How To Fly With a Car Seat – The Ultimate Guide in 2023

Understanding how to fly with a car seat can make your air travel experience smoother and more comfortable. In this blog post, we will delve into all the intricacies of choosing the right car seat for airplane traveling, checking airline policies regarding child safety seats, and preparing your car seat for air travel.

We’ll also discuss whether you should buy an additional ticket for your child or opt for the lap child option. Further topics include packing your car seat efficiently for air travel, check-in procedures at the airport, carrying it on-board as a carry-on item if allowed by airlines’ policies.

baby in car seat on airplane, how to fly with a car seat

You’ll learn about transporting your infant’s rear-facing or convertible seat through airport security without hassles. We’ll cover waiting at the gate with a toddler in tow and finally installing their forward- or rear-facing car seat securely in an airplane seat. By understanding how to fly with a car seat properly can significantly enhance yours and your little one’s comfort during flight journeys. Let’s jump right in!

Choosing the Right Car Seat for Air Travel

FAA image

Flying with a car seat doesn’t have to be scary. First, aim to pick an FAA-approved car seat suitable for flying. This ensures your child’s safety and makes installation easier onboard.

The FAA provides guidelines on approved air travel car seats. Check if your existing one meets these standards or buy a travel car seat specifically designed for flying.

Consider the car seat’s weight and size. You’ll need to transport it through airports, so something lightweight and compact might make your journey less stressful. Some airlines may have specific restrictions on the dimensions of in-flight child restraint systems (CRS, AKA car seats).

image of 2 car seats on the ground

Other features worth considering when searching for the best car seat include ease of installation, comfort levels for your little traveler, and how easy it is to clean – because spills happen.

To make an informed decision, read product reviews for car seats from other traveling parents or consult resources like Car Seats For The Littles.


Choosing the right travel car seat keeps your precious cargo safe and contributes significantly to stress-free travels. That is step one in getting familiar with how to fly with a car seat.

Checking Airline Policies

Before you fly, know your airline’s rules for car seats. Different airlines have different regulations that could affect how you travel with your infant seat. Check their website or FAA’s guide for flying with children.

Some airlines may allow you to use a car seat in any cabin class, while others might restrict them to certain sections of the plane. Also, some airlines offer discounted fares for children using a car seat so this is worth looking into when considering airlines.

young child in carseat in business class of airplane

Contacting Customer Service

If you have any queries, it is best to contact customer service for tailored instructions and answers related to traveling with a small child and car seat. They can provide detailed instructions tailored specifically for their airline and answer any questions related to traveling with a small child and a car seat.

When to Contact Them?

Reach out at least 48 hours before your flight. This gives ample time for any necessary adjustments if needed. Remember: preparation is key when flying with young ones.

Helpful Tips:

  • Have your flight details ready when contacting customer service.

  • Note down all important points during the conversation for reference later on.

  • For more information, check out FAA’s guide for flying with children.

Preparing Your Car Seat for Air Travel

When it comes to flying with your little one, preparing the car seat properly is crucial. Not only does this ensure their safety during the flight, but it also helps you avoid any potential hassles at the airport.

The first step in preparing your car seat for the flight is checking FAA regulations. Make sure that your car seat is FAA-approved and suitable for use on an airplane. You can usually find this information on a sticker or label located somewhere on the car seat itself.

Child restraint system certification

Once you’ve confirmed that your car seat meets airline requirements, it’s time to install it correctly. This involves securing all straps and buckles as per manufacturer instructions so that they don’t become loose during transit.

In addition to installing your car seat correctly, labeling it appropriately is another key preparation step. This not only makes identification easier when retrieving checked-in items but also provides useful information should there be any issues with handling by airline staff. Include details such as:

  • Your full name

  • Your contact number

  • Your address

  • Airline and flight number

Remember, each airline may have its own specific guidelines regarding traveling with a child’s car seat so always check these beforehand. Finally, if you’re unsure about anything related to preparing or using car seats onboard an aircraft – never hesitate to ask. Flight staff are present to guarantee your and your little one’s trip is secure.

Buying a Ticket for Your Child or Using Lap Child Option

Traveling with kids? Buy an extra seat or use the lap child option? Tough decision. Let’s compare.

