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Car seats on plane (for twins)?


Kesstral
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Background: My family is flying Vancouver to LA next year for a week cruise on Navigator of the Seas.  We're a family of 5 with a 9 year old and twin 4 year olds (who will be almost 5).  Both of my twins still require a car seat (under 40lbs, etc) and I don't expect them to grow too much over the next 4 months.

I have a rental car (minivan) booked from LAX, with 2 car seats, for our 2 days pre-cruise (my husband is from the area so we will be visiting family) and we can conveniently drop the rental off at our hotel the morning of our cruise.  My issue is getting back to the airport after departure.  I was looking to book an airport transfer through the cruise line (our return flight is in the evening so safe there) but since my husband is from LA he has been rolling his eyes at the idea as it will be really boring (and probably will be boring for our twins to be in a bus that long).  I can book a rental from the same place we dropped off (and it would be less than half the cost of the cruise transfer) BUT they don't offer car seats when reserving online.

 

So my question, I'm considering flying down with the car seats (using in the plane possibly) so we can use them in the rental before and after the cruise.  Has anyone flown with twins in car seats on the plane?  Is it worth it?  (we'll board early and be last off). The last time I flew with kids my oldest was 3 and we did use a carseat on the plane, but is 2 at once too many?  (for reference their current car seats are Diono Radian 3R)

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I'm a mom of twins who flew with them often starting at 5 months old.  I have had two car seats on a plane, but car seats can not block someone from exiting a row, so the two seats have to be at the window and middle (or in different rows at the window if you and your husband split up).  Some flight attendants will say you can't have the seats next to each other and you can't argue with them - you'd have to then get both on a window.  All that said, it would be super uncomfortable for your kids and the people sitting in front of them.  Even at 2 years old, my daughter's legs were pushed up against the seat in front of her in an uncomfortable way - I can only imagine even a short 4 year old would be even worse.  If it were me, I'd just bring inexpensive booster seats in a duffel for the car ride or do the bus transfer.  Two full car seats also take up a lot of room in the cabin.  

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When my kids were 4 we took a cruise to Alaska and brought car seats for them both.  We used them on the plane too, because I wanted them to be as safe as possible.  I know some people get the diono car seat backpacks and truck them through the airport that way, but those are heavy seats and I wouldn't want to do it.  Radians are pretty narrow for getting down a plane aisle and installing.  I didn't even want to bring our Graco seats.  My kids are tiny so we had cosco convertibles that your kids will almost certainly have outgrown.  The Cosco Finale is similarly lightweight and I've read that they also stack well (the convertibles we had stacked nicely in the bottom of the closet while we were on the ship).  We brought two umbrella strollers with stroller hooks.  We stacked the car seats in one and then had the kids trade off walking in the airport.  My husband grumbled a lot, but it worked.  One of us carried the seats (stacked) on the plane while the other managed kids and carryons (stuff we needed to bring on, we checked most of it).  

 

Also, even though she's short overall, my daughter is mostly legs.  She flew in a harnessed seat until she was 7 because she was also too small for a booster.  She never had an issue with leg room on the plane.  

 

10 hours ago, Kerry's Girls said:

If it were me, I'd just bring inexpensive booster seats in a duffel for the car ride or do the bus transfer.  Two full car seats also take up a lot of room in the cabin.  

The only non-harnessed seat currently available for kids under 40lbs is the ride safer travel vest and they're definitely more expensive than the bus.  

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I just wanted to note that you need to use car seats that have been approved by the FAA on the plane - some of them are too wide for the seats and are not given the FAA approval sticker.  Also, please print out documentation that states that you have the right to use car seats on the plane - our Snugride was FAA approved, but halfway through the flight a JetBlue flight attendant started to argue with me that it needed to be forward facing.  This car seat is supposed to be installed rear facing on a plane according to the manual, and FAA regulations give parents the right to use any FAA approved carseat, and it needs to be installed according to manufacturer's instructions.  The flight attendant told me JetBlue regulations require forward facing seats, but after realizing if she made me wake a sleeping child to try to turn around his car seat (and then needed to take it away because it doesn't install forward facing in a plane she'd have nowhere to put it mid flight) she want away.  So now I carry documentation on the car seats.  Our car seat just clipped to our carry on with a mommy hook so we could roll it through the airport but you'd need to test this out ahead of time since I don't know if it works with all models (please note that if you want a cheaper mommy hook just go to Home Depot, show them a picture and they can sell you a large hook for cheaper).  

 

I think your kids might betoo little now, but long term maybe the bubble bum car seat will work for your family?

Edited by kitkat343
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8 hours ago, kitkat343 said:

I just wanted to note that you need to use car seats that have been approved by the FAA on the plane - some of them are too wide for the seats and are not given the FAA approval sticker.  

Radians are FAA approved, as is nearly every harnessed seat on the market (as long as it's not a swivel seat).  It's not the width of the seat that matters, although wider seats are harder to install and sit next to.  Not all car seats undergo or pass inversion testing which is required for FAA approval.  

