If you’re considering doing some traveling with your young one, you have a few options – driving, taking a train, or a Plane. All three of these travel models carry with them different comforts and different compromises. In this article we’re going to help you decide which car seat is best compatible with an airplane (though remember, each airline may carry its own set of rules regarding the use of outside Car Seats.)
Evenflo Maestro Harnessed Booster
Graco Contender 65
Safety 1st Guide 65
Cosco Scenera NEXT
Why should I get a convertible seat for a plane ride?
It`s not a requirement – that is, in the US, there`s no federal regulation that specifies that you have to take a car seat on a plane with your baby. However, there is a ‘strong recommendation’ that parents bringing babies on planes bring their own car seat. (You’ll have to make sure you reserve a second seat for your baby so they can recline in comfort.)
If you’re lucky, the airline might offer your child a free seat if the flight isn’t full – but you don’t want to rely on luck, otherwise you risk having to reschedule your flight and pay for tickets again, once for you and one for your child.
How old is your child?
If your kid’s just an infant, it is possible to cover the distance of many long-distance flights while simply having the infant held in your lap. This creates a few issues and a few positive experiences.
- You’ll save money because you won’t have to pay for separate seats
- You’ll be close with your child, improving your maternal connection
Flight attendants report that they typically see more infants and newborns in car seats on long-term flights but very few on short-term flights.
If your kid’s a toddler then you might want to get a seat.
- It will cost a bit more because you’ll have to pay for the extra seat
- You won’t have to worry about being confined to an overactive toddler for hours at a time
- Toddlers are typically accustomed to car seats which means that they know what being strapped into one means: they’re in for the long-haul.
- Riding with a toddler strapped to you is probably a new experience and they’ll want to get up, run around, play hide-and-seek – y’know, what kids do!
Either way, the federal ‘recommendation’ suggests that it’s a lot safer to bring your child’s own seat onto a plane ride.
Anything I should remember?
Bringing a car seat onto a plane isn’t the same as bringing one with you on a road trip.
Will I know if I can bring my car seat on the plane?
Many car seats are equipped with safety tags that indicate whether or not it’s been federally approved. A federally approved car seat is typically suited for aviation – double check to be sure.
- Typical seats made by major carseat manufacturers like UPPAbaby, Britax, and Graco are FAA approved and can be used on airplanes without problem.
- There should be a sticker or a tag saying “This restraint is certified for use in motor vehicles and aircraft”
- Foreign made car seats can also carry the same approval as long as they meet the standards specified by US manufacturers (assuming you’re boarding a flight at some point in your journey in the States.)
How will I know my car seat will fit on the plane?
This can be a bit tricky because airplanes are making their seats smaller and smaller so they can cram more passengers on the same flights. Likewise, baby seat manufacturers are making their seats bigger and bulkier to accommodate big toddlers, lots of safety features, and improved comfort.
- This means that the biggest car seats simply won’t fit on some planes. Hopefully, the workers at the airplane companies will know the specifics and can let you know beforehand whether or not you’ll be able to fit your seat on the plane.
- If you’re getting into a bulkhead seat you have a significantly decreased chance of fitting your baby seat on the plane. You’ll encounter difficulties with the armrests and the headrests which could lead to incompatibility.
- Carseats under sixteen inches wide will probably fit in most airlines. This includes many lines of foldable, convertible car seats and car seats for younger toddlers.
What if I want to ride business class?
This is a tough one. Not every premium class airline seat is tailored to work with baby seats.
- Domestic first class will probably work with your baby seat. These seats are often built with the expectation of well-budgeted parents traveling with their kids.
- International first class seats are often different depending on the airline. They’re usually custom tailored in accordance to the specific airline’s blueprints and they’re so specialized that baby seats won’t fit.
- Call in advance if you’re taking international first class to see if your seat is compatible. If not, book for a less expensive class.
Can I use a booster seat?
In short – no. They are too big for most airlines. Fortunately, a lot of convertible booster seats can be stored in the overhead storage unit and definitely checked on as baggage, so you won’t have a hard time getting them to your destination.
Are there any other alternatives?
There are some products manufactured specifically for babies who are going to be taking a lot of flights. CARES makes a harness that straps into most typical airline seat belts and will keep your infant safely strapped in for the duration of the flight. These are the only other seat straps that are approved federally for use in non-personal vehicles – taxis, buses, planes and trains.
This product, in particular, carries a 22-pound minimum, so if your child is approaching or is above that weight then you should certainly consider investing in one as an alternative to your car seat.
So what are the best airline baby seats?
All of the following are convertible seats, merely for the fact that this was the only way we can determine the best overall seats. We’re not looking at a specific age group here, just the general age of which kids may or may not need a car seat (roughly from one to ten years.)
