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All About Using Car Seats On Planes |Parenthood4ever

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So, I’m supposed to be writing a post about the Duoro Valley (and the Azores, and Orlando, and maybe even planning for Iceland and Belize), but I get asked about #carseatsonairplanesALL THE TIME, so decided to make a post about it.
Here’s the thing about car seats and airplanes: it’s confusing. Should you use one, should you check one? You will find flight attendants have to check their manuals when you come on board with a car seat. It’s just not common. So, let me try to break it down for you.

When you can use a car seat?

  • Anytime your child, of any age, has its own seat on an aircraft.
  • If you paid for their seat, it’s your right to bring on any FAA approved seat.
  • If you have a lap child, you are at the mercy of the gate agent. If there is an empty seat next to you, you may be able to board with your seat.
  • Your child will need to be in their seat, strapped in, during taxi/take off/landing and anytime the fasten seat belt sign is on.

How do you know if your seat is FAA approved?

  • All seat approved for air travel have a FAA approved sticker with an airplane on it. Any questions, show the flight attendant the sticker and you are good to go.

Why use a seat?

  • The safest place for a child on an airplane is buckled into a five-point harness if they ride in one in the car. You can’t trust your arms or that lap belt to hold a small child in case of turbulence or a rough landing.
  • My kids do better in their seats. They already know car seat = long ride, and they settle in.

Do you buy your under-two baby a seat?

  • This is where things get heated. Some people say you MUST put your child in a car seat on the plane, anything less would be negligent. I’m going to be honest here. I’ve been on thousands of flights with kids and have never bought my under two baby a seat. We’ve been lucky to never be in a situation where it was needed. Of course, I insist they ride in seats in the car, and we’ve never been in a situation where we needed them there, either. So clearly, I’m conflicted.
  • If you can reasonably afford it, I say yes. You’re going to be more comfortable, and baby is going to be safer, in their own seat. Check lightweight car seats for travel here or check our selection on baby’s transport here.
  • If you are travelling with two kids, the older one is in the baby’s bulky convertible seat on the plane, if they are traveling with a booster. This keeps your $$$$ convertible seat out of cargo.

Do you lug the seat if baby doesn’t have their own seat?

  • I have a hate/hate relationship with rental seats at car dealerships. They are junk, hard to install, often smell and are expensive. Bringing your own seat means you’re ready to go once you land.
  • So yes, I say lug the seat, even if you have to gate check it. Again, this is where things get heated. Some people say you should NEVER EVEN THINK ABOUT gate checking a seat, but weighing the risks here, I say a gate checked seat is likely a heck of a lot safer than that rental car seat.
  • Car seats and strollers count as baby items, and you don’t have to pay to check them.
  • We also lug the booster seat for the big one- we gate check it or put it in an overhead bin if it fits.

Which seat?!

  • Honestly, bring whatever seat you are used to using, as long as its FAA approved. Yes, even if its heavy. Wear the baby and throw the car seat in the stroller. We personally travel with the diono radian. Heavy as anything, but narrow, FAA approved, and super easy for us to install (because we are used to it).
  • If your seat isn’t FAA approved or you don’t have one (hi, NYC mamas!) order the Cosco Scenera. Now available online from some retailers, its light, cheap (about $50), and FAA approved.
  • Infant buckets are often FAA approved. Check your individual manufacturer.

How the heck do I install this thing on an airplane?

  • Here, you will find yourself helplessly alone on the airplane. The stewardesses won’t be able to help you, but often will watch you kids when you get it in. If forward-facing, just slide the belt through the forward facing belt path, clip and tighten. If rear-facing, do the same but through the rear-facing belt path.

Where can I install it?

  • You will find, after a few flights, you know more about where a car seat can and can’t be installed on an airplane, than the flight attendants.
  • Your car seat cannot impede anyone’s exit. Therefore, it must be installed in the window seat if the airplane has one aisle. If the airplane has two aisles, you can install it at the window on the middle seat between the aisles.
  • You cannot install it in an exit row, or the row in front of the exit row.
  • You can install it in first class.
  • You can install it in the bulkhead, but you won’t be able to get a tight fit if your particular plane has airbags built into the seatbelt in the bulkhead. This makes the belt bulky, and an extender has to be used to deactivate the airbag. Once you have the extender on, it’s impossible to get the seat tight.

Forward or rear facing?

  • If you bring an infant bucket, it must be rear facing.
  • A convertible seat can be installed forward or rear facing. Bring your owner’s manual if you plan on rear facing, in case flight attendants question.
  • A rear facing seat will most likely block the recline of the seat in front of it. Try to seat a member of your party there or buy a few drinks to soften the blow to your fellow passenger.

Other family seating notes

  • Only one infant in arm can be seated per row due to oxygen mask availability. So, if you are travelling with two under two, plan on spreading out.
  • By law, the airlines must seat a child under 14 with an adult.
  • Before flying, it is recommended printing your airlines’ policy regarding car seats on planes, just in case if you face problems with getting your car seat on board. I also recommend printing out this document from the FAA.

Have a safe flight!

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Hi! We are KidsinCoach. We are typical suburban family, who squeezes world travels in between school holidays and full-time jobs! We believe travel is our time to reconnect as a family, explore new cultures and places and relax. You can follow our adventures on Instagram or facebook @kidsincoach, or on our webpage

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  1. Anchor says:

    Greetings! Very helpful advice within this article!

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. […] All About Using Car Seats On Planes. […]

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