Air travel can be super confusing and stressful, especially when you’re traveling with a baby. So now that we’ve officially conquered our first flight with Luca, I figured I’d share some valuable information I learned regarding how to travel with a car seat by air.
In a nutshell, you have four main options when traveling with a child safety seat:
- Bring your own car seat and check it as baggage.
- Bring your own car seat and gate check it.
- Bring your infant car seat on the airplane with you.
- Rent an infant seat at your final destination.
All of these are great options with their own pros and cons. That said, below I’m detailing the various benefits and drawbacks to help you make your decision.
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How to Travel With a Car Seat by Air
1. Check the Car Seat as Baggage
This is a good option for those who want to bring their own car seat, but don’t want to lug it through the airport. It’s an especially great option if you don’t have a lightweight car seat.
When you check your car seat as baggage, you turn it over to your airline at the main ticket counter before you go through security. The airline will tag your car seat and route it to your final destination for you, oftentimes at no extra charge. Then all you have to do is pick it up at baggage claim once you get to where you’re going.
The major downside to this option is that your car seat is going to be handled by several airline personnel who might not be as careful with it as you would be. That said, your car seat could be damaged during transit.
On the flip side, checking a car seat as baggage leaves you with one less item to manage and keep track of.
If you do choose to check your car seat as baggage, though, I highly recommend buying one of those car seat travel bags to keep it as protected as possible. We used one and were so happy that we did because we ended up traveling on a super rainy day. Had we not put our car seat in a dedicated travel bag it would have gotten soaked!
2. Gate Check the Car Seat
If you’re nervous that your car seat will be damaged in transit, gate checking is a great option.
In this, you bring the car seat through security with you. Then, once you get to your gate, you let the gate agent know that you would like to gate check your car seat. From there, they will provide you with gate check tags and further instruction.
Note that if you have any layovers, the gate agent will ask you if you would like your car seat returned to you between flights. To this you will want to answer “yes”. Otherwise, your car seat will remain in the airline’s hands until your reach your final destination, increasing the chance of it being damaged.
While gate checking a car seat decreases the odds of damages occurring, it can be a bit of a burden on long flight paths with layovers (especially tight ones!). Not only do you have to pick up the car seat on the jet bridge at every destination, but you also need to get new gate check tags ahead of every flight. Plus you have to carry it through the airport along with the rest of your belongings (and your baby!).
3. Use an Airline-Approved Car Seat
With this option you bring your child’s car seat on the airplane with you. Arguably, that’s the safest place for your child seat to be.
However, it does require you to purchase your child their own seat on the airplane. So if you’re traveling with a lap infant, this option isn’t available to you.
Additionally, you can’t just take any car seat on an airplane with you. You have to be sure your infant carrier is approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). If it is, there would be a sticker on it that reads “this restraint is certified for use in motor vehicles and aircraft” (Flying With a Baby).
Still, I’d check with your airline to see what they consider an airline-approved car seat. These things can change, so that’s the best way to ensure you’re getting the most up-to-date information.
All that being said, bringing your car seat on the airplane with you is a great option if you’re okay with purchasing an extra airplane seat.
PS: If you’re not sure how to install a car seat on an airplane, just ask a flight attendant once you’re on the plane. They should know exactly what to do, so there’s no need to stress about this in advance of your trip.
4. Rent a Car Seat at Your Destination
If you don’t want to deal with traveling with a car seat whatsoever, there are rental companies for that!
With services like BabyQuip you can rent a baby car seat to pick up and use at your final destination.
This is definitely the least economical option of the four, so if cost is a concern you’re better off bringing your own car seat.
However, if you have the budget, a rental car seat is definitely the most convenient option. Airplane travel truly is so much easier when you have less to manage along the way.
Ensuring that you have a proper car seat while traveling is critical to your child’s safety.
That said, it’s important to figure out your car seat strategy well before your departure. That way you have plenty of time to prepare!
If you have any questions about how to travel with car seat, drop them below.
Before you go, be sure to download my free baby travel packing list. It includes all of your travel needs for baby and then some!
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for reading. Come back soon!