If you are flying with kids, you may be able to get a discount, depending on age of the children and your destination.
We often find discounts of 10 to 25 percent off for kids ages two-11 on international routes, including to Europe. These discounts are usually only off the base fare, but not all airlines offer the discounts, and they vary by route.
One thing you’ll want to keep in mind is that when you find these discounts that offer a percentage off the fare, they are taken off of the base fare only. The fuel surcharge on international routes is not included in the discount, because airlines label it as a YQ surcharge, but in reality, the fuel surcharge is part of the fare and it’s a hefty part of the fare. For example, the fuel surcharge to London is $438. I find this to be criminal and corporate America is irritated by it too, because their negotiated discounts with the airlines only apply to the base fare, so they are also subject to the full cost of the fuel surcharge.
We checked some sample fares for travel September 10-18 and from Dallas to Sydney, Australia, the adult fare was $1,389, which included the base fare of $528, a fuel surcharge of $680 and $181 in government taxes and fees. We found a 25 percent discount off of the base fare for kids ages two to 11 and you might think that discount sounds pretty good, but you can’t take the discount off of the $680 fuel surcharge, so the kid’s fare was $1,201.
You’re still saving $188 off the adult fare, but you’d be saving almost twice that amount if the fuel surcharge were included. We also checked fares from Dallas to London on the same dates and the adult fare was $874, the kid’s fare was $654 and the lap baby fare was $129. London has some of the highest taxes and fees at $220, but some of those taxes and fees do not apply to the infant fare.
The airlines do not offer the kid’s discount off of government taxes and fees and this is reasonable because those are set fees that the airlines have no control over. The airlines do have control over the fuel surcharge.
For domestic flights, kids under the age of two can fly as lap babies for free and on most international routes, you will be charged 10 percent 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 purchase a seat for your infant under two, the child’s fare for kids ages two-11 would apply on those airlines that offer a kid’s discount. On the Sydney route, you’d pay $111.40 for a lap infant for the base fare, plus taxes and fees, but if you bought a seat for the infant, you’d pay $1,100 more.
When flying with a lap infant abroad, you will need to contact the airline or your travel agent to purchase the infant ticket before you depart. If you are planning on flying with a lap baby and the child will turn two before you return, most airlines will require you to purchase a seat for the return leg for both domestic and international travel.
We do see the kid’s discounts on international flights to most of the world, including Central America, Europe, Australia and Asia. If you have the extra money and the desire to fly in business or first class, we do see these discounts for kids, with an average of 25 percent off. Keep in mind that some airlines won’t allow kids under 12 in first class. In the past, kid’s discounts to Mexico and the Caribbean were as high as 50 percent off, but today those discounts don’t exist.
We do see savings on travel with the family with package rates. We often see kids fly free offers for ski season packages and we sometimes see these offers to other destinations. Alaska Airlines sometimes offer kids fly free with packages to Disneyland and while it has been a while, we have seen the same offer on Southwest. We have also seen kids fly free offers on other airlines to Disney World, but because of capacity cuts, it has been a while since they have been offered. We used to see a lot of kids fly free offers and in the 80s I saw it on Republic Airlines for collecting the box tops off of Rice Chex cereal. Will these discounts come back? Who knows, but you should always be looking in case they do.
When you are booking children’s fares on Bestfares.com and many other sites, look at the total price for all tickets, so you know you are getting the best fare. Just make sure you enter the number of passengers who are two-11 so you know you are getting the discounted rate when it applies. Remember that just because a child’s discount is offered, it doesn’t mean that that airline’s fares will be the cheapest option for your trip, so be sure to comparison shop for the total price of all tickets.
If you are traveling by train, Amtrak offers 50 percent off fares for kids ages two to 15 on most routes when accompanied by a paying adult. Up to two kids can get the discount per adult. Kids under two may travel for free on your lap. Visit www.amtrak.com/children-discounts.
Many hotels in both the U.S. and abroad, allow kids up to 17 years of age to stay and eat for free when sharing the same room. We also see offers for 50 percent off a second room for families. This can add up, especially when you are getting free meals.
When planning a family vacation, cruises can be a great option because many ships have amenities for kids. MSC offers free cruises for kids under 12 and discounted rates for kids ages 12-17. We also see periodic kids cruise free offers from other cruise lines, such as Disney and NCL, and there are often discounts when kids are the third and fourth passengers in a room, so rates can be very reasonable.
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