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Flying with an infant on your lap

All You Need to Know About Flying With an Infant on Your Lap

If you are flying with an infant on your lap, then this guide will explain all you  need to know and what to expect whether you are flying on an international flight with baby or domestically. Discover plenty of practical, tried and tested tips for flying with babies under the age of two.

How Old Does A Baby Have To Be To Fly? lap infant on the plane asleep in mothers arms showing how to fly with a baby
Who needs an airline bassinet?

Infant fares

Flying with a lap baby is free on USA domestic flights and often costs around 10% of an adult fare (and sometimes additional taxes) for international flights – making it a popular and sometimes controversial choice for parents, as it is a cheaper option than paying for a seat and can save families some money. 

Paying for a seat for an infant on a plane can range from 66 – 80% of an adult fare on both domestic and international flights, adding a hefty charge to your trip.  Some airlines like Ryan Air charge a flat fee.

Although, it is the cheaper option, it is recommended by the FAA that if you are considering flying with a lap infant, that a car seat is bought for safety reasons.

Thankfully, the likelihood of an emergency is small and all airlines give parents the choice of whether they would prefer to fly with a lap infant or purchase a seat and use a child restraint device when traveling with an infant (eg an airline approved car seat.)

What are the rules for flying as a lap infant?

A baby must be under two years of age to qualify as a lap infant. Once your infant turns 2 years old, they will be considered a child and will need to travel in their own seat. This includes the date of your return journey.

When you are flying with a baby, most airlines will charge you for a seat on the return sector if your baby turns two after the outbound flight. (An exception is British Airways who state you’ll only need to pay the infant fare for the entire journey. For this type of booking you will need to call them up.)

Lap babies on airplanes and children are not allowed to sit in emergency exit rows.

Generally, babies can fly from the age of two weeks on most airlines. This guide goes into individual airline policies on how old a baby has to be to fly. Pre crawling babies are often much easier to fly with!

Flying with a toddler on your lap does make it trickier to entertain them and keep them in one place! That’s when you really might one to reconsider buying a seat for your child.

Here are some really useful ideas on how to entertain your baby on a flight and some educational and brilliant toddler activities.

Travelling with more than one lap infant?

You will need two adults to travel if you wish to have both babies as lap infants. However, bear in mind you may not be able to sit together if you can’t get the bassinet seats. This is because of the amount of oxygen masks allocated per row, which also varies between aircraft type and airlines.

If you’re travelling alone with two infants, depending on their age, one infant can travel on your lap (at the infant fare), and the other in their own seat (at the child fare), as long as they’re secured in an airline approved car seat for safety.

Most airlines stipulate certain safety rules for flights with infants. For example, one infant will have to be over 6 months old to sit in your airline approved car seat, (e.g BA) whereas other do not.

Infant travel documents

Whereas some occasions (mostly domestic flights in some countries only) do not require ID, I always recommend taking some form of identification for all. Below are the requirements but do check the up-to-date travel documents on the IATA page as well as with your airline before booking your flight.

Some airlines may want to check your baby is young enough to qualify for a lap infant ticket, which is another good reason to bring ID.


Domestic flights–  No ID or documentation needs to be shown for children under the age of 18 on a domestic flight, unless they are under 14 days old – (in which case a Doctors letter is required) OR if they are travelling as a lap child – ID may be asked for if the infants age is questionable. In this instance proof of age such as a passport, birth certificate ( photo or digital copies are allowed) or an immunization record are permitted. If a child is travelling as an unaccompanied minor, the adult dropping and picking them up will need photo ID, but the child does not.

International – A valid passport is required for all ages.


Domestic travel – For travellers younger than 18, no passport is required. However, it is recommended that children carry an original birth certificate or non-government issued ID, e.g. a student card.

Travel to/from USA  All passengers, including minors (children under 18) are required to present a valid passport or other valid travel document such as a Nexus card when travelling by air between Canada and the United States.

International – A valid passport is required for all ages.


Domestic flights – Children under the age of 16 do not need to show ID on domestic routes. The adult they are travelling with can vouch for the infant’s/child’s identification, providing the relevant photo ID is shown (by the adult)

If the child is traveling unaccompanied and aged between 12-16 years, they will be required to produce photographic ID.

When travelling with an infant on a domestic route, it’s a good idea to bring either a birth certificate or passport to prove date of birth.

