Air Travel with Kids

Updated on September 09, 2009
L.L. asks from Rio Rancho, NM
20 answers

Hello we will be going on our first family vacation via airplane. One will be a lap child the other in her own seat. Has anyone had issues with the checked car seats being damaged? Car rental has some to rent but they didnt know the weight requirements and could not locate them. I do not want show up and then they do not meet the requirements, I also do not want my car seats to get damaged, how do you know if they are FAA complient, so maybe I could board one and check the other? any suggestions?

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N.B.

answers from Phoenix on

L.,

I have traveled many times with my little guy. I have checked his expensive Britax Car seat every single time and is has come back just fine ever time. What I would do though is ask them to put it in a luggage protector....big plastic bags...they do have them so just ask. As well as purchase insurance on it.... that way if anything does happen too it you can have them replace it at full cost. Good luck....PS you do not have to pay for your car seat or use it as a checked bag...it is ILLEGAL for you not to have your child in a car seat so therefore they CAN NOT restrict it..

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S.S.

answers from Phoenix on

We have air travelled with both an infant seat and Britax Marathon seat. The times we have checked the seat we use a JL Childress Travel Bag, which is a padded bag that I purchased online from Target for $45. Luckily we have not experienced any damage during our trips. I strongly suggest getting a true car seat bag to prevent damage. More than just a garbage bag that can be torn very easily.

My personal opinion is that you do not want to use the seats the car rental companies have. Like you realized they may not have the one you need when you arrive and I have heard they can be very dirty. My cousin took one only long enough to drive to the nearest Target to replace the seat lost by the airlines. She covered it first with a beach towel it was so dirty.

It is true that the seats should say right on them if they are FAA compliant.

It is possible that they can loose the seat, so try to put your name and phone number on permanently like with a label maker. If you can tolerate gate checking then that would be the best for getting the least amount of damage, but with two kids that may not be possible, so i would invest in a good travel bag.

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J.C.

answers from Tucson on

We've only flown a few times, but I bought a bag to put it in. The bag was damaged once, but it was just a tear in the bottom seam and was easily fixed. The car seat was fine. If you get a bag I suggest the one like we got. It has straps like a back pack and the back part is padded for your back. It made it so much nicer to get through the airport for my husband. We were also able to stuff a few extra things in there that we didn't want to carry on the plane (ie. blankets and jackets) and it didn't count as an extra bag. You may have to check on that though, because it was a long time ago and things might have changed now. I would give you the info on our bag, but my SIL is borrowing it right now. I would definitely take your own car seat though. That would be awful if they didn't have one when you got there and who knows if they really clean them or not. If it's gets damaged put in a claim with the airlines. It's better to be safe and not have to worry about it the whole time. Good luck!

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C.H.

answers from Phoenix on

I'd suggest taking both car seats on the plane if you can and if the plane is not over 80% full. If there is a chance that you will have an empty seat near you, you can strap the both seats in and they will hold your children better. Whether you end up with the seats on the plane with you or not, take them through security with you. You can check them at the gate. They'll be the last items into the cargo hold, on top of the pile of luggage - hopefully sparing them from any damage.

Take lots of snacks and a sippy or bottle for each. If their ears are sensitive to pressure they'll need it on take-off and landing. If they're sucking on juice it'll help balance their sinus' and ear canal so they don't experience any pain.

A portable movie player is the best entertainment for your 3 year old. She'll keep quiet and will actually want to stay in her seat.

As for your 19 month old - you're going to be her main entertainment...unless you have a friendly seat neighbor who does not mind pulling faces and playing Hi-5. So bring her favorite toys!

Be sure to bring a changing mat. There is a changing table in the front lavatory of the plane, not the back. But of course hygeine on a plane is less than acceptable. So lots of wipes and hand sanitizer. Wipe the seats down because it's common for your little ones to put their mouths on them...or at least their hands and you know little hands end up in little mouths.

Good luck! and have fun on your vaca.

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J.S.

answers from Phoenix on

I checked my car seat once and it was a huge mistake cuz it got wrecked. I always carry my car seats to the gate and have them put them on last and get them off first and have never had a problem. I have done extensive travel domestically and internationally (I live in Brazil now) and they have always arrived in perfect shape doing it that way. It is a pain to carry it to the gate but I do it anyway. Hope that helps.

