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How To Carry A Car Seat Through The Airport [2022 Guide]

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Here’s how to carry a car seat through the airport (the easy way), plus other helpful travel tips for moms!

If you’re first time mom and planning to fly with your child, you’ll likely have lots of questions about how to navigate the airport.

Air travel is stressful enough, and it’s even more of a challenge with little children.

And one of the biggest concerns is what to do with a car seat!

Thankfully, we have plenty of tips to make it easier!

We’re sharing the easiest ways to carry a car seat through the airport and other smart tips for traveling with a car seat on a plane.

You’ll also find a list of the best travel car seats for infants and toddlers!

Airport Car Seat Guidelines

A baby strapped into a car seat with tan straps and red and blue fabric.

Before you plan your flight, make sure your child’s car seat follows the federal aviation administration guidelines.

Does your child need a car seat?

Airplane seat belts aren’t made for small children, so it’s important to provide them with the proper restraints.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, young children under 40 pounds should always be in a child safety seat. But, it’s not necessarily required.

Depending on your child’s age you can use an FAA-approved car seat (the safest option), CARES harness, or hold your child in your lap.

While it’s very rare, unrestrained children can be injured (sometimes fatally) during extreme turbulence or runway crash.

So, keep that in mind when making your decisions.

Children 0-2 Years Old

Children under 2 years old can sit in a parent’s lap. And you don’t have to purchase a seat for lap children unless you want to bring their car seat on board.

However, children under two who have their own seat, are usually required to have a safety seat or harness.

Once you decide to bring your car seat on board, your child will be required to use it for take-off, landing, and turbulent patches.

But they can get out of their seat during other portions of the flight.

Older Children

An older child can use a car seat or a CARES harness.

The CARES harness is the only FAA-approved child flying safety device (for the U.S.), but most airlines around the world approve it as well.

This device is for children 1 year and older (up to age 3 or 4).

The child’s height must be no more than 40 inches. And the weight limit is 44 pounds.

NOTE: You aren’t allowed to use a booster seat on a plane because they require a shoulder strap and not a lap belt.

Smart Ways to Carry a Car Seat Through the Airport

Toddler in a stroller next to cart of luggage in an airport.

The best way to carry a car seat through the airport will depend on your unique family and what kind of baby gear you have.

But keep in mind, it’s often easier to carry a child in a baby carrier, rather than a car seat.

Here are some ideas to help you decide:

  • Use a car seat travel system (a 3-in-1 travel stroller), or place your car seat on any stroller frame if it fits.
  • Utilize the handles of your stroller (Loosen the car seat straps and hang them over the handle.)
  • Wear it on your back (Loosen the shoulder straps and carry it like a backpack. Or, purchase a car seat travel bag with straps).
  • Use a travel bag with wheels.
  • Use a car seat trolley.
  • Attach your car seat to your suitcase using bungee cords.
  • Invest in a travel car seat or car seat travel cart.

Other Tips for Navigating the Airport

Now that we’ve covered the best ways to carry a car seat through the airport, here are some other tips to make things easier.

Checking a Car Seat at the Airport

If you’re flying with kids, car seats count as special items and are free to check. Most airlines allow you to check 2 baby items for free (eg. stroller, car seat, portable crib).

You can check your child’s car seat at the ticket counter or bring it to the gate.

Gate-checked items will usually be waiting for you as you deplane. But, check with your airline to be sure.

If you check your car seat at the ticket counter, you can pick it up at baggage claim with any other checked items.

However, they may not be on the conveyer belt. Look for your car seat in the “oversized luggage area.”

NOTE: Car seats must be installed without the car seat base on an airplane. So, if you’re planning to bring one, you’ll need to check it at the ticket counter or gate.

Protecting Your Car Seat

If you don’t plan to take your car seat on the plane, it’s important to protect it from damage during the flight and careless baggage handlers.

Most airlines don’t take responsibility for damaged items during a flight. So it’s not a good idea to check a super expensive car seat or stroller.

You should also keep in mind that it’s no longer safe to use a car seat that’s damaged or that’s been in an accident.

The easiest way to protect your seat during a flight is to use a padded car seat travel bag. This will also shield the seat from dirt, grime, and germs.

If you’re able to, you can stuff the car seat bag with extra diaper bag items like a blanket, stuffed animals, etc. for extra padding.

And you’ll be able to pack some additional baby items for free!

Car Seat Tips for Airport Security

Plan extra time to get through airport security.

And if you’re traveling with frozen breast milk or other baby items like a breast pump, make sure you know the TSA guidelines.

Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself if your TSA agent doesn’t know their stuff.

