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Flying with babies (and young children) – the car seat issue

So, we have not yet resolved the umbrella stroller issue (though I have had another recommendation of the Esprit Speed Sun Stroller, which certainly looks like a better stroller overall than the ones I was looking at yesterday, but over $100 – my theoretical limit – and also a bit bigger when folded), but tonight I am focusing on researching the car seat issue.

We have booked a seat for Eliane even though she is under two, because I just can’t see how it is possibly safe to carry her on our laps if it’s not safe for the rest of us to be unrestrained (although yes, I realise air travel is much safer than car travel), and also because for 32 hour trips, or even 8 hour trips, I think having her own seat is going to be a god send. I know we both felt it was well worth the money for Liam’s seat on long haul flights to and from the States when he was this age.

So, we will be taking a car seat for Eliane. The question is about Mikaela. She is still in a five point harness in the car, though she’s big enough to be in a booster by Australian standards (over 14kg) and she’s getting close to the top limit for the standard car seat which is 18kg. She’s not there yet though. So, do we take a car seat for her as well? I don’t think so, simply because transporting two car seats, a toddler, hand luggage for the lot of us and a sleepy Mikaela and Liam between flights just might be pushing things too far.

For instance, we have one transfer where we have to get off the plane in Singapore after flying for something like 8 hours, it will be about 12:30am our time, and we’ll have 1½ hours between arrival and departure (so presumably significantly less than that actually off the plane) , and will have to go through security again (though I really don’t know why – we’re getting back on the same plane, for heaven’s sake, but have to take everything off with us. Grrr.). Then there’ll be another time when we’ll have 45 minutes between arrival and departure (it was an hour when we booked) and need to get from one plane to another. I’m thinking we’ll have Liam pushing the pram with the Eliane in it, me pushing a trolly with bags and car seat, and Chris carrying Mikaela, just to get there quickly enough.

So, no car seat for Mikaela. So I’m thinking maybe we should invest in a CARES harness, but according to this site, British Airways (who we will be travelling with for some flights) approves the harness for 12 months to 4 years. Mikaela is five but she is more than 2 kg under the weight limit, so what the? I’ll have to double check if that is up to date info. In the meantime I’ve found this awesome site: flying with children written by an ex-flight attendant who has also travelled internationally a lot with her own children, and she says:

Just a reminder to never use car seats provided by a car rental company. I had a bad experience once and unfortunately, this is not rare. The car seats provided by rental companies are at best dirty, worn and incorrectly washed (i.e. soaked straps). At worst, they could be expired, missing parts and could have been involved in a recall. Your children’s safety is too important to take the risk of using one of these. Always bring your own or make other arrangements at your destination.

Huh. I’m really not sure what we’re going to be doing about transport on the ground in the various places we’ll be. It’s going to be tricky if we don’t hire cars, since the five of us can’t fit in many other people’s cars along with them. But we can’t afford to hire cars for eight weeks. However, this has reminded me that I’d been wondering if we should invest in a couple of those backless booster seats (this sort of thing) that don’t provide any head support or protection, but do at least position the seat-belt right – just so we have something we can fit into other people’s cars pretty easily. Liam is still small enough to use a booster seat, although he doesn’t legally have to any more in Australia and most of his peers don’t – and of course Mikaela is still in a car seat.

Wow, you just really don’t travel light with children, do you?!

Edited after the trip to add: The only place we had trouble using the CARES harness was on the way to Sydney on a Qantas Dash 8 plane. They told us it was ‘not approved’, and I didn’t argue because I foolishly hadn’t printed anything from the Qantas website (it is approved), and we were among the last getting on the flight for reasons beyond me. By the end of the trip we’d learned a good thing to do was to send Chris on first with the car seat and the big kids, so he could get the seat in and strap Mikaela in, then I’d get on last with Elli, so she wasn’t strapped into her seat for too long. Anyway, on no other flight did anyone question our use of the CARES harness for Mikaela.

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This entry was posted on August 1, 2011 at 10:10 pm and is filed under 2011 Round the World, Flying with Kids, Personal Blog. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

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