This is Part 2/3 in our series of posts on Travel Carseats. Learn about the logistics of traveling with a carseat once you’ve decided to bring it along. Find tips on transporting a carseat for travel through the airport and cities.
If you’ve read this other post on taking along a carseat for travel, you’ll know that we most often bring our own anytime we know we’ll be in a vehicle. For all the reasons I shared in that post, bringing our own helps us feel most confident in our children’s safety, and we’ve been pleased with the lightweight carseat options we’ve chosen to ease the burden.
Still, traveling with a carseat is no joke and adds some amount of hassle to what can already be a stressful situation of traveling with kids. Here, I’m sharing some of our experience in traveling with a carseat through airports and cities and on public transportation. Keep reading to the end for some of our favorite carseat travel accessories to help with the process!
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Traveling With a Carseat: Flying With a Carseat
Say you’ve figured out you’d like to bring your own travel carseats, as well as which seats to bring. If you’re traveling by air, you’ll have to decide whether to bring your carseat on board the aircraft or to check it in the luggage hold.
When it comes to carseats, you’ll find every parent has a different (strong) opinion on this. Remember that it’s a personal choice and to figure out what works best for you. I’m sharing our experience NOT to recommend that everyone follow this course. Rather, I hope that in sharing what has worked for our family, you can better make your own educated and informed decision.
The FAA does recommend that children fly with a carseat, but does not require them to do so. Children who have not yet reached their 2nd birthday may fly as lap infants. When flying domestically within the US, this is free. For international flights, there is a nominal charge, typically 10% of the full-price adult fare.)
If you’ve decided not to take your travel carseat on board the aircraft, head here for everything you need to know about how to check a car seat.
If you do choose to fly with a car seat on board the aircraft, make sure in advance that your car seat is FAA approved. Most car seats have a sticker on the side that will say, or you can check the manufacturer’s instructions. I highly advise traveling with a carseat that is on the narrower end of the spectrum to ensure it fits in slim airplane seats.
Am I Allowed to Fly with a Car Seat on the Airplane?
As long as your carseat is FAA-approved, you may use it on board the aircraft. You may also use it either rear-facing or forward-facing, assuming your child fits within the height/weight requirements for each. Sometimes flight attendants forget this, and will try to tell you that you can’t rear-face or that you may not use it during takeoff/landing. I recommend looking up your airline’s rules ahead of time and having a copy handy. (Here’s a great article with links to the carseat policies of various airlines. And here are some tips if you’re flying with your child for the first time!)
When We Choose to Fly with a Car Seat on Board the Aircraft
Our family does not often fly with a car seat. Our oldest has been on close to 100 flights in his life, and we’ve never had an issue. Of course, this does NOT mean that issues are not possible. Aircraft have failures and there could be turbulence, or worse. For us, however, as the risk of serious injury is slim, it does not outweigh the definite inconvenience of bringing a carseat through the airport and on board. Do your research on risk/injury rates and make your own informed decision!
We have, however, chosen to bring a child restraint on a board a few times when traveling with a carseat. Here are the times it works best for us:
Flying with a Carseat for an Infant
When flying with a lap infant, we always ask if there is an empty seat on the flight, and if we could be seated next to it. Airlines are usually very kind about seating parents next to an open seat if there is one. In some of these cases, we may choose to fly with a car seat so we have a place to put our infant down. This gives our arms a break and allows our baby to sleep better when strapped into a travel carseat. Of course, if your child does NOT sleep well in a carseat, this may not be as appealing.
Personally, we choose to fly with our children as lap infants as long as possible. We once flew back on an international flight the day before our daughter turned 2. We made EXTRA sure we didn’t miss that flight! Our babies have always been small and liked being held, so it has worked for us. They also liked sleeping in the airplane bassinets*, as well as in our baby carrier.
If you have larger babies, or babies who don’t like being held, you may want to consider purchasing a seat for your infant (and bringing a carseat). Either way, whether you think it’s worth the cost of an extra seat for your lap child-aged child is another personal flying decision!
*(Many long-haul flights will put at least one parent with an infant in the bulkhead row, where a bassinet can attach into the wall. This service is free and super helpful if you’re flying with a baby, but you must request it in advance.)
Flying with a Carseat for a Young Toddler
We have also flown with a carseat for a toddler a few times. In those instances, we had a child who could no longer fly as a lap infant (i.e., she or he was 2+ years old). It was also a longer/nighttime flight on which we knew this child needed to sleep for an extended period of time. We knew our child would sleep much better in a carseat than on our laps. We did this until he was about 3 years old, at which point he was fine sleeping in the normal airplane seat.
How to Get Around When Traveling With A Carseat
Unfortunately, the airport – with its baggage handlers and luggage trolleys – is not the only place you’ll need to carry your carseat for travel. You’ll more than likely need to also carry your carseat on public transit or while walking. Oftentimes, you’ll either be carrying it on a rental car shuttle or while getting around a city. You also may need to take it on a public bus, train, airport shuttle, or some other vehicle with a limited amount of space.
