By Tom Parsons
August 19, 2012
If you are flying with kids, you may be able to get a discount, depending on the children's ages and your destination. You can often find discounts on international routes of 10% to 25% off for kids ages 2 to 11.
Note that the discount is on the base fare and generally not on such fees as the fuel surcharge, which can be hundreds of dollars on international flights.
Note too that the airlines do not offer discounts on government taxes and fees. Airlines don't have control over those charges, unlike the fuel surcharge.
For domestic flights, kids younger than 2 usually can fly free as lap babies. On most international routes, there is a charge of 10% of the base fare, plus some taxes and fees, but in most cases you will not be required to pay the fuel surcharge. If you want to buy a seat for your infant younger than 2, the fare for kids ages 2 to 11 would apply on those airlines that offer a children's discount.
When flying with a lap infant abroad, contact the airline or your travel agent to purchase tickets well before you depart, earlier, in fact, than you would if you were flying solo. If you are flying with a lap baby who will turn 2 before you return, most airlines require you to purchase a seat for the return leg for both domestic and international travel.
There are kids' discounts on international flights to much of the world. If you plan to fly in business or first class, discounts for kids average 25%. Some airlines, by the way, don't allow kids younger than 12 in first class, so make sure you read all the fine print.
You often can find savings on family travel with package rates. Some packages, for instance, may contain kids-fly-free offers, although this is not as common as it used to be, thanks to reductions in airline capacity.
As you study prices (and you make a list or a spreadsheet of which airline is charging what for each person), look at the total cost to make sure you are getting the best fare. (Be sure to enter the number of passengers ages 2 to 11 to ensure the discounted rate.) Just because a child's discount is offered, don't take it for granted that it's the cheapest option. Be sure to comparison-shop just as you would when buying an adult ticket. And know that if you find a fare that's really great, you need to snag it because what you see today may not be there tomorrow.
If you are traveling by train, Amtrak offers 50% off fares for kids ages 2 to 15 on most routes when accompanied by a paying adult. (Up to two kids can get the discount for each adult.) Kids younger than 2 may travel for free if they sit on your lap. Visit http://www.amtrak.com/children-discounts.
Many hotels allow kids up to 17 to stay and eat free when sharing a room with Mom and Dad. You also may see offers for 50% off a second room for families, which is helpful if you have teenagers whose schedule and entertainment preferences may not quite match your own.
Cruises may be another avenue to explore, especially given all the amenities for kids on some ships. (Make sure you check with a travel agent or do plenty of research to find out whether kids are a focal point or the options for kids are just an afterthought.) MSC Cruises offers free trips for kids younger than 12 and discounted rates for ages 12 to 17. Keep an eye out for kids-cruise-free offers from lines such as Disney and NCL, and watch for offers of discounts for the third or fourth passenger in a cabin. The passenger could be your child, and even if that makes the cabin a little close, remember the family vacation is all about togetherness.
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