WASHINGTON - If you are planning a trip this summer and it involves taking small children, we have some info for you. For example, when you travel with a child, do you have to pay to check a baby stroller or a car seat? Well, the answer depends on the airline.
Do most airlines have similar policies with regard to baby strollers and car seats?
No, there is quite a difference among airlines. It is really important for parents to know what to expect because, depending on the airline, you may have to pay to check these items. In some cases, we have had reports of parents paying to check a car seat or stroller only to find that the airline allowed the item to be checked without cost.
Keep in mind that some airlines will require that you pay to check baggage and other items with a credit card. Others will ask you to pay cash. It is really important you check the requirements before you check in! Don't count on the baggage checkers or people at the check-in counter to know the airline policy with regard to baby equipment. Print out and take a copy with you to the airport.
If it has been some time since your last flight, don't assume the carrier's baggage policies have remained the same.
How much do the policies vary?
Quite a bit! It certainly makes a big difference if you have to pay $50 to check a car seat and stroller both ways on a trip. That's a sizeable chunk of change.
Some airlines will allow you to check both a stroller and car seat without a fee, others may only allow one of the items to be checked for free. In many cases, strollers have to be checked because of lack of space in overhead bins of airplanes. But often you can check them at the gate rather than the ticket counter. In some cases, you are charged a fee to check these items unless you have purchased a seat for the child. Since there are such variations, it is a good idea to check airline policies before you book seats. In addition, most airlines allow you to take a diaper bag on board as well as normal carry-on items that are permitted. Some airlines have changed their policies recently, so be sure to check out the rules before you get to the airport.
Also, be sure that each piece of equipment for your child is clearly labeled with name, address and phone number.
Is it a good idea to place small children in car safety seats while on the plane?
Many travel experts recommend you use a FAA proved child safety restraint while on board the plane. However, if you have not purchased a separate seat on the plane for a child under 2 years of age, you may not be able to use a child safety seat because the seat next to you may be occupied. The other option is to purchase a seat for an infant, but of course this raises the cost of the trip.
Are FAA approved child restraints okay to use on foreign airlines?
If you are taking kids on a foreign airline, you may not be allowed to use the FAA approved child restraints. Rather, you may have to use one approved by the foreign airline's country. Check before heading to the airport.
Can baggage fees be paid in advance?
Yes, in many instances the airlines encourage passengers to pay in advance, which can save you time at the airport and may save you money because some airlines charge higher fees at the kiosk or check-in counter at the airport.
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