Purchasing a separate ticket:

  • Safety: The FAA recommends securing your child in an FAA-approved car seat for added safety during turbulence or unexpected situations.

  • Comfort: Kids love their own space. It can help them feel more relaxed during the flight, leading to a smoother journey for everyone.

Lap child option:

  • Economical: Save money on airfare costs by not purchasing an additional ticket. Not all carriers, however, provide free lap child service for those over two.

  • Familiarity: Holding your baby close can provide comfort due to its familiarity. However, consider if it would be comfortable enough throughout long flights too. The CDC advises considering how well your toddler adapts before making such decision.

mother and young child on airplane reading book together

In conclusion, both options have benefits and drawbacks depending on individual circumstances like budget constraints or length of flight among others. Prioritize safety above all else when flying with kids.

Packing Your Car Seat for Your Flight

Preparing your car seat for flying can be made easier with the right tips and tools. Here are some tips to keep your car seat safe and secure:

Invest in a Protective Bag or Box

Shield your car seat from damage during transit by using a specialized bag or box. These come in various sizes and materials, so choose one that fits your car seat model.

display of car seat protective bag

Bubble Wrap or Blankets

If you don’t want to splurge on a protective bag, use bubble wrap or thick blankets as padding around the car seat. Secure the padding with strong tape to keep it in place throughout the journey.

Proper Packaging Options

  • Dedicated Car Seat Bags: These bags provide maximum protection for your car seats while traveling.

  • Bubble Wrap: Affordable and provides good cushioning against bumps and knocks.

  • Padded Blankets: Budget-friendly option; just ensure they’re secured tightly around the car seat with tape or straps.

Remember, protecting the integrity of the car seat is crucial for its effectiveness during use onboard an aircraft. Happy travels.

Checking in Your Car Seat

Checking a Car Seat: Is it Possible?

Absolutely, the majority of airlines permit passengers to check a car seat, saving you the trouble of carrying it with you on the plane. Furthermore, car seats usually aren’t considered as part of your luggage quota, meaning you can check them without incurring any additional fees!

The same applies to booster seats. Despite not being suitable for in-flight use, booster seats are generally regarded as checked baggage and are accepted free of charge. Once you’ve landed, you can simply collect your car seat or booster seat from the baggage claim area along with your other belongings.

Baggage handling with car seats can be tricky, especially when considering the check-in process. You have two options: gate-checking or ticket counter checking. Both have their pros and cons.


Bringing your car seat up to the boarding gate allows you to hand it directly to airline staff who will safely stow it during the flight and return it to you at the aircraft door upon arrival. This method minimizes handling and potential damage to your car seat. The FAA endorses this option as it offers parents more control over their child’s safety equipment. Keep in mind that gate-checking requires you to navigate through the airport with your car seat until you board the plane, so make sure you’re comfortable handling it for that period.

Ticket Counter Checking:

Checking in your car seat along with other luggage at the airline’s ticket counter may seem convenient. However, bear in mind that checked items undergo rough handling which could lead to unseen damages to your infant seat. Additionally, unlike gate-checking, you lose sight of your car seat earlier, so if there are any issues, you’ll only discover them after reaching your destination.

mother and son checking in at the ticket counter of airline

In either case, labeling your car seat correctly with your name, address, contact number, and flight information on sturdy tags is crucial for easy identification and recovery if it gets misplaced. This is a small step that can make a big difference in case of confusion or mishaps.

Car Seat as a Carry-On

Want to bring your child’s car seat on the plane? Double check with your airline first – not all allow it. And make sure it’s FAA certified for flying to proactively avoid any potential issues. Size matters too – it needs to fit within the specific airline’s carry-on limits.

Can you handle lugging it through the airport and onto the plane? If not, consider checking it instead. If you need help with the setup, it’s best to consult the experts – namely, the flight attendants.

Transporting Your Car Seat Through Airport Security

Navigating airport security with a car seat can be challenging, but with the right preparation and knowledge, it’s definitely manageable. Remember to bring your child’s ticket or boarding pass along with your own documents.

TSA security area with prepared staff

Screening Your Car Seat

TSA guidelines state that car seats must go through the X-ray machine. If it doesn’t fit, TSA officers will perform a visual and physical inspection of it. Although not so common, you might be asked about the car seat’s features or functionality, so being well-acquainted with your child restraint system can help.

