Traveling with kids is not the most simple task in general. However, safety should always come first. Did you know that it is MUCH safer to purchase a seat for your child, no matter the age, and bring your car seat on board?
Think about it this way, when you are taking off, bags must be properly stowed; adults and children must be buckled; all cabinets are locked and everything secured from the coffee pot to the safety cards; and flight crew area seated and buckled when necessary (often in harnesses!) The only thing that isn't properly secured during taxi, take-off, landing and bad turbulence on any flight: the babies (baby wearing would be considered not properly secured as well FYI). *
Most people are under the belief that if the plane goes down, a car seat isn't going to make one bit of difference. While that is true, what about turbulence? An unrestrained child could be flung through the cabin. What about aborted take offs or landings? A lap child could be smashed into the seat back by the adult holding him/her. What about ground collisions? A child that is not properly buckled into a car seat on the plane faces the same risks as a child not properly restrained in a car during an accident (though planes go wildly faster). *
I won't even try to explain to you in my own words why it is much safer to have your child restrained. But, I will quote The Car Seat Lady since she so eloquently explained it in much better terms than I can. "What would happen to your child during an aborted takeoff, when you're traveling down the runway at 120 mph and then suddenly stop. What would happen during sudden turbulence? In these situations, you will not be able to hold on to your child tightly enough to keep him/her safe-the G forces are simply too strong. In these situations, you are likely to experience G-forces of 10-25G, which will make everything weigh 10-25 times its usual weight, turning your baby into a baby elephant and therefore impossible to hold onto. Flight attend Jan Lohr recounts a flight "when sudden and severe turbulence caused two lap children to be hospitalized. They had sustained injuries when they flow over a dozen rows and landed near a bulkhead (now imagine if that was a newborn). Garment bags in an overhead closet subsequently fell on the infants. Ms. Lohr, while working as a flight attendant, survived a plane crashed caused by an engine explosion that severed all the hydraeulic lines on a flight from Denver to Chicago. She recounts what happened to 22 month old Evan, a lap child who did not survive the impact. The car seat lady also states that although some plane crashes are survivable, in 2007, a 3 year old was the only survivor of a horirble plane crash where rescuers found her hanging upside down in her car seat in the rubble of the aircraft with only minor injuries.
We all know that rear facing is safer while your child still fits in his/her convertible car seat. SAME goes for flying. As stated above, your car seat is used on board to protect your child from turbulence as well as possible tarmac crashes.
If your child sits in his/her seat rear facing in your car, the same goes for on a flight.
On occasion, you will get some push back from flight attendants. Scroll down a bit for some tips and tricks to combat this if necessary.
IF your child is 40lbs or more and not in a booster seat, a car seat is NOT required. HOWEVER, if your child is still in a harnessed seat, you will need a way to get to your destination from the airport right? Checking your car seat is not the safest option as the people who are checking these seats tend to be fairly rough with luggage. It is a large possibility that your car seat will be thrown onto a cart, or the tarmac and may be damaged. The damage could be on the inside where you can not see, and you could potentially be using a car seat that is unsafe.
Watch this video.....what if that was your car seat??!
Im going to bring my seat on board...so now what?!
I typically just use my everday car seats on flights IF they are FAA approved. I do this beacuse I am experienced in installing these exact ones and they are really easy to install in ubers and cabs. When walking through the airport, I use something like this (click the photo for a link to purchase!)
Or! You can use bunjee cords to connect your seat to your rolling carry on luggage!
Lastly, if you decide your seats are too heavy, or you want to get a seat specifically for travel, here are some nice and light seats to travel with. Below are CONVERTIBLE seats, so seats the rear and forward face. Click the photo to purchase!
Forward facing combo seats (seats that convert from harness to booster)
If your child is not in a booster seat yet I DO NOT suggest using a booster for the first time on vacation. However, if you do not want to bring your booster seat with you below are some good options for travel seats. Click to purchase!
I had heard of this vest often but I wasn't really sure exactly how it worked so I never wanted to recommend it before getting my hands on it. However, recently I learned a lot more about it and felt very comfortable recommending it. This is NOT approved for the plane, but if your child is 40+lbs they don't need a restraint on the plane anyway!
So, this is the RideSafer Travel Vest. It passes all the necessary crash testing for a harness AND for a booster, however, it doesn’t offer as much restraint as a harness but it does offer more than a typical booster. So, with that being said, I would only use it on a child who can sit in it without unbuckling it AND who can fit appropriately in it. So obviously a 3 or 4 year old would be fairly unrealistic. HOWEVER, its its between using this or nothing, or even a regular booster seat, for a 3 or 4 year old, I would use this and it will provide significantly more protection than the two above mentioned.
As long as the child doesn't actually try to escape it, it should provide good protection for any child who fits in it properly. It seems like this would be an awesome option for taxi's and uber's while traveling. :)
It looks confusing but if you watch the video after the first use it seems pretty easy. If you buy the tether also you get even more protection.
TIPS AND TRICKS
If you are not alone, have your spouse/travel partner, etc. board the plane first to install the seat so that it is all ready to go when you board.
If you are alone, and feel comfortable, ask your seat neighbor or flight attendant to hold you little one while you install the seat.
Know where the FAA approved label is on your car seat. This will always be in RED font on some sort of sticker, whether it be right on the side, or on the back of the seat, it's there.
Bring a copy of your manual with you. Highlight the page where it states that your seat is FAA approved, ALSO highlight and mark off the area where it states that the seat can be used rear facing until your child weighs xx amount is xx tall.
Understand what it means when your manual states "use this child restraint only on forward facing aircraft seats". This DOES NOT mean that you can only use the car seat forward facing, it means you can ONLY use it on an airplane seat that is facing the front of the plane, NOT one that is facing the rear.
Bring a copy of the FAA policies and procedures and highlight the following sections:
page 8 section 10b, 10d and 10f (1-3, stating that "No aircraft operator may prohibit a child from using an approved CRS when the parent/guardian purchases a seat for the child. If an approved CRS, for which a ticket has been purchased, does not fit in a particular seat on the aircraft, the aircraft operator has the responsibility to accommodate the CRS in another seat in the same class of service."
Install your car seat on a plane the same way you would install it using a seat belt in your car.
If you are using an infant seat, you do not need to use the base. You can install any infant seat (other than the Nuna Pipa Lite) without its base.
Read your manual prior to boarding your flight to see exactly how to install your seat on board. Some seats that have lock offs, such has the Britax Click Tight, prohibits use of the lock off while on an airplane. Make sure you know exactly how to install it before leaving for the airport.
On occasion, some seats may be slightly wider and might need a seatbelt extension. You can ask a flight attendant for this while on board.
Below are some videos showing some vehicle installation tips and tricks once you have gotten to your destination.
Some of the cheaper, lighter seats can be a bit tricky to install because the weight is so low. Another trick when using latch is to recline the vehicle seat first, if in an SUV. You can recline the vehicle seat back, then install your car seat using LATCH like you normally would, and then incline the vehicle seat back up.