Many young parents like me don’t want to slow down on exploring the world even after having a baby.
They want to have the baby and travel with it too.
But flying with a baby can sound daunting. If you’re like me, you’re probably worried about the baby’s ears popping or having to deal with judgemental stares on the plane. At the same time, you’re wondering if babies get to fly for free.
First things first: Do babies fly for free?
The short answer: They don’t.
There’s a lot of mystery shrouding airfares for children, and that’s because different airlines operate based on different policies.
Usually, a child under 2 years is considered an infant and is allowed to sit on the lap of an adult passenger. Although your child doesn’t take up any seat, you have to pay a percentage of the adult fare plus taxes, usually 10%.
For domestic flights within certain countries, they may allow the baby to fly for free, but if you’re a Singaporean, flying anywhere from our little red dot is international travel, and so, Singaporean babies almost never fly for free.
Once your little tot is above 2 years old, his or her fare becomes a child fare. Sometimes, that’s only slightly cheaper than an adult fare.
For comparison’s sake, a round trip to Osaka in December 2019 via Singapore Airlines costs $824.30 for an adult, $807.70 for a child between 2 and 11, and $73 for an infant under 1 year old.
As for a round trip to Taipei in May 2019 via Eva Air, it costs $831.80 for an adult, $706.80 for a child (2 to 11 years old), and $66 for an infant under 1 year old.
Budget airlines usually charge a flat fee for the infant, anywhere between $100 and $150, depending on the location.
If you are travelling with an infant under 1 year old, definitely go for a full-service carrier.
The flight cost of your infant is cheaper for full service carriers than budget airlines, and they have baby amenities such as bassinets, baby food, wet wipes and disposable bibs. You would appreciate more legroom when you are travelling with a toddler or baby too.
A word of warning that infant airfares become complicated if you do stopovers and airline combinations. Because each airline has their own policies with regard to babies, some parents have had frustrating experiences of snagging a good deal on airfare tickets, only to be asked later to pay 10% of the undiscounted adult fare for the infant.
To avoid airfare shocks, book your air tickets directly on the airline’s website and try to avoid airline combinations.
Okay, so you’re ready to pay, and raring to go.
What are some things to keep in mind when travelling with a baby? Here are 10:
1. Make sure that your baby is old enough
How old must babies be in order to travel?
This differs from airline to airline. As long as your baby is more than 7 days and less than 2 years old at the point of travel, you can book a ticket for your baby on Singapore Airlines. Each infant must travel with an adult who will be above 18 years old at the time of departure.
Some airlines only accept babies above 14 days for air travel, so do your due diligence and check.
2. Apply for your child’s passport 1 month in advance
Before flying for the first time with your child, make sure that you apply for his or her passport. After applying online at the ICA website it takes 1 week for ICA to issue an appointment card, and you’d have to collect the passport within 1 month. Do note that your baby must be present during collection.
Taking a passport photo for a baby is a challenge, but not impossible. Dress the baby in a non-white top and lie him down on a white towel or bedsheet. Make sure that there are not too many shadows, and use a toy to direct him to look into the lens. Read more about passport requirements and size.
Then, you can crop the passport photo yourself and apply via the ICA e-application website on behalf of your child. Applying for a passport online costs $70.
3. Reserve a bassinet early if needed
You may be wondering if you will be guaranteed a bassinet with an infant ticket.
Bassinets on board are limited. For this reason, if you are travelling with a very young baby, you might want to book your seats way in advance. Certain airlines may have an option to reserve one when buying your air tickets, but otherwise, contact customer service right after you book your tickets.
If you don’t get a bassinet, you will have to seat the baby on your lap, secured with an infant seat belt. Carrying the baby in a carrier is strictly disallowed, so if your baby is comfortable with sleeping in the carrier, it’s a good idea to avoid night flights, as buckling and unbuckling will disrupt their sleep.
Budget airlines generally do not provide infant bassinets.
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4. Order baby food and request for baby amenities on flight
Full service carriers will usually have some infant meals, in the form of baby food jars, as well as post-weaning meals and child-friendly meals. Book the meals when you are buying your tickets online, usually found under “special meals”.
Most people don’t know this, but certain airlines have amenities for babies, such as disposable bibs and baby wipes. So yeah, bring your own, but you can also ask for them when needed.
5. Bring entertainment, or go with a full-service carrier
Distraction is the best strategy when it comes to surviving flights with babies. Young babies are usually happy if their needs are met, but when nothing seems to work, a favourite toy or an unfamiliar one can keep the cries at bay.
By the time your baby turns 1 year old, he will be mobile and needs more entertainment to sustain him through the flight.
Another reason for parents to choose full service carriers is that they usually have good inflight entertainment for children.
They understand that when babies are bored, they become cranky, and no one likes a cranky baby on board. Especially those sitting within the 3-meter radius of said baby.
Most of them have goodie bags packed with colour pencils, activity books and craft materials for children. You can usually find Disney movies or even video games on the entertainment system as well, you know, to keep them quiet.
6. You can bring your pram and car seat along
Usually, infants are entitled to one baggage item up to 10 kg, as well as a fully collapsible stroller or pushchair and a car seat.
Budget airlines may not extend the complimentary baggage allowance, but will usually permit the collapsible stroller and one car seat. For destinations like New Zealand or Australia where you will be renting a car, bringing your own car seat can help save on car seat rental.
Don’t worry about your stroller or pram getting crushed by “throwers”. From experience, you are allowed to take your stroller all the way through boarding until you get on the jet bridge. Right before you board, there will be a security officer who will take over your stroller or pram. Upon arrival, it will either be there for you when you step off the plane, or at the baggage area.
7. Check in early at the airport, not fewer than 2 hours before departure
You probably will not be able to use the self-service check-in machines to check in your baby. Make sure you arrive at the airport not later than 2 hours before departure time to avoid unnecessary stress.
8. Don’t worry about the baby’s ears during take off and landing
A common question that parents have is: How to prevent babies’ and toddlers’ ears from popping on the plane?
If you are a mother who is breastfeeding, nurse your baby during take off and landing. For children, give them juice, water, or a hard candy they like. The swallowing action will relieve the pressure in the ears.
9. Bringing breastmilk on the plane is allowed
Most airports and airlines allow mothers to carry as much breastmilk as needed for the plane journey (up to 6kg). The airline will try their best to help with chilling the milk, although they do not guarantee that space is available. Ideally, try to store the milk in 100ml milk bottles and bags.
10. Inflight beds can help your children sleep better, but take note of the rules
If you foresee yourself flying often with your children, it may make sense to invest in an inflight bed that allows them to lie flat for better sleep.
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Do take care to read or check the rules regarding to use of inflight beds for your particular airline.
Bon voyage! Have you ever travelled with a young baby? Share your experience in the comments below!