As a parent that travels a lot, I have found that if you are travelling with a toddler or very young kid, the more prepared you are, the more you and the kid will be comfortable.
With a little bit of preparation you can plan and prepare your trips including things such as what to look for when choosing a good travel car seat (usually FAA Approved) navigating through the airport, and safe travel while inside the plane. Check out the best FAA Approved car seats here.
Selecting a Good Car Seat
There are many good car seats on the market, but if you are a regular traveler, you need to find one that is made for flying. The best car seats for travel will typically be FAA Approved.
An FAA Approved car seat or child restraint typically has a sticker with the words "this restraint is certified for use in motor vehicles and aircraft" Most car seats including convertible car seats, infant car seats, combination and all in one car seats can be used on an aircraft.
However you need to know that belt positioning booster seats are not FAA Approved car seats. Since these car seats require shoulder and lap belts to function at maximum effectiveness, they will not be safe on the aircraft, which only comes with lap belts.
Planning Your Trip: Recommended Seating and Traveling
Children 40 pounds and below
It is recommended that any child weighing in at 40 pounds or less travel in a child safety restraint system or a harnessed child safety seat.
Even as it is not against regulations for your child that is aged 2 or below to ride on your lap in-flight, your kid will be safer if you buy them an FAA Approved child safety seat to enhance their safety during landing, takeoff and periods of turbulence.
Children over 40 pounds
If the child is over 40 pounds, they can be safe and secure in their own seat as long as they use the aircraft lap belt correctly.
However, if you brought the car seat along to use on the car when you get off the plane at your destination, it will always be safer to install the car seat on the airplane instead of using the lap belts.
Preparing for Your Trip: Buying Your Tickets
Choosing a flight
Given that having a child in their own seat can add some considerable cost to your travel budget, it would be better to go for a flight that is in the off peak hours. I always recommend that you call the airline ahead of time and ask for a flight that is likely not to be full.
It is also important to confirm the flight regulations and guidelines that the airline may have for parents traveling with children. Airlines will have different regulations including seating positions allowed, documentation for kids below a certain age, and minimum age for travel. Ensure that you are not in violation of any airline or FAA guidelines before booking your ticket.
A window seat is always the best seat for your kid. Installing the car seat on the window seat kills two birds with one stone as the seat will not be in the way of other passengers that may need to exit or enter the row and the baby will not be disturbed during the flight.
Preparing for the flight
During the flight, you can reduce any stress and meltdowns by following the following recommendations:
- When deciding on what your child will wear during the flight go for accessories, shoes and clothes that do not have any metallic components that may trigger airport security alarms causing unnecessary delays.
- If you can review the regulations of the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) on the security screening processes they require for children of different ages.
- Ensure that you have talked to the child about the screening procedures before your reach the airport. For instance, you can reduce the child anxiety and fear by telling them that they may have to be separated from their favorite toys such as baby dolls and teddy bears for a few minutes while undergoing a security check.
- Make sure that you bring along anything that the child may need on the flight such as books to keep them occupied, toys, favorite snacks and changing materials for a stress free flight.
- If you are travelling with an infant, toddler or even an older kid make sure you dress them in comfortable and easy to change outfits. If you are nursing, you need to ditch the adorable overalls and find something that offer easy nursing access. Trust me, you can find some elegant tops, tees, & dresses that will ensure you look just as great.
- Bring along the child's favorite activity to keep them busy during the flight. If your child loves some cartoons you can bring along some on your ipad or food is their thing, bringing along a lot of snacks could save you from a lot of frustration.
It is very important to check out the TSA and FAA websites for information such as what type of luggage is classified as carry on. If you are traveling with items such as baby food, breast milk or changing clothes you need to know which ones are allowed on board and also ensure that your essential items are in the carry on luggage before hand.
During the Trip: The Airport
Toting a car seat, luggage and a child through an airport can be quite a cumbersome if not outright unpleasant experience. However you can make this better through some accessories that will make transporting car seat easier.
- Car Seat Travel Cart: Combination to booster and convertible car seats are easy to transport in the airport using a travel car as they can be anchored to the cart using their LATCH connectors. You can have it even easier and more convenient by securing the child on the safety seat and rolling them across the airport while they are on the cart. A good thing with car seat travel carts is that most of them can be folded for easy storage in the overhead compartment.
- Car Seat Travel Bag: If you need more protection to the car seat than the travel cart offers, then you could go for the car seat travel bag. Some travel bags have wheel while others can be easily carried like a backpack which makes the transportation of seats very convenient.
During the Trip: On the plane
Installing the car seat on the Plane
Install the car seat on window seat using the lap belts on the aircraft seat. For children below the age of two, install the car seat in rear facing mode and forward facing mode for toddlers and older children. If the aircraft does not have enough space to install the seat in the rear facing mode, you should maybe book bulkhead seats which tend to be roomier.
Changes in altitude during take off and landing may be uncomfortable for toddlers and infants. Have the child on a pacifier or give them food and drink during these periods as it helps make reduce altitude pressures.
Make Sure to Relax
You can never plan for a baby that screams for an entire six hour flight and so for peace of mind, do not stress about things like that. If your kid happens to be in the mood for screaming their lungs out, it is no big deal, just apologize to your aisle mates, and buy them a $5 dollar cocktail if you wish. You will likely never see them again.