Ask Shelly: Best car seat for flying when kids are too big CARES?

The Radian RXT: One of the only car seats you'll find in the U.S. market that is actually narrower than the FAA-recommended 16 inches width.

The Radian RXT: Quite possible the best car seat for flying with forward-facing kids, and one of the only car seats you’ll find in the U.S. market that is actually narrower than the FAA-recommended 16 inches width.

Hi Shelly,

Can you help me with safe air travel options for my child who does not meet the Cares Harness requirements any more.  He is 49 inches & closing in on 60 lbs.  We actually carried our Britax 5-pt Booster last year on a long flight & it was a nightmare (too big, too heavy).  Sure he felt safe in the rental car on the other end… but I would like alternate options for that too… I know there have got to be other people out there that feel if kids need safety 5 pt seats in a car they need safety seats in the air.  I’d greatly appreciate your time & your suggestions.

Many many thanks,

Teresa

Teresa, I have a recommendation for you, but I want to be sure you and others reading this understand a few important points before you make a decision.

First, there are some airlines that will not allow you to use a car seat on an airplane for a child over a certain age (usually 3 or 4 years), or over a certain height. Anyone planning to use a child safety seat (CRS) for child passengers 4 years and older should first check if the airline has any policies that will prevent them from using the child safety seat in flight (also see Chapter 15: Before You Book Your Flight for airlines with specific car seat restrictions).

Second, as you experienced when traveling with your car seat last year, most car seats that accommodate a child up to 60 lbs. in a 5-point harness are huge! 😉 In fact, it is very hard to find one that will fit in between the armrests of a coach seat. Also, most of these “through-college car seats” will not fit well on aircraft in rear-facing mode because they are simply too tall.

One car seat that offers a 5-point harness for children up to a whopping 80 lbs. AND meets the FAA’s nearly nonexistent 16″ max car seat width recommendation is the Diono Radian RXT. As you can see in my photo above, with the adjustable seat sides at their narrowest, it measures only 15.5″, making it quite possibly your new best friend in coach. One other advantage the Radian RXT has when flying is that it has a lower profile, leaving young fliers with more legroom than other bulkier car seats as well.

The slim profile of the Diono Radian RXT gives forward-facing kids more leg room on flights and in compact rental cars.

The slim profile of the Diono Radian RXT gives forward-facing kids more leg room on flights and in compact rental cars.

The one drawback for air travel, however, is the Radian’s weight–thanks to extra safety features including a steel frame, it’s heavy (26 lbs.)! Although it can fold for travel and can be used with optional shoulder carrying straps (I recommend getting two shoulder straps and wearing it as a backpack if you plan to), if you will need to transport it through a very large airport, you’ll be glad to have a rolling car seat transporter such as the GoGo Kidz TravelMate or others recommended here.

Good luck with your travels! For more car seat and travel gear recommendations, see Great Products & Gear for Travel.

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Safe journeys,

Travels with BabyShelly Rivoli, author of the award-winning Travels with Baby guidebooks

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