When you are traveling with a baby or young children then chances are that you are going to have to bring the child’s car seat with you.
Firstly, it is against the law to drive with children in the car without a car seat and it isn’t safe for your kiddies either. Also, renting a car seat along with a car rental is way more expensive than bringing your own car seat with you.
But, do you know how to pack a car seat for checked baggage and the rules around it? So you don’t get caught out at the airport, I’ll run through everything you need to know about packing a car seat for checked baggage, let’s dive in.
You will be glad to hear that every US airline lets you check in a child car seat free of charge. It is not counted as part of your checked baggage allowance either.
Car seats are considered an essential baby/child item, and all things that fall under this bracket are free to check in, like a stroller.
If you are not traveling with a US airline, then it might be a good idea to check with that specific airline’s rules around checking in a car seat. Most of them will let you do it for free, but others may not.
Here are a few tips on how to pack a car seat for checked baggage so that you have the smoothest experience possible at the airport.
Before you do anything make sure you have read and understand the rules about checking in a car seat with the particular airline you are traveling with.
Is it free to check in car seats? Is there a maximum size? Does it need to be in a car seat travel bag? Does the type of car seat matter?
By knowing the rules, you can arrive and have a smooth check-in process and avoid any fees that you were not expecting for your car seat.
The last thing you want to do is bring a heavy and expensive car seat onto a plane. Firstly, carrying around a heavy car seat along with all your family’s baggage, and with kids in tow is not going to be a very peaceful experience.
Secondly, it is possible for your car seat to be lost or damaged on the flight, and it is much better to lose a cheap car seat than an expensive one.
Look for an affordable, compact, lightweight car seat that you can use for travel and leave your expensive car seat at home like these ones.
A great way to pack a car seat for checked baggage is in the original box it came in. This should provide your car seat with enough protection to get it to your final destination. You can also add some extra padding to the box too to ensure your car seat arrives safely.
If you don’t have your original box then you can buy a car seat bag. Car seat bags for travel either come with wheels or backpack straps which makes it a lot easier to get your car seat to the check-in desk.
You should also opt for a car seat bag that has good padding. Baggage handlers can be tough on a checked bag and you want to ensure no structural damage when you collect your car seat at baggage claim.
Another option is to put your car seat in a large duffel bag and then pad it out with some belongings for extra protection.
One benefit of checking in car seats is that you get some extra packing space for free, and as I mentioned above, you can pack clothes around your car seat for extra protection.
Make sure to take advantage of the extra space and put some of your kids’ items in there.
Yes, it is generally safe to put your car seat into checked baggage when you fly. But, as with all checked baggage, there are some risks.
Checked baggage can get lost en route to the destination and it can get damaged when moved around by baggage handlers.
Make sure you pack your car seat in a bag/box with enough padding to protect it, as I mentioned in the tips above.
Also, make sure the airline places a luggage tag on your car seat so that it doesn’t get lost. Keep your copy of the luggage tags so that you can track it if it doesn’t show up with the other checked bags at the baggage carousel.
You do not have to arrive at baggage check with your car seat packed in a bag. The airline will usually give you heavy-duty plastic bags to put your car seat in.
However, the plastic bag will only keep the car seat protected from surface damage, not structural damage.
If you want to protect your car seat more, you can often buy a car seat bag in the luggage store at the airport.
Yes, a car seat can be used on board an airplane but not every type of car seat is allowed to be used on an airplane,
If you have an FAA-approved car seat then your child will be allowed to use it on the airplane. Usually, a car seat that is FAA-approved will have an FAA-approved sticker on the side of it.
If your car seat is FAA-approved but does not have the sticker, make sure you bring proof from the manufacturer to show the flight attendants that this is the case.
Flight attendants can’t allow the use of car seats that are not FAA-approved as it is a big safety breach, so don’t even try to talk your way around it.
You can, however, bring any car seat on the plane if you want to, even if it is not FAA-approved, so long as it fits in the overhead compartment. You just can’t use it on the plane unless it is FAA approved.
Yes, if your car seat will fit in the overhead compartment, you are welcome to put it in there on the flight.
If your car seat is too big to fit in the overhead compartment, you will be asked to gate-check your car seat. This means your car seat will be taken at the gate and placed in the hold under the aircraft.
If you are not prepared for this, your car seat can get rather dirty and even damaged. Be sure you have a car seat that fits in the overhead or is FAA-approved to avoid the gate agent checking your car seat into the hold.
There is no worse feeling than a checked bag not showing up at your final destination or having your things damaged along the way.
If you are unlucky and your car seat arrives damaged or doesn’t arrive at all, do not leave the airport before going to the airline’s counter at baggage claim.
At the counter, you can make a claim for the damage to your car seat and request compensation. You might not get much, but something is better than nothing, you will also have a claim number to use with insurance if you have it.
If your car seat is lost, the airline will give you a case number and it is through this that you can track its whereabouts and arrange for it to be delivered to you.
You are perfectly within your rights to gate-check your car seat if you would like to, but is it a better idea?
When you gate-check your car seat, it goes straight from the gate to the plane avoiding the longer journey checked baggage takes. This means it will have fewer chances to get dirty, damaged, or lost at the departure airport.
But, it will still arrive at baggage claim at your arrival airport, so dirt and damage are still a possibility.
Overall, gate-checking your car seat is a better idea in my eyes but you will have to carry it through security and around the airport until the gate is open. Just make sure it gets a luggage tag!
The best option in my eyes is to own an FAA-approved car seat that fits in the overhead as the safest way to transport a car seat is as carry-on baggage.
Roger is a little obsessed with travel. He has been to over 40 countries, broken 3 suitcases and owned over 10 backpacks in 12 months. What he doesn't know about travel, ain't worth knowing!