If you can install a car seat in a car, you got this mama.
Now repeat 20 times over.
Flying with car seats is totally stressful.
I totally get it.
Seriously, it is incredibly easy.
Let’s Talk about Flying with Car Seats.
We survived flying from the west coast to the east coast with 2 under 3 in their carseats. That’s right we brought two convertible carseats on an airplane for our kids. We even bought them their own seats to make it happen.
My kids are 15 months and almost 3 years old. My husband and I travelled from Prince George to Vancouver, and then Vancouver to Ottawa with West Jet.
We then proceeded to enjoy a 3-week vacation. One week was a road trip around Ontario and the other a visit with my sister. Car seats were needed when we landed for our rental vehicle to abide by Canadian laws (can’t be free riding with a toddler).
Last month, Jackie at Sew Bright Creations, another Northern BC Blogger, shared a few tips about her recent flight with a car seat, and I thought I’d give my perspective.
Chances are you’ve stumbled upon this post because your an anxious mama just like me looking to soak in as much information as possible. Good News, you’re in the right spot. I’m not an expert. I’m not a tech. Just a mom telling you my take on the flying with car seat situation.
2 Pieces of Advice for Flying with Car Seats.
- It’s totally easy. Seriously. There might be a few situations where it’s a little complicated, but the general process is a breeze.
- We all preboarded the airplane.
- The kids played in the seats across the aisle, and we each installed the seat for our child in the window seat.
- Both kids sat forward facing because that’s how I felt comfortable installing the seats.
- Installing a car seat in a new vehicle is harder than installing it on a plane.
- It’s totally worth it. Our littlest could have been a lap baby, but at 23 pounds and 15 months old, she’s not a small child anymore. Airplanes are small, so we made the purchase and bought her a seat.
- It was nice to have the extra space and to have one less child touching me.
- Both kids slept in their seats on the plane, and both kids put up with the experience fairly painlessly.
- There is no way my almost 3-year-old would have sat still for the flight. He would be running and climbing, and sometimes, that’s not okay – like in an airplane. He was content strapped in with his bag of tricks (and last resource some screen time).
- The youngest was not so content in her car seat. She enjoyed kicking the seat, screaming, and wanting to be held. At least if I held her for half the flight I had the extra elbow room of the seat with the car seat.
It was relatively painless, and somewhat enjoyable experience. Taking a toddler on a plane without a car seat gives us the same feel as taking a toddler on a Whale Watching Experience.
A Few Other Thoughts on Flying with Car Seats.
Do I need a fancy lightweight car seat?
I spent so much time obsessively researching and debating replacing our car seats. The kids have Clek Car Seats. They are a beast of a seat and far from lightweight. It’s kind of not ideal for flying, but people do it all the time. I thought I would save myself “the trouble” and fly with a lighter car seat. There is no trouble, flying with Clek is just as easy as with a Next. Sure, you can’t swing it over your shoulder, but it does the job.
I ended up getting my youngest a Cosco Scenario Next and we brought one Clek. I figured one less heavy seat would help us out, but my oldest has maxed out this car seat, and the next lightest option was still going to cost us about $175 CDN.
Cosco Scenara Next is a $100 car seat weighing less than 10 pounds and it was kinda worth it.
Flying and travelling with the Cosco Scenara Next car seat drove me batty on our travel. The car seat straps were constantly getting twisted and I hated untwisting them. I struggled to unclip her, and clip her in. I struggled to get a nice tight fit and found myself always adjusting the seatbelt or latch straps. #fustratedmama But it was so light. It was also super easy to clean when she threw up all over it in Ottawa (tummy virus). I spot cleaned it in the sink as per directions and it dried overnight.
Maybe if flying is going to be your thing I would invest in a ‘cheaper’ carseat.
Do I really need a car seat cart?
If you have a heavy car seat and you plan on flying frequently, I would. We bought one from Canadian Tire, but we forgot it in Quebec. I didn’t really miss it on the return flight. The Clek constantly slipped off, and the luggage cart was more a nuisance than a helpful tool for shuffling all of our gear in the airport (plus we had a Zoe XL Double stroller and a few kids and backpacks).
We didn’t use it in Montreal.
Luckily the Montreal airport has carts on the other side of security. Between the stroller and the cart, it was easy walk to the end of the terminal to catch the last gate for our flight. I might feel differently about the cart if I had a lot of connection.
If you’re travelling in smaller airports, without connections, I’d skip the cart. You are strong, and you got this. Especially if you’ll have a stroller. Strollers are great stuff carts.
Anything Else Bailey?
Don’t stress it.
It IS so easy to load the car seats onto the plane.
Watch a few YouTube videos beforehand, and know it’s just like doing it in the car. Don’t worry if you can’t find your exact seat, the process is similar with all seats.
The hardest part is maybe getting the seat nice and tight while keeping an eye on tiny children. Flight attendants can be helpful in this situation.
The Clek install is as easy as the Cosco Scenara Next but with the comfort of Clek. I should have asked for a seatbelt extender or may be used a towel like in Jackie’s suggestion because the belt buckle ends up in the middle of the seat against her back. She ended up with a small bruise on our first trip, but not the way back.
Know where your Airplane Approval sticker is because everyone will want to see this sticker. It’s good to know before you get to the airport because then you feel a little less flustered. The service desk agent asked for it as well as the boarding agent, and then the flight attendant.
Consider rear facing for short legs. I really should have rear faced my youngest. Her legs were just long enough to kick the seat in front of her, but not long enough to fold and not kick. I was stressed I wouldn’t know how to get a good fit, or I would obstruct the passenger in front of me with the rear facing seat. However, the Cosco Next fits really great. I tried it mid-flight and thought, yup, that’s a good fit.
It takes a lot of time to board an aircraft, so if you preboard, and you need time to fiddle around with the car seat install don’t fret it. You have like ten minutes by the time everyone finds their seats and gets their bags up.