It's a sad statistic but when I did a search on the title of his post, Google says it is searched over 2 billion times (yes, that's billion with a B)! So according to google, it would seem that lots of people are either lying about their kids on vacation or at least thinking about it.
Families work very hard these days. For many, a vacation is a huge luxury or a distant dream at best. Saving every possible penny can mean all the difference between a fun trip or yet another staycation.
Most people view airlines, hotel chains, restaurants and theme parks as huge, faceless, multi-million dollar corporations. Their CEOs and Directors are living the high life. What's the harm saying your kid is only 11 and can still eat off the children's menu when you go out to eat? At the end of the day, where's the harm in saving a buck or two?
Vacations give parents plenty of opportunities to tell fibs about their kids. Let's start at the airport. Airlines will allow babies under 24 months of age to fly free if they remain seated in the laps of their parent. So what if your baby is 26 months old or your 3 year old is very small for their age...Should you lie and save yourself the price of your child's airline ticket. This could be a fairly substantial amount.
If you flying internationally you cannot lie about your child's age. Even babies are required to have a passport to travel overseas. All international airline tickets must list passenger birth dates and match passports exactly. Airline gate agents and airport security guards will check your child's passport and tickets. If there are any discrepancies, the airline has the right to charge you full last minute regular airfare for your baby. This will be costly as best. They can also refuse to let youf family on board their airplane. "Denied boarding" means you forfeit the entire cost of your vacation.
If you are flying domestically within the United States, children do not need IDs. It's up to the opinion of the gate agent whether your child slides by our not. If the airline gate agent, security officer or another passenger decides to question your child's age, you can again end up having to buy a last minute full fare ticket or once again, not allowed to fly. So if you do lie about your baby's age on an airline ticket you may skate by or you are taking a huge risk.
Because so many people do lie, it can work against honest parents. If your children are big for their age, be sure to bring a copy of their birth certificate with you if you are flying domestically. Technically you are not required to have it with you but at least you'll have proof in hand in case you run into any questions.
What about hotels? They too have rules and pricing structures in place. Insurance and local ordinances will only allow a certain number of people to stay in each room. You may think, "why pay for a bed when our kids sleep with us anyway? Once again, if you drive into a U.S. hotel, chances are the desk clerk probably won't question you. Again if you're staying in a foreign hotel or all inclusive resort, passports and ages will be checked. You won't make a great first impression if you're caught lying and have to pay extra on the spot.
If you decide to lie about your kids ages or the number of people staying in your room, that's up to you. Don't involve anyone else in your deception. Professional travel agents work hard to earn their industry reputation. Good ones would never risk their reputations to save you a few bucks. Involving them without their knowledge or dropping the agent's name who told you NOT to lie is even worse. A date in court will very likely cost you far more than a night's hotel stay. A shady agent might do anything to make a sale and get your money. That very same, sneaky agents will care less if you and your kids end up out in the cold without a bed to sleep in. Remember karma is out there.
Theme park tickets are another temping spot to lie about your kids ages. Some parks like Universal Studios charge kids by their height and not their age. Be prepared your tall offspring will pay more and your shorter kids will get a discount. Disney charges by age. Kids over the age of 10 pay full adult prices and kids under 3 can go to the parks for free. Disney does do spot checks and age kids ages. Again, having a birth certificate along for honest parents with big kids. If you're caught be prepared to pay the higher admission.
And the lies don't end with simply saving money. Hotels are starting to fight back and sue people who post untrue tripadvisor reviews or refuse to take down. I know many hoteliers who have reported to me that guests will demand upgrades, free stays or spa treatments in return for glowing tripadvisor reviews. If the hotelier does not cave to their demands they can expect reports of hair in food, horrific service or even bed bugs.
It's even been reported that people have stooped to posting fake or doctored vacation photos on their facebook pages. Apparently it is important to them to be the envy of their friends or make their life appear more carefree and fanciful than it is in real life.
Where does it all end?
I love the story one of my hoteliers shared about the entitled, demanding gentleman who was asking for the moon and the stars at check in. When the desk clerk said "you'll be checking in with two children ages 3 and 8, his toddler started screaming, "No Daddy, He's wrong, tell him I'm 5, I am 5 years old- I'm no baby"....Out of the mouth of babes came an additional $400 hotel charge for papa!
This story really illustrates the moral of this story. If it really makes you feel great to "scam the system" for a few bucks you may want to stop and think what lesson and example this teaches your kids. If it's ok for you to lie and cheat, is it OK for them to do it too? Do you think it's your parental duty to teach your kids how to finagle? The consequences here are much more costly than any full fare vacation.
Personally I'd like to see far less google searches about how to lie and cheat but what do you think?