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Buying a Plane Ticket for a Baby Is a Waste of Money

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Photograph by Twenty20

I sat there stunned as I heard a mother arguing with the flight attendant. No, she would not move the carseat her baby was seated in. Her toddler was very happy at the window, and she didn't want to set him off on a tantrum that was sure to come if she moved the baby from the middle seat to the window seat.

As a well-traveled mother, I understood this predicament. I too wouldn't want to do anything to swing my son to the dark side just before a plane was about to take off. Then again, I also know you need to follow the rules when it comes to carseats, which is why I've never brought one on a plane.

There are three parenting camps when it comes to air travel with babies . I'm in the first group, the money-savers, who hold the babies in their laps until the second he turns 2. Lap babies travel free domestically and for significantly less than a seated ticket internationally. I was so committed to fare-free baby travel, I would have flown home on my sons' second birthdays, if it meant I could save a few hundred dollars. I mean, they wanted to be on my lap the entire time, so why bother forking over the cash?

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The second parenting camp buys a ticket for their babies just so they have the extra room, even though they will end up holding the baby in their lap for most of the flight. I find this ridiculous. Unless you are really jonesing for that extra carry-on bag space, this is a waste of money. Pack your baby carrier, strap your baby on and read your book while they snooze for the duration of the flight. Better yet, take your baby for a walk to say hi to all of the lovely passengers around you.

You might as well get in your 10k steps for the day.

Last, but not least, are the parents who buy a seat for their baby and carry on a carseat. The idea is that their baby will sit in this seat the entire flight just like they would in a car. This is never the case. Yes, your child may sleep just fine in the carseat, but if they are over the age of 1, they are going to figure out real fast that other people are allowed to walk around—including their siblings. Again, you will end up holding the baby for most of the flight, unless he or she is sleeping or watching a movie.

In defense of the carseat parents, this is supposed to be the safest way for a baby to fly, especially if the flight hits turbulence. However, not all car seats are FAA approved. Parents should do their homework and figure out which seat models are approved for use in planes. You don't want to find out after boarding that the seat can't be buckled in. (Flight attendants hate this!)

The biggest worry for me when it comes to a carseat is having to deal with middle seats—which can happen when flights get cancelled and rescheduled. I mean, setting aside the possibility that you could be separated from your children on a plane (that's a whole other issue), you now have a carseat that can't be used, because they are not allowed in middle seats due to safety issues (i.e. in the event of an evacuation, carseats in the middle or aisles seats block the inside passengers).

Listening to the mother behind me finally give in to the flight attendant's demands, I braced myself for the inevitable tantrum that was on its way. It did show up, but was exacerbated more by the mother's bad attitude and complaining than the actual act of having to move.

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As parents in a post-9-11 world, we need to remember to listen to the flight crew. They have the power to kick us off. If you insist on bringing the carseat and not checking it, be willing to follow the rules.

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