Wow, it was almost three years ago that we took two kids with us to Quebec to visit my sister. This wasn’t my first trip flying with kids, but it was the first time we brought carseats and I can still remember the crippling anxiety I had about how it would work, if it wouldn’t work, and what I do if it didn’t work.
- Car Seat Groups…
- 15 Tips for Flying with Baby
- Flying Domestic, Diaper Bag
- Eastern Ontario Roadtrip — that’s this trip! We flew into Ottawa and out of Montreal
— but, people fly with kids all the time with their car seats, and if a carseat got destroyed, we could just buy a new one on the either side. One person could take the rental car to Walmart while we killed time in a massive airport. But these are not rational thoughts that many new overwhelmed parents.
Before we get too far into this blog post about a regular mama traveling with kids in car seats, I want to remind you that if you can do it in a car, you can install a car seat on a plane. It’s even simpler.
Why Fly with Car Seats?
Generally all the car seat moms are going to say its the safest way to fly, blah blah blah. And yes, safety is important when flying and traveling with kids.
You know what else is important your mental health and physical sanity, and car seats on airplanes can also help with that. Yes they can, I have flown without car seats, and it was overwhelming. Ugh, holding a baby for the entire flight to Montreal is just like, not fun…. so the car seat is a fantastic containment device your child is already familiar with. You can strap them and they might just fall asleep. They also have somewhere to sit and do things and not slipping around in big airplane seat.
It really was fantastic for the reasons other than safety.
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.
About our Trip
We flew from Prince George, BC to Vancouver, BC where we transferred to a flight to Ottawa. We had two planes, of different sizes, and both was generally fine.
I’ve chatted with friends who have since flown on some of the puddle hopper flights from the island to Northern BC who have just been as successful with flying with car seats. The air hostess can be fantastic when supporting you with this flight and navigating the gear, stuff and getting settled.
When we went to Europe, we opted out of a carseat because the carseat wouldn’t have been viable in Europe. This is considered dangerous practice by those on the internet. The thing about parenting is that you’ll take in all the information and then make an informed decision that works for you. Sometimes people will get really mad about and sometimes you’ll make a mistake – we can only show up with love and kindness and support.
For our trip, we flew with our Clek Fllo. We had two Clek Car Seats for each kid and we opted to purchase a smaller seat for the youngest because rear facing in a Clek takes up SO MUCH ROOM. We knew from experience in trialing minivans that a rear facing CLEK often ate up all of our leg room. So a little research into low-cost seats that worked and had less of a spacing issue, we settled on this budget-friendly Cosco seat from Canadian Tire. It turned out to be a fantastic choice after we had our first nausea in the car incident and could clean it up and dry it easy in the hotel room that night.
Also your carseat company might have some recommendations on that. You will also need a carseat with the big Canadian airline approved sticker. They did check for it at boarding.
Advice for Flying with Carseats
You’re here for the advice, but I’m trying to paint the picture. We went with two seats – one big heavy beast and one really light seat, and honestly they both did the job. So if you’re staring at your seat trying to figure out if it’ll fit, you’re probably over thinking it and you should visit this other website about carseats and airplanes.
Here’s the government web page: https://travel.gc.ca/travelling/children/taking-children-on-a-plane
Watch a YouTube Video
There are so many amazing YouTube videos on how to install a carseat, and this really helped me feel confident that I would know what to do. You can save the video to your phone incase you panic and forget everything. I can remember watching this video below a dozen times. Even though we have different seats, it’s very much the same process for each seat.
There is just one belt that you need to fasten behind the seat. It’s easy.
I generally don’t recommend preboarding because then you’ll waste too much time on the plane with crazy kids, but when you have a device to install the first time, you might want to consider taking advantage of the preboarding option. This helped ensure we had the time to do it.
My husband entertained the kids, and I did the install twice. We were in two rows directly in front of each other, and I installed the carseat next to the window as I would have to have easy access off the plane.
By the time we were flying back home, I was a little less keen on the preboard, but the kids were strapped into their seats with lots of snacks and toys, and the waiting for loading became less of an issues.
If you are transitioning your rear facing child to front facing in the airplane, take time in the airport to adjust the straps to fit the child. When rear-facing straps are located under the shoulders, but when forward facing they go above. This will save you time if you do the adjustment in the airport before flying with carseats.
FAQ About Flying with Carseats
Do I need a fancy lightweight car seat?
I wasted so much of my life thinking I needed a new car seat for this trip and debating if I wanted to get all new seats or if I needed fancy accessories. If your carseat is airline approved, that’s all there is to it. And navigating the airport was an ease regardless of the size of our car seat because we had a little cart, and we had dolly’s and we really had our own strength.
I did end up buying a cheaper lighter car seat for one of the kids – and while it was great for the plane, I absolutely hated this car seat and never used it again. I find that the buckles are always getting twisted, and the amount of time I spent fussing over getting the child into the seat drove me absolutely bonkers. I told myself if we went again, we’d just bring both of our personal car seats.
Do I really need a car seat cart?
We did rely on a backpack, and ensured we checked bags, but it was manageable in the end. I bought a dolly from Canadian Tire for the Clek, it was honestly clunky and the carseats often came loose. I think we fought with it so much, we ended up forgetting at my sisters, and luckily in Montreal they have carts that you can take through security that we used and were much better.
I found on Amazon these big straps that they now have, that would also be fantastic if you have a rolling check on bag. We don’t have one, but if you did.
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 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.