I’m all about gadgets and gear that ease flying with toddlers, especially when it comes to airport maneuverability. If it’s something that’ll make my life easier to travel with Ry then I’ll more than likely buy it. Part of enjoying our adventures together is knowing that I won’t stress over transporting him from point A to point B. So in this post I’ll be talking about the CARES system, as well as the gogo Kidz Travelmate.
We utilized CARES for the first time on our flight from Los Angeles to Seattle. If you’re not familiar with CARES, it’s the first and only Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved aircraft safety restraint system used in lieu of a car seat. It’s a belt and buckle device that works in conjunction with the airplane seat belt to provide extra protection for your precious cargo. However, your little passenger must meet certain parameters such as being over the age of one and weighing between 22 and 44 pounds.
I recommend considering purchasing this device versus bringing a bulky and heavy car seat on board the plane if you won’t necessarily be needing the car seat at your final destination. But even if you do, you can just check it in and conveniently take CARES with you in your carry on (it only weighs one pound). CARES is super easy to install and only takes a couple of minutes to do it.
CARES is FAA certified for use on all U.S. registered airlines, but not all flight attendants are familiar with the product or they might even question you about it. In those instances just show them the “FAA approved” label affixed on the CARES’ red loop. Anticipating a worst case scenario, bring along a copy of the FAA certification documents. But to err on the side of caution, first and foremost, review the airline website to ensure that CARES can be used on the aircraft you’re flying on.
The rules for use of the CARES system on international carriers is a different story and is quite iffy, so it’s imperative that you consult with them. You can find a list of countries that have certified CARES here.
If you do end up using a convertible/toddler car seat on a plane, which at some point or another you probably will, then I suggest looking into the gogo Kidz Travelmate, which is the one that we own (more specifically, the QRKID2 model). But there are also other carrier options out on the market. The Travelmate is essentially a stroller or carrier for the car seat and resembles a compact hand truck when folded (a lip is attached at the base). The benefit of the Travelmate is that it makes the portability of a monstrous car seat manageable and tolerable because you won’t have to physically carry it by hand through the airport, including security (ugh!). Just plop the car seat on the Travelmate and voila, you have an instant stroller because you can actually transport your kiddo around in it. Just deposit your real stroller at the check-in counter.
The Travelmate snugly fits through the aisles of certain domestic carriers depending on the width of your car seat. If you have a wider car seat then you’ll have to separate it from the Travelmate before boarding the plane. I used the Travelmate with our Peg Perego Primo Viaggio 5-70 SIP Convertible car seat for our trip from L.A. to San Antonio and it easily rolled down the aisle of one airline carrier, but not the other. The airlines we flew with were American and United. Once at your seat, simply stow the Travelmate in the overhead compartment. It hardly takes up any space because it folds flat. The Travelmate is compatible with many toddler car seats.
NOTE: The Travelmate is not intended for long distance use as a stroller replacement. It’s simply to lessen the burden of carrying the car seat around the airport and other terminals (e.g., train stations, etc.), and if you travel frequently enough then you’ll definitely appreciate its worth. Also, do not confuse this Travelmate with the Travelmate Deluxe version, which is only compatible with infant car seats due to it’s longer lip/base.
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