27 answers

Air Travel with a Toddler - Checking a Carseat

I will be flying with my 2 year old daughter next week. It's a 3 hour, non-stop flight and I've read all the previous posts about air travel (entertainment, ear popping, etc), so I feel pretty well prepared. I've rented a CARES to keep her safe in her seat, but I still need to bring her car seat along for use at our destination. I'd like to check it with our luggage so I don't have to carry it through the airport, but I was wondering if it would be better to check it at the gate instead. My concern is that it is a large awkward item - would it be better handled by the gate staff along with strollers and other odd items that are checked at the gate or will it be fine to check with the luggage? Should I try to find a large duffle bag to put it in to protect it? It's a Britax Marathon, if that makes any difference. Thank you in advance for your help.

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i'm shocked at how many people check their car seats! Ridiculous! Do you know that those car seats suffer the same damage being checked onto a flight as they do in an accident? The baggage handlers show no regards for it being a car seat, they throw it right into general baggage area, throw other bags on top of it, and it shifts around during flight. Imagine throwing a 50lb weight onto your car seat.... thats what happens when its checked, only its multiple 50lb weights (bags) thrown onto it, let alone the shifting during flight. Just because you can't SEE the damage doesn't mean its not there. Checking a car seat is never wise, it will suffer damage and guess what, that damage will be what breaks first in a crash, with your precious child in the seat who is DEPENDING on the seat 100% to save his/her life.

BRING the seat on the flight and strap her in. We've traveled with our Marathon many many times and never had a problem. Traveling with kids is lots of work anyway, might as well make your flight an easy one by having your child in her familiar seat. I think renting the CARES was waste... you have to have your car seat at your destination anyway, so bring it on the flight, strap her in, and save your car seat the damage it WILL sustain if you check it. Why check a $300 car seat only to get it damaged?

A duffel bag, or those travel bags for car seats, they won't PROTECT the seat from damage! Sure, damage to the cover or harness maybe, but it won't do a darn thing to protect the plastic, the integral part of the car seat, when its thrown around by careless baggage handlers and shifted around with heavy bags during flight.

Edited to add- When you gate check your car seat it gets put in with general baggage. it doesn't go to some special padded location where it will not get damaged, it just gets tossed in with the general baggage just like if you checked it with your baggage, but its brought out first and put on the tarmac for you to grab on your way off the plane.

2 moms found this helpful

Have you seen the GoGo Babyz product? It's basically wheels to attach to your carseat. We also have the Marathon by the way. You could wheel your carseat to the gate with your child in it, or with another bag in/on it - so no lugging it about. Here is the product:

1 mom found this helpful

we've checked our britax at the beginning and didnt even have a bag to put it in!! The sky cap told us he didnt have any plastic bags and if he did there was a charge, so we took a chance and it turned out fine!

dont lug it through the airport if you arent going to use it on the plane, you have enough to keep track of with your daughter!

car seats and strollers are free to check by the way

We just traveled to London (nonstop from LA) with our 7 month old and checked the car seat and stroller at the gate. It was so easy and nice to have it the minute we got off the plan. That said, you will have your hands full with carry-ons and not to mention your little one. I know my sister in law checked her Britax on a nonstop to NYC (no duffle) and it survived. Consider how light/heavy you travel and if you'll have help. If you have the extra hands, I say check it at the gate. Renting at your destination is also a great idea. Good luck!

We travel a lot with our children and we have always gate checked the car seat. We found a travel bags with wheels at Toys R Us that works great. I think Target.com also sells one now that is really good as well. You just roll the seat through the airport. It also has straps to carry it on your back if you need to for some reason.

Have fun travelling!

It sucks to lug that thing around, but I highly recommend gate checking. Every airline charges $25-40 to check an item like that versus no fee for a gate checked item. Plus, it happened to me! Returning to Newark airport after flying halfway across the country with my 3 month old and 2 year old and after charging me $25 to check the d*** thing, the airline lost my infant carseat!!!!!!!!!!!! They finally found it. But i was none too happy to use their cheap excuse for a loaner carseat until they were able to return it 3 days later.
Meanwhile I went back to work full time the next day. What a nightmare.
Gate Check all the way!

Check it with your luggage for sure. But my advice is to wrap it in a garbage bag or something. The first time I travelled with my daughter and checked her car seat it was all dirty when we picked it up (from rolling around on the luggage racks and being handled).

We checked our car seat and it got pretty beat up. They just throw it in a plastic bag and send it through the airport. If you are not able to check it for free- it will most likely be $50 to check it both ways. If you carry it to the gate it is free. IT is large and awkward though.

Not knowing any details about your destination- if there is a chance to just buy one where you are going(ie visiting family) or rent one through the car rental place? Might be worth looking into it!

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