How to Fly With a Car Seat – Complete Guide

Welcome to the Ultimate Guide on How to Fly With a Car Seat!

Flying with a car seat can seem a bit scary, especially for first-time parents, so I compiled everything there is to know!


Flying on an airplane with a baby or a toddler is challenging.

For one, aside from the diaper bags and bottles, you have to consider bringing along the bigger necessities, like car seats and strollers, on the plane. For first-time parents, this is uncharted territory.

However, don’t let this make your flying experience any more stressful than it already is. The trick is to stay calm, be prepared, and ensure you have all the key information.

That’s where I’ve got you covered: from the costs—if there are any—to some of the handiest tips for flying with a car seat.

Okay, show it to me already!

How to Fly With a Car Seat

You might be surprised to know that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) strongly urges parents to bring car seats on airplanes for their babies and toddlers.

Usually, you aren’t required to bring a car seat to travel in airplane, but these child restraint systems (CRS) and devices help make the flight safer for your children.

So, first things first: check with your airline. Policies generally vary from airline to airline, so it’s best to call yours and ask about the allowed car seat sizes.

Once it gets through the airport and is approved for in-flight use, you just have to install it either front-facing or rear-facing. Most airlines have flight attendants available to help you with this.

In truth, the hard part isn’t installing the car seat into the plane seats when you’ve boarded. The real challenge lies in getting through the airport and checking it on a flight if you wish to.

Another option if you don’t want to bring a car seat is to rent one. Some airports and airlines offer rentals, but availability can still vary, which is why it’s still better to bring one yourself.

How to Check a Car Seat on a Flight

For those who don’t prefer traveling with a car seat on an airplane, you can choose to have it checked. However, note that the car seat is inaccessible during the flight if you choose to do this.

Checking a car seat on a plane is pretty simple and straightforward. There are two ways to do it: have it checked at the airport baggage counter or at your gate.

One of the biggest reasons people prefer not to have it checked despite the quick process is the risks. As with all checked baggage, your things can get damaged during handling or the flight itself.

Head to the next section to find out what steps you can take to protect your car seat on a plane.

How to Protect a Car Seat on a Plane

Another thing you have to think about is how to protect your car seat when flying. Don’t worry, I got you. Below are three ways to help keep your car seat free from possible damage so you can relax during your plane trip.

1.   Use a Car Seat Travel Bag

One of the best ways to protect a car seat on a plane is using a travel bag made especially for it. Most of these bags are padded to protect the essential shock-absorbing build of most car seats.

You can always improvise if you don’t have access to a car seat travel bag. Use a bag that fits the car seat and stuff the spaces with diapers, nappies, or even blankets to create padding.

Airlines sometimes provide plastic bags big enough for items like car seats, but they’re usually not strong enough to protect them from all possible damage. However, it does keep things more organized and in one place.

This is especially helpful if there are attachments to your car seats, like pacifiers or toys.

2.   Purchase Travel Insurance

As with any other baggage, purchasing travel insurance protects your items from any damages or loss. Travel insurance works by covering the costs if ever any untoward events happen.

Although this adds a few more dollars to your initial fare, I’d say it’s worth the investment because it can help reduce your stress levels during the flight. It also helps you stay reassured that damages can be reimbursed and you won’t have to fully suffer a loss on your own.

3.   Choose Window Seats

If you bring your car seat to the plane, consider choosing a window seat. Installing your car seat on a window seat for your child not only gives them a good view of the clouds and ensures that they and their car seat aren’t constantly getting bumped into.

This minimizes any scratches on the car seat and tantrums from your child as well!

Best Car Seat for Airplane

A few factors you want to look for in a car seat for airplanes are its compatibility with plane seats, weight, and ergonomic design. In addition, you want them to be convertible and portable.

I’ve rounded up a few crowd favorites to help you get an overview of what you should be looking for. Note that all car seats in this list are FAA-approved.

1.   Safety 1st Jive 2-in-1 Convertible Car Seat

This car seat checks all of the necessary boxes for a car seat fit for air travel. It has a slim design but can still support a decent weight.

In addition, it works for forward-facing and rear-facing setups. One small disadvantage is that it had to sacrifice some comfort to keep the car seat slim. Most parents suggest using a different car seat for home use.

2.   Cosco Scenera Next Harness Convertible Car Seat

The best thing about this option is that it’s one of the most budget-friendly options. However, it doesn’t diminish the fact that it still delivers on its promise of being a car seat that offers comfort and convertibility.

3.   Graco 4Ever DLX 4-in-1 Car Seat 4.9

Unlike the previous options, this car seat can support up to 120 pounds. However, it lies a bit more on the expensive side. If you’re looking for a car seat you can invest in to use for years, especially if you like to travel with your child, this one might be for you.

