Car seats are very important in keeping our kids safe. However it can be a drag to travel with a car seat, especially when it’s already a pain getting through the airport smoothly with kids. Not anymore, here are 5 tips on traveling with a car seat.
Traveling With a Car Seat: Does my car seat fly for free?
On US Airlines you can always check a car seat for free at the ticket counter or at the gate. Here are 3 reasons to always gate check your car seat. However when traveling with a car seat on international airlines the rules vary. Some count it towards your checked luggage allowance while others only allow it to fly for free if the child is under 2. Check your specific airlines website or call customer service to verify.
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How to protect your checked car seat!
When first traveling with a car seat the only thing I thought about were all the germs it would get from checking it. It would get germs from multiple people touching it, from the belt conveyor at baggage claim, and by being under the plane. Then I’d be putting my precious, clean baby in there to catch all those germs. Due to this I highly recommend purchasing a protective bag!
I forgot mine once and on my flight to my destination I asked the counter for a garbage bag and they provided me with one. However, on the way back that counter didn’t have any so don’t count on the airline providing something when traveling with a car seat. All the baby stores have several types and sizes of car seat bags depending on your needs. I bought a sturdy one as we travel a lot and didn’t want to risk the cheaper material ones ripping after multiple uses. If you don’t plan on using it much, don’t break the bank!
What are the risks of checking a car seat?
Car seats that have been in a car accident are no longer safe and should not be reused. We all know airlines damage people’s luggage all the time and there are no exceptions for car seats. The chance of an airline damaging your car seat where it is no longer safe and functional is unlikely. The problem is there is really no way to tell. You have no idea what happens to your car seat once you check it and not all car seat damage is visible.
The only way to 100% prevent the mishandling of your car seat when traveling with a car seat is to bring it on the plane with you. Unfortunately purchasing a seat for your child under 2 can be a big expense not everyone can afford so what are your alternatives?
- 1. Checking your car seat at the gate will eliminate a lot of handling as it’s walked over to the plane and handed right back to you upon landing but of course still no guarantee.
- Consider purchasing a cheaper car seat just for traveling purposes.
- Instead of traveling with a car seat if you plan on renting a car at your destination you can also rent a car seat through the rental company. There is an added fee (up to $13.99/day) for them to provide a car seat but if you have a AAA membership Hertz gives you one child, infant, or booster seat for free! They also have other savings which you can find here. The problem with renting a car seat is that you never know the condition it will be in.
- If it is a place you travel frequently, say visiting grandma/grandpa consider purchasing a car seat for their car that way you never have to travel with a car seat!
How to get your car seat to the gate!
If you are checking your car seat at the gate or having your child sit in it on the flight it can be daunting thinking of how you are going to manage. Car seats can be heavy, not to mention impossible to carry if you already have a carry-on bag plus a child to carry. Here are some ways to get your car seat to the gate:
- Get a car seat bag that has backpack straps so you can carry it.
- Snap the car seat into your stroller frame if you have an infant car seat so you can push baby in it.
- Get a car seat transporter (these have wheels so you can have baby strapped in a pull it and some can even be tied to your carry on suitcase so you can pull both with one hand). For details on the car seat transporter I use (video below) click here.
Traveling With a Car Seat? Here’s how to use it on the plane:
If you plan to have your child sit in their car seat on the plane you will be required to purchase a seat for them. Some airlines offer discounted child fare but most don’t. Your car seat MUST be FAA approved to be used on an airplane. How do you know if it is? It will read “this restraint is certified for use in motor vehicles and aircraft” or “for use in aircraft”. If the label is missing or unreadable your owner’s manual will also provide this information. Worst case call the manufacturer to ask them and have them provide you with a letter stating so.
Remember that just because your car seat is FAA approved doesn’t mean it will fit in the airplane seat. Be sure to measure your car seat and check with the airline. You’ll need to determine if the specific plane you would be traveling on has seats wide enough for your car seat. This is important as many airlines have various aircrafts they fly.
Car seats are not allowed to block the exit paths of others in the row. This means the car seat will need to be installed in the window seat on a typical 2 column plane. If the plane has 3 columns the car seat could also go in the middle seat of the middle column. Please note that some NON U.S. based airlines require you to provide the car seat details at booking over the phone. Unfortunately some do not allow children to sit in car seats during the flight at all. Others require the car seat to be forward facing so be sure to contact the specific airline prior to booking or always book on a U.S. based airline when traveling internationally.
You may be interested in reading: 8 Tips on Flying with Babies
Consider leaving your car seat at home!
Instead of traveling with a car seat maybe you should leave it at home. If you are traveling to somewhere like NYC, Chicago, or Tokyo where public transportation is in abundance or everything is in walking distance decide if you really need a car seat. If you are only taking trains and buses a baby carrier and/or stroller will suffice. For toddlers in major cities, Uber will provide you with a car seat for a small surcharge. Click here for details.
You may be interested in reading: Tips for Flying with Toddlers
Do you have any other tips on traveling with a car seat? If you found this article helpful, please share it!
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I love your blog and IG!!! It has inspired both myself and my husband to make a list of countries to travel to and plan to travel when the baby’s 3 months.
Where did you get the rolling cart pictured above for the car seat and also on a video on your IG account?
Monet Hambrick says
Thank you so much, I am so happy to hear that! Yessss to this list of countries to travel to. You can find all the details for the car seat transporter on my Must Have Travel Gear Section of the blog, here’s the link directly for this one that includes a link to purchase the product http://www.thetravelingchild.co/travel-gear/car-seat-transporter. Let me know if you have any other questions.
Great tips, does one also take the car seat base? Thanks
Glad you found them useful! I do not travel with my infant car seat base. You can install it with the base as long as the vehicle has the seat belts that lock (like when you are in a car that stops abruptly but the seat belt doesn’t let you go further). YouTube installing an infant car seat without the base, it will show you exactly how to. Hope my answer made sense, lol!
Sierra Dallas says
As a parent, my first priority is to keep my kids safe.I have to travels a lot around the world with my a baby. Thanks for infant car seat travel bag ideas. It’s really essential for every mom to manage traveled with the baby and to feel comfortable and easier while traveling with the baby.
Love reading all of your post. You have answered just about everything I was stressing over, so thank you very much. My husband and I are traveling to New Orleans with a 4 month old. We are staying about 1 Mile from Bourbon street. I was thinking we use the carrier since everything is in walking distance however, do you recommend bringing the car seat for the trip from the airport to the hotel in a shuttle? Or would the carrier suffice?
You’re very welcome and I am so happy to hear how helpful you have found my posts. Is the airport shuttle one of those shuttle buses with no seat belts or is it a van that cans seat belts and the carseat can be installed? I would see if the hotel can provide you with that information. If it can’t be installed no point in traveling with it but if it can I would recommend it for the car ride to/from the airport and then you can keep it in your hotel or Airbnb.