We will be flying to the US from Germany for the holidays with our new DS, who will be 9 months old. We plan to stay for 3 weeks. We are not sure what to do about a car seat once we get there. Should we bring ours, have my parents try to borrow/buy one for us, or what? Downsides of bringing our own are that 1. it could get ruined on the plane, since we'll have to check it and 2. we'll have to lug it around for the whole trip. Does anyone have any advice for us? Same question for the stroller. Thanks!
Plane travel to another country: what to do about a car seat and stroller?
We have flown 3000 miles cross-country to see my inlaws about 5 times since my DDs birth and I ended up asking them to buy a carseat so we wouldn't have to lug ours around. I suggested a cheap carseat that several carseat techs assured me was a terrific seat (cosco scenara, $40) and they agreed to buy it to make the travel easier on us. I feel like it really helped. I did have to bring our carseat along on a different plane trip once and it was doable but annoying. For all our plane trips I have brought an ergo carrier instead of a stroller and it worked really well for transporting DD through the airport and carrying her during our visit. Good luck with your travels!
We recently visited family in Poland for 3 weeks with DD (who was 7 months old at the time) so here are some things we found during our trip. Hope it helps and let me know if you have any questions!
We bought a "travel" car seat - the Scenera that the PP mentioned, so as to avoid wrecking our pricey Radian in case something were to happen. This Scenera was branded as made by Safety 1st rather than Cosco and came in a plastic bag, not a box. We have the Cosco version of the Scenera at the in-laws and the Safety 1st appears more cushy/comfortable of the two. We did not buy DD a seat on the plane but we reserved our seats to be the two aisle ones in the 3-seat block in the middle of the plane. I was betting that no one would be placed in the centre seat between us unless the flight was completely full and it worked out both ways. So we were able to install the seat rear-facing which was great cause when DD slept (most of the way there as it was night time) I could put her down, go to the bathroom, and have a little nap. Also it was reassuring to know that she was safe in case of turbulence (this kept the seatbelt sign on for at least half of our flight there).
In case there is absolutely no room you can gate-check the seat, as we had to do on one of our short flights (we had a regional connector) - this is preferable to checking with luggage as it is handled for less time and doesn't go through the whole luggage-handling assembly that wrecks stuff so often. Still not 100% perfect but much better IMO. I also figured that if someone was sitting in that centre seat they would try their best to switch seats rather than sit between parents with a baby, and worst case scenario would be willing to switch with one of us for an aisle seat so we could sit together.
We were originally planning to borrow a seat but found that the folks we were visiting had a very different perspective on the necessity and safety of car seats. So if you plan to go that route be absolutely sure what you will have to work with. We very nearly ended up with a 16-year old infant seat that had only a 3-pt harness (i.e. no way to get DD to our destination!). So we had to buy the Scenera at the last minute but it all worked out.
We brought ours and gate-checked it at each leg of our trip. Be sure that if you have a connector they know that you want to stroller back (they put the destination airport code on the tag). It was handy for getting through the airport when our hands were full, DD napped in it at the airport, I used it as an impromptu diaper changing table. If you need to gate-check both a stroller and a car seat this is not an issue for most airlines, but double check on their website just in case.
Adjusting to the time change can be a bear. It took DD about a week to fully adjust once we got there and again on the return home. She wouldn't go to sleep till 2-3am for several days so I would recommend bringing some non-noisy toys in case this happens to you since you can't go outside and everyone else is sleeping. We ended up walking around and around and around to keep her happy and it was hard on my back.
Hope that helps!
If you can afford it, get the $40 scenera. Especially if you plan to visit family again in the next few years.
A stroller isn't a necessity for us, so I don't bring it to the airport(just another thing to worry about). I mostly babywear anyways, or carry the baby, and it's easier to get around the airport, especially if there are crowds, I hate pushing around strollers, lol.
It's not the plushest seat, but that's what makes it lightweight and easy. My son never minded even though his seat at home is very plush. We bring an umbrella stroller when we travel (Maclaren Volo) and the Ergo, and wear him if he wants and then strap the car seat into the stroller, or put him in the stroller if he wants and carry the car seat with the other hand (it's so light). We let the gate agent know that if there is an available seat we'd love it, and 9 times out of 10 we get the extra seat. Gate check the stroller, and install the Scenera RF (it's a small seat so it installs RF easily).
It should be mentioned, don't ever add anything to any carseat, especially plush-wise. The seats are tested as is, not with extra padding or with any of the extra car seat accessories that you can buy in stores. Even fluffy jackets should be removed before putting kids in car seats, especially if you find you need to loosen the straps to fit the kid+jacket. Here's why: In a crash, the force of your child's body hitting the back of the seat causes all of the air to come out of any jacket or blanket that may be there. When the air comes out, it's like you're squishing it down, and there is a lot of extra space. The extra space can allow for the straps to readjust themselves, possibly coming off of the shoulders and causing the child to fly out of the belt.
We once drove 5 hours with DS in the car, sitting in his seat almost the entire time. Near the end of the drive he needed to get out of the seat, because his butt was hurting. He was in the car seat (I think it was his cushier one, but I'm not sure anymore) and I was in the passenger's seat. MY butt was aching too, I made DH stop the car at the next stopping point, and I held him. It was bad, really. He didn't want to get back into that seat again! He wouldn't sit on his butt on my lap either.
So my advice would be, don't let your kid sit that long in a car seat without getting out and letting him sit on your lap or move around or something.
We've used the scenera on and off since DS was born (as a back up seat). We used it to take DS home from the hospital in, on normal city trips, and on long, long trips. The only time we've had any problems were on long, long trips, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't related to which seat he was in. Actually, DS uses the scenera for sitting around and reading books in. So I guess that means he likes it, lol! His other seat is a truefit.