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Flying United with a Baby or Toddler: Best Tips & Our Experience

Is United a good airline to fly with a baby or toddler? We tested the airline on multiple occasions and various class types, ranging from economy to business.

I think flying United with a baby or toddler can be comfortable and easy, as long as you don’t need bassinet, because United bassinet policy is the strictest out there.

Here’s everything to know about flying with a baby on United Airlines, including infant policies and seating options for toddlers on United.

Flying United with a Lap Infant

United accepts infants from as young as 7 days old with three seating options for babies up to 2 years old.

When flying United with a baby you can choose to hold your baby in your lap, secure them in a car seat (which requires booking an additional seat), or use a bassinet (limited availability on select aircraft). 

Remember if you are flying alone with two or more little ones, you are only allowed one lap infant per adult on the same booking. This means you will need to book your other infants their own seat and bring along an approved car seat (more on this later on). 

Flying United with lap infant

Infant Food on United 

When it comes to feeding, you’re going to want to come prepared as United does not provide baby food on their flights

Thankfully they are pretty helpful when it comes to warming up bottles and providing ice to keep your milk cold, but they won’t let you keep it in their fridge so managing temperatures on long flights can become quite the chore. 

TSA allows you to bring larger liquid quantities of formula, breastmilk, or toddler drinks onboard than other standard liquid restrictions, and United also accommodates this by letting you bring an extra diaper bag, breast pump, and milk or formula in addition to your regular carry on baggage allowance. 

You can still bring a diaper bag for a baby even when flying Basic Economy Class on United Airlines.

United Lap Infant

As per the United baby policy, if your child is under 2 years old, they can fly domestically within the United States for free if seated on your lap and they do not require a ticket. But, an infant needs to be added to the reservation and you can’t just show up.

How to add a lap infant on United Airlines?

Do it in your account when booking a flight, or at least 24 hours before it. Adding an infant at the airport adds extra stress and could be lengthy, so if you’re running late and the attendants are busy you might miss your connection.

For international flights, there’s a fee of around 10% of the adult fare for taking a lap baby and you will need to pre-book so they are issued with their own ticket. For flights from the US to Canada or Mexico you will only pay the taxes for your lap infant but they will still need to be booked in advance and have a ticket. 

It’s best to book your infant in arms on United at the same time you make your own flight reservation to ensure they have been added correctly. Simply select “Infant on lap” when adding passengers to your booking online or in your United Milage Account.

It’s also a good idea to bring your youngster’s birth certificate along if you are flying with a baby in case they ask to verify that your little one is under 2 years old (especially when they’re older and may be questioned whether they’re actually still under 2).

As a family, you will also automatically get priority boarding, generally after those with disabilities but still well before the regular flyers. Because of this, you’ll have plenty of time to set up your car seat and get organized before you’re hassled with hundreds of people looking for their seats. 

United Car Seat Policy

All youngsters below 2 years old seated in their own seats must be secured in an approved car seat or CARES harness (for kids over 1) for take-off, landing, and any time the seatbelt sign is on

Kids above 2 years old do not need a car seat however they may also choose to use one as long as you are following the manufacturer’s guidelines. That being said, booster seats are not allowed to be used on United Airlines flights. 

You can book most window seats on the plane if you intend to use a car seat except for exit rows and United Polaris® business class on Boeing 767, 777, or 787 planes. That being said, there are different seat dimensions throughout the plane and your car seat must fit within them. 

Accepted Car Seats on United

Only FAA-approved car seats are allowed to be used onboard United Flights but this generally includes most car seats made after 1985. 

Just check to make sure your car seat has the FAA tag which approves it for both car and airplane use and you are good to go. 

Flying United with a Baby on lap

Baby Bassinet on United

For those with very small infants, United offers bassinets on select international aircraft in both Polaris business class, premium economy, and economy bulkhead rows.

These are a godsend on long flights, allowing your baby to sleep comfortably wherever the seatbelt is off, but they’re generally only suitable for infants up to around 7 months old and under 22kg/10 pounds. The Bassinets on United measure 29″ x 11″ x 7″ so your baby should be shorter than this.

Securing a bassinet is also much easier said than done because United has a pretty terrible bassinet policy.

United is known to prioritize frequent flyers for upgrades and almost always fill the plane’s capacity. If you want a bassinet, you really have to pay for the more expensive seats to even have a chance

Baggage Allowance for Babies and Kids on United

When you travel with kids on United Airlines, the baggage allowance is quite generous as they let you bring the same amount of luggage for infants and kids as the adult tickets are entitled to. 

In addition to your regular carry-on, you can also bring a diaper bag, formula, breast pump, car seat, and folding stroller (must fit in the overhead bins) if you are traveling with children. Plus, you have the option to check in one car seat and one stroller or folding wagon per child for free. 

United Stroller Policy

United’s policy allows parents to check one stroller or wagon per child at no additional cost to you. Plus, you can choose whether to check it at the gate or the ticket counter as long as it is small and collapsible.

If you have a travel stroller that fits within the designated carry-on baggage restrictions, you can also choose to take it in the cabin with you, in addition to your regular allowance and if there’s space. For me, this is ideal as you know that it won’t get damaged in transit and you have it readily available as soon as you land. 

United tends to board families first, but only after the status members so quite often most overhead bins are almost packed and your stroller might be refused and force to gate check your stroller.

If you think you might be flying United more often, it might be worth to get United Explorer credit card. It gives you miles to spend on future flights, free checked bag, access to United lounges, and more importantly when flying with a baby: priority boarding and upgrades.

Within 2 months of opening the card we happened to fly United after Iceland Air decided to reroute us, and all 4 of us got upgraded to Premium Economy Class and boarded early.

United is also one of the best airlines to redeem miles to fly their Polaris Business Class, so that’s also something to keep in mind.

Gate Checking Baby Items

In addition to your folding stroller, you can also gate-check one car seat per child that is not being used in transit. If it’s large and bulky, you can still choose to do this at the ticket counter free of charge so you don’t need to lugg it around the airport. 

Flying with a Toddler on United (Over 2 Years Old)

If you’re traveling with a toddler over two they’ll need their own seat onboard and you’ll have to pay the child fare.

United has also introduced a new policy that allows you to pick seats for your family free of charge to ensure there is an adult with each child. If there are not two seats available together, you can also change your flight free of charge. 

Keep in mind that if the flight is full you might not always be able to sit together with your partner. I was in a situation when United assigned my 2 year old to a middle seat 5 rows behind my wife, and then split her from our 4 year old. We reported the issue to the gate agent, and they were able to put each adult with one child, but in separate rows.

Kid’s Meal Options on United

United also caters to young taste buds with special children’s meals on most long-haul flights. You have to request a child’s meal at least 24 hours before your flight so it’s best to add this option as a special request when booking.

There are also snacks available for purchase on board, but I recommend you bring some of your snacks along to save money and to ensure you have something you know your kids will like. 

Are Airplane Beds for Baby or Toddler Allowed?

United doesn’t allow airplane beds of any sort on their flights due to safety regulations. Make sure you are prepared if you want to have a comfortable flight with a bassinet or regular car seat.

I do hear of people sneaking in their Flyaway beds on United. I guess flight attendants might not always notice, so while it doesn’t hurt to try, don’t count on it!

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