Ask Shelly: Flying to Mexico with a baby in his own airplane seat—without a car seat?

Hi Shelly,

I love following you on Facebook!

I have a travel question…My son will be 10.5 months when we travel to Club Med Ixtapa in Mexico in two weeks. We bought an extra seat on the plane for him but we really don’t want to bring his car seat because we will not use it all week, so we don’t want to lug it with us. He is only 20 pounds, so we can’t use the CARES Harness.

What words of wisdom or other ideas do you have for us?

Thanks!

-Cori

Hi Cori,

Thanks for the follow! You present an interesting scenario, especially since most parents I hear from who purchase a seat for their babies do so in order to use the car seat on the airplane. I’ll start with the most important tidbit I think you should be aware of.

Point 1 – Flying with an infant in a paid seat
I’m not sure which airline you’ll be flying, but most will not allow a baby under 24 months to ride in its own seat on the aircraft without an approved and appropriate CRS (airline lingo for “car seat”) or the CARES flight safety harness.

Point 2 – CARES considerations

As you point out, CARES would not be appropriate for your 10-month-old at only 20 lbs., and also because it’s for babies who are also old enough and sturdy enough (at least 12 months) to ride in a forward-facing car seat on land (read all about CARES here).

Point 3 – Keeping baby comfy in flight
But I think a more important point, and one I’m guessing you’ll appreciate in the long run since I suspect you purchased the extra seat to have more room and greater comfort on your journey, is that a 10-month-old baby will simply not sit comfortably for long on an adult-size airplane seat. In his familiar car seat, you would have much better odds of him sleeping if you’re hoping for any napping during your flights, and if you install it rear-facing as you would in your car, he’ll be able to look at you as you travel, which may also be helpful in keeping him entertained—and fed.

Point 4 – On the ground
The other point to consider is the land transportation when you get to Mexico. I’m not sure what sort of vehicle you will ride in to and from the airport, and sometimes you can’t be sure until your arrival. But even a 15-minute cab ride can sometimes be a hair-raising adventure when you travel abroad (or in the U.S. for that matter). Whether you are part of a group transfer by bus or van, or take a taxi on you own, you may be very glad to have a car seat for your baby if it’s at all possible to use it.

So perhaps the next question is how to make it as easy as possible to take the car seat with you—and use it on the airplane? More tips and suggestions in chapters 3 and 16 of Travels with Baby and in the Great Products & Gear section of TravelswithBaby.com.

By the way, this photo caught my eye as I was glancing back through photos of Mexico looking for a contribution for Photo Friday at DeliciousBaby.com. It was taken outside of the spectacular Ik Kil cenote. We were admiring the tropical foliage when Rozzie caught on that this strange looking thing was a “flower” and began snorting exuberant exhalations the way any good toddler does when invited to smell something. A good reminder at the end of this crazy week to “stop and smell the bromeliads.”
Safe journey,

Shelly Rivoli, author of the award-winning guide Travels with Baby
The Ultimate Guide for Planning Trips with Babies, Toddlers, and Preschool-Age Children
http://www.travelswithbaby.com/   twitter   facebook

3 Comments

  1. Katie

    This is an old post, so not sure if anyone will see this, but is there a place that has information about which carseats would work in this scenario–that is, which will actually fit rear facing on an airplane?

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