Car Seat Safety
The Great Car Seat Conundrum: In the Sky and On the Fly
Parenting is mostly a bunch of gray area, flying by the seat of your pants and hoping like heck you’re doing an okay job at keeping your kids alive. Eat goldfish crackers from the floor of the car that have been there for a week or four? You’ll live. Use a pacifier until you’re way too old? Fine, you’re not gonna graduate college with it. Go way too many nights in a row with a baby wipe sponge bath instead of one with actual soap and water? No biggie. Dirt won’t kill you. Few things are actually matters of life and death, but car seat safety IS and should be treated with the seriousness it deserves.
Car seats are literally lifesavers but they don’t make traveling with kids easy, especially when airplanes or multiple modes of transportation are included in your trip. Car seats are bulky, heavy, and a pain in the arse to lug around. There’s a lot of conflicting information and confusion out there (thank you, internet) about what’s legal vs. what’s recommended vs. what’s safe and how this can conflict with what’s feasible and realistic. What’s a mama to do?
My goal here isn’t to judge. You’re mama bear and know your family’s needs and know how to protect them better than anyone else on the planet. My intention is to provide the most accurate safety requirements and recommendations along with options from different bodies of thought so you can make an educated, informed decision. I’ve tried my best to combine official information from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and other government agencies with conversations with pediatricians, friends, the online community, and my own travel experiences.
Admittedly this is a thick read. There’s A LOT of information out there and I want to make sure you have it all. If you’d like to skip sections in this novel, the menu below will help you navigate:
- AIRPLANE ONLY : Using your child’s car seat onboard
- AIRPLANE ONLY: Using an airplane harness onboard
- AIRPLANE ONLY: Lap-sitting
- AIRPLANE + CAR: Gate-checking car seat on plane and using it in car
- AIRPLANE + CAR: Using travel vest or portable car seat in car
- AIRPLANE + CAR: Renting a car seat
- AIRPLANE + CAR: No car seat, using public transportation
- AIRPLANE + CAR: Lap-sitting in car
LET US BEGIN.
The car seat conundrum is definitely easier to solve when your trip involves road travel exclusively. Carry on with business as usual: back seat, tightly secured, snug harness, proper chest clip placement, rear facing for the younger youngins and a booster seat for the older youngins. I’m not going to lecture on the AAP’s car seat safety recommendations (found here) but it’s safe practice to follow their guidelines as closely as possible.
The conundrum gets stickier when your trip includes both airplane travel and car travel simply because logistically there’s more transfers to consider and arrange. For this reason I’ve broken car seat safety information down into two main categories: AIRPLANE ONLY travel and AIRPLANE + CAR travel. Choose the option below that best matches ALL modes of transportation you’ll be using on your trip: