Welcome to the Ultimate Guide on traveling with a baby’s car seat!

If you’re planning on traveling with your child soon, but aren’t sure whether you’re allowed to bring your car seat, then we have the answers for you.

To be totally honest with you, it’s no fun traveling with a car seat. With an older child, there’s no hassle, of course. But for babies and toddlers, sometimes there’s no option.

That said, you might find that a car seat proves to be useless depending on where you’re traveling to. You might also find that a harness is a better alternative.

Ultimately, it boils down to your destination, your planned activities, and whether or not it’s legal to bring a car seat. Yes, legality is a factor! You’ll find out more below.

Tell me how to travel with a car seat already!


Traveling With a Convertible Car Seat

Whether you’re flying or going on a road trip, there are options available to you when bringing along a car seat. Let’s have a closer look at each scenario.


Bringing a Car Seat on a Road Trip

Taking a toddler on a road trip without a car seat is unimaginable. Especially if it’s within the US, there’s no need to consider any alternatives—just bring a car seat!

We have the same advice if you’re flying within the States, then going on a road trip in a rental car. Just bring your own car seat.


Taking a Car Seat During Air Travel in the US.

Thankfully, most airlines in the US will allow you to bring a car seat with your checked luggage at no extra charge (see our FAQ!). Some will even allow you to bring it as a carry-on.

However, keep in mind that your car seat must be FAA approved. According to the Federal Aviation Administration, it must be a forward-facing seat. You are allowed to use the forward-facing aircraft seat in a rear-facing position as well.

Also note that the FAA allows baby harness vests, booster seats, and baby slings on flights. However, they may not be used during take-off and landing.

You may ask: is it absolutely necessary to bring a car seat onboard when traveling by air?

In our humble opinion, while it may not be completely necessary (that depends on individual parents), it’s definitely going to make your life easier.

Consider this: in the United States, if your child is under 2 years old, you are allowed to bring them along as a lap child, free of cost.

That sounds good, right? If you can carry your child in your arms, especially for a short flight, then you might think there is no need to bring an additional seat.

However, you never know when accidents and turbulence might strike. In such a case, a car seat can even save your child’s life if it comes to that (God forbid!). Besides, I’m sure you agree it’s better to keep your hands free, and the best way to do that is to bring a separate seat for your kid.

Furthermore, you might keep your baby in your lap for the entirety of the flight, but what about a toddler? They find it notoriously hard to stay still!

However, there are rules; you cannot bring a rear-facing car seat or a non-airline-approved car seat, and you must place it in a window seat.

And if you’re traveling internationally? The rules are definitely different regarding bringing airplane seats.


Taking a Car Seat on a Plane to a Foreign Destination

The first thing you need to know is that it might be illegal to bring an extra seat onboard a plane to an international destination.

Whether it is actually illegal depends on the specific country. So, if you’re traveling to Australia, Canada, or Europe, US car seats are illegal. Then, having your kids be lap children is the only option, I’m afraid.

As a visitor in Europe, it’s unlikely that you’ll be fined for using an American car seat. However, if you happen to get into an accident, your medical bills (or any other related bills) will not be covered by the insurance company.

Plus, in Europe, it is very uncommon to bring a young child on a flight in a car seat.

In Canada, car seats can be used if they have a Transport Canada compliance label (this is a label that indicates that the car seat has passed testing and certification processes that allow it to meet Transport Canada’s safety standards). 


Packing Car Seats for Checked Luggage

Bringing your travel car seat with your checked luggage? Be warned that not all airlines will take responsibility if your car seat is damaged. In fact, you should not be surprised if the car seat is thrown around quite a lot.

It’s also important to note that if the car seat is damaged, it’s no longer fit to be used. Here are the steps to take when packing your expensive car seat –

  • Remove the car seat’s detachable parts, e.g. the base or canopy.
  • Pack these parts separately in a plastic bag or a protective bag.
  • Thoroughly clean the car seat.
  • For car seats that have a tough outer shell, bubble wrap or foam padding should be used for extra protection.
  • Label the car seat with your name, address, phone number, airline, and flight number.
  • Remember to check your airline’s specific instructions and/or requirements.


Where Can A Travel Car Seat Go On A Plane?

Car seats cannot be in a position where they block other passengers. Keep the following in mind:

The car seat cannot be placed in an emergency exit row. Emergency exit rows are critical points within an aircraft, they cannot be placed in an airplane aisle seat, only in window seats or in middle seats of the plane’s middle row it cannot be a booster seat, as a booster seat comes with a lap shoulder seat belt the car seat base cannot be brought on board (see the “Packing a Car Seat for Checked Luggage” section above.)


Frequently Asked Questions

Which American airline companies allow passengers to bring car seats on the flight?

Airlines that allow car seats either as checked baggage or as carry-ons:

  1. American Airlines
  2. United Airlines
  3. Delta Airlines
  4. JetBlue Airways
  5. Alaska Airlines
  6. Southwest Airlines
  7. Spirit Airlines.

Should car seats be gate checked?

It’s definitely recommended. If you gate-check your infant seat, the chances of it getting damaged are lower. This is because there will be fewer people handling the car seat. Make sure to check with the gate agent, and remember, you can recover the seat at baggage claim; just make sure to put it in a padded bag for extra security!

How to tell if a car seat is approved for airlines?

Look for a sticker that says, “This restraint has been certified for use in motor vehicles and aircraft“. This text should be in red lettering. The sticker is usually on the seat’s bottom, back, or side. Note that a flight attendant might want to check whether you have an FAA-approved car seat.


Final Words

So, to summarize- when on a road trip, definitely bring your child’s car seat! (Unless you want to carry your child in your lap, which is a personal preference, of course.)

When traveling with an infant car seat on a plane, remember to first check the rules. In the States, FAA-approved car seats are a must. Plus, every airline has its own rules regarding car seats, as do different countries.

And always prioritize your child’s safety, especially during airplane travel, no matter what!

Last Updated on April 27, 2023 by Danny Reid

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!