 

Kesstral, it is a good idea to know where the approval sticker is on whatever car seat you use on a flight.  It won't actually say FAA approved anywhere.  The wording you are looking for is “This restraint is certified for use in motor vehicles and aircraft”  

This is the FAA page on flying with children:  https://www.faa.gov/travelers/fly_children

It can be helpful to reference if you run into a confused flight attendant like kitkat did

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  • 2 weeks later...

FYI you can book baby equipment in to be checked in baggage for much less than the cost of a suitcase. For them to be accepted onboard in the aircraft cabin, they MUST be regulation approved. Tha is info you must get from the seat manufacturers and cross check it with the airline. 

 

Also it is often free to bring car seats and buggies for free in the hold if travelling with children. 

 

Contact your travel agent or if you use a decent airline, contact them directly. 

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On 8/31/2023 at 1:49 PM, Kerry's Girls said:

Even at 2 years old, my daughter's legs were pushed up against the seat in front of her in an uncomfortable way - I can only imagine even a short 4 year old would be even worse. 

 

My 5 yo was in his Britax Frontier on the plane and his legs were just fine. 

image.jpeg.15124c77d7cc98efeffd145b76e9c28a.jpeg

 

At 2 their legs may be sticking out straight forward, but a 4 yo's legs should bend, like any other person's legs.

 

@Kesstral - if you are flying on a US airline, it's mandatory for them to allow you to use FAA approved seats. Pretty much every seat on a US market is FAA approved. If you are flying on a Canadian airline, you may want to check their rules.

 

How tall are your kids?  

Diono Radians are great for travel on one hand because they are narrow and they fold, but on the other hand they are wicked heavy. I had one when DS was still rear facing. You can use a hand truck to haul one (fasten with bungee cords):

 

image.thumb.jpeg.f65a6cbcb26999b555a69a0632a5b4f1.jpeg

 

image.thumb.jpeg.fd095d514c1da0fca7298746f74e53f9.jpeg

 

Or you can stack them two to one hand truck like this:

 

zYGmNfvcZCL2SsltDHPW0Gx07Emghe1y_lg.jpg.0259d9ab943aeeea217bc9ab7929057f.jpg

 

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The only way to keep the seats safe is to use them on the plane, especially since they are so dang expensive in Canada. If the worst comes to worst, please check them in at the GATE and in a bag, not with the luggage before security. The ground personnel will through your car seats around just like they do luggage, so beware. 

 

If you can borrow somebody's Evenflo Chase/Maestro, Cosco Finale or Harmony Defender for this trip, that would make it easier for you. I wouldn't buy harnessed seats solely for travel so late in the game, unless your kids are very tiny and will use them for years to come.

 

Are both twins the same height? You could bring a car seat for one if needed and a no back booster for the taller one.

 

A very useful board:

https://community.babycenter.com/groups/a10635/traveling_with_children

 

Here is my post about traveling with the Britax Frontier on the plane:

https://community.babycenter.com/post/a62126569/frontier-90-on-southwest-and-other-questions

FYI, Britax Frontier is 19" wide and fits into a 17" plane seat just fine. Slightly uncomfortable to sit next to the wings, but my DH is tall but thin, so it wasn't too bad for him. I am much wider and I now sit next to my kid in the middle seat since he no longer needs a car seat.

 

We strapped the Frontier to a luggage cart in this fashion:

71luZg4hg4L__SL256_.jpg.18e57c26c6355c7aa6d9e5eefec602fe.jpgIMG_1789-225x300.jpg.dfeb9cac21f72cd44fd7d64a4900ec14.jpg

 

 

However, if your kids are tall enough, you could use a booster for them, which makes traveling much easier. I know they are under 40#, which is the law for booster use in Canada, but not in the US. This is how we traveled with a no back booster: my kid did very well in a no back booster while traveling starting at 4, but he was harnessed at home till almost 7. It is important to use a no back booster with the seat belt guide to ensure a good seat belt fit:

 

49895619_2112008838857958_3406665233375166464_n.jpg.b0ecac1f6acc5ec4118e90a55cf973be.jpg

20181224_152934.jpg.bd2c1ff7ec6ca475d0b9864aa216332c.thumb.jpg.556c0272caa757160dd257a1a58f650b.jpg

 

This is the one we had: https://www.walmart.ca/en/ip/harmony-youth-booster-car-seat-pink-zebra/6000203872666 Harmony Youth booster - in the US it has a 30# min, but in Canada it's 40# min, because it's a Canadian law, however, you will be in the States when using it, so provided your kids are over 40" tall (101 cm) and use the seat belt guide - they should be fine, as long as they are mature enough to sit properly the entire ride.

 

Also, if you do bus transfers and don't use taxis, you can get away with NOT using any car seats or boosters.

