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Make Sure To Budget For ‘Free’ Infant-In-Lap Travel

As a longtime traveler and new father, planning my family’s first flight was a little odd. On the one hand, I was excited to be going on an adventure. On the other, I fretted about bringing enough baby essentials onboard, how delays would affect our little one’s mood, and how his ears would deal with cabin pressure. At least we could take advantage of the free-infant-on-lap deal, right? Well, not exactly.

For our first foreign vacation, to a Nicaraguan beach resort, Continental set us back $237 (before taxes) for the baby’s ticket, exactly half the adult price we paid for the trip from Boston to Managua. Babies under two years of age fly free on domestic flights, but U.S. airlines do charge for trips taken abroad. In my family’s case at least, 90 percent of my son’s fare was a fuel surcharge.

When I looked at other sample prices (all of which include taxes and fees), I found that infant lap fares were hardly consistent, so budgeting in advance is tricky. At the low end were September fares from Boston to London, where an infant lap ticket cost $105; adult tickets were $875 each. However, for a flight from San Francisco to Tokyo in June, the same two-adult-one-baby family would pay $350 (versus $1,075 for an adult ticket) to carry their little one on their laps.

The lesson here? Fly all over the country for those first couple of years, but if you want to travel internationally, expect to either shell out or leave your bundle of joy with grandma.

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