International – A valid passport is required for all ages.

Lap Infant Luggage Allowance

Most airlines will allow you to bring either a car seat or a stroller for free in addition to your normal luggage allowance. In most cases, airlines will allow both items. There is no hard or set rule, but I’ve accumulated over 20 airlines infant baggage allowance in a useful infographic at the end of this post on airplane cabin sized strollers.

The majority of airlines don’t provide an allowance for infant hold luggage, although there are a few exceptions mentioned in the infographic.

In terms of carry on, again, it varies a lot. Some will allow a small, lightweight diaper or nappy changing bag, whereas other airlines will insist that all items are in your hand luggage.

However, as many large airlines do allow an adult a carry on bag plus a small lightweight personal item, this can usually be swapped out for a small diaper bag. You can do this if you have a SouthWest lap child.

One of the times you really need a travel stroller is at the airport, particularly for that long walk to baggage reclaim and the usual snaking queue at immigration. Whilst some airlines do their best to help by providing you with courtesy strollers as you disembark, this is sadly not the norm. The best option is to know your airlines cabin baggage regulations and maximise them to the hilt by bringing a compact cabin sized stroller as your permittable carry on. This may mean you will have to sacrifice another travel bag depending on whether there is an infant baggage allowance for a diaper/nappy bag or similar.

Tips & What to expect when flying with a baby

Although this post goes into great detail of what you can expect when flying with a baby, here are some key tips for flying with a lap infant.

  • Make use of waiting around the boarding gate area by popping to the changing area where there is more space. Plane restrooms are tiny, although most do have a changing table.
Ruby and Ginger changing purse airline changing table
A B737 changing table
  • See if your airline provides bassinets or sky cots. These vary in size and with age and weight restrictions. (This chart compares over 50 airline bassinets). They are located on the bulkhead positions (the wall between the cabins or galley).
  • If you are flying with USA and Canadian airlines then airplane bassinets are given on a first come first served basis at the boarding gate. With other airlines you can either pre- request and, if available, be allocated them at point of booking (eg British Airways), or be noted as a request and be allocated them closer to your departure date. All subject to availability of course.
  • If a bassinet seat is not available, then check out airline seat maps to see which seats will work best for you. It’s always worth asking the crew if there is a chance of a spare seat. You will still have to hold your baby on your lap for take off and landing though. (Unless you are able to bring your airline or FAA approved car seat on board and use.)
  • Some parents have talked about bringing a new dog bed and placing it on their lap. Alternatively, here are some other sleep gadgets for flights.
  • On non US and Canadian based airlines, you will be offered a lap belt to secure your baby to your seat belt. This needs to be secured for taxi, take-off, landing and any turbulence.
child restraint devices airline lap belt
infant lap belt needs to be used during taxi, takeoff, turbulence and landing on all non US and Canadian airlines
  • Babies on airplanes can cry if they can’t clear their ears. Feed during the takeoff and landing phases of the flight, if you are concerned about the change of air pressure. Cabin crew or pilots will normally announce when you are close to arriving at your destination and advise you to use the restrooms before the seatbelt sign comes on. This is your clue that it is almost time to descend and for the landing phase of the flight to begin – when changes in air pressure can occur. Breastfeeding is supported on all airlines as a general rule. You can bring your own formula too or food which can be over the 3-1-1 or 100ml liquid rule. For help sterilising bottles on a plane see here.
  • If you are weaning your baby, many airlines have a special meal section on their website or an option to add where it says “Manage My Booking’. Special meals for babies consist of pureed jars. The only airlines that I am aware of which provide a pre requested post weaning meal for a lap baby are Singapore Airlines and Japan Airlines.
  • If in doubt, always bring your own milk and food supplies for your lap infant. If you are really desperate, ask the flight attendant if there is a spare meal tray available from a no- show passenger.
Japan Airline JAL Post Weaning Meal
  • When traveling with baby, it’s a good idea to always pack extra of everything in case of delays. That includes diapers/nappies, formula and spare changes of clothes.

Flying with a lap baby may seem daunting at first, but it is possible, even on ultra long haul flights to Australia! The best tip, is to do your research and find an airline that works best for your family, whether in terms of flight times, facilities or convenience. Do let me know below how your flight went and if you have any other tips on travelling with an infant?

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