Planes, Car Seats & Kids. Oh My

Are you bringing your car seats on the plane? For many, the thought of flying and traveling with children can be overwhelming.  Here are a few tips that will hopefully help make your travels go smoothly.

 

Plan to buy a plane ticket for all members of your family

The safest way for children to fly is in an appropriate child restraint. While children under the age of two are legally able to fly on an adults lap, they are by far safest in an appropriate child restraint in their own seat.  Most plane related crashes happen during take-off and landing where speeds can reach upwards of 150mph or more depending on the aircraft, weather and many other factors. At speeds this great, even the smallest and lightest of object can become a dangerous projectile to anyone on board. This is why everything from baggage, laptops and peanuts get properly stowed in a safe place for take off and landing. The exception being small children and infants. In the event of a runway excursion or extreme turbulence,  forces can become so great that it can be physically impossible for a child who is unrestrained to remain in the security of their parents arms. Not only is the child at an extreme risk of severe injury or worse, but tit poses a risk to the passengers around them as well.

On top of the safety concerns regarding a child who is not using their car seat on board, it also means that your child’s life saving device is now traveling out of your line of sight with no way of knowing how it has been handled. There are risks when using any child restraint that has an unknown history. Is there any visible or unseen damage? Did any compromising chemicals, cleaners or other products come in contact with the seat? Did the car seat and all pieces arrive at your destination and on time? I often hear many stories from families where they were left at their destination with no safe way to transport their child as a result of a damages or lost car seat. Using the seat on board also ensures that your child’s car seat arrives in good condition.

 

Research airline regulations and choose which one will work best for your family

Not all airlines are the same and I am sure that doesn’t come as a surprise. Not every employee will be well versed when it comes to the subject so it is important to know what your chosen airline does and does not allow. Call airlines to speak with them, look online for their regulations regarding child restraints on board and ask other families what their experiences were like and what airlines they chose or chose not to go with and why. When traveling it s important to know that not all airlines allow the use of child restraints and looking into it before hand will save you many headaches and disappointment.

Here are links to a few airlines child restraint regulations
Air Canada
West Jet
Sunwing
Air transat

 

Work out the logistics

 

While all Canadian car seats that are being used with a 5-point harness, either rear facing or forward facing are approved for aircraft use, they might not all be the most practical. Or necessary. Depending on which seat you have, you may choose to purchase a travel seat that is

The National Safety Mark is on all Canadian car seats and is what shows the airline that your seat is approved for use on an aircraft.
The National Safety Mark is on all Canadian car seats and is what shows the airline that your seat is approved for use on an aircraft.

small and light making it easier to navigate with through your travels or one better suited to your needs. Here are some things to consider…

To help navigate your car seats through the airport, a stroller can be the perfect tool. Using strong tie down straps (not bungee cords), you can stack and secure down your car seats and wheel them through the airport. If you have a sturdy stroller, you can even attach the car seat and have your child ride in it as you push. If the stroller is not going to work for you, look into a separate travel cart like the Britax Car Seat Travel Cart or another various brand of cart or seats that you may be able to carry either attached to a back pack or by a provided carry strap.

If you have access to alternate methods of transportation (ie. bus, boat or train) where you can safely travel with a car seat, or where it may not be possible to use one at all, you most likely do not need a car seat at your destination. Depending on your child’s age, height and weight, you may not need a car seat on the plane either or you may be able to use an alternate designated aircraft restraint like the CARES harness. Planes seat belt start to fit children around 40lbs so if your child is near or over that weight, they are mature enough to remain seated and not take off their seat belt, they can safely fly without a child restraint.

If a child who regularly rides in a 5-point harness but meets the minimums for booster use and is mature enough to do so, you might decide that packing a booster instead of bringing the car seat along will be better for your trip.

Many countries have vehicles that do not have UAS or locking seat belts in which case you will need an alternate method of installing a car seat. You may need to familiarize yourself with a locking clip or opt for a seat that as built-in lock offs.

When you are traveling by foot or going on different day excursions where you take transportation to and from (ie. cruises, all inclusive resorts) a light car seat that can be strapped to a backpack would be a great option to bring it along.

Rear facing seats can take up a large amount of front to back space making them not very aircraft friendly. Ask around to see if anyone has traveled with your specific seat and how it worked for them.

Be prepared

It is never a bad idea to be prepared for any situation you might encounter.  Car seat usage on the plane is definitely not the norm which means you may end up with a flight crew who are not familiar with the regulations. Having your airline’s car seat regulations printed out and your car seat’s manual with you can help in a situation where you may need documentation. Your car seats manual will also show you how to properly install your seat on the plane.  Introduce yourself to the flight crew ahead of time at the gate and let them know that you will be using your car seat on the plane. This way you can also figure out when the best time to board is as well as solve any issues issues before the plane boards.

 

You can do it!

Have the right attitude!  Always remember that stressing over how you will be able to do it all will make the experience that much harder for you. Planning and asking airport employees for help if you find that you need it is your best route. There is nothing to worry over. It may be a new situation but it is not an impossible one and is one that many families and parents have accomplished. In the chance you run into any complications, remember to remind yourself that you catch more flies with honey.

Have a great trip!

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