expert tips for flying with carseats and strollers

Expert Tips For Flying With Car Seats And Strollers  

If the idea of trekking through the airport with your travel gear and baby worries you, you’re not alone.  Especially if you have more than one baby.  Flying with car seats and strollers, while safer and ideally easier, makes traveling seem like a hassle.  We’ve put together a list of expert tips for making your next flight adventure a bit less stressful.

Are Car Seats Required?

Unlike in cars, car seats are not required by law, but both the Federal Aviation Administration and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend placing babies in car seats when flying.  The main reasons to have a car seat would be:

  • Turbulence – Minimizes the chance of injuries from turbulence.
  • Parent’s sanity – Some kids may happen to be used to the car seat from frequent usage and find it comfortable to sleep in for travel.  You might even find your baby is more calm with a familiar seat, and it could keep you from having to wrestle your baby the whole flight.
  • Transport at Destination – Perhaps you are bringing a car seat because you need it at your destination anyway.  Just a note if you are renting a car the company can usually offer a car seat.   The airline should allow a free check-in of your carseat, though they will not be liable for any damage.  Bringing it on the plane with you is an alternative way of transporting it.

Book The Extra Seat

While children under two can fly free on your lap, it may be worthwhile to book a child seat, especially if your child is mobile particularly between the ages of 1-2. Even if you don’t bring a car seat, you may want that extra seat to setup a sleeping hammock for your baby.  Flying a toddler might drive you a little mad without the extra space and seat.  On long flights this will give you a chance for a breather.

Bring Shades and Earmuffs

Airlines don’t really abide by the “never wake a sleeping baby” rule.  Flight announcements are unavoidable, and sometimes even the lights come on.  If you can safely tie a bandana or put noise canceling headphones on your child during these times, you and your grateful neighbors might hear slightly less screaming.  Younger babies should obviously not be left unattended.

Bring An Approved Car Seat

If you plan to place your child in a car seat on the plane, it must meet these guidelines for FAA certification. If it is certified, there will be an FAA sticker on it that indicates it is approved for cars and airplanes. The label will say: “This restraint is certified for use in motor vehicles and aircraft.”

If your car seat was purchased abroad, then it must show the approval of a foreign government or show that the car seat was manufactured under the standards of the UN.

Unfortunately, not all car seats are approved, so check before traveling.

Don’t Worry, Airlines Should Accommodate Your Car Seat

According to FAA regulations, which you can print TO show your airline crew: “No aircraft operator may prohibit a child from using an approved CRS(child restraint system) 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. The regulations also permit an aircraft operator to use its discretion in identifying the most appropriate forward-facing passenger seat location, considering safe operating practices.

For example:

(1) A CRS with a base that is too wide to fit properly in a seat with rigid armrests can be moved to a seat with moveable armrests that can be raised to accommodate the CRS in the same class of service.

(2) An aft-facing CRS that cannot be installed properly, because of minimal pitch (distance between seats) between rows, can be moved to a bulkhead seat or a seat in a row with additional pitch in the same class of service.”

Just to be sure you’re within range, you can check on Seatguru for the width of your seat.  If the car seat width is 16″ and under it can usually fit easily.

family with strolleratairport

Gate Check Your Gear

If you are taking a short flight and still plan to hold your baby during the duration of the flight, you should plan to use the gate check option for your car seat and your stroller rather than the baggage check.

Accessories May Help

The idea of carrying the car seat through security and the airport is overwhelming, but there are many products on the market that make this process easier. For example, you can purchase a travelmate stroller or a car seat backpack carrier.

It is easy to get antsy when you are trying to install a car seat on an airplane. The environment may make you feel rushed – don’t be. Instead, be patient and take your time installing the car seat correctly.  Remember that you have the right to install it.

Look For A Travel System

If you’re a digital nomad family often on the go, look for a travel system like the Mountain Buggy Nano that offers a lightweight car seat and stroller pair.

Even if you don’t buy travel systems, check if the stroller offers car seat adapters, which can usually accept most major car seat brands.

Bring An Ultralight or Umbrella Stroller

Umbrella strollers are a breeze to pack up and travel with.  For the ultimate compact umbrella stroller, try the Pockit Lightweight stroller, which is supposedly the world’s smallest folding stroller.  It folds (with 2 hands) down to 11.8″x7″x13.8″, small enough to fit into your diaper bag, weighing just 9.5 pounds.  Older kids may even be able to nap in this.

If you’re looking for slightly more functionality, there are increasingly more stroller options that offer deeper seat recline for napping kids but are light and compact enough to travel with.  Some of them even fit in overhead compartments, like the

Alternatives To A Car Seat

If you decide a car seat is just too bulky, but you want your child safely secured for the flight, you can purchase a CARES harness. You may also consider renting a car seat.

Older kids (over 4) can take advantage of the Mifold grab and go booster, which adjust the seat belt to make it safer for small children.  Keep in mind this is not an actual booster seat.


Most people are understanding of parents traveling with little ones – they know it is challenging. And, airports do too. That’s why airlines do not charge you for checking car seats and strollers. Breathe easy and have a great flight!

What are your best tips for flying with a family?



2 thoughts on “Expert Tips For Flying With Car Seats And Strollers  ”

    1. Great million dollar question! I’ve found that sometimes when there’s an angry and annoyed child, there’s also another issue going on aside from what they’re protesting against- perhaps the baby is hungry or excessively tired.
      But sometimes that problem can’t be solved immediately, and you have to buckle the child in. So the short term solution would be (and this may change depending upon the child’s age):
      1)Distraction distraction distraction – infants find white noise calming, and sometimes I’ve turned on a white noise app or a crackling AM station in the car. Older kids you might be able to occupy with some music or interactive quiet book, toy
      2)Offer 2 choices – Would you like to sit in the carseat with elmo, or with big bird? (or whatever toy they like) This gives them a little “control” in the situation and sometimes calms them
      3)Show your own enthusiasm about being buckled in – “look mommy/daddy wear seat belts”, yay! “let’s see who can stay buckled in the longest!” If they’re a bit older you might be creative enough to make a game out of it.
      4)”Peer modeling” -Find a video of your kid’s favorite character wearing a seatbelt or in a car seat, or show them another calmer kid (maybe someone they look up to)

      For the longer term, I would start by: 1)Acknowledging their pain – you can actually start this when the baby is an infant, but look them in the eye and label their frustration for them. “I understand you’re feeling frustrated about staying in a car seat, but it’s so that you don’t fly out of the car! If you fly out of the car you could get hurt, owie ! “ It won’t work the first time or maybe even the first 100x, but slowly they’ll get it and you can explain to them when they’re calm also. Even little people like to feel heard!

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