Most parents take every precaution to ensure their children are safe in appropriate car seats when traveling by car. But what about when traveling by plane? The U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recommends that all children under 40 pounds use an FAA approved child restraint system (CRS) when flying. According to the FAA, children less than 20 pounds should sit in a rear-facing CRS and children who weigh 20 to 40 pounds should sit in a forward-facing CRS. Toddlers must sit in a forward-facing car seat—not a booster seat. The majority of booster seats use a lap and shoulder belt for proper positioning and these belts are only found in cars, not airplanes.
If you’re traveling with a toddler, make sure the seat fits the height and weight of your child and that it’s FAA approved. Seats will not say “FAA Approved” on them, but will say something like, “This restraint is certified for use in motor vehicles and aircraft.” Here are some popular FAA approved toddler car seats.
Britax is known for manufacturing some of the world’s safest car seats. The Roundabout features a tangle-free five-point harness, energy-absorbing Expanded PolyStyrene (EPS) foam and Britax’s patented Versa-Tether energy management system. The Roundabout is bulky but durable. This seat is forward-facing from one year old and 20 pounds to 40 pounds. It’s fits children up to 40 inches in standing height. Average price in 2009: $200.
The Boulevard is another quality car seat from Britax with loads of features. Offering true side impact protection, the Boulevard surrounds your child in comfort foam and uses the patented Britax HUGS system, which reduces forward head movement in the case of an accident. The seat is forward-facing from 20 to 65 pounds and fits children up to 49 inches in height. Average price in 2009: $304.
Sunshine Kids Radian 65 and Radian 80
The Radian 65 and Radian 80 both feature a steel alloy frame and are the only seats that fold in half and can be carried with carrying straps. The Radian is more narrow than other car seats, offering more shoulder room and leg support, and it easily fits into a tight airplane seat. The Radian 65 is forward-facing 22 to 65 pounds and up to 53 inches in height. The Radian 80 fits children from 22 to 80 pounds forward-facing and up to 53 inches tall. Average price of Radian 65 in 2009: $190. Radian 80: $219.
The Signo has side-impact protection built directly into the seat with generous padding and ample wings. The seat has a thick adjustable headrest that’s perfect for a long flight. The seat fits from 20 to 70 pounds front-facing and up to 50 inches in height. Average price in 2009: $230.
The CARES harness is not a car seat—it’s a revolutionary CRS harness that straps children directly into their airplane seats, car seat-free. This harness weighs about one pound, can fit into a 6-inch sack and is completely FAA approved. CARES is made out of the same industrial strength material used in normal airplane seatbelts. The harness fits children who weigh 22 to 44 pounds. Average cost in 2009: $75.