25 answers

Car Seat on Airplane for a 2 Year Old?

I am taking my first airplane trip with my son who is 2 years old. Is it better to take his car seat on the plane for him, or will we be okay without one? We had planned to rent a car seat at our destination with our rental car, rather than lugging his through the airport.

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Featured Answers

USE IT. You will be glad for the extra confinement. Treat an airplane ride just like you would a car ride.

It kind of depends on how active a child he is. If you don't take the car seat will he stay seated without having those extra straps that will hold him in. I'm a flight attendant & what I notice with children that age (including my daughter at that age) is that they will not keep the airplane seatbelt buckled. It is easy to take off & so off it comes. Now as far as safety goes it is probably safer to have him in a carseat. I tried to travel without it when my daughter was that age because my parents had a carseat when we got there. I never did it again. It was a battle the whole flight to keep it on. It was well worth it to me to lug the carseat with me.

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DO NOT RENT A CAR SEAT!!! You have no idea what that seat has been through...it could have been horribly mis-treated and in several accidents!

I would bring a car seat. We have flown without one and I will never do it again. All of my friends who travel ALWAYS bring their seats. They say that they are lifesavers...they keep kids safe and contained. Kids know that a certain behavior is expected in a car seat...so that expectation will in effect when they are in the seat on the plane.

Yes, it's bulky. No, it's not the most convienient. But it IS the safest option. Think of turbulance and air pockets...and think of your baby not being strapped in...

A good friend of mine travels everywhere with her car seat...and it's Britax marathon so it is heavy and bulky! She uses a $10 luggage cart form walmart to get it through the airport. She uses bungy cords to connect it to the cart. Then she straps her kid into the seat and awheels him through the airport like it's a stroller. Works great...and she travels a TON.

1 mom found this helpful

It kind of depends on how active a child he is. If you don't take the car seat will he stay seated without having those extra straps that will hold him in. I'm a flight attendant & what I notice with children that age (including my daughter at that age) is that they will not keep the airplane seatbelt buckled. It is easy to take off & so off it comes. Now as far as safety goes it is probably safer to have him in a carseat. I tried to travel without it when my daughter was that age because my parents had a carseat when we got there. I never did it again. It was a battle the whole flight to keep it on. It was well worth it to me to lug the carseat with me.

Last year when our daughter was 2 we used it on the flight. To her it was just like riding in the car and she knew she had to stay put, just like in the car. I would take it.


Car seats are the only thing that I know of you can check as luggage for free. If you really want "hands free" through the airport, check luggage at the curb before you park your car and just tip the guy a few bucks. Renting a car seat is pretty expensive depending on the length of your trip - $10-20 per day.

Many car seats aren't even compatible with airplane seats. I believe the seats say if you can use them on a plane. We took those little infant seats on the plane, but never a full sized carseat or booster seat. We just had our kids wear the seatbelts. Remember, hitting turbulance in a plane is very different than hitting another car on the ground.

Good luck,

Just was looking to see if anyone mentioned CARES, but it looks like they have...of course! We have traveled numerous times where we didn't need a carseat for any travel other than possibly the airplane. We invested in CARES and LOVE it. We loan ours out to friends/family all the time and everyone likes it, and every time we are on a plane people ask us where we got it. It might be an alternative for you.

We actually just took a trip with our 3 year old and we had to take his car seat on the plane and put him in it.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) strongly recommend that infants and small children who weigh under 40 pounds be secured in a car seat. You might want to check your car seat to see if it says anywhere on it that it is approved for aircraft use. It also can't be wider that 16 inches.

I hope this helps. If you need anymore info you can get on the airlines website and check. I found all this info on Southwest's website.


I have flown with my kids many times, and started as early as 2 months old. We have never brought a car seat in the plane, we usually gate check them which IS a hassle. Even on the 8 hour flight to Maui, when my middle was 13 mos old, we did not bring a carseat. It worked fine for us. Just bring lots of things to entertain them - and candy never hurts either to keep if you REALLY need it. Have fun!

Take it with on the plane

Only "Airline approved" carseats are allowed on the plane. If this is your first time traveling with a toddler you should check your air-lines webpage for tips on traveling with "special needs" you'll find a section about all the rules and details about traveling with kids. Also there are other resources online that I found the first time I flew with my son. Parents.com has some great information. Just google traveling with a toddler.

And rest assured that in my experience the airline employees are usually very understanding and super helpful. They know it is stressful to fly with a toddler and they want to help.

