseat. This would be nice for extra long flights (especially if you are flying alone). Always call your airline before booking to see if there is a discount for infants in seats as some do offer this. Also, if you are flying with multiple children, remember you can only have one lap-child per ticketed adult (granted, I’m not sure how you would hold more than one child at once, but I’m sure some moms are so awesome they could)!
Checking-in: Some airlines will not give you a mobile boarding pass (since you have a lap child) and make you check-in and print your boarding pass at the airport (I think they do this so they can check the age of the baby and also see their identification (birth certificate). All airlines are different with this, but if I am able to get a mobile boarding pass, I always call if my ticket doesn’t say something about infant lap child (some boarding passes don’t even mention him, so I always want to make sure he was added to my ticket. We’ve had a few instances where he never got added).
Checking Your Carseat: You can check a carseat for free on almost every airline (I haven’t run in to one that you can’t). We usually check our carseat so we do not have to lug it through the airport. There is more on this in my post on carseats and strollers here.
***Update: I received some awesome tips from a good friend I wanted to share: 1) You can use your child’s most recent shot record rather than a birth certificate as their identification! This is such a great tip so you don’t have to worry about losing a birth certificate and can fold the shot record and keep it in your wallet!! and 2) You can ask if a flight is full when you arrive (I know Southwest does this) and if it is not, they will give your infant a seat and you can take their carseat with you on board. This way they get their own seat, but you don’t have to pay for it in case they want to sit in your lap the entire time!