I’ve always been a big believer in getting our kids flying as soon as possible, so we’ve flown plenty with our kids as lap infants both domestically and internationally. The great news for miles and points fans is that booking award travel with a lap infant follows the same basic rules as booking cash fares with a lap infant. Those rules can get a little bit complicated, so this post will teach you everything you need to know about booking award travel with lap infants.
Let’s answer some of the most important questions you need to tackle when booking award travel with a lap infant.
How much does it cost to travel with a lap infant?
If you’re traveling domestically in the United States, it doesn’t cost any extra to fly with a lap infant. A separate seat for the infant, however, will cost you the same price as an adult ticket in most circumstances. A handful of airlines will charge less for a child’s ticket, but that’s the exception rather than the rule.
When you travel internationally, a lap infant will cost 10% of the cash price for a regular ticket for tickets purchased with cash. So if your ticket to Europe costs $1,000, your lap infant will cost you $100.
Most airlines will also charge 10% of the adult fare for lap infants on award flights, regardless of the cost of the flight in miles. There are some notable exceptions, which we’ll get into at the end of this post. When booking award tickets, it’s important to know which airlines will charge you 10% of the cash fare, because lap infants must be booked in the same cabin as the adult they are traveling with.
A round-trip award ticket to Europe in business class sounds great, but if the lap infant costs you $500, suddenly the math becomes much more difficult. But don’t worry, we’ll let you know the best programs to book award travel with lap infants – airlines that will help you avoid the 10% cash fare and get you and your children in business class for much less.
How do you add a lap infant to a domestic ticket?
Adding a lap infant to a domestic ticket is pretty straightforward, mostly because it doesn’t cost any money. Some airlines, like United, will allow you to add your lap infant while you’re booking online. If you can’t add the lap infant at ticketing, just call the airline after you’ve booked and you can easily add the lap infant.
For domestic tickets, sometimes our family doesn’t even add the lap infant until we get to the airport. Depending on the airline you can do this at the counter or even at the kiosk. In most cases, the lap infant will have a separate boarding pass (either mobile or paper), so be sure to keep that in mind.
For domestic flights, the process will be the same whether its a cash fare or an award ticket.
One important note: if you are flying Southwest, you must provide proof of age for your infant to the airport. So bring a birth certificate or equivalent, because they are very serious about that requirement.
How do you add a lap infant to an international ticket?
Adding a lap infant to an international ticket more or less happens the same way it does with domestic tickets. The big difference, of course, is that on an international ticket you’ll have to pay for the lap infant (either money or miles). I do not recommend saving this until you get to the airport. You can do it there, but it’s not worth the stress – take care of it before you get there (preferably weeks in advance).
For cash fares on most airlines, when you call to add the lap infant, you will be charged 10% of the adult’s ticket. For award tickets, you will either be charged 10% of the adult fare (for most airlines) or you’ll have to pay a certain number of miles (for a few airlines).
Paying for a lap infant on an award with miles is often a great value when redeeming your miles for business class flights. When booking coach awards, it’s good to compare your options.
What are the best airlines for lap infants on international award tickets?
Finding the best fare for your international flight is complicated when you need to compare cash and award prices between multiple airlines. It turns into a Matrix-like situation when you throw in lap infants because the pricing for them is another variable you need to account for in your calculations!
Still, some airlines rise above the rest when booking lap infants for international award travel, especially if you plan to fly in business class or first class. Here are four good options for airlines to consider booking award travel with if you have a lap infant and want to minimize the cost for the infant.
I decided to choose one or two options per airline alliance to help you cover your bases.
Aeroplan/Air Canada (Star Alliance)
For Star Alliance flights, Air Canada’s Aeroplan program is the way to go when it comes to lap infants on award tickets. United will charge you 10% of the cash fare, but Aeroplan only charges you $50 or 5,000 miles for a lap infant in coach, $75 or 7,500 miles for a lap infant in premium economy, $100 or 1,000 miles in business, and $125 or 12,500 miles in first class.
Unfortunately, Air Canada often passes along fuel surcharges to award flights. However, if you’re booking flights on United metal, you won’t be charged fuel surcharges (United doesn’t have them) and you’ll save a lot of money on the cost of the lap infant if you’re flying in business class.