I would definately take the car seat! My husband and I took a trip when our oldest was about 2 and FORGOT to take the car seat out of the car (early in the morning and too many things on our minds at the time---ha ha!). We weren't going to use it on the plane (he did fine on the plane without it) so we decided it was no big deal because we'd just rent one when we got our rental car... There were NO car seats when we got to the rental place! Instead we had to drive around a city we didn't know, with a little boy buckled with a seat belt and me holding on to him tightly, to BUY a new car seat. It was such a pain! I kept thinking that we should've just gone back to the car and taken our seat (risking that we'd miss our flight, of course --- ha ha!). Anyway, it just may be easier in the end to take your own... We had planned to put ours with the rest of the luggage, which we did with the 2nd one, so we didn't have to drag it around... It was not too difficult. Best of luck and enjoy your trip!

We have flown 2 times with our kids and the third trip is coming up next week. We have never brought the car seat with..... Too much hassle. We rented one both times. The kids have done FINE on the plane. This way they can lay down on our laps and have some room to stretch out. I couldn't imagine making them sit in a carseat for 4 hours straight......

Our first flight our daughter was 9 months old.

Second trip, she was almost 3 and our son was 6 months old.

This time they are 4 1/2 and 2 1/2.

But, do what you are comfortable with. It's apparently a matter of opinion.

USE IT. You will be glad for the extra confinement. Treat an airplane ride just like you would a car ride.

We just got back from out trip on Monday with our 25 month old daughter. We took her carseat. I felt better about using our seat on the plane to let her sit up a little and to better confine her. I also felt a thousand times better using our seat that we've had control of since we've owned it, for when we got the rental car. I cringe at the thought of using a seat from a rental agency that has been possibly thrown around, in an unreported accident, and used by how many other kids and hasn't been cleaned in who knows how long.

I do suggest though that to take the carseat with you take a bungee cord or something similar and tie it to the carry-on luggage you have. If you turn the seat upside down and have it face the luggage it fits fairly easily and will roll along without a hitch. (Try it out before you leave and roll it around the house a few times to see if it will slide off.) OR

Buy or borrow a stroller that is made to strap the carseat onto it to carry the seat and your child. Be prepared to take it apart at security though.

You will want some type of stroller at the airport. We used an umbrella stroller and gate checked it. This is NOT a big deal and didn't cost anything. You just ask at the gate desk for the gate check tag and then drop the stroller off at the end of the jet way before you board the plane. When you get off, it will be outside of the plane waiting for you to use again.

We tried using a carseat luggage bag for the carseat and stuffed the blankies and toys in it. We found ourselves at the security line pulling it all out to send the seat in by itself. The seat in the bag wouldn't fit in the x-ray machine and nearly got stuck! We won't use the bag again and didn't on our return flight. We just wadded it up and put it in our checked bag.

We also bought a tray that fits our daughter's carseat at Walmart for $15. She used this to put her books on and to color while we rode. It has a lip that will keep the crayons from sliding off. If you use the carseat, her (plane) tray table will not be able to extend and fit over her lap. The carseat is too tall.

One last bit of advice, ask at the gate if they preboard with children. Our last two flights DID NOT! When we asked the second time (we learned from the first flight), we were told we could board with the Elite group and did without hassle. I think it may depend on the airline and the person boarding the plane. Also, wait to be the last people off the plane to allow you to take your time. By the time you reach the baggage claim area your bag will be there.

Hope this helps!!! Been there, done that...two days ago! We flew Northwest/Delta.

Hi M.! We just took a trip with our 2 y/o this summer (she was 2yrs 2mos when we went). We took her seat (we were renting a car) but gate checked it. I'm glad we did and here's why: In her carseat, she wouldn't have been able to move much or see out the windows (the "wings" of the seats blocked the view). But with just her seatbelt she could see us, talk to us, move around to read her books or "color" on her doodle pad and could see out the window. Also, getting her in and out (diaper changes or stretching legs) wasn't a big deal. While in a car, a carseat is safer, the seatbelt in an airplane is mostly there to aid in the event of turbulence so for us, gate checking the seat was the right choice.

We fly quite often with my kids, and I would just go ahead and rent one. It's a PAIN to check it/lug it through the airport with trying to keep the kids in check. The rented ones are fine, I've never had a gross one that I have worried about. Plus my son the one time we messed with it, wanted out and threw a GIANT fit about sitting in it. He knew it wasn't the car and wasn't buying it. It was nice to have room for him to play and hang out anyway.

If you don't really need it on the plane to keep him in his seat I would skip it. They are clunky and awkward to carry on with all your other stuff and your child. I would recommend, however, to check your carseat with your luggage. It does not count as one of your pieces of luggage and will save you lots of money ... the car rental places charge outrageous amounts to rent one. Have a great trip!!!