Some larger or complex car seats may need to be disassembled for the screening process, so knowing how to quickly take apart and reassemble your baby’s car seat can be very helpful.

Top Tips for a Smooth Experience

  • Pack Light: Don’t attach anything extra to your car seat to avoid removal during security checks.

  • Cleanliness: Ensure the car seat is clean to avoid triggering alarms in sensitive equipment.

  • TSA PreCheck: Enroll in programs like TSA PreCheck, if eligible, for expedited screening at select airports.

Ask for Assistance

If you have any doubts or concerns about transporting your car seat through airport security, don’t hesitate to ask for assistance from TSA officers. They are there to help ensure safety while making the process as smooth as possible for travelers. Remember to allow plenty of time for unexpected delays.

Avoid Potential Issues During Security Screenings

Become familiar with all parts of your car seat before travel day, including how to disassemble and reassemble quickly if required by TSA agents. A little practice at home can make this process smoother and faster at the airport.

Waiting at the Gate

Navigating an airport with a small child and their infant seat can be tricky, but we’ve got your back.

Keep Your Car Seat in Sight

Try to keep your car seat within sight while waiting at the gate. The last thing you want is lose track of it in the hustle and bustle of the airport just before the flight begins boarding.

Take Advantage of Pre-Boarding

nearly empty airplane interior image

Airlines often offer pre-boarding for families traveling with young children or those who need extra assistance. Take advantage of this perk if available as it gives you additional time to install the car seat without feeling rushed by other passengers boarding behind you.

It can sometimes get stressful standing at your own seat preparing the car seat and all of a sudden the entire flight of passengers start boarding and rush to try to place their items in an overhead bin. This is especially true if it is a single aisle plane as some of your fellow passengers are not always the most polite (to put it nicely).

Ask for Empty Seats

If pre-boarding isn’t offered or doesn’t suit your needs, consider asking if any empty seats are available on the plane where you could potentially use your own FAA-approved safety device instead of relying on lap-held infant belts provided by airlines.

Ask for Help

If you get confused about installing the seat onboard the aircraft or have any other concerns related to flying with a child’s safety device like a car seat, don’t hesitate to ask for help from flight attendants. They’re trained professionals equipped with knowledge, and typically experience as well, about such situations.

Installing the Car Seat on an Airplane

First, as previously discussed, make sure your car seat is FAA-approved for flight. Look for a label that says “This restraint is certified for use in motor vehicles and aircraft”. Inquire with a flight attendant if you are uncertain.

Installing the Car Seat in the Airplane Seat

Flying with children means extra planning and preparation, but it’s all worth it to keep your little ones safe. Here are simple steps to install your car seat in the airplane seat:

  1. Before boarding, check with the gate agent if you have a window seat. Installing car seats in aisle seat or middle seats is often not allowed for safety reasons. They are also not allowed in emergency exit rows, so a window seat is ideal.

  2. Once on the plane, place the car seat rear facing in the airplane seat (unless your child is over the weight limit for rear facing or you have a forward-facing car seat).

  3. Thread the airplane seatbelt through the appropriate belt path on your car seat.

  4. Buckle the seatbelt and pull it tight. Your car seat should not move more than an inch side-to-side or front-to-back.

  5. Adjust the car seat harness to fit your child securely.

For forward-facing car seats, confirm the manual instructions for best fit in a commercial plane; if needed, request assistance from an attendant. But always check your own car seat manual to be sure. If you’re having trouble, ask a flight attendant for help. They’re trained to know about child restraints on planes and are happy to assist.

mother and son drawing together on airplane

Child’s Comfort and Safety During the Flight

Ensuring your child’s comfort during the flight can make the journey more pleasant for everyone. Bring along your child’s favorite lightweight car seat blanket or toys to help them feel at ease. Consider using a convertible car seat or a combination car seat that can adjust as your child grows, ensuring a snug fit each time.

In case of turbulence, the FAA-approved car seat will provide extra protection. But remember, even the best car seats can’t soothe a scared child, so reassure them with your calm voice and presence.

Handling Layovers

Layovers can be tricky, especially with car seats and little ones in tow. If your child has their own seat on the next flight, consider using a travel car seat or a lightweight car seat for easier transport.

