Car Seat Tips: Taking a Car Seat on an Airplane

Tips for using a car seat on an airplaneThe holidays are upon us, and with Thanksgiving here this week, we know a lot of you will be on the road (or in the sky). Whether you’re taking a plane, train or automobile, there are always some steps you can take to make sure your little one is safely taking the journey with you.

If you’re flying, here are a few tips on how to more easily take your car seat along:

- It is highly recommended that all passengers should be buckled into their own seat for safety – regardless of age – just like riding in a car.

- Before you go, confirm that your car seat is approved to fly. You can find a note that says “certified for aircraft use” (FAA Approved) directly on most car seats if they are approved, or in your instruction manual.

- Keep in mind, some convertible car seats (depending on size) and all belt-positioning booster seats are NOT approved for airplane use.

- Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using a car seat. The FAA recommends that a child weighing:
- Less than 20 pounds use a rear-facing car seat
- From 20 to 40 pounds use a forward-facing car seat
- More than 40 pounds use an airplane seat belt

- Next, confirm your car seat will fit on the plane. Measure the car seat base and length to ensure it will fit in aircraft rows and seat. Contact airlines about specific aircraft or use for dimensions. According to the FAA, a car seat should fit in most airplane seats if it is no wider than 16 inches.

- Reserve the window seat for your car seat. Avoid Exit Rows and the row in front of, or behind the Exit Row (where car seats are not allowed).

- Use your stroller or a car seat transporter to help you more easily carry the car seat through the airport.

- Strategize in advance on how to carry all of your belongings, your car seat, and your child from the jet way to the airplane seat after gate-checking your stroller. It might not seem like a long distance, but it can still cause a challenge! (Backpacks, quality-versus quantity packing, delegating, etc. can help).

- Board early when possible to install your car seat and get the family situated before the chaos of general boarding.

- Consider other passengers. Offer empathy and kindness (earplugs and chocolate?) for passenger unable to recline the seat ahead of yours because of the car seat position.

- Take-off, landing, and turbulence are not safe times to breastfeed. Use a bottle to help with ear pressure and keep your infant safely restrained in their car seat whenever possible.

- Give kids a break from the car seat while you’re in the airport. Allow them to stretch, walk, or be held before boarding the flight so they aren’t as anxious to get out of the seat once they are on the plane.

If you’re looking for additional information on how to travel with a car seat, check out the following sites:
- Importance of buckling up infants:
- Considerations for flying with car seat:
- FAA sticker:
- Window seat:
- Empathy & chocolate for others:

Happy Thanksgiving and safest travels to you!

Thanks to Travel Comfort Specialist, Anya Clowers, RN, from for this post!

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3 Responses to “Car Seat Tips: Taking a Car Seat on an Airplane”

  1. Katherine Hutka July 8, 2011 at 4:32 pm #

    Love this post – everything about it was great.

    The only thing I would add is that if your convertible car seat still fits rear facing on the plane – do it. This is a personal preference after flying with my 2 year old forward facing 6 hours across the Atlantic at bedtime – not because of the usual safety concerns with rear vs. forward facing – but because of your convenience.

    #1 The only seat they can kick is their own.
    #2 When they drop toys, they will fall into their lap rather than disappear forever on the too narrow floor
    #3 Almost all car seats make it impossible for them to use the meal tray anyway – this way they won’t kick their meal off onto the floor.
    #4 They can look at you directly the whole trip, rather than you craning around to talk to them face to face.
    #5 Most seats don’t have much of a recline forward facing – I wonder if my child would have slept more than 45 mins on a 6 hour flight in a reclined seat.

    The only drawback to facing the back might have been the movie – but it was an adult romantic comedy and he wasn’t interested anyway.

    Again, great post – just wanted to add some perspective on the convenience of flying rear facing.

    Katherine Hutka
    Atlantic Car Seat Safety

  2. Kelly, thanks for sharing such great tips with us. These are so helpful. Keep it up.

  3. bilbarnstol October 16, 2011 at 3:31 pm #

    I gonna go with my baby on a flight soon. This was a great article to read before I go. Thank you for this and keep up the good work with this blog.