When K and I started planning for our trip to Spain back in November we looked in to borrowing a stroller and car seat from friends at our final destination. This would save us the hassle of lugging extra equipment through the airport, and since we were taking public transit to the airport we wouldn’t really need the car seat until we reached our destination anyway. Besides, car seats and air travel don’t really go together, do they?
Everyone hears the horror stories about strollers getting destroyed or going missing when checked in at the airport. A friend of mine was flying a single leg on a domestic flight and somehow her gate-checked stroller ended up going the opposite direction. Add to that nightmare the idea of a baggage handler going for distance as he hammer-throws your baby’s car seat into the underbelly of the plane.
The practical upshots:
- Safety – air plane lap belts are ridiculous. Seriously, who thought that would work to hold a squirming infant in your lap??
- Convenience – eating on an air plane is hard enough as is, now imagine trying to circumnavigate a giant and slightly unstable head with a single piece of fusilli precariously balanced on a small plastic fork. Not gonna happen.
- Peace of mind – strap your little one in as they fall asleep and don’t worry that you need to get up to use the washroom.
- The trained orangutan with the baggage can’t get his paws on your most important piece of safety equipment. No offence to baggage handlers, but I’ve had my share of damaged bags. How hard can it be to care about someone’s belongings as if they were your own?
I can’t stress how convenient it was to have a stroller as we pushed through the airport. It served as a mobile changing platform, a pack mule for our slightly overstuffed carry-on bags, a quiet spot for the Wee Baby T to catch a nap, and a battering ram to push through the crowds. When people see a stroller they kindly step aside and try to catch a glance at the adorable baby inside. People see you lugging a giant bag and they stand their ground and giggle as you struggle past.
A word of warning:
When we gate-checked the stroller for the first leg of our journey we were given a large heavy-duty plastic bag to protect it. Worst move ever. Without a clear frame to grab hold of the baggage handlers just dragged our stroller by whatever piece they could get their hands on. The padding on the handle was ripped, the cover was torn free of the stroller, and the cup holder was bent. THE CUP HOLDER! Bah, orangutans. For the life of me I can’t imagine how they caused so much damage.
For each of our other legs we left the stroller out of the bag and they seem to have treated it with some sense.
Make sure your car seat has been approved by the airline you are flying. Call in advance and provide the details of the seat, and get something in writing. While we had no issues on the way out, we had the head flight attendant from hell on the return trip who insisted that since we were flying OUT of Ireland the Canadian safety sticker wasn’t sufficient, even though we had confirmed it would be for all 4 flights over the phone. With nothing to support our claims the car seat was whisked away to business class for takeoff and landing. Not the end of the world, but still a little frustrating.
So there you have it – Car seats and air travel, more useful than you may have initially thought and definitely worth the extra seat. Now you just need to pack for the plane and you’re ready for your sunny vacation!
Good luck out there!