Flying With Car Seat and Stroller

Since car seats are relatively bulky, some parents opt for stroller frames that click onto the car seats for easier carrying. So, what’s the process of flying with these two items?

The good news is it’s virtually the same! You can have the stroller frame checked the same way as your car seat.

If you’re bringing your car seat onto the plane, you can leave the frame and choose to have it as checked baggage. Either way, it’s a relatively fast and easy task as long as everything is compliant with the airline’s policies.

Tips For Bringing Your Car Seat On a Plane

To help make your trip flow a bit easier, here are three tips and tricks for bringing your car seat through the airport and on the plane.

1.   Use a Stroller or a Car Seat Cart

Chances are, you’ll still have to carry your car seat around the airport while waiting at the gates, at the baggage check-ins, or in any other line in the airport. In that case, using a compact stroller that carries your car seat for you can be a lifesaver!

Another alternative is a car seat cart made specifically to house your CRS for travels.

These extra tools will help you bring the car seat around without having to carry them yourself. Dragging it around is easier than having to sling it over your shoulder.

If you don’t have these, you can also check if the airport can lend you wagons or if you can ask for extra help, especially if you’re the only adult traveling with more than one child.

2.   Make Sure Your Car Seat Is Approved For Airplane Use

You always have to ensure that your car seat is approved for airplane use since some plane seats vary in size. Call your airlines in advance to get the sizes and to check if there are any other requirements.

In addition, you should also check the size of your car seat. According to the FAA, as long as it’s not wider than 16 inches, it should fit most plane seats perfectly.

3.   Check the Availability of Car Seats for Rent

Yes, you should still do this even if you’re bringing a car seat of your own. The main rationale behind this is to stay prepared if ever your car seat comes back to you with any damage.

I certainly hope that won’t be the case, but it’s still better to be safe than sorry. So, check the availability of rental car seats on the day of your flight.

Conclusions on How to Fly With a Car Seat

That wraps it up for this guide on how to fly with a car seat. I hope that this guide helped you prepare for your flight with your baby or toddler.

Always remember to check with your airlines since some policies may vary, especially for international airlines and flights. While I’d be honored to serve as your go-to guide for this, your best bet is to still double-check everything with your airline and airport.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Does a 2-year-old need a car seat on a plane?

Children below two years old are typically allowed to be lap children. This means parents don’t usually have to buy a seat for them.

However, once they turn two, you’ll have to purchase their own ticket. At this point, you can consider bringing and using a car seat on the plane for them. It isn’t strictly required, but it’s strongly recommended by the FAA for extra safety.

How do you take car seats on a plane?

You have two options: use the car seat on the flight itself or have it checked. The great news is that most airlines don’t add extra charges for checking car seats.

Do you have to check a car seat while flying?

It’s up to you if you want to check it or use it on the airplane. Since it’s technically not considered luggage, checking a car seat is as simple as bringing it up to the gate, as long as your airline allows it.

How do I bring my car seat through TSA?

TSA has actually established guidelines on bringing a car seat, so bringing it through should be a breeze. Car seats can be considered either a carry-on or checked baggage, so you get to choose which one they’ll be for you.

How can I take my car seat on a plane for free?

There isn’t a secret to this because most, if not all, airlines permit checking car seats for free if you’re traveling with your baby or toddler. As long as your car seat complies with the allowable sizes of the airline, you should be good to go.

Should you gate check a car seat?

Gate-checking your car seat lets you keep it safe and free from any damage since you’ll be the one to bring it around while traveling through the airport. There isn’t a strict rule that you have to gate-check a car seat, but you should consider doing it for your peace of mind.

Can an airline deny a car seat?

If your car seat is approved by the FAA, US airlines shouldn’t have a reason to deny them. However, the FAA doesn’t have much control over international airlines. Most have their own regulations, and you must abide by them.

Do car seats fit in overhead bins?

Most car seats are way too big to fit, so no. This means you’ll have to install it on the plane seat and use it for your child during the flight. As long as you purchased a ticket for your child, this won’t be a problem.

Last Updated on November 5, 2023 by Brian Beasley

Written by Linda Reid

Hey there, I'm Linda, a mom of three cool kids. I've tried so many car seats, you could call me a "Car Seat Detective." Searching for the perfect car seat can feel like finding a needle in a haystack, but don't worry! I've committed to researching and reviewing car seats that are super safe, cozy, and great for growing kids. Together, we'll find the perfect car seat that keeps your child safe and cozy, and makes you feel like a super-parent!