What You Need to Know About Flying with Car Seats & Booster Seats
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.
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.
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 car seat, 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 car seats 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 their concern. The worst thing that can happen is that a car seat 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.
What About Gate-Checking Car Seats?
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, low-back ones 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 instead. In spite of a properly installed car seat, driving is statistically less safe.
However, I’m now sufficiently paranoid enough to recommend these car seat travel 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.
What About Renting Car Seats?
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.
Probably the easiest, peasiest option is to rent a car seat at your destination. But NOT from a car rental place. Try renting from a baby equipment rental business that will meet you with it at the airport. Or borrow one from a friend or connection you make via social media. 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 the 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.
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