Flying With Car Seats and Booster Seats

flying with car seats, clek oobr, oobr booster seat, oobr highback booster, oobr booster, clek booster

Bub in his Oobr

We always travel with car seats. Always.  And for our road trip across Alberta, I was pretty happy to road test the Clek Oobr booster seat, as Bub had just outgrown his trusty Scenera.

So I felt pretty good about our trip and the Oobr was great to travel with in spite of its size and weight, so then I wrote about it and the nice folks at Clek posted my review on their Facebook page.

And then I learned that I was doing it wrong. Quite wrong.

Although Bub was at the required weight for the Oobr, new regulations just passed meant, at three, he was too young to be in that seat – he needed to be four. So I wiped the egg off my face, and stopped to pick up Bub a new seat on the way home – an Evenflo Chase that reminded me of our Scenera in profile and weight.

BUT…

I also learned that when flying with car seats that a checked seat is considered a crashed seat. That makes sense, I guess,  considering the rough treatment our bags get. Have you ever seen this video?

So this means you shouldn’t check your car seat as luggage. According to to a document prepared by the CPSTs and CRSTs in the Car Seats For The Littles Facebook Page:

If you must check a carseat, put it in its original packaging with padding in the box. Or maybe another box with padding. And then gate check it (it’s far more convenient to use the seat on board than to drag a big box to the gate). All too often I see parents check their carseats at the ticket counter, wrapped in nothing but a plastic bag to keep the cover clean. The cover being clean at the other end is the least of the concerns. The worst thing that can happen is that a carseat arrives at the other end with damage that cannot be seen. The only way to find out that there’s damage is during or after a crash when the seat has failed.

I don’t think I know anyone who still has their car seat box. Or who is willing to drag a giant box through the airport in addition to their children, stroller, carry-on bags, etc.

flying with car seats, baby's first flight, travel with a newborn, flying with a newborn,

Bub, Almost 11 Weeks…

So if you’ve purchased your baby or toddler a seat or they are over two, a lightweight seat like the Scenera or our new Chase can be bungee corded to one of your wheely carry-on bags and they are not too bulky or heavy to manoeuvre. Belt-positioning booster seats may not be used on planes, but if you don’t want to gate check they easily fit in the overhead bins of most aircraft.

Most CPSTs and CRSTs do not condone lap babies AT ALL. So they won’t give you any advice on gate checking car seats since they believe there is no reason to. However, both my children frequently flew as lap infants when there was no spare seat on the plane. The reason the FAA won’t ban lap infants is because they fear the cost will inspire many families to drive to their destinations instead, which in spite of a properly installed car seat, is statistically less safe.

However, i’m now sufficiently paranoid enough to recommend these Gate Check Bags for gate checking when flying with car seats. They are sturdier than just the covers you can get, so will offer the seat some protection. Plus they either are on wheels or with backpack straps, to help ease your load as a traveling pack mule.

I’m not going to sugar coat it and say it’s super easy to install a car seat on a plane. It’s not. And probably the easiest, peasiest option is to rent a car seat at your destination from one of those places that will meet you with it at the airport. Or else plan exclusively to take public transit (babies and toddlers LOVE that!). But then you should still make sure your baby is safe on a plane.

One option is the CARES Harness – the only FAA-approved flight harness for infants weighing 22-44 pounds in their own seat on a plane. It weighs a pound at most, and easily fits in your purse or carry-on. Stick around, because we’ll be giving one away soon!

 

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18 Responses to Flying With Car Seats and Booster Seats

  1. Brenda A at 19:11 #

    I am SO relived that you now realize the immense dangers of putting such a young child in a booster seat. It is absolutely not only about the weight of the child. My average weight and height daughter is 7.5 and will remain in her harnessed car seat for at least another year. With the huge variety of seats available with harnessed limits at 80lbs in the US and harnessed height limits at 62 inches there is little need to rush a booster. Harness as long as you can! Don’t scrimp on safety!

  2. Andrew S at 13:44 #

    I still don’t know what I should do when I fly with my daughter’s car seat. Do I wrap it in bubble wrap and stuff it in a giant back pack? I need the car seat for the rental car we are using during our trip. I have heard that rental car companies car seats are hit or miss for quality and cleanliness.

