Tips for travelling by plane with children
The rules and regulations for childrens' airfares do change slightly from airline to airline. Rules are also different for international and domestic travel and you should check all details at the time of booking. Here is a general guide to childrens' airfares:
- on domestic flights passengers under the age of two (or three on some airlines) may travel for free providing they travel on your lap
- on international flights a child fare equal to 10% of the full adult fare is generally charged for children up to the age of 2. The child does not receive a seat and must travel on your lap
- you must always inform the airline at the time of booking of any children travelling with you - some airlines have restrictions on the number of lap-infants travelling on board each plane
- only one free (or 10%) child fare is allowed per adult passenger. If an adult is travelling with more than one child, the other children must pay full adult fare
- for children age 2-11, a child fare in the region of 67-75% of the full adult fare is charged by most airlines. Once a child reaches 12 years of age, the full adult fare is payable. Some airlines may charge a full fare once a child occupies a seat, whatever the age.
- if, for your own comfort (particularly on a long journey), you wish to book a seat for your child, even under the age of two, the airline's standard child fare, if available, will apply
Most airlines offer baby bassinets on longhaul flights. These bassinets are limited in number as they can only be attached to certain seats on the plane. If you require a bassinet, you should book early and specify that you require a bassinet at the time of booking. Bassinets may not be suitable for children over about 8 months of age - for example, the standard size of bassinets on Qantas is 71cm long x 31cm wide x 26cm deep with a weight limit of 11kg.
Bassinet seats are sometimes located directly in front of a large in-flight movie screen with the bassinet itself attached directly underneath the screen. This can be very distracting for a young baby who's trying to get to sleep. If possible, try and avoid these seats. This is not a problem on aircraft with individual seat-back screens.
If your child is travelling on your lap, they will be strapped into your seat via a child extension strap. Some airlines will allow you to strap a car-restraint onto the plane's seat and then strap your child inside the car-restraint in the normal way. This is usually considered the safest way for your child to travel. On the downside, you must purchase a seat for your child. Some airlines do not allow you to take a child restraint into the cabin for this purpose. Check at the time of booking.
Taking prams and strollers
You may be allowed to keep your pram or stroller with you until it is time to board, checking it in to the hold at the boarding gate. It will depend on the size of the pram - which must be collapsable, light and compact - ask staff at the time of check-in. If your pram has to be checked in at the same time as the rest of your luggage at the main check-in desk, ask the airline if they have a stroller that you could borrow until boarding time. Airline customer service desks often have wheelchairs and strollers to assist passengers within the airport. Check at the time of booking if the airline have such facilities at your departure, arrival and any stopover airports.
If you wish to hire baby equipment, such as prams, cots, car-seats at your destination rather than risking damage during the journey, visit our nursery equipment hire page.
Airline meals for children
Child, and even baby, meals are available on most airlines, but they must be booked in advance. If you don't pre-order a special meal for your child they will only be offered a standard adult meal, even if their ticket indicates that they are a child (go figure).
Many parents would also suggest taking your own meals and snacks as flight meal times may not coincide with your child's hunger pangs.
Equalising ear pressure
Try to feed your baby with milk from either a breast or bottle during takeoff and landing. The sucking action helps to equalise the pressure in the ears ('pop' the ears). If your children are older, take a lollipop or sweet for them to suck on.
- flyingwithkids.com has lots of tips and checklists (US site)
- travelling with children info from Qantas
- travel with infants from Virgin Blue
Applying for a passport
If you are travelling internationally you will need a passport for your child. Children cannot be included on adult passports.
To apply for an Australian child passport, you need to obtain, complete and lodge an application form. Forms can be obtained from certain Australia Post Offices and State Passport Offices. Full details of where to obtain forms, and the application procedure, can be found on the Passports Office website or by calling 13 12 32. You should allow upto a month for issue of the passport.
If you are applying for a passport of another nationality, check the required procedure with that country's embassy or high commission.
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