How to Travel With A Car Seat Base
If you are flying with kids, you may opt to bring either your own car seat to use on the plane and/or to use at your destination. However, if depending on your car seat type, you may have to travel with a car seat base.
This post covers information on flying on a plane with a car seat & whether you can use your infant car seat base on an airplane and traveling with your car seat base to use at your destination.
Flying with a Car Seat
If you are flying with a car seat and intend to use it on the plane for your baby or toddler, then it must be airline approved and you must purchase a seat. If you are flying on a USA made car seat look for a sticker which says it is an FAA approved car seat for travel.
The highlighted link above delves a lot deeper into all the rules and the differences between using a car seat on an American based airline and on other airlines.
In a very brief summary (although I do recommend reading the other post in full, which also covers car seat suggestions), if you have an airline approved car seat AND are flying on a USA or Canadian airline, then the airline is required to find you a suitable seat for you to fit your car seat.
On other non-USA airlines, the rules vary greatly and airlines have a lot more say over which car seats are suitable for air travel on their particular plane.
In this case, some car seats may not be suitable for airplane use, even if they have the correct label. Always check your airlines website for further details, so there are no nasty surprises on board the plane.
The rules are very similar for airline approved car seats around the world. Stickers will look similar to those below in the image. The image includes an example of the EU approved car seats label, Australian car seat label, Canadian approved car seats and FAA approved car seat labels.
Be aware, that even if you can for example use your FAA approved car seat on a European airline, you will not be able to use your US made car seat in a car in the UK. I go into more detail about this below.
Flying With A Car Seat Base on A Plane
If you are traveling with your airline approved car seat, the instructions will tell you whether the base can also be used on the plane. Air travel with an infant car seat base can vary if you intend to use it on the flight.
Many car seats say the base is not suitable for airplane use, but as an example the Britax Emblem car seat base must be used as per the instructions.
Bases that require LATCH Anchors or ISOFIX as the only way to secure them are not currently approved for use on an airplane as there are no points for them to attach to.
The instructions will clearly say something along the lines of “for rear-facing aircraft installation, see “Rear-Facing Lap Belt Installation” on pages 12-13. For forward-facing installation, follow “Forward-Facing Lap Belt Installation” on page 18.”
If you can’t use your car seat base, but can use the main car seat on the flight, you have a couple of options for traveling with the base.
- You can either stow it on board the plane on an overhead locker.
- Gate check it
- or check it in with the rest of your luggage
If you are checking it into the hold, you may want to consider using a car seat bag to help protect it. There are several car seats bags on the market which are padded.
Using your Car Seat Abroad
Car seat rules abroad vary and it is worth investigating whether it is better to bring your own, hire one, or even buy one when overseas. Some car seats are not legal to use in other countries, so you do need to check the car seat rules for the country you are visiting.
For instance you cannot use a UK car seat in the USA as they do not meet FMVSS 213 requirements and you cannot use a USA car seat in the UK, as it must be a one clip release and be EU approved. (USA car seats usually have an additional chest clip.)
Even portable car seats like the Mifold travel Car seat have slight differences and the UK version cannot be used in the USA and vice versa.
The Mifold Grab And Go is a very light and compact travel car seat which works by adjusting the size of a normal seatbelt to make it fit a child.
It’s for children aged 4 and up and easily fits into a tote bag. It’s available to buy internationally and convenient for when you can’t use your normal booster seat. Neither version can be used in Australia
Below are some useful links to help you.
- Car seat law in the UK
- Car Seat law in the USA – these vary state by state
- Car Seat law in Canada – vary by territory
- Car Seat law in France
- Car Seat law in Spain
- Car Seat law in Australia
It is definitely worth checking the car seat law before you travel to a different country as it may make you decide to use a different child restraint device on a plane for you child. Other child seat restrain devices for airplane use include:
- An infant lap belt (provided on non USA/Non Canadian based airlines)
- An AMsafe CARES harness – this is for babies over 1 year old and must be purchased by you.