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Use a Car Seat when Flying with Children

Traveling with Kids: Should I Bring a Car Seat?

One of the things all parents should be concerned about when flying with their children is safety. While flying with kids isn’t the easiest thing to do, flying with a car seat may be an option that can make it easier. It may take several trips to master packing, installing and carrying the seat, but after a few attempts you will master your own technique. Below is some information you need to know in order to travel safely with your children.

    Consider using a car seat for small children. Whether you are traveling by car or by plane, a car seat is essential to keeping your child safe. If you are traveling by plane with a small child, and intend to bring a car seat, a decision is required as to whether you check the car seat under the plane or bring it on. This decision will depend on the age of your child, the size of the car seat, and whether or not your child has a ticket.

      Children 2 years of age and under may not require a ticket when sitting on the lap of a ticketed adult. This usually works out well for short flights, while the child is an infant. As soon as the child is able to sit on his/her own, I recommend purchasing a ticketed seat for the child. This keeps the parents and the children safe.

    If your child weighs under 40 pounds, then you may want to bring a car seat onto the plane. The Federal Aviation Administration highly recommends that children be secured in a CRS (child restraint system) when flying. A car seat on the plane must be rear-facing when your child is under 20 lbs and can be front-facing from 20-40 pounds. It must must be approved for use in both automobiles and aircraft and must fit within the dimensions of the seat. Make sure your seat has “This restraint is certified for use in motor vehicles and aircraft” printed on it, or the airline may not permit it’s use during flight. Check with your carrier for the dimensions of the seats. A car seat will keep your child comfortable and restrained, may give a familiar feeling of security, and can provide support for his/her head to allow them to sleep. It may also provide a clean area for your child’s small toys and snacks to fall, without contacting the dirty airplane seats, floor or tray table.

    There are alternatives to carseats. Check out my article on the CARES safety harness. It is an FAA approved child restraint that is easy to pack and to use. The FAA prohibits passengers from using booster seats and harness vests during take-off and landing as these types of restraints do not provide the best protection. Note: Just because your car seat is FAA-Approved does not mean that it will fit in the seat of your air carrier. Some car seats are way oversized and will not fit within the arm rests, will be too close to the seat in front, or will not have ample room underneath for the seatbelt latch to open and close. Check out this guide provided by car-seat.org that provides measurements for various child restraints.

    If you choose to check your car seat under the plane rather than bring it onboard, keep in mind that this is a free checked bag. It does not count against the bag limits that some air carriers have, and it does not matter if the child is ticketed or not. One carseat may be checked for free for each child traveling. On some carriers, you may check a carseat for free if you plan on meeting your little one on the other end – even if they are not traveling with you. Check out these great carseat carrier bags which will keep your car seat clean and safe from damage.