  3. Corinne at 15:04 #

    Hey Andrew – the bubble wrap and giant backpack sounds about right to me, and would cost less than the special bag above. Although at less than $40, that bag doesn’t seem too outrageously priced. And I would definitely try to gate check it.

    Agreed on the car rental car seats, unless you can locate one of those agencies that will rent you a car seat and meet you at the airport…

  4. Julie at 23:03 #

    Wow. I didn’t realize I should plan to have my car seat packed in something to gate check it. Thanks for the heads up. I was just going to give them the car seat.

    • Corinne at 23:29 #

      I always just checked it in a plastic bag. Now I believe I should have gate-checked it in protective packaging and will do so from now on. Good luck!

  5. Beata Z at 12:47 #

    Traveling with our daughter next week and just bought the carseat cover wheelie bag after reading this…after previously buying the GoGo Babyz Travelmate, which I’m sure we’ll use once she turns two and we have to buy her a seat. Also bought the Scenera (our third carseat) just for travel. So much for trying to keep our baby gear to a minimum. But better safe and prepared than sorry, I say. Thanks, Corinne!

  6. Courteney at 02:02 #

    We use the brica cover and then load her clothes and some soft toys inside for extra padding, but still no guarantees. I will plan on using a CARES harness when she is old enough.

  7. I’m glad you wrote about this – it’s something that is easily forgotten.

  8. Great advise about traveling with a carseat. It really he;ps to know all of this before flying.

    I can’t believe that video! Seemed like that guy was putting on a show he was so careless!

  9. Sarah at 09:59 #

    I’ll be flying next March with my just turned 2 year old. Should I be installing her car seat on the plane or is she old enough to just sit in the seat? I’ve only done one short flight on a very small 15 seater plane where she sat in my lap at 8 months old. I’m trying to get info to prepare for a big family trip with a 2 year old! We are doing all inclusive so I’m not sure if we need the car seat at the other end or not…

    • Corinne at 11:00 #

      If you are doing All Inclusive you will likely transfer to your hotel or resort via a coach-style bus, so a car seat is not necessary. They may not even have seat belts on board for you to install anyway. If you think you will be doing any day trips by taxi or rental car, I do recommend bringing along her seat and installing it on the plane if it is airline approved. If you don’t plan on doing any excursions when you’re there, she is legally allowed to be in her plane seat with the seat belt fastened. If you’re concerned she won’t stay put, or want her a little more securely fastened, you can buy or rent a CARES harness, which is approved for use on most airlines. Have a fantastic trip!!

      • Sarah at 13:40 #

        Thanks for the reply! That is really helpful.

  10. Ashli at 14:41 #

    Thank you so much for this post (I know I am a few years late!) We are travelling in 4 weeks with our toddler (she will be 20 months old then)…The only car seat we have is her Recaro Proride…large car seat. I was wondering what you recommended for flying. I was planning on holding her on my lap until I thought about it a lot and she is very squirmy…does not like sitting still…and wants to constantly get down. So, we may be better off strapping her in?! We need advice!! Thanks so much!

    • Corinne at 23:13 #

      Hi Ashli!
      For travel I recommend the Cosco Scenera car seat – it is less than 10lbs and super easy to install. It is also very inexpensive. I have flown with my kids as lap infants at that age, and at the time would’ve paid anything to get their own seats!

  11. Chris at 15:51 #

    Just wanted to say thanks! Because of your blog, I was able to quickly figure out how to fly with our little one for the first time. (We bought the JL Childress bag via your link so hopefully you’ll get a little of that.)

    • Corinne at 23:05 #

      Great to hear, Chris – happy travels to you and your family!

  12. Stephanie at 00:00 #

    Wow! What do you do when you’re planning to fly with 3 kids and 3 car seats?

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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    [...] Flying with a car seat is not fun. And since the car seats that come with rental cars are usually filthy or unsafe (or both!) your best bet truly is to rent one from a baby travel equipment company that will greet you at the airport with a shiny, clean, and safe seat. But you still have to keep your little one safe on the plane… [...]

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