During the layover, keep your baby’s car seat with you. Most airlines allow gate checking of car seats, meaning you can use them while waiting for the next flight. If you have two car seats, make sure to have a plan for carrying them between gates. Ask a gate agent for assistance if needed.

Disassembling the Car Seat After Landing

Once you’ve landed, here are the steps to disassemble the car seat:

  1. Unbuckle the airplane seatbelt threaded through your car seat.

  2. Gradually loosen the seatbelt until you can easily unthread it from the car seat.

  3. Remove your child from the car seat harness, ensuring they remain seated until the seatbelt sign is off.

  4. Store any detachable parts of the car seat in your carry-on bag to avoid misplacement.

Always remember to be patient. Disassembling the car seat in a rush might lead to missed steps or forgotten items.

Claiming the Car Seat at Baggage

baggage claim area empty

If you’ve checked your car seat at the ticket counter or the gate, you’ll pick it up at the designated baggage claim area. This process is similar to collecting regular luggage, but be sure to double check for any potential damage before leaving. If you notice anything amiss with your infant car seat, booster seat, or other child restraint system, take some photos and report it immediately to the airline. Remember, it’s about ensuring your child’s safety, even beyond the flight.

Using Car Seats in Rental Cars or Taxis/Uber

Using car seats in rental motor vehicles or paid transportation services may seem challenging, but it’s quite manageable with a bit of knowledge and practice. Familiarize yourself with the installation process of your specific car seat model, as not all car seats install the same way.

For example, some car seats are installed with a seatbelt, while others require a LATCH system. Knowing the correct way to install your car seat makes it easier when you’re using different motor vehicles vehicles like taxis or rental cars.

Always double-check the safety standards of rental vehicles. Ensure the seatbelts work properly and that there is a secure and suitable place to install your car seat. Don’t hesitate to ask rental car staff or the taxi driver for help if needed. The safety of your little ones is a shared responsibility on the road.

Additional Tips and Tricks for Traveling with a Car Seat

Traveling with Multiple Children

Juggling multiple car seats can be a daunting task, especially when you’re managing it single-handedly. One strategy is to invest in travel-friendly car seats for older children that are lightweight and easy to carry. Car seat travel carts can also be helpful in navigating airports with multiple car seats.

family at airport in front of glass window

When it comes to the airplane seating arrangement, try to reserve adjacent seats. Having all your children in the same row allows you to assist them easily. If possible, reserve an entire row to avoid disturbing other passengers and ensure your family’s comfort.

Dealing with Jet Lag and Sleep Schedules

Jet lag can be tough on little ones. To help, try gradually adjusting your child’s sleep schedule a few days before the flight to match the time zone of your destination. Also, maintaining your child’s bedtime routine during the flight can provide a sense of familiarity and aid sleep.

While ensuring your child’s comfort during different time zones, remember the importance of safety. Always use the car seat, whether it’s a rear-facing car seat for infants or a forward-facing seat for older children, to provide a safe spot for sleeping during the flight.

Overcoming Common Challenges

Problems may arise while flying with a car seat, but a prepared parent can handle them. If your child is uncomfortable in the car seat, bring familiar items like a favorite blanket or toy for comfort. If your car seat does not fit in the airplane seat, immediately inform the flight attendant and ask for a suitable solution. Remember to stay calm and patient – it’s okay to ask for help when needed.

Investing in Car Seat Travel Accessories

Travel accessories can make the journey with a car seat smoother. Car seat travel bags protect your expensive car seat from dirt and damage during transport, while car seat travel carts allow for hands-free transport through the airport. For older children, inflatable seat belt adjusters can provide added comfort during the flight. These are just a few examples – do some research and find what best suits your needs. Remember, the goal is a safe and comfortable travel experience for your little one.


Traveling with a car seat involves a bit more planning and preparation, but the benefits of child safety and convenience make it all worth it. Whether you’re using an infant car seat, a convertible car seat, or a booster seat, the key is to ensure it’s FAA-approved, properly installed, and appropriate for your child’s height and weight.

We’ve provided comprehensive guidance from pre-flight preparation to in-flight installation, handling layovers, and even tips for using your car seat in rental cars or taxis. Remember, travel accessories can also make your journey smoother. As a parent, your calm and prepared demeanor can make a huge difference in your child’s travel experience. Here’s to a safe and stress-free travel experience!