Traveling with a Carseat for an Infant
When traveling with a carseat, we rarely put our child in the seat while walking or riding public transit. The exception to this is if we have an infant carseat with a snap n go. In that case, we’ll put our infant in the carseat, the carseat in the snap n go, and then we can put other things in the basket and such. We typically only do this when our babies are 4 months and under, when they tend to sleep a lot in the carseat.
Traveling with a Carseat for an Older Child
Once our babies get a bit bigger, we tend to bring our very favorite normal stroller. We LOVE this umbrella stroller for travel as it’s lightweight and functional. It has a great recline, decent basket, and is super sturdy. When we bring this, we will often nestle our infant carseat in the seat and wear the baby in a carrier. Alternatively, we’ll have our toddler sit in the stroller and wear the baby, while hanging a travel carseat on either the stroller handles or on a suitcase handle while walking.
We find that when we’re moving around a lot – on and off public transit, in and out of museums or restaurants – it’s typically easiest to not have a child in the stroller or travel carseat. For us, it’s simpler to wear a baby and have an older child walk so that we can easily fold up and/or stow a carseat or other luggage.
Once we’ve arrived at our destination, unless we are riding in a vehicle, we leave our carseat for travel behind at our accommodations.
Keep reading below for some of our favorite accessories for simplifying the process of traveling with a carseat!
Traveling With A Carseat: Our Favorite Carseat Accessories for Travel
As I’ve mentioned one time or 8 million, traveling with a carseat isn’t easy. They’re typically unwieldy and/or heavy. They’re also just a pain when you’re already trying to manage luggage and small children and passports. Still, they’re often necessary. Here are some travel carseat accessories and hacks that help make our lives easier.
Infant Car Seat on a Suitcase
Generally, the handle of an infant car seat fits perfectly over the pulling handle of a rolling suitcase. We usually just hook it over with the inside of the seat facing in, so it sort of nests over suitcase. This makes it simple and quick when carrying an infant car seat through an airport.
Carseat Suitcase Strap
I can almost guarantee you’ll feel silly paying $13 for such a simple strap (also available here). But then it will magically attach your cumbersome convertible carseat for travel to your suitcase. This works with either carry on or check in size suitcases. Especially if you’re taking it through the airport, it’s a lifesaver. Your kid can even sit in it while you pull it! This is also super useful when leaving the airport and getting to your ground transportation.
Infant Travel System Stroller
I mentioned the snap n go earlier as an option when bringing an infant car seat. It’s also perfect for transporting your infant car seat around. I really like that one as it fits most infant car seats, is lightweight, and is easy to use. It’s also convenient for turning your infant carseat into a stroller at your destination! As I mentioned before, we typically only use this option when our babies are very young. By the time our babies are about 4-6 months old, they don’t sleep quite as much during the day. In that case, it makes more sense to have the in a stroller than a carseat as we walk around.
Car Seat Stroller
If you want something a little sturdier than the strap, or if you’re not taking a roller bag, this car seat stroller may be a good choice. You can attach your car seat onto it and give it wheels. Perfect for rolling through the airport. This one also allows your child to sit in it while it rolls if needed.
Hang Carseat on A Stroller or Suitcase
If you don’t want to invest in a separate and specific item to transport your travel carseat, here’s an easy hack. We’ve found it works a little better with an infant car seat for travel, but we’ve managed it with a convertible travel car seat, as well.
Either hang the travel carseat handle on the stroller handle, or nestle the carseat in the stroller seat. Depending on the convertible carseat, you can sometimes work the straps so that they attach behind the stroller. That way, it’s secured in place and the child can sit in it. Just be super careful that everything is very secure. And make certain that the travel carseat isn’t too heavy for the stroller (especially if you have a child in it)!!
Similarly, we’ll sometimes hang a carseat on the handle of a rolling suitcase. This tends to work better with an infant car seat for travel. In this case, you can hook the car seat handle over the suitcase handle. But we’ve also finagled it using the straps of a convertible car seat for travel, as well.
Car Seat Travel Bag
Another great option is to use a car seat travel bag. This can also be really useful as protection if you’re planning to check your travel carseat. Many car seat travel bags have backpack straps, making it easy to carry them along. This one is padded and has backpack straps. Or this is the one that we have – it’s more basic, with just thick nylon and no padding. But it’s plenty big and has backpack straps. There’s also this other basic one that seems to fold down quite small.
How to Stay Sane When Traveling With a Carseat
Traveling with kids is no joke, and neither is schlepping all the stuff. Traveling with a carseat can definitely add to that, but I hope these tips help you figure out the logistics. Whether you’re flying or using another mode of transportation, good luck when traveling with a carseat!
START BY READING TRAVEL CARSEATS PART 1: WHEN TO TAKE A CARSEAT FOR TRAVEL AND WHICH TRAVEL CARSEAT TO TAKE
More Posts: Traveling with Kids
IF YOU LIKED THIS POST ABOUT TRAVELING WITH A CARSEAT, YOU MIGHT LIKE THESE POSTS, TOO:
- Travel Carseats Part 1: When to Take a Carseat for Travel (and Which to Take)
- Travel Carseats Part 3: How to Check a Car Seat
- Ultimate Family Packing List
- 15 Best Travel Accessories for Kids
- How to Find Family Friendly Hotels and Accommodations