4 hidden travel costs for new parents (and tips to beat them)
Learn the various ways parents with young kids can get rorted on their travels.
There's no shortage of new financial commitments if you're a parent: groceries, childcare and clothing are just a few.
Some less-talked-about costs are those you only discover when booking that long-deserved trip as a new parent.
Research from Skyscanner suggests 92% of Australians are more hopeful about travelling abroad this year versus 2021. Considering the pause in international travel over the last 2 years, many of these are likely travelling with young kids for the first time.
If you're in that cohort there are ways to avoid being hit too hard in the pocket.
In many cases, infants under 2 won't need their own seat on the plane. But, due to a "baby tax" on certain airlines your lap can be the most expensive seat on the plane.
Stephanie Yip, Finder's travel editor, found this out on a recent booking from Sydney to Byron. Jetstar was charging a $60 infant fee – 16 bucks more than she would have paid for her own return seat in the sale.
There are a number of other ways you could be hit before you've left the tarmac. For example, some airlines, including Rex, charge excess baggage fees for car seats and prams.
Finder's Tot Tips
A bonus tip: Don't rely on airline-provided bassinets. Babies under 12 months are often too big for the bed and sizes will differ between carriers. Finder spoke to a parent who'd recently endured an uncomfortable outward journey, to the point they bought their baby a seat for the return flight.
TL;DR: If you don't plan to book your baby a seat, be sure to do your research before buying your tickets – leaving it to the last minute can be costly.
Child car seats are usually included as one of the 3 infant items you can fly with internationally. However, in reality, many parents prefer not to have to deal with the faff of taking their seat with them on their holiday.
Unfortunately, this can be problematic, including when connecting flights are involved.
Sarah Megginson knows well the hassle (and expense) of trying to book a rideshare service from the airport with 3 kids in tow. After her family flew to Sydney from Hong Kong recently, the Megginsons missed their connecting flight home to the Gold Coast due to a lengthy customs queue.
There weren't any affordable flights until the next day. And things only got worse for the already-tired travellers when they tried to get an Uber to their hotel in Sydney's CBD.
"We booked a maxi Uber for 5 people," explained Sarah, Finder's head of editorial. "But when it turned up, they refused to take us because our youngest was 3 and needed a car seat."
The family, who'd already had to walk to the rank with all of their luggage, waited another 30 minutes as more drivers cancelled on them. Eventually, Sarah had to walk her 3-year-old back to the airport's train station while her husband took her other 2 kids in a smaller rideshare.
"It was such a run around and we were so tired by the end," said Sarah.
Finder's Tot Tips
Or try airport taxi services: depending on where you are, these have different rules than rideshares. Taxis may offer more leeway to young travellers and some services will have car seats.
If you just need to get to the airport from home, compare the price of airport parking with the cost of a return drive with the likes of Ladies Running Errands or Shebah. The prices could wind up similar or even cheaper if you park a lot further away from the terminal.
For a 4-day trip, Stephanie Yip recently decided to pay for parking at Sydney Airport. It cost $120 in the undercover area moments from the terminal. A return ride on Shebah would have cost close to $100. For an extra $20 she felt it was worth it to know that the car would be there for her when she returned home.
New parents on domestic trips often bring their portacot and pram as checked-in baggage. Again, there isn't always space for the all-important car seat. If you're hiring a rental car, a necessary pain for many travellers is having to pay a supplement to get the seat added.
Rates can vary a lot for this car hire add-on. This writer forked out an extra $55 with Enterprise for a rear-facing child's seat for a week-long trip to Hobart. Other brands we looked at charged as much as $99.
In truth, aside from the hassle of bringing your own seat, there isn't a lot you can do about this annoying charge.
Finder's Tot Tips
At the very least, compare a bunch of travel insurance policies to keep costs down. For one, kids can be added to your insurance for no cost – a parenting win, at last.
Look for a standalone policy with rental car excess insurance. Essentially, you can recoup any upfront costs from your insurer if your rental car is stolen or is involved in an accident.
Unless you're a minimalist, your hotel room will need to be on the larger size too to accommodate your cot and other bulky luggage. This is just one of the added costs you can face with hotels.
While accommodation for babies is free of charge, keep any eye out for added charges, such as nanny services or daily charges for hiring cots or high chairs.
If you need a cot, many hotels will slap a one-off fee or a nightly charge for the privilege.
Finder's Tot Tips
Opt for hotels that provide baby cots for free. If they don't mention the price on their site, pop them an email. You may be pleasantly surprised.
Alternatively, bringing your own portable cot, commonly known as a portacot, could save you a bundle – particularly on long trips.
If your baby is still using the bassinet on your stroller you can bring it and use it as their bed. Many of these can be folded down flat for easy storage and transport.
Otherwise you can snap up decent portable cots for as little as $99. Shop for a cot that's easy to move around and can be folded up without hassle.