FAQ Section

Apologies in advance that many of the answers direct you to the specific airline’s policies. This is because there are so many different airlines and it would be an extremely long article if we tried to include all of them. Here are some of the most commonly asked questions about flying with a car seat:

What if my car seat doesn’t fit?

  • If your car seat doesn’t fit in the airplane seat, immediately inform the flight attendant and ask for an alternative solution such as switching to a seat with more space.

Can I use my car seat rear facing?

  • Yes, you can use your car seat rear facing as long as your child meets the weight limits specified by the car seat manufacturer. However, you should also check airline policies on rear facing seats as they may vary.

What seats on the plane are car seats allowed?

  • Car seats are typically allowed in window seats, and generally this is the preferred location, to not block the exit row for other passengers. Some airlines also allow car seats in middle seats if the adjacent window seat is empty, but each airline is different so be sure to check your airline’s rules. Car seats are not allowed in emergency exit rows (or any exit row).

  • Car seats are not usually allowed in the aisle seat as they block the path of fellow passengers, leaving the middle seat as a better option, and window seats as the ideal choice. If your ticket is for the middle seat and there is an empty seat at the window, it may be possible to swap to that empty seat. However, always check with the flight staff before making a change.

Can I use a booster seat on the plane?

  • Booster seats are not approved by the FAA for use during takeoff, landing, or turbulence as they require a shoulder belt, which airplane seats don’t have.

What if a crew member tells me I cannot use a car seat or sets it up incorrectly?

  • Always be prepared with the car seat’s documentation showing it is FAA-approved and the appropriate instructions for installation. If disagreements persist, kindly request to speak with a senior crew member or a customer service representative. Always remain calm as people make mistakes and its possible the crew member is not fully aware of the policy details.

Are we allowed to install two car seats in one row (window and middle seat)?

  • This largely depends on the airline’s policy as each airline is different. It is best to check with the airline beforehand on their car seat use policies.

Do I need to bring the car seat base on the airplane?

  • It’s not always necessary to bring the car seat base on the airplane. You can use the airline’s seat seatbelt to strap in the car seat if necessary. Simply put the airplane or car seatbelt thru the standard belt path, buckle, and tighten it appropriately.

Is an FAA-approved car seat required for flying?

  • If you plan to use a car seat during the flight, it should be FAA-approved, however as of 2023 the Federal Aviation Administration does not require it. Here is what they say: “The FAA strongly urges you to secure your child in an approved CRS or other approved device for the entirety of your flight.

  • Buying a ticket for your child is the only way to guarantee that you will be able to use a CRS.” However, using an approved car seat ensures that it meets safety standards and fits airplane seats.

Can I use car seats in business or first class?

  • Policies vary among airlines. Some airlines may not permit car seats in business or first class due to the design of the seats. Always check with the airline in advance about their car seat use policies.

Do airlines offer discounts for a child’s seat?

  • Some airlines offer discounted fares for children under a certain age, but policies vary. It’s best to check directly with the airline.

Is gate checking a car seat safe?

  • Gate checking reduces the risk of damage compared to checked baggage, but there are still risks. Consider using a protective bag if gate checking your car seat for airplane travel.

What if I need to use the restroom during the flight and I’m alone with my child in a car seat?

  • Flight attendants can’t look after your child, but they can assist you. They can ensure your young child is safe in their seat while you quickly use the restroom.

Should I buy a new car seat at my destination instead of flying with one?

  • This decision depends on your specific circumstances. Consider factors like the duration of your stay, car seat prices at your destination, and the convenience of having your own car seat.

Can You Bring a Car Seat on a Plane?

  • Yes, the vast majority of airlines allow parents to fly with their child’s car seat, but always double check with the specific airline.

Do You Need a Car Seat on an Airplane?

  • If your child is under 2 years old and will be sitting in their own paid-for-seat, then bringing a car seat is highly recommended for safety reasons.

Do You Have to Take Baby Out of Car Seat for TSA?

  • TSA guidelines require babies to be taken out of their carrier during security screening while the carrier goes through X-ray inspection, but the infant car seat can stay intact.

For more information on flying with a car seat, check out the FAA’s guidelines. Safe travels!

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