Convertible seats can often be used for more than five years and adjust to accommodate the kid’s size, which is why we’ve made our list from these. Of the ones we found, these were the best.
1. Cosco Scenera NEXT Car Seat
This is a great, cheap, convenient car seat that makes the cut for being usable on airplanes by a longshot.
On top of having a great side impact protection material, this car seat is certified for use on all planes coming through the US. This means that your kid won’t have to deal with all the fright of being strapped into an airplane seat – they’ll have the comfort of their own familiar car seat to recline in.
The design is both lightweight and quite compact which makes taking it to and from the airport a breeze. All the fabrics are removable and can be machine washed – messes are inevitable, and machine washing takes away a lot of that stress. On top of that, the built in cup holder is dishwasher safe!
These are also great for families with lots of kids or shared vehicles, since you can fit three of them in the back of most cars.
- Certified for all American planes
- Good side impact protection
- Very lightweight model for easy transportation
- Parts of it are machine washable, other parts dishwasher safe
- Comes in lots of different colours
- Not the most durable model
2. Safety 1st Guide 65 Convertible Car Seat
Another great option that’s cheap and versatile. This unit is developed to keep your child protected for as long as possible in both front and rear-facing positions.There’s a standard, easily adjustable 5 point harness included along with good material for side-impact protection.
This is another small choice – you can fit three in your back seat. It holds a max of 65 pounds so it’s not great for older children but that’s fine since they’ll usually be comfortable in their own seat on the plane (at least if they’re close to you.)
It’s FAA approved for American flights and is similarly light to the previous entry, making its transport very easy. The strapping systems aren’t as complex as some of the newer more expensive models but they do the job well enough, pass federal regulations for safety, and manage to do it all for a good price.
- Certified for planes
- Passes federal safety regulations
- Decent material for side impact protection
- Light and easy to carry
- Parts can be machine washed
- Can’t be machine dried
- Hard to install
- Can be difficult to suit the headpiece to be comfortable with your baby’s shape
3. Graco Contender 65 Convertible Car Seat
This unit holds kids up to 65 pounds (front facing) and 40 pounds for rear facing. Both of these seating directions are available for use on a plane – this seat is federally certified for aviation and passes federal safety tests.
This unit makes use of the Simply Safe Adjustment system which allows you to easily adjust it to the size of your child as it grows, without the hassle of having to manually fiddle for ages to figure out how to readjust.
The cover is made into two parts that can both be removed – the main part and a separate part that’s underneath your baby’s bum for those extra-awesome messes. The rest of the cleanup for this unit is fairly simple but not so simple that you can just toss it into the dishwasher.
- The main buckle must be hand wiped
- The metal and plastic should be scrubbed with a light soap
- The harness buckle should be soaked in warm soapy water and scrubbed
The headrest isn’t detachable as a part to wash which can prove difficult or annoying since hand washing fabric is no easy task. At least the fabric is fairly comfortable!
- Federally certified for both aviation safety and road safety
- Simply Safe Adjustment system makes it easy to adjust as your kid grows
- Separable cover splits into two parts that can be washed separately
- Annoying to clean
4. Evenflo Maestro Harnessed Booster Car Seat
This one’s a bit pricier than the other contenders, and for a good few reasons.
The unit’s designed for maximum structural integrity and has succeeded in passing – or exceeding – the federal safety standards, as well as meeting the FAA for use in airplanes. Side impact has been thoroughly tested. The structure’s been tested and proven to be up to twice as strong as the federal requirement.
There’s a foam liner that absorbs shocks and energy to ensure maximum comfort and more protection during an accident. There’s also an auto-adjusting headrest that keeps in accordance to your child’s height and weight.
There are integrated cupholders and many designs available to appeal to all sorts of different kids. It also accommodates up to 110 pounds of kid. This makes this booster compatible with children beyond the age range that the previous contenders could handle.
- Holds a whopping 110 pounds
- Exceeds federal safety regulations
- Has a foam lining to absorb shocks and provide more side impact protection
- Auto adjustment that grows with your child
- Cupholders and cool designs
- More expensive than the other models
Which is the best?
In this case, a high price really is indicative of good quality, because Evenflo’s Maestro Harnessed Seat wins this round.
With the maximum weight capacity being nearly double that of the other entries, this seat is bound to last you and your kid quite a long time. It exceeds safety regulations so you know your kid will be safe as possible, even in the unfortunate event of an accident.
The cost is a bit higher, yes, but for all these safety and comfort guarantees – plus the fact that you can probably use this same seat from infancy up until your child is good to sit on their own – ensure that you’re certainly getting your money’s worth.
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