Traveling with toddlers is not easy under the best of circumstances. Trust me, after 15 years of flying with 5 children, it’s quite the challenge.If you’re really lucky, the flight is smooth, you packed enough snacks, the in-flight movie doesn’t include scary stuff, and you’ve scored a SkyMall catalog perfect for I Spy. One of the many things I have done wrong as a parent (we all have quite a few) one was lugging a big heavy car seat through the airport terminal and not having an airplane car seat.
After Owen turned about 8 months old, he was so darn squirmy that we vowed to buy him his own seat if we were to ever fly with him again. We did fly with him and we carried that huge Britax for a 13-month old, a seat-kicking 21-month old, a still-kicky 2-year-old, and on and on.
Then with three little guys (20 months and 42 months if we count that way), we were dragging TWO CAR SEATS onto an airplane. Ugh. Finally, we were traveling and saw a child with an incredible device. It wasn’t heavy, the child looked comfortably and safely strapped in, I had to inquire what this device was. It was the CARES Child Airplane Travel Harness
Airplane Car Seat – Your guide to the best car seats for airplanes!
Best Car Seat for Airplanes – CARES Child Aviation Restraint System
I fully researched this device and it is the only FAA Child Safety Device, so in my mind, it is the only option. On our family trip to Hawaii, we gave it a shot. Holden wore the strappy CARES (Child Aviation Restraint) system. It’s an FDA-approved restraint system that loops around the seat back and the seat belt to give him more security than a regular airplane seatbelt while also:
- giving us one less huge thing to lug on board (fitting in my carry-on easily)
- making it that much harder for him to kick the seat in front of him (legs too short – ha ha!)
- impressing the woman in front of us also traveling with 2 little ones
On our subsequent cross-country trips, we went one step further and let Holden try out the regular seat belt and put seat-kicking Milo in the CARES unit. This was also our strategy on the flight to Denmark from San Francisco.
What to do about the car seat for when you arrive at your destination.
Of course, most likely you will need a car seat for your destination. So, you’ll have to check your car seat at the airport. (No worries, car seats are FREE!) When I check my car seats, I LOVE to use this handy padded backpack designed for car seats; it always has a little bit of extra space to throw a jacket or five inside and thats a real bonus since the car seat is considered a FREE checked item.
If you’re still carrying car seats onboard airplanes, check out the lower profile nylon backpack for car seats: this is the thin bag thingie still converts your mammoth car seat into a backpack but it also packs up tiny. Get this if you have to bring car seats on board.
How to completely avoid packing a big car seat
**Bonus Tip** – When your kids reach booster seat age for a car seat. Grab the mi-fold car seat. It is so compact and approved by the NHTSA. These two items together weigh 90% less than a standard car seat. That is definitely a lot less back pain you will be experiencing on this trip.
There is lots more info on the CARES Child Airplane Travel Harness – Cares Safety Restraint System – The Only FAA Approved Child Flying Safety Device if you check it on Amazon.
I got one for $0 to test out, but would pay the $79 they’re charging on Amazon. Great if you like to travel and you have a toddler who likes to come along.