When Kellen and I first started talking about using a car seat on our next plane trip, we weren’t really sure how we’d handle lugging around the car seat in the airport. It seems like whenever we travel, we’re already pretty maxed out when it comes to carry-on. Between our roller bags and backpacks and the largest diaper bag you’ve ever seen, not to mention the kid, we look like a procession of pack mules when we head through the airport. How the heck were we supposed to add a 10+ lb. car seat to our load?
Fortunately, there are a lot of things you can do to make it easier to transport your luggage.
One option is to get a travel bag for your car seat. Some of these, like the Britax Car Seat Travel Bag are fairly simple affairs with a handle that makes it easier to tote the car seat. Others, like the JL Childress Wheelie Car Seat Travel Bag and the Brica CoverGuard Car Seat Travel Tote actually have wheels on the bags, making them easy to tow along with you.
The primary upside to a travel bag for your car seat is that if you do end up having to gate check your car seat, it has protection from whatever else happens to be down in the cargo hold. The downside is that you lose the car seat as a place to carry some of the other items you may have with you around the airport.
If you’re planning to bring roller bags on board with you, one of the simplest and least expensive options is to get a strap to attach your car seat to your roller bag. There are a number of these out there, including:
- GoGo Babyz Travelmate Car Seat Luggage Strap
- Traveling Toddler Car Seat Accessory
- ToteATot Travel Accessory
In addition to being inexpensive, with most of them you can also strap your child into the car seat, too, making getting through the airport that much easier and probably a lot more fun with your child. Just check the weight limit on the strap to make sure it can hold both your car seat and your child safely.
If you’re not bringing a roller bag on board, though, there are a variety of luggage carts that might work for you.
Some are specifically made for car seats. The two most common are the Brica Roll ‘n Go Car Seat Transporter and the GoGo Babyz Kidz Travelmate. Of a similar price and construction, they are designed specifically to carry car seats, including safely carrying a child in the car seat, and to be used for travel. They both fold up very nicely and are easy to stow.
The pros to these are obvious: they are made for car seats, for safely towing children, and for travel. The downsides to these are: they are expensive, they only have one use, they don’t work with every car seat (including the Cosco Scenera, which was recommended in an earlier post for air travel), and from several reviews I’ve read, they both have plastic bases and other parts which are prone to breaking, usually at the most inconvenient time possible–in the airport. Of course, lots of people have very good luck with these, and they are both highly rated. A bit of research into their unique features would help you determine which would be better for you.
A similar, less expensive option is a good old-fashioned luggage cart, preferably one with a metal base for stability and durability. (A metal base is less likely to break in transport.) Britax actually has a luggage cart meant specifically to transport their car seats. We’ve had good luck with the Sparco Compact Luggage Cart, which has the benefits of being inexpensive and light-weight, and it folds down easily for stowing. There are a lot of other luggage carts out there, though, that would do the job, and if you’d like to go for something more heavy duty, there are tons of options out there that cost a little to a lot more.
The main drawback to the luggage cart is that they aren’t made for car seats, so it can take some finagling to get your car seat to sit properly and stably on a luggage cart. I sit the car seat on the base of the luggage cart facing out, then put the bungee cord for our luggage cart through the forward-facing seat belt path, wrap it around the back of the cart, and then wrap it again around the top of the car seat, where I latch the bungee cord. It’s very stable, but it leads me to another drawback to a regular luggage cart: we can’t strap Isla in while we were moving through the airport. Not just because of stability, but also because the car seat leans forward on the luggage cart enough that it would probably be uncomfortable for Isla to sit in it for long.
The benefits of the luggage cart are that it’s less expensive, and I can use it for other things. Our plan for now is to put all of our other bags in the car seat on the luggage cart, strap everything down, and use that to make our travel easier. When Isla was little, I would tote her in the airport in her Ergo. Now, she’s a big girl and can easily walk along with us.
There are many options available to you, including just carrying your car seat if you’re up to the challenge or, if your child is still in an infant seat, using a stroller that the infant seat fits into. You just have to evaluate what would work best for you.
I hope you’ve found this series helpful and that it’s helped answer your questions and address concerns you might have about flying with a car seat. Don’t forget to check out the best car seats on airplanes and how to install your car seat on a plane. Please let me know if you have any questions or any other topics you’d like me to discuss. I’m a nerd. I love doing homework.
