Flying With 3 Kids: Our Airport And Child Safety Strategy

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Rafi and Talia make their way through FLL with Evenflo Maestro booster seats attached to GoGoBabyz Travelmates, August 2018.
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I recently shared the story of United flight 232 and the online friendship that I developed with the lead flight attendant on that flight, Jan Brown, over our shared passion for child safety on airplanes.

Your arms can’t hold onto objects during clear-air turbulence and the FAA doesn’t allow you to hold a bag or laptop during takeoff or landing. However as the FAA guesstimated that more people will drive instead of fly if they require infants to purchase a ticket and have a carseat, they decided to continue to allow lap children, despite years of lobbying by Jan Brown and the NTSB after United flight 232.

But just because it’s allowed, doesn’t mean it’s safe. You should always buy a seat for your infant and bring a carseat for them to fly in.

Aside from the safety aspect, young children in a carseat are more likely to sleep on a plane and you won’t have to hold them or stop them from opening the airline seatbelt.

Some commenters mentioned that they have had trouble with some flight attendants not allowing carseats where they should be allowed.

You should make sure that your carseat says “This restraint is certified for use in motor vehicles and aircraft” and that you know where it says it to show to a flight attendant.

It’s a very good idea to travel with the FAA guidance on carseats printed out.

You can print the tip sheet here and the full FAA guidance to airlines here.

Section 10-f of the full guidance says, “No aircraft operator may prohibit a child from using an approved CRS when the parent/guardian purchases a seat for the child. If an approved CRS, for which a ticket has been purchased, does not fit in a particular seat on the aircraft, the aircraft operator has the responsibility to accommodate the CRS in another seat in the same class of service.”

Section 19 states that forward and rear facing carseats are both acceptable and that a window seat is the preferred location for a carseat, though other seats are acceptable as long as they don’t block other passengers from exiting the plane.

Airlines may allow you to use an empty seat for a carseat, but they are not obligated to allow you unless you purchase a seat.

When I do run into problems, I’ll often reference Jan Brown and United flight 232. Does that flight attendant really want to take responsibility for refusing to allow a child to fly in a carseat? If the answer is yes, I’ll ask for the lead flight attendant or even the flight’s captain. On Cathay Pacific for example the flight’s captain overruled the flight attendants in allowing a rear facing carseat in first class.

Our airport strategy has evolved over the years.

Flying with kids is always a challenge. We have found that they are easier to fly with when they are under 6 months and when they are old enough to be entertained with a tablet, probably about 2.5 years old. It’s the couple of in-between years that are toughest.

We started off with a Bugaboo Frog that we got free thanks to AMEX. After all, that’s what all the cool kids seemed to have.

Except it was hard to push, especially in the snow or on bad sidewalks. And it had a tiny, hard to reach basket. We knew someone with an UppaBaby Vista. It pushed like a dream and had a basket large enough for an entire grocery trip. We were sold.

We flew to Hawaii earlier this year in January and had 13 month old Maya in the top-rated Chicco Keyfit infant carseat with the Chicco attachment for the UppaBaby Vista. We gate checked the stroller and brought the carseat on the plane. It made getting our carry-ons through the airport and getting around our destination a breeze.

Plus, as the frame detaches from the seat or carseat, it falls under the 20 pound weight limit that airlines like American now rigidly enforce. People with double strollers learn that lesson the hard way.

We went to Israel in June and by then Maya outgrew her infant carseat. This time we checked the UppaBaby in the Vista Travel bag. We chose to bring the Vista so we would have a great stroller for Israel’s streets and hikes.

Maya was in Costco Scenera Next lightweight convertible carseat on the plane and we used a GoGo Babyz Travelmate to push her around the airport.

On past trips we brought along the UppaBaby RumbleSeat and Ride-Along board, but at 7 and 5, Rafi and Talia were old enough that we didn’t need them.

On past trips we have used 5 point harness Evenflo Maestro booster seats for Rafi and Talia. Carseat manufacturers advise avoiding checking in carseats as luggage as some baggage handlers like to handle them as carelessly as possible. That means having to lug them through the airport, but we also have GoGo Babyz Travelmates for those carseats that the kids can now shlep themselves along with a travel bag inside each of them. An added benefit that if the kids get tired or if there’s a tight connection we can strap the kids into their seats and push them to the next gate. We then gate check the carseats where baggage handlers typically have more respect for your belongings as they’re being watched by the passengers.

Those carseats and travelmates were lifesavers when we were running around JFK like headless chickens on our London fiasco. I can’t even imagine how it would have worked if the kids had to walk the 10 miles we covered in JFK and LGA during those 24 hours. Plus they were even able to sleep in them while we camped out in JFK overnight…

On the June trip to Israel we moved beyond the 5 point harness to the Evenflo Big Kid LX High Back Booster, which we just bring along for the car at the destination for the older kids.

Of course we could also rent carseats, though that can be expensive and it also means trusting the car rental agency to throw them away if they have been in accident. I wouldn’t trust a car rental agency with a scratch on the car, let alone with my kids lives!

Traveling with kids isn’t easy, but that’s what works for us!

What’s your airport carseat strategy?

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49 Comments On "Flying With 3 Kids: Our Airport And Child Safety Strategy"

All opinions expressed below are user generated and the opinions aren’t provided, reviewed or endorsed by any advertiser or DansDeals.

