On Car Seats and Flying with Kids

Newsflash! We are traveling via airplane soon! It’ll be the first time flying with kids (dun, dun, dun!) Knowing that we will be flying soon, I looked into car seats again. We wanted to replace our despised current car seat with a Britax Frontier. We also have a Britax Boulevard and that one is very easy to install correctly. In addition, two friends have the Frontier and recommend it specifically for ease of use.

We love Britax seats. That decision was easy. But I started thinking ahead to traveling by myself with two kiddos who need car seats. How on earth is that going to work?!

Big enough to use the airplane lap belt

According to the FAA guidelines, children over 40 lbs are safe to use the lap belt. I cannot find any evidence to the contrary, though I’m betting kids would be even safer riding in their car seats on the airplane. Okay, so they can ride without a car seat in the plane. But checking the car seat is a huge safety risk. It also needs to be checked in the original packaging and who will lug a giant box around while traveling?! It can still end up getting damaged that way, too. What is the solution if you need a car seat for your over 40 lbs child once you’re off the plane?

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but you still need a car seat in the car

To the rescue comes the Ride Safer Travel Vest! Yes, it’s approved to use in a car in the USA (and additional accessories make it comply with European standards, too – you’d have to call the company for information if you need it). While it states ages 3-6 on the smaller size, it is definitely better for 4.5 and up, according to reviews and in my limited experience.

In pursuit of car seats. Pictured is a child in the Ride Safer travel safety vest but it's on incorrectly.

The travel vest isn’t easy to use the first time. In this picture, we weren’t going anywhere, just trying to figure it out. There is a safety buckle undone. It does take some time (and searching for YouTube videos) to use correctly. The company claims that it’s easier to use correctly than a typical car seat. This child is 41 inches and over 40 lbs.

This is the solution I’m choosing I might be choosing for our upcoming trip to Mexico (surprise! We are visiting Mexico!) I’m excited that it exists and that my older child is old enough and big enough that I’m (getting) comfortable with a product like the Ride Safer Travel Vest. It cannot be used on an airplane currently (apparently the accessory that would allow it to be used on an airplane is still in the FAA approval process).

As with anything, the best car seat for your child is the one that is installed and used correctly every time.  Before I take this out for a test spin, I want to make sure it is positioned correctly on my child. It’s a learning process!

I present the travel vest as a cool option; I’m undecided on whether or not I’m happy with it. I watched the crash test videos available on the website. Then, watched other car seat crash test videos. Then, I stopped because it’s terrible to think about.

Other options

But my kid isn’t 40 lbs yet, I hear you say. There are travel carts for dragging car seats through airports. Your toddler can even be strapped in and ride through the airport like that! The car seat travel carts are surprisingly expensive, so I think we might end up carrying ours because money is an issue.

Of course, we will be bringing our carriers. Baby carriers make things easier for us, the parents. Tired child? Put ’em in the carrier! This will be our go-to for traipsing through the airports. If you don’t use carriers, the carseat strapped to the travel cart might be an excellent option for you! It may be even easier than a stroller, depending on your situation.

A picture of the travel Safer vest in action, but I'm pretty sure it isn't on properly.

A picture of the travel Safer vest in action, but I’m pretty sure it isn’t on properly. The lap belt should be lower. This is something you’d want to practice with before using.

Another car seat option, a picture of the travel vest in use.

Not sure this is correct. She is 3.5, 37 inches tall and well over the 30 lbs minimum. It seems too big for her and I find it hard to believe there are many 3 year olds that will fit into this correctly. However, the company’s FAQs state that is okay is the vest is loose as long as the belt is positioned properly. It may be more a matter of maturity than fit.

Buy your under 2 year old a seat on the airplane, PLEASE

I am an advocate of car seat use on airplanes even for babies under 2. Most people choose to skip buying their babies a seat on the airplane due to the huge expense. I urge you to consider the reasons to buy your babies seats, after all, we make better decisions the more we know. If I had flown when my oldest was a tiny baby, I wouldn’t have bought him a seat because I did not know better!

1. Most airplane accidents occur during landing and take off. If you’re in a car going 50 mph, you keep your baby strapped in and safe, right? Planes hit 150 mph – 225 mph during take off. Your arms are not strong enough to keep baby safe in an accident at that speed.

2. Your sweet baby could end up being your airbag. Or becoming a projectile and flying through the plane, injuring herself and someone else. This can happen during turbulence, too.

Those are just a few things to consider before rejecting buying a seat for your infant and I urge you to buy a seat for your child every time they will be flying with you.

Additional information on this subject is available here: Leaving on a Jet Plane: The Guide to Safe Air Travel with Children. I highly recommend reading this (and then coming back here to read more fun stories!)  As an aside, once kids get wiggly and mobile, it might save your sanity to be able to strap your child into their car seat, too.

Older kid sandwiched between two regular car seats. He is scooted all the way back, but the lap belt doesn’t look quite right yet.

Car seats are an amazing invention

Thanks for staying with me this long, on what I know is a fairly unpopular opinion. When we know better, we do better.  And I also know every parent wants to keep their children safe.

What works for me may not work for you. I hope I’ve presented enough options that you will be able to find one that works for your air traveling situation. And never fear, I will  continue tell you the very true stories of our adventures. Even when things don’t go quite as planned.

What is your favorite car seat? Do you have different car seats for airplane travel and regular every day use?

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