Safe travels, everyone!
* This post originally ran on May 31, 2013. It was edited and republished on September 1, 2014 and July 17, 2015.
Sarah Hayes saysAugust 9, 2013 at 11:40 pm
wow Ive never thought about how hard it must be to fly with a carseat. thankfully I knew that I would never have to fly with my daughter and if I ever do it will be a long time from now. i would def want something like you used to help me get it through the airport though
Katie saysAugust 10, 2013 at 6:45 am
It actually turned out to be pretty easy for us to travel with a car seat, a lot easier than without a car seat. Having a little fold-up luggage cart for it actually ended up being really nice, because we could put all of our other bags on the car seat and not have to worry about lugging 20 lbs. of stuff each through the airport. 🙂
travel mom saysFebruary 19, 2014 at 4:11 pm
Great series! We travel frequently for both work and pleasure, but other than short vacations, we haven’t really towed our kids along (they are 1 and 3: 18months apart). I have had so many questions and most of them have been addressed here, so thank you! We have a big trip coming up and wanted to buy a compatible car seat for the trip (mostly for everyone’s sanity – we have an active little girl who won’t sleep on our laps, but will in her car seat), but didn’t know where to start or what to ask. I – like others- assumed that car seats were sort of discouraged on planes (I had never seen one), so I am happy to hear that this is not the case and that flight attendants don’t (or shouldn’t) mind.
Now off to buy a narrow car seat!
Katie saysFebruary 22, 2014 at 7:58 pm
I’m so glad I could be helpful! I think a lot of people assume that car seats are a no no, but as a former flight attendant I can tell you the airlines and the crew really wish more people traveled with car seats. It’s so much safer. Best of luck in your travels! 🙂
Beth R saysNovember 11, 2014 at 2:50 pm
I didn’t realize that if you brought a travel bag for your carseat you wouldn’t have to stow it! That would be perfect
Ashley F saysDecember 6, 2014 at 11:38 am
It definitely can be tricky to lug a car seat through the airport, especially a large convertible seat. I used a small fold up dolly and strapped the seat on with bungee cords. It worked, but would have been easier had I not been flying alone with my toddler.
Lara C. saysDecember 6, 2014 at 4:00 pm
This series has been so helpful! Thank you! These products are really nifty to know about for traveling with car seats. I’m bookmarking the page for future reference.
Sara l. saysDecember 7, 2014 at 12:20 am
These articles are very informative, as I have three little ones in car seats.
Shaina Chance saysDecember 7, 2014 at 6:47 pm
I couldn’t imagine having to lug a car seat around at ANY airport.. I mean I’m the type of person who wears backpacks for purses because 1. I hate not having my hands free and 2. Two shoulder straps are better than one!- I have chronic neck and shoulder pain so the pressure a purse *could* give ,isn’t worth it to me. With that in mind, actually I hate carrying anything in airports… gezz i feel screwed! However, I have yet to travel with my daughter and if/when we do, I have already made up my mind that we would bring a car seat. Ill just have to get over all my peculiarities.
Sarah saysMarch 17, 2015 at 4:12 pm
Thank you so much for writing this article. I’m about to travel to visit my mom with my 8 month old and need to bring along her car seat. This was the perfect article! Last time I travelled she was in the stroller car seat combo but we’ve upgraded since then and I REALLY don’t want to take that massive stroller. I have some ideas to go on now. Thanks!!
Katie saysMarch 19, 2015 at 11:09 am
Glad this was helpful! I definitely get not wanting to drag anything with you if you don’t have to. You already have your hands full enough. 🙂 Good luck with your trip!
Erin B. saysDecember 2, 2015 at 6:01 pm
Great information! Might need to look back at this next year, taking our first family vacation and may end up flying. Flying with a 3 yr. old and almost 1 yr. old or driving 12 hours with both?? lol, so long as we can swing the cost of the plane tickets, it would be worth it.
le saysFebruary 10, 2018 at 2:54 pm
Hi, did you have to take the car seat and the luggage apart through security scanner?
Mom in Leggings saysMarch 14, 2018 at 7:31 pm
We take the car seat off the dolly to go through security. The car seat can’t fit through the x-ray machine, so they have to wipe it down and test it.