We're looking at flying to Japan this coming Fall. DD will be 3, probably will be 33-35ish lbs at that point (she's right around 30 now). She's currently about 3ft tall. We will not need a car seat while we are there at all. So I really don't want to bring a car seat and have to lug it around Japan for 3 weeks (along with my two other boys, who are both over 4/40). What I'm wondering is if the CARES will provide significant enough of a safety advantage over just the lap belt for DD? I don't like how it makes the lap belt ride up and wonder if in some way that makes it less safe (I'm thinking abdominal injuries). She's pretty good at sitting, so I'm not too worried about the wiggles and not wanting to buckle. Usually she'll do anything her big brothers do, so that helps. And also, I know that crashes are exceedingly rare and think that in case of turbulence the lap belt would probably keep her from flying around (I'd worry more about submarining in a rare crash, which the CARES won't help with anyways).
You raise some excellent questions (and my own primary concerns about the CARES harness).
My experience has led me to the following conclusions.
1. For small children, it makes a bad lap belt fit worse.
2. For kids who are
a. Big enough to fit the lap belt reasonably well (i.e., around 40 lbs)
b. But small enough to fit within the weight restriction of the CARES harness (i.e. under 44 lbs)
c. Still wiggly enough that a lap belt won't keep them contained
The CARES harness is a perfect solution. We used it for my four year old this last year and it really filled a niche spot.
At 33 lbs, your daughter would raise my concerns that the lap belt would fit her very poorly in turbulence/run way crash etc. Are you 100% sure you'll not be needing a car seat? No taxi cab rides, rides with friends? What about your older guys?
We are sure we're just going to use public transit. If there were doubt I'd take the scenera for dd and bubblebums for the boys. We're traveling with the in-laws, so 7 people which makes things like car rentals more expensive.
I bought a CARES harness and honestly I am not really convinced of its increased safety. It does make the lap belt fit strangely and looks like it would only add to the risk of submarining. Whenever DS fell asleep in it, it cut into his neck so badly I had to take it off him. I tried to be responsible and put it back on whenever the seat belt light came on (of course he was always wearing his lap belt) but they just leave that light on perpetually on United now. My husband and I have decided we are going to take it on our next flight, hook it up, but only ask him to buckle into the top straps if we hit really bumpy turbulance.
Also, the package states it is only good to children of 40" in height, which my son now reaches at 3.5 years old. It is a very very short lived device.
XM,: mama to ds (5/08), dd (9/10) and ds (6/12) ! :C.H.S & M.
I personally am wondering if the poor belt fit outdoes the safety of the upper body restraint...
I understand that. One time we put my oldest, who is super skinny and was probably around 35lbs at the time, in the lap belt because he had peed in his car seat. It at least stayed across his lap. What concerns me with the CARES is how the belt rides up onto the abdomen.