Don’t get burned using mileage upgrades when flying with baby

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baby flying rear-facing in car seat on airplane
Think twice: You might rather put those miles toward a third seat in coach.

Planning to use your airline miles to buy bigger seats (you know, the ones at the front of the plane that come with warm cookies) when you take that extra long flight with baby on your lap? There might be more than just frowning business travelers to make you think twice about going first class with baby.

While your lap child may travel free on your lap for US domestic flights, even lap-held babies don’t get a free ride on overseas flights. While the most common international lap child fare of 10% of your adult-priced ticket may not seem like much of an added expense to your coach-priced seats, consider–and calculate–what that 10% would be based on what the airline considers the first class adult fare for that cushy seat you’re upgrading to.

Your upgraded seat, we’ll say it’s valued at $12,831 as one I recently priced from San Francisco to Frankfurt, may be covered by miles. But your baby’s airfare – even riding on your lap – will not be. So before shelling out your airline miles plus an extra $1,283 to still have your baby on your lap from San Francisco to Frankfurt, consider whether you might rather put those miles toward three seats together in coach.

On a long flight, especially with meal service and chances to sleep, you might value an actual seat for your infant more than a shared seat in first class. And if you can get those seats positioned on a bulkhead row where a complimentary airplane bassinet may also be used? Sweet.

One final note here: Remember, when using most airline-specific miles and points, you will still pay the taxes and surcharges for your “free” tickets. When traveling with three or more passengers, that can still feel like a far cry from “free.” For best results, compare taxes and surcharges for similar tickets purchased with your miles using different airlines (a.k.a. codeshare partners) when available.

How about you?

Have you traveled first class with your baby? How did the other passengers receive your bundle of joy? Advice to others considering the upgrade for travels with a lap child? Leave a comment below!

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Safe journeys,

Shelly Rivoli, author of the award-winning Travels with Baby and Take-Along Travels with Baby 

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