 

Edited by Itchy&Scratchy
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14 hours ago, Itchy&Scratchy said:

This is the one we had: https://www.walmart.ca/en/ip/harmony-youth-booster-car-seat-pink-zebra/6000203872666 Harmony Youth booster - in the US it has a 30# min,

 

 

The Harmony Youth has a 40lb minimum in the US now.  As far as I know, all boosters in the US have gone to a 40lb minimum.  It's not by law like it is in Canada, but manufacturers have been raising the minimums for years.  The last I knew with a 30lb minimum was the Cosco rise and that's 40lbs now too.   The only other option would be a ride safer travel vest which are pretty expensive.  I missed the Vancouver part somehow until you mentioned Canada.  That would make the vests even less of a good choice since they would only be able to use them in the US.  

Kesstral:  Here is the Transport Canada Advisory, but I understand it carries less weight than FAA advisories, so it would be best to check with the individual airline unless you are traveling with a US carrier.  Transport Canada Advisory Circular

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8 hours ago, gluecksbaer said:

As far as I know, all boosters in the US have gone to a 40lb minimum. 

very recently... But the boosters are the same - they aren't made any different, they are just rated >40#, so the same seat that had a 30# minimum 2 years ago now has a 40# minimum. Which on one hand I rejoice about because I am a big car seat safety fan, and too often parents stick 3 year old kids into a booster just because they meet the min height and weight limits, but on the other hand - if the kid has exceeded the height min, is very close to the weight min, is of appropriate age, and is mature enough to use a booster properly during travel at all times, and the booster has a good seat belt fit on that particular kid, I would like to use that option for short car rides after traveling by plane.  The booster is the same, it fits the kids the same, and it's better to have a 38# kid in a booster in a taxi than completely without one as many parents would choose to do.

 

Some of my friends' kids didn't make it to 40# until they were 8+, however, they were tall and outgrew all harnessed seats by 49" and there weren't any seats that harnessed past that at the time. So, what is a parent to do with a 50" kid who didn't make it to 40# yet? Thankfully, boosters had a 30# min at that time. Ironically, my kid met the old minimums of a Harmony Youth booster at 18 months of age (and he wasn't even off the charts for height or weight).

Edited by Itchy&Scratchy
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2 hours ago, Itchy&Scratchy said:

is of appropriate age, and is mature enough to use a booster properly during travel at all times,

Most car seat safety experts recommend a minimum of 5 years old for a booster because 4 year olds really aren't mature enough to stay in position for even short car rides.  That will be more true for a child going from a harnessed directly to a backless booster.  Travel may be a little different because an adult can sit in the back and remind the child to stay seated, but it still requires the parent's constant attention.  A booster is better than nothing, but for a family willing to bring harnessed seats, that makes more sense than misusing a booster.  

As someone who bought boosters more than 2 years before I planned to use them (when everyone except Harmony and Cosco went to 40lb minimums several years ago), I wish they would raise the age minimums and emphasize that on the box instead of raising the weight minimums.  There's no evidence a small 8 year old is less safe in a booster (it hasn't been studied), but there is evidence that a larger 4 year old is less safe.  Instead of using that evidence about age to raise age minimums, it's used to raise weight minimums. 

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  • 3 weeks later...

Thanks for all the comments.  I know where to find the advisory stickers on the car seats (I've flown with a carseat before with my eldest), was looking mostly for comments regarding people who have tried it before (possibly not being able to have 2 in a row is interesting).  I didn't know the Diono's could fold in half!

 

I was thankfully able to resolve our conundrum.  While the rental company we are using to the hotel from LAX didn't offer car seats to book on the return, the rental company across the street does, so we have that booked for less than half the cost of the airport transfer from the cruise line.  AND we'll have over 5 hours to drive around and get the kids a proper lunch before our 5pm flight.

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 10/4/2023 at 3:20 PM, Kesstral said:

I was thankfully able to resolve our conundrum.  While the rental company we are using to the hotel from LAX didn't offer car seats to book on the return, the rental company across the street does, so we have that booked for less than half the cost of the airport transfer from the cruise line.  AND we'll have over 5 hours to drive around and get the kids a proper lunch before our 5pm flight.

Make sure you have a back-up plan for what to do if you show up at the rental counter and they have no car seats or only offer you an infant seat or a booster.  (This is a thing that's known to happen.  There's a picture that goes around car seat groups with a high chair style booster sitting with the car seats at a rental agency.  You just don't know what you will be offered until you get there.)

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14 hours ago, gluecksbaer said:

Make sure you have a back-up plan for what to do if you show up at the rental counter and they have no car seats or only offer you an infant seat or a booster.  (This is a thing that's known to happen.  There's a picture that goes around car seat groups with a high chair style booster sitting with the car seats at a rental agency.  You just don't know what you will be offered until you get there.)

and in addition to the above: you don't know the history of a rental car seat. It may have been in an accident and put back into circulation instead of being disposed of, or could have been puked/pooped/peed on and then improperly cleaned, thereby jeopardizing the safety and integrity of the seat.

Edited by Itchy&Scratchy
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