A friend and fellow parent asked me this week advice about taking her 3-year-old son’s car seat on the plane. Her main question: Is it worth the hassle? My response: It depends on whom you ask. And on your kid.
The “whom you ask” part is pretty straightforward.
In a kick-ass Q&A with Parenting.com, Dr. Alicia Baer, a pediatrician in the NICU at Columbia University Children’s Hospital in New York and certified instructor for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s car seat course, said that when a child is riding in a moving vehicle, it’s always safest to have him or her strapped into a special seat.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) echoes these sentiments, stating pretty clearly on its website that car seats (or at least devices with child-restraint systems) are a good idea, and that parents should use them whenever possible.
Still, despite their obvious safety benefits, in certain cases, car seats on a flight actually might make your life more challenging.
Which brings me to my second point: It depends on your kid.
If your son or daughter is great at a) listening, b) sitting still and c) generally being calm upon request, having him or her strapped into a car seat for the duration of an airplane flight might be a very realistic goal.
But if your child is like my girls, if he or she needs to be free to do whatever it is these kids like to do over long periods of time, outside of take-off and landing (when the kids are required to be strapped in anyway) the car seat is the modern-day equivalent of a torture device—for them, for you and for all of the passengers around you.
(As we all know, other passengers don’t need more reasons to hate family travelers.)
On plane trips with the Villano family, it’s actually easier for us to bring car seats and check them than it is to bring them, schlep them on the plane, strap them in and fight the girls to stay put.
No, our strategy probably wouldn’t be Dr. Baer’s first choice. But we keep the girls safe. And it works. Whether the same approach will work for you depends on your children—and, of course, on whom else you ask.
What’s your take on this issue? When you fly with your young kids, do you bring their car seats on board or check them through to your destination? Why? Leave a comment and let me know.