You should have seen the looks. I stumbled on the plane looking like a disheveled cross between an octopus and a pack mule. I was carrying my 10 month old, a diaper bag, my toddler's backpack (even though he pinky-promised he would be "in charge of it"), while simultaneously sporting a 24 pound car seat on my back. I did that awkward side shuffle trying desperately to contain all of my appendages within the confines of the aisle in hopes of avoiding every overflowing elbow, but was miserably unsuccessful. The passengers' faces had competing looks of sympathy for the solo-traveling mom of two, and looks of fear that I might plop our circus down beside them.
As we reached our row, I transformed into a calculated engineer. The boys knew the drill. Diaper bag into an overhead bin, backpack under the seat, boys stand in the aisle for 1 minute while I flung that car seat off my back, into the window seat and secured it to the chair. I wiped some sweat off my brow and breathed a huge sigh of relief as I buckled my toddler into his car seat. My job, in so many ways, was finished. The hardest part of the flight was now behind me.
I haven't always traveled with my child's car seat, but after some traumatic in-flight experiences, I won't travel any other way. I can still remember holding my sleeping infant while simultaneously attempting to scoop my tantrum-throwing toddler off the ground because the plane was about to land and - according to the stewardess - everyone needed to be buckled up. This reasoning was not satisfactory to my toddler who, after 4 hours of flying, was 2 hours past his limit. The situation was only remedied by handing my infant to the stranger next to me and physically holding my flailing son in his seat. You should have seen those looks. From that day forward, I resolved that the physical annoyance of lugging around ONE. MORE. THING. was worth the minutes of peace I would receive while confined on the actual plane.
who benefits from having the car seat on board?
- The child. Kids spend countless hours in their car seats and it is often a safe place for them. I found that my children were unable to fall asleep while sitting in the regular airplane seat because they couldn't get comfortable. However, they are accustomed to falling asleep in the car and replicating that environment on the airplane has been extremely helpful for me. If you have an incredibly obedient child (lucky) then you might not need to worry as much about securing your child in the plane. However, my sons are a cross between Dennis the Menace and Mowgli from The Jungle Book, so containment is NECESSARY.
- The parent. In many ways, the car seat serves as a babysitter on board. It keeps the child contained and leaves your hands free (unless your'e simultaneously holding a lap child, but then at least you're only handling one child, right?!).
- Other passengers. I remember one time a passenger saw me carrying the car seat on board and said, "You must really care about your child's safety!" I smiled cynically and said, "Well, I really just care about yours." The truth is that if you NEED a car seat on board, it's probably not going to make a difference. If the plane is going down, your child won't be the only survivor because he was secured in a car seat. However, I have heard that children will sometimes act as projectiles in turbulence, and securing them in a car seat is the best way to prevent it. To be honest, this part isn't my greatest motivating factor for bringing the car seat on board but if you "really care about your child's safety" then it might be a good way to go ;).
what car seat should I travel with?
- You can wear it like a backpack. I have seen those caddies for car seats like the GoGo Babyz Travelmate, and while they look incredibly convenient for your time in the terminal, I'm not really sure how you get it on board except lifting it over everyone's head as you walk through the aisle. Wearing the car seat like a backpack, leaves my hands completely free to hold children or other luggage.
- It can fit in the overhead bin. What the what?! Yes, indeed. The seat folds together, creating a rectangular prism (thank you, Geometry) that fits in an overhead bin. This is incredible because you can jump the "car seat ship" at any time by folding it up and putting it in a bin. Additionally, if you fly Southwest Airlines, they will allow you to use your car seat without purchasing a ticket if there are extra seats available! (This is a much easier way to claim an extra seat than the alternative of sprawling your belongings all over the row while simultaneously avoiding eye contact with the passengers searching for a seat.)
- It is narrow. This seat fits perfectly into an airplane seat with room to spare. It won't spill over into your personal space like some of them do.
when should I travel with a car seat?
- For a short flight (less than 2 hours), the car seat might not be worth the hassle, but anything longer than that, I'm definitely bringing it.
- While it seems counter-intuitive, I always take the car seat when I'm traveling alone with the kids. It's one more thing to think about, but it is incredibly worth it to me.
- It's also important to note that the car seat MUST reside in the window seat, so be sure to book your seats accordingly.
why should i travel with a car seat?
where should i travel with a car seat?
What did I miss? Do you fly with a car seat? Why or why not? And be sure to visit our Car Seat advice page here for more thoughts from the Wanderlittles team. Happy Wandering!
Jess' note: All of you who are crying at night because our giveaways are over, you are in luck! McKinley is hosting her very own month of giveaways over at her website. You can also find her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/mckinleyrich.
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