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David

Any tips for flying with royal Jordanian? Would the FAA sheet be helpful if they are not an American airline ?

Eitan

Hi Dan. Thanks for this informative post. My wife and I just flew ElAl to Israel with our 9 month old who was too old for a bassinet. We purchased a seat for her and strapped her in with her rear-facing car seat. A few hours into the flight the teenage girl sitting in front of our baby realized she could not recline her seat back and her irate father caused a ruckus involving the stewardesses and one of the captains insisting that we wake up our baby and reverse the direction of the car seat to be forward-facing so the car seat would not obstruct the seat in front of it from reclining. We were very unhappy about this and the airline staff said they checked with the captain who said it was ok to reverse the orientation of the seat even for takeoff and landing. Who were we to disagree? What would the FAA say about this? Have you experienced anything similar? Thanks!

Dan Bee

The odds that the car seat being forward rather than rear-facing would make any difference to your child’s safety are so small that you should have just pleasantly agreed to switch it around–father of 3 kids who flew with infants frequently.

Travel

Elal’s language on their site is a bit ambiguous about this point. However, if 2 parents are flying together, one parent can book the seat in front of the baby’s seat. Of course, they make you pay to select a seat, so you’d probably end up paying for all 3 seat selections.
Dan, what do you say about Virgin’s new change disallowing rear-facing car seats? Infant car seats can only be used in an airplane “according to the directions,” which means they can’t be used forward facing, which effectively means you can’t use it at all on a Virgin flight.

Joe

Is the Doona certified for aircraft?

Ari

Yes, it is. Should have a sticker on the bottom.

joseph

under what regulations does british airways govern?

Doona

How come you don’t use the doona?
I find it very easy

JSJcbs

I don’t believe that people would drive if they were forced to pay for an extra child seat. Obviously, driving can not replace international travel so that would remain the same. Domestic may be hurt a bit but no one is driving from NY to LA instead of flying b/c of another $400. They may choose to not go altogether if $400 causes them to be over budget but many people would simply add this to the expense of the trip and plan accordingly.

If booking a child seat was truly needed for safety then airlines should force the purchase of an extra seat.

united

advice – take a small cooler bag filled with frozen freeze pops and some ice packs. As long as it’s frozen, TSA lets it through (in my experience), and if you can bring a couple to share for other kids/adults, it may make the whole plane ride better….

Leah

How do you take the Vista thru security? Do you take off the wheels each time?

Jack

We take the yo yo, and it folds easily for the overhead. Sometimes flight attendants don’t allow it “as anything with wheels can’t go on the overhead”. Is that actually the case, that officially it’s not allowed?

Abey

Also worth a mention is that Southwest (and I assume most other airlines) Sell infants fares for cheaper than regular fares you do have to call them though

Ar

My biggest trip for traveling with a baby is to bring a baby bjorn or similar so you have two hands to use when getting on and off the plane. I once traveled myself with a 6 month old and two year old and never would have been able to do it without.

SaraS

Agree about the tough to travel with kids being 6 months to +/-3. A toddler really does need a car seat, even if just for your own sanity! (We just traveled with 6 kids ages 18 months thru 11. They all behaved amazingly, besides for the baby. Thank G-d it was only a 2 hour flight!!)
It just becomes inconvenient once the child outgrows the infant car seat and regular car seats doesn’t attach to a stroller. Yes, attachable wheels make it easier, but at the end of the day you are still schlepping two items.

Hear Ye Inventors – a stroller with an FAA approved lightweight car seat attachment for ages 9+ months!

Avi

I traveled with an 18 month old with a mountain buggy and convertible carseat. The mountain buggy has straps that hold the carseat onto the stroller. The only time we ran into an issue was the wheels getting stuck because the aisle on the plane is too narrow.

jeremy

HI I travel often with 2 kids one that just turned three and an 11 month old (thats what they are now but have traveled at all ages). I highly agree that before 6 months and after being able to watch is the best. I have found between american, delta, and jetblue that delta kid entertainment is the best! I also really recommend the contour bitsy double stroller. it folds super thin which is great for the uber rides in a sedan and 2 bags in the trunk. It is super light and the best part is it comes with a strap to put a carseat securely in the stroller seat without adapters and strap it in which is helpful especially when getting on the plane. Also we have put this double stroller once even though the machine instead of waiting for them to hand check it.

Shloimee

Good to hear your kids have been aging between trips. Was getting worries there 🙂

SM

Thank you Dan, we learned of the gogo babyz travelmates from your blog, and now use 2 of them, with the cosco scenera next carseats, whenever we fly. It has made the whole airport and flying experience SO, SO much easier and we are so grateful to you for introducing us!

Yossi

• Pack a bag of toys and snacks to keep your child occupied during the flight.

Ekay

I have been using https://clypx.com/ for my toddler kids that need booster seats. Its compact and safe. Why shlep a big booster if you can have this.

YY

I just had a horrendous experience with Delta from JFK>TLV. They don’t reserve bassinets and claim to them at the gate on a first-come-first-serve basis. At the gate they said there were none available. Upon boarding I found 8 infants on the flight – none got a bassinet.

I tried complaining and they threatened to throw me off the flight.

There was even an empty bulkhead seat and they refused to give it to my wife with a bassinet since it was a premium seat.

I wrote a letter to Delta, no response yet.

People should know how un-child friendly Delta was.

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