Monday, December 9, 2013

Car Seat on the Plane

So now that I'm a full paying flyer, my parents have started to think about the best way for me to sit still for 4+ hours on our upcoming trip to Puerto Rico later this week.

But truth be told, it's less because I have my own seat now, and more because I'm getting bigger. Apparently, my weak parents have a hard time holding me for extended periods of time.

So in preparation for our flight, my father evaluated a few different options for young toddlers, including (1) a CARES harness, (2) a standard car seat or (3) nothing.

CARES Harness
A popular device that many parents go with was the CARES (Child Aviation REstrain System) Harness. While the makers may not understand how acronyms are supposed to work, the product itself does get a lot of positive reviews including this one from MommyPoints.

The positives include being FAA approved for safety, exceptionally easy to pack (fits inside a carry on bag) and relatively easy to use since it's similar to the straps on an infant car seat.

However, the compilation of straps and buckles had some negatives as well, including having to strap around the seat (which can prevent the passenger sitting behind you from using their tray) and not providing much support if the child slides down.

As you can see from the photo, the red loop goes around the seat back and the smaller black loops go on the airplane's regular lap safety belt. Since I take after my father, I slouch in my seat a lot, and I worry I may end up choking myself if I were to slide out too much.

And while price shouldn't be a huge factor when considering my safety, I feel obligated to point out that the set of straps isn't cheap either. The device (which won't help you once your plane lands and you need to secure your child in the rental car) goes for about $70 on Amazon.

Standard Car Seat
As you may know, my family doesn't really travel in cars very often. Given we live in Manhattan, the public transportation options are good enough to cover about 90% of the ground travel we do. But we did have a car seat we used for the times we did travel to places where we'd be renting a car or taking a long bus ride (like we did in Thailand back in February).

However, for some reason, despite having an abnormally short Asian father, I've been pretty tall for my age so far. By the time I hit 2 years old, I outgrew the car seat that I've used since the day of my birth. Also, this type of rear facing car seat won't work on a flight, but we've been bringing it (as checked luggage) on almost all our trips.

Ironically, while looking at the Amazon reviews for the CARES Harness, we found a reviewer that said they went with a light weight car seat that would work on both the plane ride as well as the car rides after you land. In fact, the reviewer actually recommended the specific car seat model they went with instead. So my father went online and found the same Cosco Scenera Convertible Car Seat (just 8.5 lbs!) selling for $39 on

Now, before any of you get your parents to buy a car seat for the airplane, make sure it will comply with FAA regulations. Per American Airline's website:
Most restraints that are used in automobiles are acceptable for use in aircraft by an infant or small child. Acceptable restraints manufactured in the United States will bear one or both of the following labels:
  • “This child restraint system conforms to all applicable federal motor vehicle safety standards” 
Additionally, the restraint may carry a second label with red lettering which states the following:
  • “This restraint is certified for use in motor vehicles and aircraft.”
Fortunately for us, our Cosco Scenera had the label. So now, instead of checking it with their luggage, my parents will have to carry this new car seat around with them through the airport terminal, security line and to the boarding gate.

Now, what to do with my umbrella stroller...


  1. We used the car seat and the Go Go Kidz Travelmate until my son was 3. We would check the umbrella stroller up front and use the car seat and Travelmate as a stroller in the airport. My son loved it as his special airport stroller and I loved that it allowed me to roll the car seat and not have to carry it. But I warn you, its pricier than the car seat. There are generic versions sold at Babies R Us for cheaper. You should check it out.

  2. Thank you for the great idea. We're lucky enough to have received one as a gift, so great to hear you're an advocate! Thank you for reading.

  3. The CARES shouldn't interfere at all with the person behind you, you open their tray table and place the loop over the back of the seat, and then they can open and close the tray table with no issue. We have used it many, many times and the tray table has never been an issue! But we are also pretty staunchly anti-car seat on the plane, it puts kids at the right angle to kick (even good kids can't resist the temptation!) and you can't easily open your own tray table, which is a great thing to have open for playing for kids!

  4. @Andrea, very good point. We'll see how it goes with the car seat this time around and re-group if need be. Figured we need to bring the car seat anyway, so crossing fingers.

  5. GoGo Kids, like the one suggested. I believe it's a MUST HAVE for any traveling parent.

  6. Hi Steve - long time, no talk. If you decide to go the car seat route on board, you might look into getting a car seat backpack like the one on the link below. We've been taking a car seat onboard flights for our daughter and this thing is a huge help for the one who has to lug the massive car seat around the airport (i.e. YOU!). Good luck! - Scott

  7. @Paige, thanks for the tip. Do you just gate check that when you board the plane?

    @Scott, that's the exact bag we've been using for our infant car seat (but to check it in with the other luggage). Looking forward to when the kids are old enough to carry their own stuff!

  8. hi,
    This is safe . Thank you Baby Songer for your nice article. It is very very good think. carseat on a plane is really charming.

  9. To choose the booster seat that keeps your child the safest, you need to think about the size of your child, how she likes to ride, and what features are in your car. For more information about baby booster/back pack, check our eBay store here: SIT N SEE STADIUM BOOSTER SEAT/BACK PACK

  10. Cool post. All Images are so cute. I like the way you written the post. I like to buy best baby car seat. There are many website who famous for kids toys online.
    Thanks for sharing such a nice post.

  11. I have been searching to find a comfort or effective procedure to complete this process and I think this is the most suitable way to do it effectively. 5 point harness booster seat for 3 year old