Even if flying a carrier with fuel surcharges, you could just book one parent with the lap infant on Aeroplan and save the money for the lap infant, while booking the other parent with a carrier like United to avoid the fuel surcharges.
The flat rate for lap infants makes Air Canada’s Aeroplan program the best Star Alliance option by far when it comes to lap infants on an award ticket. You can earn Aeroplan miles by earning Membership Rewards on American Express and transferring them over.
British Airways Avios (Oneworld)
If you’re looking to fly an international award ticket on Oneworld carriers, British Airways Avios are your best bet for lap infants. British Airways will only cost you 10% of the adult mileage fare when booking a lap infant, which is a great deal even in business or first class.
British Airways isn’t the cheapest since it’s a distance based award chart, but you could again book one parent with another carrier like American Airlines while saving money on the lap infant. 10% of a 105,000 Avios flight from the US to Hong Kong usually hurts way less than a $1,000 lap infant charge!
British Airway Avios can be transferred from both Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards.
For Skyteam, Korean Air is the best option cost wise, charging only 10% of the mileage cost plus taxes and fees. Korean Air also has a reputation of being very kid friendly, so if you fly on their metal it’s a great option.
Korean Air infant award costs
The biggest issue with booking award tickets on Korean Air is that there are no transferable bank points that you can use with Korean Air. They used to partner with Chase Ultimate Rewards but that partnership recently ended. US Bank issues a Korean Air Skypass Visa, but other than that, your only other option is to transfer Marriott Bonvoy points.
Luckily, if you want to fly on Delta metal, there is another great option if you’re booking an international award ticket with a lap infant.
Virgin Atlantic recently revamped how they do lap infant award tickets which is great for parents traveling with young children. You now play a flat rate depending on the class of service you’re flying in. A one-way international flight for a lap infant in coach costs 1,000 Virgin Atlantic miles, premium economy costs 2,000 miles, and business class — Virgin class this Upper Class — costs 5,000 miles.
This is great for Delta flights which you can book through Virgin Atlantic without worrying about fuel surcharges. As an added bonus, Delta flights typically require fewer Virgin Atlantic miles than Delta SkyMiles.
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Delta’s variable pricing often makes their business class flights too pricey when booking with Skymiles, but the Virgin Atlantic cost in miles doesn’t change. For example, a flight to Europe (not including the UK) from the East Coast might cost you 80,000 Skymiles, but will only cost you 50,000 Virgin Atlantic miles.
Some tips for flying with a lap infant
Surviving a long haul flight with a lap infant, even in business or first class, is an article unto itself. But still, I’d be remiss writing about the best award programs for lap infants without at least touching on what you can do to handle the long flight.
There’s no way I can cover everything in this short coda to this article, but I can boil my advice down to three main ideas.
First, prepare activities. You know what your child enjoys, bring things onto the plane that you know can keep them occupied on a long flight. For our kids, we like to put snacks inside pillboxes. Our babies all loved opening the boxes and then, of course, eating the snacks inside. We also generally throw our screen time regulations out the window when traveling with infants.
My second piece of advice would be to not sweat the nap too much. Obviously, it’s ideal that your baby sleeps at her regular naptime even when you’re on a long-haul flight. And lots of babies do! But if it doesn’t happen, don’t panic, just do your best to keep them calm and hope they sleep eventually. We always travel with an infant carrier (we use a Beco) since our kids almost always fell asleep in that as babies.
Finally, and I know this is difficult, but be prepared to be flexible. This dovetails with nap time, but it bears repeating – babies are unpredictable and can be even more so on a flight. So do your best not to stress out about it.
Again, you are the parent, and you know what’s best for your child. You may get some dirty looks, but they’re the same looks you’d get with your child in public anywhere. Your infant has every right to fly so don’t worry about what other people think. Try to stay in tune with your baby’s needs and adjust on the fly as necessary to meet them.
Traveling with infants is something that gets easier with practice, so take a short flight to practice before you need to take a long one. Trust me, from experience, the destination and the journey will be worth it for both you and your baby, even if things don’t go according to plan!
Navigating lap infant tickets can be confusing, but there’s definitely a lot of value to be had even when you have to pay for your lap infant’s ticket on an international flight. Be sure to bookmark this post if you’re looking to fly internationally with your baby and feel free to ask questions in the comments or the 10X Insiders Facebook Group whenever you have them!
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