Traveling by Air with a 1-Year-Old

We've taken several trips with our little boy throughout his first year of life.  All by car.  None of those trips will be as difficult (I fear) as the one I am planning for February.  For two reasons - one, we are traveling by air and my son is in the exploratory phase where asking him to sit nicely on my lap for more than 10 seconds at a time is torture, and two, we will be traveling without daddy.  Am I crazy?  Maybe, but since we are going to see daddy graduate from the Army's Basic Training after several weeks of his absence, we will be going however difficult the trip may be.

Over the last month I have been researching ticket prices.  Recently I began to research the airlines policies regarding baggage, specifically what I can bring for my baby.  I was surprised to find out that for most airlines, I can check both a stroller and a car seat at the gate without reducing the amount of checked and carry-on bags I can take.  That may be common knowledge to some, but it was a relief for me to find out.

I also found out that a child under the age of two can travel for free on a paying adult's lap in most cases.  However, if an extra seat is available, the child can sit there if they have a car seat that is approved for air travel (it will say this on the seat).  So the best thing to do is bring the car seat and use it if there is a seat or check it if there is not.  I do have one think I haven't resolved in my mind, though.  How will I carry my baby, a stroller, a car seat, a diaper bag, and whatever else we may have through the airport?  I don't know if you've noticed, but forward facing car seats are usually not very compact.  I'll be pondering this and let you know if I come up with a sleek solution.

Another consideration that is important when purchasing the ticket is the cost to check luggage.  For example, Delta may have the cheapest ticket according to (one of my favorite flight search sites), however you can end up paying $50 or more for your baggage.  I encourage researching the cost of checking baggage before buying the ticket.

Now, here are several sites I found helpful in my quest for information:

Child Safety on Airplanes (from the FAA) 
Flying with Small Children: Checklist of questions to ask your airline (from
Packing Checklist for Traveling with a Baby (from 
Delta's Infant and Children Items Policy
Delta's Baggage Allowance (and costs) 
Southwest's Infant and Toddler Information 
Southwest's Baggage Policies 

As a point of interest, I will be traveling Southwest.  Not only did the have the best priced fare, but they do not charge for checked baggage (up to 2 bags 50 lb each) and they will allow me to use a seat for my son if one is available even though he is not paying.  The representative I spoke to at Southwest was very helpful and interested in helping me find the best fare possible.  I really appreciate this about Southwest.


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