Car Seat Options for Plane Travel

How to Travel with a Car Seat

If you’ve traveled with small children, you know the headache surrounding car seats. We have 3 small children, and car seat logistics are always part of our vacation planning! We have three economic options when traveling with car seats (sure there are others, like buying all new car seats once you get to your destination, or shipping extra car seats to your destination) and we’ve discussed them below.

The FAA has rules surrounding flying with small children and child safety seats. The FAA strongly urges you to secure your child in a child safety restraint system in their own seat. The FAA also approves of a CARES child safety device for certain size children..

Rent Child Safety Seats

If you’re renting a car from a rental car company, they have car seats available for rental. However, they only have so many per rental site, so you must ensure you’ve rented one with your rental…don’t risk waiting until you get there! When we traveled to Hawaii, we paid $60 for each car seat for our two week vacation.

We selected this rental option when renting our van and the picture shown of the car seat was a Britax Marathon – an amazing car seat – what a steal, right? When we arrived, we were given DIRTY Cosco car seats, the ones that cost $40 when buying them out right. They were heavily used with very little padding. We actually switched rental companies in hopes of getting decent car seats, but both rental companies had the same car seats. After this experience, we will NEVER rent child safety seats from a rental car company again.

Checked Luggage

We actually have no experience with this one, because we never check our car seats…I can only imagine the one time we did, our car seats wouldn’t end up in the same destination we did! This is definitely an option though…with one major pro, and two very significant cons.

Pros

You don’t have to lug the car seat (or numerous car seats) through the airport and during any layovers – you just check in and wave goodbye to those heavy, awkwardly shaped lifesavers.

Cons

Baggage handlers are busy and on a time constraint, they’re not delicately placing your child’s very important car seat onto the cart, then onto the conveyor belt and into the plane. You’ve seen what checking bags does to your luggage…it does the same thing to your car seats and they can be damaged very easily. The second con…and this is a biggie…the car seat gets lost – you arrive at your destination, ready to start your vacay and you’re without a car seat for your child. What a stressor!

Gate Checked Luggage

This has become our go to. We haul our 3 child safety seats through the airport every time. It’s a pain, but it’s doable and it guarantees that when we arrive at our location, we have car seats ready to go. Just make sure you get a gate check tag from the desk when you get to your gate – every jet way is different, just ask where to leave the car seats when you board the plane.

We love the Stroller Travel Bag – we don’t actually use it for a stroller, but it’s large enough for all of our child safety seats (yes, all 3 of them, and sometimes some extra items that wouldn’t fit in our luggage – like a Puddle Jumper and some blankets). It’s bulky, but it protects the seats from getting scuffed. We’ve only ever had one issue with our gate checked child safety seats. A grumpy airline employee, who was bewildered we made it thru security with our gargantuan bag of car seats, took our bag, walked it down the jet way, and then chucked the bag over the side railing. We watched from the airport window as our bag went hurtling 20 feet down a fabric slide and bounced onto the pavement – gee, thanks dude.

The Large Stroller Travel Bag found on Amazon below is large enough for a double jogging stroller, with some room to spare. We have the large bag because we have 3 seats, but if you don’t need one this big, the same brand has smaller sizes and an umbrella stroller size.

Do you have any car seat travel hacks we need to know? Share them in the comments below!

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