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Is Your Toddler Still A Lap Child?

Flickr user jennifer z, CC Licensed.

You don’t have to be a parent to agree that the phrase, “lap child,” is a good candidate to challenge the words, “moist” and “panties,” for the title of Grossest Word on Earth.

Maybe it’s something about the combination of “lap” and “child.” Maybe it’s the fact that the phrase almost always makes me think of a lap dance (which is NOT something any adult should be thinking about when talking about children, ever). Maybe it wigs me out because we’ve traveled with our girls as lap children, and the experiences have not been fun.

I know airlines allow you to take a child on your lap until that child is 2, and understand this can translate into big savings on a family vacation. But before you convince yourself your child will qualify as a lap child on your next flight, I strongly encourage you to consider the following.

The squirm factor
Even some of the littlest babies have a hard time sitting still. The older kids get, the more challenging this becomes. Sure, there are special flight vests to minimize a lap child’s ability to flail around. But it’s important to ask yourself honestly: Is your child capable of chilling on your lap for the duration of a flight?

The space factor
Physical space can be a big factor for kids; some (such as our older daughter) need it, big-time. For these children, the notion of spending hours “trapped” on Mommy or Daddy’s lap can quite literally induce any number of panic attacks. Is your kid the kind of child who needs personal space? If so, how do you think he or she will cope with being on top of you all flight long?

The sleep factor
Can your child sleep on your shoulder? Will your child’s natural sleeping patterns prompt him or her to fall asleep during the flight? If you answered anything other than “yes” to these questions, just remember that tired + cranky baby = interminable flight for everyone (including those passengers seated around you).

Take it from one who knows: Mistakenly deciding your child can still fly as a lap child can and will make the family travel experience hot, sweaty and uncomfortable for both you AND the baby.

Buying an extra seat might require you to save a little more for that next vacation, but the sanity you’ll receive in exchange is priceless.