What would you do?
If you don't need a seat at your destination, I would just use the lap belt. I have no problem at 3yos doing that (and did do that with my dd when we went to Japan because there was no way on earth I was hauling a car seat around a foreign country for 3 weeks that I didn't need). The Dionos are HEAVY and even though they fold flat, a pain to lug through an airport due to weight.
If you don't need the seat at your destination, I would definitely leave your seat at home and use a lap belt. If you need the seat, have your child ride in it on the plane forward facing (to protect the car seat.)
I think I'd feel more comfortable with the child in the Radian on the plane (installed FF).
But I don't think you'd be a bad parent for leaving the car seat in your car and going without. It's kind of a close contest with a child that age/size. Much bigger and I'd say "skip it" and much smaller and I'd say "take it." If it were me in your shoes, however, I'd take it.
~*~ Full time mom ~*~ Hobby Sheep Farmer ~*~ Child Passenger Safety Technician ~*~
Just wanted to follow up...
As it turns out, the carseat at Grandma's was not suitable for my son so we had to bring ours. I chose to use it on the plane rather than check it because I am always worried about how checked bags are handled (I've had things broken). But also, Asiago's comment made me think it was smart to use it on the plane.
Well, everything worked out just fine. My son actually preferred to sit in his carseat because that's comfortable and it's what he's used to. So I think that made flying a little easier for him. And it's nice the way the Diono folds up and can be carried on your back. But man, that carseat is heavy. If you choose to fly with it I would say check all your other luggage - as much as possible. Walking through a large airport with a carseat, carry-on, child's suitcase, and preschooler was difficult. All in all it was fine. He only had one tantrum so I consider that a success.
My tips for using a carseat on an airplane:
- If you fly with a carseat, you will need to show the flight attendents the sticker that says it's approved for use on air crafts. So find that sticker ahead of time to make everyone happy. I only had to show it once one direction, but the other direction I had to show the sticker 3 times.
- And practice latching and unlatching with a regular belt since airplanes don't use the LATCH system.
- Take advantage of priority boarding. People with young children are allowed to board early and you will really need that extra time to get settled in. Plus, lugging the carseat through the plane with people on might mean you smack their heads with the seat, so board early. We did both ways and it made a big difference. I was much more calm as a result of not having to rush to get the carseat strapped in. Likewise, take your time exiting. Just wait and let everyone else off first so there's room for you to get everything and keep your kiddo safe.
- Actually strap it in. One flight attendent told me a lot of people don't bother strapping the seat in. Well, if the plane jerks around or worse then not only is your child in danger but so is anyone nearby when that carseat becomes a projectile.
Thanks for all the advice!