When I flew with my son, they wouldn't let me use the car seat on the plane. We had to check it at the gate. I agree that it would be better to take it along and not run the risk of getting a used and abused car seat if you rent one. You can also check it as a piece of luggage. They'll even give you a clear plastic bag to put it in. Then you don't have to lug it around through the airport.

We purchased this: http://www.kidsflysafe.com/ when we were flying more often with our son. It was very handy and (at the time) easier to check the big carseat into baggage than lug it on the plane. Unfortunately, now I think they might charge for the extra baggage. We also found it handy when flying to the in-laws where they had a carseat waiting for us. That beins said, I have also flown with the carseat and it really isn't a big deal. Just give yourself a few extra minutes to strap it in. Good Luck!

I think it depends a bit on your son's personality. It is a hassle to drag the carseat through the airport (but you can put them on wheeled carts) in order to use it in the plane, but for us it was totally worth it. My son is not one who will sit still or just lay down on me and take a nap, but he's great in the car and knows what to expect when he's in his carseat. The last trip we took before he turned 2 (with him on my lap) was so awful I was looking forward to having to buy him his own ticket! Since then with the carseat has been great. We're taking a trip later in the month and he's now too big for his convertible seat, so I don't really know what to expect.

Also, because I did see that others had mentioned bringing your own seat instead of renting, for safety reasons, if you want to do that but don't want to lug it around the airport you can still check carseats without them counting toward your baggage limit on most airlines. You just need a bag/cover for them. Have a great trip!

My children are big and older now, but when they were younger, we did lug the car seats with us. At 2 you have to buy a seat for them, may as well use it. Our kids felt more comfortable on the plan (use to their own seat), stay containned and did not desire to get up and move (of course we brought toys, food and activites) and many times actually fell asleep because they were comfortable in their own seats. It saved us from doing shared car seats at our destination as well. The seats are not cleaned between children when rented. The car seat was our saving grace and our children are well traveled and have had pretty long plane rides. The only time we did not bring a seat is when we would cruise. There is not point to them in the ports (due to the type of transport vechicles) and they take up too much room on the ship. If you do not want to lug it by hand through the airport, just get one of those carts and place everything on it. I say take it.

If you decide you don't need the car seat at your destination (are renting one, etc.), the CARES restraint is a great option. It's available from kidsflysafe.com and is basically a strap that acts like a car seat harness, without the extra weight of the carseat. We bought this to fly with my daughter since my parents had purchased an inexpensive car seat for us to use while we are visiting them.

Hi M.,
I have flown with my 2 year old several times and have done it both ways. The pros about having the car seat is that you can strap him in and not give him the opportunity to get out during the flight (makes things easier for you and potentially fellow passengers). The con is that the car seat is a pain to drag around and set up. We used a Gogo BabyZ when we had the car seat, and that made it a little less painful. We ended up doing the last leg without the car seat, and we were just fine without it; I don't think we would bring it again unless we were renting a car and needed one. It is a bit more challenging to keep them in the seat, but if you get seats in the rear of the plane you're less likely to bother anyone. Just bring LOTS of stuff to do (new stuff he hasn't seen before) and plenty of snacks to keep him busy! The biggest problem we had is that our son wanted to push the button to call the steward so he could hear the beep!

We have never taken our car seat on the plane, but we have checked it in with our luggage. They do not charge you to check it no matter how many bags you have. You can buy bags to put your seat in. I have one from Babies R Us. You do take a slight chance that it could be lost but most airlines put it with thei special handling luggage (like skiis). I guess I just don't trust that I will be getting a safe seat from a rental place. We've never had trouble and we've done it at least a dozen times.

We used to bring our seat on the plane (must pass FAA certification), but didn't this past summer. We checked it instead - do gate check if you are at your checked bag limit. We got a car seat travel bag that has held up very well with being checked.

I'd rather have my son in his car seat, but we've had hassles (one airline wouldn't let him be in it for take off/landing - how stupid is that - only the most important time). Honestly he also behaved better without the seat, easier to nap, cuddle, not kick the seat in front, etc.

You can get wheels for you car seat for going through the airport - then it becomes a "stroller". For us it ened up carry the bags, but... :)

Good luck with your decision.

BRING IT ON THE PLANE! NEVER Rent a car seat unless absolutely necessary. You will likely get an older seat that has been used and abused, you don't know the history or if its been in a crash, dropped, thrown around ,etc, all things that can cause just as muc hdamage as a car crash.

Bring your own seat, belt it into the plane seat and hook him in just like the car. Trust me your flight will be alot smoother with him in a car seat.

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