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K.L.

answers from Phoenix on

I would take both of your own car seats for the car rental and check them with your luggage. There is no extra charge for checking car seats. We have 2 boys 3 1/2 and 6 1/2 and we stopped taking the bulky car seats on planes by 3 years old. They are bulky to carry through the airport (even with the stroller to set it on) and they restrict the person's space that sits next to the car seat. I think the car seats have to be the kind that you can put the plane seatbelt thru the underside of the car seat. We did get on Southwest with a booster a couple times, but last month US Airways wouldn't let our preschooler sit in it. (He wanted to sit higher so he could see out the window.)

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J.B.

answers from Phoenix on

L.,

There are labels on the car seats that will say if they are FAA compliant, or I think on mine it said that it met aviation standards when... The gate staff will check the car seat when boarding so make sure you know where it is stated on the car seat.

You can buy car seat bags for travel at Babies 'r Us and a variety of other places. I highly suggest getting one if you are going to check one - even if it is gate check. I have seen car seats come off damaged, and we had a stroller damaged by the airline last year that was gate checked (they are not covered). You never can be too careful. I don't recommend getting a car seat through the rental car company. Depending on the length of your vacation, the cost of the rental outweighs the practicality.

Also, even though you are travelling with a lap child, you do have the right to ask whether or not the flight is full. If the flight is not full, they will reseat you and let you bring on the second car seat for you to use, because they would rather have the child in a car seat then on your lap, especially if it is a long flight.

And since you are travelling with two kids, you may wish to to check out http://www.gogobabyz.com/products.aspx. I have the travelmate, and while you can find it cheaper from other dealers, it was indispensable when traveling with my 21 month old a couple of weeks ago. It eliminates the need to bring a stroller to get through the airport and makes lugging the car seat much easier. If you are going to do a lot of air travel in the future (we go twice a year) it is a sound investment.

Good luck!

J.

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S.C.

answers from Phoenix on

First of all, before you board the plane ask a person at the desk if the flight is full. If it isn't, you should be able to bring both car seats on board and have a place to secure each child. If your airline has pre-assigned seats, it should be easy enough to find out if the seats next to you will be available. Paid-for seats are great, but those wonderful empty seats are priceless. ;-)

If the flight is full and/or the seats next to you are taken, you can still bring the extra car seat with you right up to the gate. I know it's a pain to drag it around the airport, but when they check it at the gate, it's really well taken care of and doesn't get tossed around with all the other baggage. When you disembark at your destination, it will be waiting for you right when you step off the plane.

Another benefit of checking at the gate is the fact that you'll HAVE the chance of bringing it on board with you and snagging that extra seat, as I mentioned earlier. If you check the car seat with your other baggage (or if you leave it behind altogether and opt to rent) you might be kicking yourself when you sit down on a half-empty plane.

And having flown both with and without car seats, I can say that I personally MUCH prefer having a (familiar) place that my child can be strapped into and possibly even sleep in. All my kids want to do when they're sitting in my lap is squirm off! :-)

Good luck!

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D.S.

answers from Phoenix on

L.,

I have checked my stroller at the gate and my car seat with our luggage (in a large duffle bag or trash bag) many times and have never had any issues with damage.

I do have a CARE's child restraint system if you would like to borrow it for your trip. It is an FAA approved seatbelt that makes the airline seat belt more secure for your child. We are flying back into Chandler on Friday night, so anytime after that, you are welcome to use it. Just send me an email if you would like to use it.

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A.G.

answers from Phoenix on

I've flown over a dozen times with my son (now 15 months), and the advice you've gotten covers most of my tips. However, I'm not seeing any advice for how you're supposed to get your two girls and their seats all the way to the gate along with their bags, etc. Figure this out ahead of time, because it may be somewhere from annoying to impossible. I don't have two yet, but the best things I've seen for simply getting my one through the airport are the GoGo Travelmate (expensive, but turns your carseat into a ride for the little one), and the Sit 'n Stroll (carseat turns into a stroller). If you could borrow either one, it would probably be a big help.

On the other hand, an alternative to bringing your seats or renting them from the car rental place is a local baby rental agency. A friend of a friend runs one here (http://www.sweetpeababyrentals.com/Home_Page.html) that lead me to look for similar services elsewhere, and I've used them a couple times for porta cribs. But they do sometimes do carseats, and they'll deliver to where you need them (like the car rental agency). Since this is their primary business, the seats are likely to be in much better condition than the car rental place's.