Car Seat Tips for On the Plane

A mom walks down the aisle of a plane wearing a baby in a baby carrier.

Once you’re on the plane, a flight attendant can help you get your child’s car seat to the correct aisle if needed.

Most often, your car seat will have to stay on the airplane seat. However, some international flights and larger planes have enough space in the overhead bin.

The safest place for your child is a window seat or middle seat on planes with larger cabins.

Children can’t sit on emergency exit rows. And many airlines don’t allow children in car seats on the rows in front of or behind the exit rows either.

To install a car seat on a plane, simply, feed the lap belt through the belt path, buckle the seat belt, and pull the seat belt tail to tighten.

Other Tips for the Plane

If you’re on a long flight with kids, you’ll need some easy ways to keep them entertained.

If there’s no turbulence, feel free to let your child stretch their legs from time to time and get their wiggles out.

And consider letting them have a little more screen time than normal. You can use the inflight entertainment or bring a tablet with games and movies.

Here are some other fun ideas to try:

  • Busy books/quiet books
  • Reading books
  • Card games
  • School supplies
  • Magnet tiles/toys
  • Finger puppets
  • Pre-made travel kits/busy kits
  • Window clings
  • Extra snacks

Tips for After the Flight

If you need a rental car at your final destination, you’ll likely be in a different vehicle than you’re used to. So, give yourself some extra time to get your car seat installed.

And if you want to avoid the hassle of carrying a car seat through the airport, all together, you can rent a car seat.

However, car seat rentals are hit-and-miss.

You may not like the condition or style of the car seats available. So keep that in mind!

Tips for Traveling Internationally with a Car Seat

If you’re traveling internationally, always check the safety guidelines for the airline and your destination country.

The airline may have different flight requirements, and your car seat may not be legal where you’re going.

If your car seat isn’t allowed, the best option may be to use a harness on the plane (if applicable) and rent a car seat at your final destination.

If your destination is walkable, you may not need a car seat post-flight. Or, you can plan to use public transportation.

The Best Car Seats for Plane Travel

The best travel car seat will depend on where you’re going, who you’re traveling with, and what you’ll be doing while you’re there.

However, it’s generally a good idea to avoid a bulky travel seat. These are more difficult to lug through an airport and may not fit on the plane’s narrow seats.

The best lightweight car seat and combination seat options:

The best infant seat options:

FAQs

Can you bring a car seat on a plane as a carry-on?


Car seats are free to carry on when traveling with kids. And a car seat does not take the place of your one free carry-on item or personal item.

Do airlines check car seats for free?


Yes. Most airlines allow you to check 2 baby items for free (eg. stroller, car seat, portable crib).

Do I need to bring a car seat when traveling?


This depends on the age, height, and weight of your child.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all children under 40 lbs have a child safety seat during the flight. But it’s not necessarily a requirement.

Children 0-2 can sit in a parent’s lap without purchasing their own seat. Or, if they have their own seat, they can use a car seat or CARES harness.

The CARES harness is for children 1-4 years old. The height limit is 40 inches and the weight limit is 44 lbs.

The Bottom Line

A smiling baby boy sits in an unpacked suitcase in a living room.

Here’s the bottom line on how to carry a car seat through the airport:

  • Before you travel, make sure your car seat meets FAA guidelines.
  • If you plan to check your car seat, it’s a good idea to protect it using a padded car seat travel bag. And you can stuff it with extra blankets, stuffed animals, and baby items for added measure.
  • There are several easy ways to carry a car seat through the airport. Here are some of the best options:
    • Use a car seat travel system or place your car seat on any stroller frame that fits.
    • Loosen the car seat straps and hang them over the handle of your stroller.
    • Loosen the shoulder straps and carry the car seat like a backpack. (Or, purchase a car seat travel bag with straps).
    • Use a travel bag with wheels.
    • Use a car seat trolley.
    • Attach your car seat to your suitcase using bungee cords.
    • Invest in a travel car seat or car seat travel cart.
  • Plan extra time to get through airport security and know the TSA guidelines for any baby items you have, especially frozen breast milk and breast pumps.
  • If you need to, ask your flight attendant for help getting settled on the plane.
  • If you’re using a rental vehicle, give yourself plenty of time to install your car seat correctly.
  • Make sure you know and follow all the rules for international flights. And if your car seat isn’t allowed in your destination country, make plans to rent one, walk, or use public transportation.

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Your Turn

Did we answer all your questions about how to carry a car seat through the airport? Let us know if we missed anything in the comments!

Pinterest graphic with text and image collage with a baby in a car seat and on an airplane.