I have traveled with a 2-year-old a number of times and it can be quite challenging. It is easier than having a younger child flying on your lap though as they will need their own seat.
A 2-year-old does need a plane ticket, in fact, every child, once they reach 2 years old, must have a separately purchased ticket and their own seat. Only children under two may fly as a lap child on an adult’s lap without a seat of their own.
Most of this article applies to any child from a 2-year-old upwards.
- 1 Does a 2-year-old need their own seat?
- 2 Do 2-year-olds fly free??
- 3 What happens if child turns 2 during the trip?
- 4 Does a 2-year-old need a car seat on a plane?
- 5 Do children get their own baggage allowance?
- 6 What ID will I need for a 2-year-old?
- 7 What to take on a plane for a 2-year-old
- 8 Flying business class with 2-year-old
- 9 Consideration for other passengers
- 10 Related Questions
- 11 Related article:
Does a 2-year-old need their own seat?
As children who are two and over also need their own ticket, with that comes a seat of their own too. They are no longer permitted to be “lap children” once they reach two. The advantage is that you can then take a safety seat for them to use (see section below).
You may have to pay extra to ensure that the seat is next to an accompanying adult with some airlines, particularly on budget airlines.
If your airline does not actually allocate seats on your boarding pass so you just take whatever is available when you board then please make sure that you board early.
I have been on a number of flights where passengers cannot have a reserved seat and the inevitable family with young children board last and then cause a delay by insisting that the cabin crew find them seats sitting together.
Normally the best seat to choose for a child is a window seat with a middle seat being the next best if window seats are not available.
Children of any age cannot sit in an exit row due to airline regulations regarding emergencies.
Do 2-year-olds fly free??
Sometimes it is possible to find free flights for a 2-year-old but that is unusual. Normally 2-year-olds are charged although they often do not pay the full adult airfare. Some airlines do not offer infant fares.
Children can be charged anything from:
- nothing (apart from taxes) on some airlines or with certain “kids fly free” initiatives and offers.
- a percentage of the ticketed adult fare is charged by many airlines which can be anything from 10% of the adult airfare upwards (plus taxes). Unfortunately it is more common for the child’s fare to be two thirds to three quarters of the adult airfare. It tends to be higher on an international flight than on domestic travel within the US. Discounts can vary from airline to airline and at different times of the year.
- the full adult airfare is charged by some airlines, particularly on some international trips.
Frontier Airlines is will known for offering free child seats at certain times and on certain routes with their “Kids Fly Free” deals.
What happens if child turns 2 during the trip?
If you will be on vacation when your child turns two then they will need their own ticket/seat for the return flight.
It may work out no more expensive, and certainly easier to arrange, if you just pay for their own seat on outbound flight as well as on the return flight.
Does a 2-year-old need a car seat on a plane?
Car seats are not mandatory when flying with a child and neither are any forms of child restraint systems supplied by the airlines. If you will be traveling in motor vehicles with your child when you arrive then taking a car seat with you makes sense anyway.
If you choose to take a child restraint system for the child to sit in then it must be FAA approved (or approved by another national safety body in Europe or elsewhere such as the CAA in the UK). You can read the Federal Aviation Administration rules here.
Taking a car seat has the advantage that it is generally safer in an accident than using the standard adult lap seat belt and the child is more likely to be comfortable and perhaps sleep on a long flight.
If you choose not to take a car seat then the child will be restrained by the adult seat belt attached to the seat. Booster seats are not permitted.
A less bulky alternative to car seats (so easy to take with you) are one of the FAA approved child travel harnesses. Here is a selection – FAA approved child airplane travel harness.
If you will be checking a car seat you may wish to read my article – How to pack a child’s car seat in checked luggage
Do children get their own baggage allowance?
This does depend on the fare being paid for the child normally. When the child’s fare is 50% or more of the adult fare then they generally get a full baggage allowance. Anything less may depend on the airline.
All children generally get a free car seat or stroller baggage allowance, and sometimes both.
What ID will I need for a 2-year-old?
A birth certificate or passport are the most common types of documents required for age verification for a child.
If traveling internationally a passport is always required.
What to take on a plane for a 2-year-old
Keeping your 2-year-old happy, particularly on a long flight, will not only make you happy but also the passengers around you. To do this you need to try and keep them occupied as much as possible.
Some things you should consider taking to entertain them, keep them quiet and clean are:
- A tablet loaded with their favorite cartoons, films etc. Don’t forget some earphones too.
- Paper, pens, crayons, coloring-in books etc
- A few of their favorite reading books
- A selection of their favorite snacks
- Perhaps buy them a new small toy/book etc to give them once on the flight
- Some candy that takes a while to eat such as lollipops
- If it is a long flight then a blanket and their favorite cuddle toy so they can sleep
- Tissues and wet wipes
- A change of clothes in case of an accident
Some airlines will give out packs of some of these to children during the flight to keep them amused (Virgin Atlantic are famed for this) but I wouldn’t rely on them doing this or on them being suitable for your child.
Flying business class with 2-year-old
Some airlines do not accept infants in Business Class or First Class or in certain parts of those cabins. Others have age-restrictions so very young children (such as 2-year-olds) may not be allowed.
In some ways I can understand this. If I had paid quite a bit extra to ensure a more comfortable, relaxing long haul flight I would not be too happy to find a boisterous 2-year-old sitting next to me.
But on the other hand, if you can afford for all of your family to travel in business class (or even first class) then why shouldn’t you be able to?
Some business class cabins these days would not be so suitable for flying with young children. Many have individual “pods” which would make keeping an eye on the child more difficult.
Consideration for other passengers
Anyone who has flown with a young child sitting in the seat immediately behind them will identify with this. The child keeps kicking his legs and his feet continually hit you in the small of the back. It cannot only be painful at times but is also very annoying, particularly when it goes on for a long time.
Normally the child doesn’t do this deliberately of course but if you dare to say anything to the parents it is often met with an unhelpful reaction. So keep an eye on your child’s feet and watch out that they are not doing this.
The same is true if your child likes to stand up on the seat and look over the back at the passengers behind. Although most will be happy to entertain your child for a short while it can become annoying if it goes no for too long, particularly if the parents are just ignoring the child.
How can I help my toddler’s ears on a plane?
Young children can suffer from ear pain on a flight due to the changes in air pressure. To help prevent this give them something to suck while taking off and descending such as a pacifier or a lollipop which will help equalize the pressure.
How do you make sure you sit together on a plane?
Firstly, ask the airline what their policy is. Some will not separate young children from their parents (and rightly so). With others you may need to pay extra to reserve your seats together.
Can a 2-year-old sit on a parent’s lap?
Although a 2-year-old must have a separate seat, they can sit on a parent’s lap during the flight. They must be strapped into their own seat for take-off, landing and when the captain illuminates the fasten seat belt sign.
Does a 2-year-old need a passport to travel domestic?
If flying domestically within the US a 2-year-old does not need a passport in order to fly. A passport is usually required for international travel.
Does a 1-year-old need a plane ticket?
A child under 2 years of age does not need their own separate ticket or a seat of their own on a plane. They can travel as a lap child, sitting on a parent’s lap. However, you will have to inform your airline that you will have a child with you at the time of booking.
Read our full article on 20 things you need to know about flying with a baby or toddler
I have been traveling around the world by air since the early 70s and living overseas too. I worked for British Airways for a number of years and I am also a private pilot.