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S.C.

answers from Phoenix on

Hi L.,

We just flew across country for the first time on Saturday with our 5 mo old girls. We flew with them both as laps, so we checked both car seats and the double stroller at the entrance of the plane. We flew American Air and United Air. Both car seats and the stroller came back to us at the lay over and at our destination in great condition. We already had some scuffs on our stroller, so I can't necessarily speak for that, but nothing was broken. You will just have to fold the stroller up yourself if you have one. You will have to break the stroller down as much as possible (pulling apart any trays, etc)going through security check because they want it to lay as flat as possible when going through the scanner. Just make sure you leave yourself enough travel time! All in all it was a great experience. Good luck and have fun!

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J.H.

answers from Phoenix on

Hi L.- I haven't brought a car seat on the airplane with me but I have a couple of thoughts. First, our stroller got damaged going through the security check machine. I am assuming something similar could happen to a car seat. THey do have a process/form you can follow in order to get reimbursed for repairs but it was so detailed and a pain that I never even bothered. However, I would not recommend using the rental car seats companies provide. We had a nightmare of a time trying to get decent working seats for our two girls on a recent trip. They were dirty, the straps did not function properly and they did not install in the car correctly. I was a nervous wreck the whole trip. Next time I will bring my own car seats and take the risk of it getting banged up in security.

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N.N.

answers from Albuquerque on

Traveling with kiddos is no problem if you follow a few tips. First, I never check my carseat (even if I'm not using it on the plane). Instead, I gate check it. It's handled a lot less, and is available for you right at the gate. Although you do need to deal with getting it through security, it also guarantees it makes it on the plane YOU are on and You may also want to invest in a carseat bag to help keep it protected (it also has straps and wheels for easy carrying) As far as being FAA approved, there should be a manufacturer sticker on the carseat indicating this. Good luck and I hope you have happy travels!

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Y.V.

answers from Phoenix on

To check if your carseat is FAA complaint check the sticker that's on the side of it. It would say something like this carseat is approved for car and aircraft use, FAA approved etc.

I always travel with my son's carseat, we buy him a seat if is a longer flight or for shorter flights, we've been lucky and there's usually available seats. Like someone mentioned, if he's in my lap, he just squirms and now that he can walk, is very difficult to keep him still.

I prefer having our own carseat, I know how it works and he's familiar with it.

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R.O.

answers from Tucson on

I don't have anything to offer as help but I have been wondering the same thing! I will be flying alone with my 8 month old in October and plan to check the car seat but am worried about it. Would you mind letting me know if anyone has any suggestions for you? Thanks!

[email protected]____.com

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T.A.

answers from Phoenix on

We have flown with a car seat and without - I recommend without! It is about $10/day to rent a car seat from the car rental company, you either get an infant seat or a toddler seat, or a booster. I'm not sure what the weight requirements would have to do with it. If you do decide to take your own I would say check one and have your youngest child sit in her seat on the plane. I don't really think the airline could do much damage - bring a garbage bag to wrap it in so it won't get dirty.

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L.G.

answers from Phoenix on

If you have a car seat that fits both children, bring it and put it in the paid seat. That way if the younger one falls asleep she gets strapped in the the car seat and your older girl becomes the lap child. You are best off renting the other car seat as the requirements are basic (not and infant, not a booster). It is also good to travel with a double stroller. The airlines let you bring it up to the plane and then take it away. So it is the last "bag" to board and the "first" to deboard. They hand it to you as you get off the plane. So it really doesn't get damaged.

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A.G.

answers from Phoenix on

Well depending on your daughter weight and airline she doesnt need to sit in a carseat on the plane. she will have to have her own seat but u wont have to worry about lugging one onto the plane. I have sent my infant seats and regular carseats under the plane and havent had an issue yet. good luck and hope that helps!

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A.K.

answers from Tucson on

Hi L., I have flown multiple times with my boys and have checked their carseats when they were lap children and never had a problem. I did put them in a travel bag though that I bought from Babies R Us. It made them easy to carry and protected them from getting dirty. The one that you would bring on will have a sticker on the side of it that has pictures of airplanes and says it is FAA safe. Sometimes this is checked for other times it is not. Good luck on your trip.

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D.D.

answers from Phoenix on

I just flew with my 18 month old daughter nad i checked her car seat at the gate along with her stroller and they both came back in the same condition and at the gate that i left them in. Hope that helped.

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