Friday, 8 March 2013

Flying and car seats: what you need to know

Travelling with an infant can be overwhelming for the parent that needs to meet all of their child's health and safety needs both on the go, and in a foreign place. There are so many aspects to your new child's care, and it can be daunting trying to identify and plan for these in advance. One such area that new parents often wonder about is what to do about car seats when they are travelling via plane. Of course when you are driving to your destination, this is not an issue: the car seat makes the journey with you. But what do you do when you're flying? If you are visiting a friend or relative who already has a current, unexpired car seat that has not been involved in a collision, and that is not being used by another child at the time of your visit, you may be in luck. However, these instances are rare, and don't prepare parents for those trips where no such arrangement is possible.

If you have ever traveled by plane, it is unlikely that you have not seen new parents traveling with their infants. Looking back at such instances, you'll probably recall that the child spent the flight on their parent's lap. Most airlines allow this arrangement for children up to two years of age. In such cases, where the child does not have their own seat, the prudent thing to do is to bring your car seat with you. In all likelihood, your carrier will offer free check-in for such an item, so it will not be subject to baggage fees. This will ensure that you have a car seat which you know, first-hand, to be safe and suitable for your child. Some travelers worry about the chance of such an item being lost if checked with baggage. This would certainly leave you in a bind when you get to your destination. To prevent this, take advantage of the option that airlines offer to check the car seat at the gate. This will save you the anxiety of going to search for it at the baggage claim; once you disembark the plane, simply wait in the corridor, and gate-checked items will be brought out to you.

However, despite that this is the most common arrangement that parents make for traveling with an infant, it is actually not the safest. The reason it is the most popular is because it is the most economical. But the safest way to travel with your child and their car seat is to purchase a seat for your child, and to install the seat directly on the flight so that your child is well protected for the entire duration of the journey. The biggest advantage to traveling this way is that in the event of extreme turbulence, when the parent carrying their child may not be able to prevent injury to the baby, the seat will give far more protection to your child than you possibly could on your lap. Additionally, we know that baggage isn't necessarily treated with the utmost caution and delicacy; we've seen bags that have started the journey looking new, and finished it looking beat up. This unnecessary wear and tear is not something you want to expose your child's car seat to if you can help it. Of course, the major disadvantage to this alternative is the cost of purchasing a seat for your child. However, several airlines offer discounted fares for infants. Talk to the airline you intend to travel with to learn their policy on the matter. You will find that, if you can manage it, flying with your child in a car seat will be both safer and more enjoyable for all involved.