Flying with a Lap Baby – Is it Worth the Risk to Save Hundreds?

flying with a lap baby is it worth the risk to save hundreds of dollars?

Y’all, you know me. I (obviously) like to save money. With the holidays coming up we’ve been throwing around ideas about what we should do. We’re planners, we’re Virgo’s, we’re Type A (well, Aaron is more than me;), and we also know that the earlier we buy our plane tickets the more money we can save. I’ve even heard that for each day you wait to buy it’s an average of $5 that’s added, per day, to the price of the ticket.

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One of the ideas we have is to go visit my family in Lincoln, Nebraska. We’d probably fly because the tickets are so inexpensive, (relatively speaking), and the flight is a mere 1 hour long. If we drive then it’s close to 8 hours (or, it can be done in 7 hours if you only stop 2 times, and go 7 to 10 miles over the speed limit the whole time. Not that I would know.).

When thinking about flying with our little guy, Henry, (his 1st airplane trip) we definitely did not even consider the possibility of buying him his own seat because, I mean, duh. Babies under 2 can fly for free! So you better believe we were going to take full advantage of the chance to save some money!


What I didn’t realize though was that there may be risks to not getting him his own seat. I thought things like:

– “He’s so little it would be no problem to keep him on our laps. He might will be squirmy but it won’t be for long so it’ll be fine! Let’s save money when we can!”

– “That’s such a waste of money to be going and getting all spread out and luxurious on the plane! We’ll just be scrunched up for a little bit! It’ll be fine! Let’s save money when we can!”

– “Only people with money to spare (like lots of it) would ever buy their baby their own seat. I mean, come on. There’s money to be saved here so let’s save it! We’ll be fine! “


I never thought about not going with “baby flies free” option because I never had a reason not to. You see, the other day I joined a Facebook group called Car Seats for the Littles. I was scrolling along thinking about how complicated this whole car seat thing is when it really shouldn’t be that hard, right? And then, this article pops up about changing the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations for kids under 2. My first thought was what it had always been: “Oh hell no! SAVE THE MONEY!”

But then, I read a this: Babies Have a Right to a Safe Seat with Proper Restraints – The Infant Seat Exception Should be Abandoned, and that completely changed everything.

Now, I feel like if we do fly anywhere before the baby’s 2 years old there’s no way I can justify not spending money on a seat for him after knowing what I know now. If, heaven forbid, anything were to happen I would never be able to forgive myself for not buying a seat just to save some money.

To me, it just isn’t worth the risk. I’ve got to say, there are some things that are far more important that money, and this is one of those things.


So, I have a hundred (6) questions for you: What do think about all this? Did you know about the risks associated with having a Lap Baby? Is it worth the extra couple hundred bucks?  Am I over-reacting? Why isn’t this something we hear about more? Why isn’t this a bigger deal to people? 

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10 thoughts on “Flying with a Lap Baby – Is it Worth the Risk to Save Hundreds?

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  1. Jen

    Another consideration- riding beside someone holding a big-ass-but-still-under-2 kid in their lap is freaking AWFUL. Those airplane seats are so small and narrow as it is, and babies don’t know any better than to kick and squirm. Not a huge deal if the person on the other side is a parent, but still. It does seem ridiculous to me that people have been pushing against driving with babies in laps for so long, and not even taking notice of lap babies on airplanes- yes, airplane crashes happen less often, but they’re just as violent. (And WTF with the woman putting the baby on the floor in that paper?? How on earth would that ever be a good idea? I thought mothers were supposed to bend forward over the baby.

  2. Caz

    I did travel with a lap baby until I realized the baby has NO safe restraints at all. They wouldn’t allow me to wear a baby carrier, so basically if you hit really bad turbulence your baby could turn into a projectile.

    After that I checked out all the car seat options and found a seat that can be used on a plane and can be taken up to the gate and is also useful for arrival when you leave the airport.

  3. nsheils

    I purchased a seat for my infant daughter, but they forced me to put her on my lap on BA because her car seat was rear facing. I literally said to the woman, do you think my baby is safer with this lap restraint vs strapped into a five point harness? She told me rules were rules. So that’s serious f’ed up. I had to take her out of her seat for take off and landing…

    That said, we have had the kids on our laps before, but I hate it. Generally all of our travel is between 12-22 hours, so no one wants to have a baby on their lap for that long.

  4. Beth

    We’ve flown from New Zealand to the States twice. Each time we’ve had a lap baby. Yes, they squirmed, but we didn’t have too many problems besides that.

  5. Stephanie

    When my son was just over 1 year old we flew across the country with him to visit family for the holidays. We definitely cringed at the idea of the money we could have saved, but it just seemed strange to think that in the event of a crash, rare as they are, we would be strapped in and the baby would not be. Like you said, it wasnt worth not being able to live with myself. For that reason maybe it was a choice actually motivated by selfishness. Regardless, it just didn’t feel right, not that we had an expendable income or anything. Part of me did wonder if we were crazy, though, so I really appreciate this blog post!

    What we didn’t realize ahead of time was how much easier it made the trip due to the fact that we wouldn’t be seated next to anyone while trying to keep the baby happy in our lap. We flew southwest and they don’t have assigned seating, AND people with children can board first, so each flight we just got on and chose the side with 3 seats in a row and were able to sit all together. In my head I was even taking this diagram into consideration:

    This also provided more privacy for when I took him out to nurse. They did make us put the carseat next to the window so that no one was blocked from getting out of their seat (makes sense). We’d originally thought he’d be between us.

    Anyway, we have a Combi Cocorro. It is lightweight and smallish so it was very convenient. And then we had a car seat for the rental car once we arrived. =D

    I enjoy your blog-thanks so much!

  6. Daricia

    We decided to pay for our baby to have a seat when we flew. The great thing is, it was much easier for everyone. She was used to being in a car seat while traveling in the car at home, so it was nothing new to her and she felt at home in there. She slept and played and didn’t bother either other passengers or her parents. You can always take your baby out briefly to walk around or nurse, but at least s/he has a safe place to be the rest of the time!

  7. Linda

    Anna, drive! If you haven’t yet purchased the tickets…once you consider everything you have to bring with you (Stroller? Clothes? Diapers? Toys?) you’ll realize it’s so much easier to just toss it in the car. Less costly than buying Henry his own seat, which does sound safer (you’re not crazy).

  8. Natasha V

    I’m an avid planner as well and feel uncomfortable doing things last minute. I think I would base the free seat on how long the flight is. If it’s a short flight, take the free seat, is the flight is long… you’re going to want your son to have his own seat. I say this completely for your own sanity.

  9. Alycia

    We bought seats for our children, just to feel safer. They were in our laps part of the time due to stretching needs, but overall it worked well. We also bought an attachment that turns the car seat into a stroller and left the stroller home. We have Britax car seats. You do want to make sure the car seat is approved for air travel. Not all of them are.

    As far as driving vs. flying, we drive when we can. By the time you add up the time to get to the airport, unload everything, get into the airport, check in, get there early enough to make it through security, board, fly, disembark, get your luggage, get your rental car or find your ride, and load everything and everyone on the car and then drive to your destination — well, a one hour flight takes more like four or five hours and costs a lot more than driving.


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