Taking a Car Seat on a Plane

Deciding whether to lug your car seat with you on the plane, or on your trip for that matter, can be a tough call.

Legally, you can transport your child in a car without a car seat if you’re in a taxi.  So if you’re only bringing one to get to and from the airport, you might not want to bother (although it is the safest option and should be a priority).

Here are some simple guidelines:

(1) You’re not legally required to bring a car seat

If you have a long trip to/from the airport on either end of your travels, you might want to consider renting one at the other end, or bringing your own.

(2) Car rental companies rarely guarantee a car seat in advance

For some odd reason, you can secure your car-booking in advance (although not always the right vehicle) but most car companies won’t guarantee a car seat.  Some do, but some don’t.  So if you’re planning a lot of road travel on your vacation, bring your own — it’s the safest option

(3) All car seats are not created equal

We booked an “infant” car seat in the Bahamas and when we received it, the seat was a totally upright, chair style seat (from the 90s I’d guess) which wouldn’t work for our three month old at all.  We had already paid for it and reserved it so no luck getting our money back either.  Needless to say, we didn’t take the child in the car at all — except to get to and from the airport

(4) Checking your car seat at the airport

…is often as easy as 1, 2, 3.  You can choose to drop it in the over-size bin area prior to security etc.  Or you can take it right to the gate and check it with your stroller.  The airline will tag it.

Here’s our only caution with checking your car seat (and it’s a good one to consider).

(5) Bringing a car seat on a plane

This is a very popular topic.  Here are our thoughts:

  • Your car seat MUST clearly state that it’s been approved for airline travel.  This will be indicated on the back of the seat.  NO exceptions by any airline (so be aware of this before lugging it to the airport — you will have to check it if it’s not a proper seat)
  • Did you purchase a seat for the child?  If yes, you can bring it on board to use in that seat
  • Will you child remain strapped in and seated during the flight?  If not, I wouldn’t bother bringing it on
  • You must have the child buckled in for take-off and landing if you’ve chosen to bring the seat on so consider this if you’re planning to nurse etc
  • The seats that are regulated to be brought on board are often bulky.  Be aware that you’ll shrink your remaining seat space as the car seat takes up a lot of room (you can’t put down one arm rest)
  • You might inconvenience another passenger if you’ve chosen to put the seat on an internal/middle seat so be aware of other passengers

As we mentioned, there are no hard and fast rules.  We’ve primarily skipped out on bringing the seat on board, but when traveling with two young ones, or a child between the ages of one year and 20 months, it helps to have somewhere to strap them in because they often won’t sit still.  Every parent needs a break at some point…


Happy Travels!

Note: safety disclaimer.  Obviously, the safest option is to bring your car seat and use it at all times.  Any time a child is in a car, they should be properly strapped in, by law.

We are in no part safety experts or affiliated with a car seat company or airline. The above tips/guidelines are derived from our personal experience and do not reflect safety regulations of airlines, vehicles, the TFSA etc.

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