What to Know When Traveling with Car Seats

by | Aug 1, 2023 | Baby Travel Tips and Gear, Toddler Travel Tips and Gear | 0 comments

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If you have little kids, you know that figuring out car seats when traveling can be a hassle. The biggest question is do you check your car seat, gate check it or bring it on the airplane with you. If you bring it on the airplane, you have to purchase a seat for you child even if they are under 2 (sometimes if the plane is not full you can ask for an empty seat for your child so you can bring their car seat onboard but this is not guaranteed). We almost always bring our car seats on the plane with our 2 small kids as this is the safest way for them to travel on an airplane. Over the course of several airplanes rides with 2 small kids, I have come up with some helpful tips and time saving hacks to help you easily navigate airports and airplanes with car seats.

First thing I will talk about is bringing a car seat on the plane. If you are planning on bringing a car seat on the plane, make sure you have purchased a seat for your child. Another thing to know is that you can only install car seats at the window seat for safety reasons. The car seat cannot be blocking other passengers from exiting.

Another thing to be aware of is when you install a convertible car seat in the forward facing position, you usually can not put the tray table down for your child to use. If your child is used to using the tray table to eat or play, you may need to come up with an alternative plan. Here is the iPad holder we use when our toddler wants to watch something when flying. It does not have to sit on the tray table and then she doesn’t have to hold it either.

Another useful thing to know is that seat belt extenders are available if you need them when installing your car seat on a plane. We have never had to use them for either of our car seats but they are available if you ask a flight attendant for them (we have used both an infant and convertible car seat).

There are several helpful tips that you should do before your trip. One of my helpful tips for traveling with car seats is to put brightly colored stickers near the words “this car seat is approved for use on aircraft”. This makes it incredibly easy for you to find when the flight attendants ask to see it. We have been asked to see this wording about 90% of the time that we have flown with car seats. We almost always get asked to see it right as we are boarding so it is helpful to know exactly where the wording is and to locate it quickly.

Another great thing to do before flying with your car seat is to learn how to install it on an airplane. Most infant car seats are pretty easy to install but you can always look up the instructions in your manual or online. As far as convertible car seats go, each one may be slightly different but it is easy to find how to install them on an airplane in the manual or online as well. I watched a few youtube videos before our first flight with our convertible car seat just to make sure I was prepared!

Another tip for traveling with a convertible car seat is to use a cart to get them through the airport. The one we use can be found here on and it is pretty inexpensive. This cart allows your child to actually ride in the car seat as you drag it through the airport. This is really helpful if you are traveling with other children that may need to be in your stroller or if you need to get through an airport quickly. There are other carts that are really cheap that you can buy for car seats but they can’t withstand the weight of the child and the car seat so make sure you are buying the appropriate cart for your car seat.

Another thing you can get for traveling with a car seat is a padded car seat cover if you are planning on checking or gate checking your car seat. Airlines are not always gentle with luggage and this may help prevent any damage to your car seat. I personally have this one that folds down small and can be carried as a backpack to keep you hands free. I personally would recommend gate checking your car seat if you are not planning on bringing it onboard. There is less chance of damage in comparison to checking it with your luggage. I have had several friends that have had issues with checking their car seats with luggage and I wouldn’t feel comfortable using a car seat if it sustained any damage.

The next tip is if you are traveling with an infant car seat. If you are bringing it on the plane or gate checking it, you will need to put it through security. Infant car seats can usually be put through the scanners so it is a good idea to fold down the handle all the way so you can easily put it through the scanner. This will save you time and not hold up the security line.

If you bring a convertible car seat through security, they will have to take it aside and check it manually. They usually take it right away and get it cleared before the rest of your luggage is through the scanners.

Another great thing you can do is take advantage of family boarding. This will allow you plenty of time to install your car seats if you bring them on board. Sometimes my husband or myself will board first with just the car seats to get them installed and then the other person will board with the kids at a later time.

The last thing I will mention about traveling with car seats is that you should always make sure you can use your car seat at your final destination. A lot of car seats cannot be used in other countries so make sure if you are traveling internationally that you do your research before bringing your car seat. If it is not approved in the country you are traveling to, you can always look at renting one while you are there or using public transportation instead.

Overall, traveling with a car seat is pretty easy if you plan ahead and know what to do ahead of time. One of the best things to do is get a rolling cart or a backpack carrier to get your car seat through the airport. It is also important to know how to install your car seat on the plane