Flying with a Toddler: Tips for Checking the Car Seat

Once Bergen grew out of the more portable bucket/infant car seat, we were faced with the annoying task of figuring out how to transport his hefty convertible car seat on the airplane.  In the year we’ve traveled with him from 12 months to nearly 24 months old, we’ve yet to buy him his own seat on the plane so we don’t bring the car seat on board with us, but we still want the peace of mind of having his very own car seat when we land at our destination.

We choose this way instead of renting or borrowing because we know that it will ensure our comfort.  Bergen is comfortable in a seat that he is familiar with, and we’re comfortable knowing we know how to install the car seat in the car we use when we arrive (Yes, cars can differ, but at least we aren’t starting from scratch).

Flying with a Toddler: Tips for Checking the Car Seat | WildTalesof.com

Checking the car seat at the airport with our other luggage is simple, but one thing’s for sure: We don’t risk the seat being thrown around without any protection.  To hopefully save the car seat from some of the damage that can occur when baggage handlers are loading and unloading the plane, we purchased the Britax Car Seat Travel Bag.  We’re pretty happy with how it’s worked for us so far.  For one, the car seat (also made by Britax)  fits easily inside, and in addition to the seat we can also fit Bergen’s travel crib (and sometimes even more!).  We also like that the bag, once full, can be toted several ways:

  • Backpack style,  thanks to the two padded shoulder straps
  • Wheeled luggage style,  thanks to the bag’s sturdy base & built-in wheels
  • Hand luggage style (least favorite), thanks to the bag’s multiple handles
Flying with a Toddler: Tips for Checking the Car Seat | WildTalesof.com

One happy traveling Dad. Car Seat bag is in the lower left.

Once the car seat is installed at our destination, the bag folds down, and can be stored in the trunk of the car without taking up a lot of space.

Note: We DO NOT recommend using a trash bag  or bag provided by the airline, etc. to hold the car seat.  These bags really offer no protection for the car seat other than possibly keeping it from getting wet. They also offer the parent or caretaker little help in getting the car seat from point a to point b. 

At least for the airlines and routes we have traveled with, checking the car seat (+travel bag) does not add any extra charges or “count” in the number of pieces we are allotted to check.  When picking up our luggage at baggage claim, the bag comes out with all of the other general luggage though of on rare occasions, we’ll have to retrieve it at the over-sized luggage area.

Have you traveled by air with your child’s car seat? Please share your stories, tips, and advice in the comments below! 

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5 thoughts on “Flying with a Toddler: Tips for Checking the Car Seat

  1. We also bring our kids car seats along for our plane trips, but never actually bring them on the plane either. We love using the car seat luggage carts (that convert the car seat into a rolley suitcase) and just gate check everything. We don’t have to worry about the car seats getting lost and gate checking them is also free. In addition to being it safer to bring your own seat since you know how to install it properly – it will also save you a bundle. We’ve found that renting a car seat is actually more expensive than the car in most cases. Here is a picture of the style we have from our blog post about traveling with toddlers: http://travelswithcurley.com/2013/02/05/tips-for-traveling-with-wee-ones/

    • Thanks so much for your comment! I will have to check out your post because we’ve thought about purchasing something similar now that Bergen will have his own seat (he turns 2 during our next plane trip). I had no idea rented car seat were so pricey–thanks for adding that tip too!

  2. At one point, we had 3 kids in car seats, and the cost of renting that many would have been astronomical. Since it doesn’t count against checked luggage, I’ve had friends use the stroller bag for packing clothes, too. Of course, once you start buying Bergen a seat, it’s that much more “free” baggage you’ll be able to bring.

    • Wow, yes, all the more reason to bring your own. Yes, we just realized that now that he’ll have an official seat for our next trip, we can bring more or not worry about being so streamlined/compact….that could turn into tricky thing for me though knowing I can sometimes over do it when packing!
      We really love the extra room the car seat bag provides!

  3. Pingback: Flying with Young Toddlers: Lessons Learned on a 5-hour Flight from Kauai | Wild Tales of...

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