Car Seat for Air Travel for 3.5 Yo

Updated on March 16, 2011
K.B. asks from Woburn, MA
8 answers

We're flying with our 1 yo old and 3.5 yo. The 1 yo will be on my lap. We will check his car seat. Question is: do I use a car seat for the 3.5 yo. He's pretty tall, about 42" and about 40 lbs. His car seat seems huge (Graco Nautilus) and I can't imagine him having any room. We will probably check his car seat anyway for driving around but I can't imagine using it on the plane. A friend said that she uses a booster for her 4 yo (who is smaller than my 3.5 yo) but I don't think that is approved by the FAA. I guess it's up to the discretion of the flight attendants as you board whether they question what your child sits on?? I just read about the CARES restraint but we're flying in two days. Don't know if I can get one(or two) in time. Has anyone used it? Maybe I could rent one? Hmmm?

Also, has anyone ever used a sling or anything to restrain a baby while flying? I wonder if that CARES thing would work, i.e. I'm buckled in, the CARES is attached to me and the baby is buckled into that. He's big enough - 22 lbs. I can't imagine just holding on and trusting that I wouldn't loose my grip in turbulence but I admit, we didn't want to spend the $ for a seat.

What can I do next?

  • Add yourAnswer own comment
  • Ask your own question Add Question
  • Join the Mamapedia community Mamapedia
  • as inappropriate
  • this with your friends

So What Happened?

I think I posted this an hour ago and I have already got 5 great responses. I looked at the Baby B AIr Safety Vest. Good idea but since I can't use it for take-off and landing I might just stick to my Ergo for in flight. I'm going to try to get a CARES for the 3.5 yo and bring a booster for the rental car. Even though he's not quite 4 yo, he reaches the weight limit for Florida state law for a booster.

Thanks everyone.

More Answers



answers from San Francisco on

please consider the info in the following article by a certified child passenger safety technician regarding air travel with small children:—w...

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

First, true belt using booster are not approved for air travel and I cannot imagine a flight attendant to allow that.

Second, I used the baby bjorn front pack for air travel when my kids were super young. It is perfect because they can sit upright, and if you loosen the straps is basically like they are sitting on your lap but your hands are free. Which is so useful. Slings or the baby bjorn cannot be used during take off and landing (for some stupid reason). Borrow one if you don't have one. But make sure you bring it on.

Third, the car seat I bought just for air travel was the cosco scenera, which is about $50 but you can find it cheaper. It is a great lightweight seat that fits perfectly in airplane seats. It is safe too for your car.

Also, there have been times that I have strapped my 1 year old in the car seat after take off and held my toddler in my lap because it is easier. 1 year olds can be quite a wiggly handful.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

My children are 2 and 5 now and both have had birthdays since last summer when we traveled last. Last summer we bought a car seat for the 18 month old and put her in the car seat on the plane since it was FAA approved. My then 4 year old sat in a regular plane seat with a lap belt--he was about 50 lbs and over 40 inches. We just got a $20 backless booster and used it in the car and checked it with the bags to go on the plane (it was free to check any car seat or booster). This coming summer I am looking into a lighter car seat that folds since we need to get a new one for the 2 year old (she is getting too tall for the car seat we have now). We have 3 of the Graco Nautilus and it is a great seat but much too big and heavy to drag through the airport in my opinion. I was looking at the Sunshine Kids Radian (there are a few models) online but would want to see it in person before buying. Babies R Us near me didn't have it in the store, just online. Also it costs over $200 on that site.



answers from Albuquerque on

CARES harnesses are fantastic. We use them whenever we travel with our almost four year old twin girls. They're good for 20 - 45 pounds (or something like that) and you can resell when your kids grow out of them. It sounds like you already made your decision, but I wanted to mention in case anyone else is reading... you can't buckle a baby into the CARES and put it around you as well. The harness is designed to go over a regular seatbelt and around that seat and to restrain up to 45ish pounds of weight. If you put yourself into the harness it would have to restrain your weight and the babies. Besides, I don't think it could stretch far enough to go around an adult. Just FYI.



answers from Los Angeles on

Definitely don't bring a car seat for your older son. He will not have room to do anything if he has the seat - the tray table won't come down so he can't eat, play, etc. Also, it will just make it too easy for him to kick the chair in front of him. You can just put the regular seat belt on him and he will be ok in the chair. This will also let him lie down if he wants to sleep.

For the baby, you may or may not be able to use the Ergo. One flight that I was on would not allow me to have the baby in any sort of carrier while the plane was in the air, but I know other people have been able to. You might just have to hold the baby.

Have a safe flight!



answers from Chicago on

I wouldn't bring a car seat on the plane for the 3.5 year old. It really will leave him no leg room, and he will be so high up that he will be constantly kicking the seat in front of him.

I also traveled with the Ergo baby carrier. I loved it, but it's true that they won't let you use it during take-off or landing.

I also have a CARES. I only use it for my 2 year old. It's a great way to keep him restrained during take-off and landing. Do you have a Buy Buy Baby store near you? The one near me started carrying them. I bought mine there and was able to use the 20% off coupon too. Otherwise, you might want to see if any of your local friends has one that you can borrow. Good luck! Sounds like you'll have your hands full traveling with two toddlers.

PS: I don't think the CARES will fit both you and your child.



answers from Denver on

We tried to bring our sons car seat on a plane, just to take it back to check it at the gate. There was no way he was going to fit and he was 2/12 at the time and probably weighed around 24 lbs and he is tall also. Once we had the car seat on the plane seat he literally had zero leg room. We have a Britax marathon. My niece and nephew brought their booster on the plane and just sat on them during the plane ride.


answers from Tulsa on

I flew with my son when he was 2 1/2 months old. I had him in a Snugli baby carrier for take off and landing. This was in 2007. I think that it is up to the discretion of the flight attendant, because I didn't hear a word from any of them. I was flying internationally, so between going over and coming back, we are talking 8 flights. For the shorter flights, I left him in the carrier for the whole flight. For the long haul segments, I took him out.

When we flew last summer, my son was 3 and I just buckled him into the seat. He's pretty tall for his age and he wouldn't have had any leg room if he was in a car seat. He did pretty good sitting in the seat, but this was also an international trip and it's hard for them to be good for 8 hour flights. He was just fine with the shorter hour to 2 hour flights.

For Updates and Special Promotions
Follow Us

Related Questions