Review of CARES
the Child Aviation Restraint
A flight safety harness for children flying in their own seats
In this review:
Find it online: Amazon.com
Here's a quick overview of the CARES flight safety harness:
What is CARES?
Lower the tray table on the back side of the seat where you want to use CARES (explain to your rear neighbor if he’s already seated), and slip the red cinch strap around the seat back with the black straps hanging down, buckles facing outward. Slide the red strap down to where it is at or just above your child’s shoulders (or higher if necessary for the seat shape) and tighten this strap. Feed the airplane seatbelt through the loops at the lower ends of the two black CARES straps, and adjust their length as appropriate for your child. Fasten, and tighten the airplane’s safety belt around your child—and don’t forget to raise your neighbor’s tray table back into place!
It’s not hard to install a CARES harness, and it really does only take a few minutes, but we found that the specific shape and even upholstery of the airplane seat can present some challenges (and it was different for us on each flight). For example, with an airplane seat that has sides curving forward from the back, it was easiest to install the main strap higher on the seat than at or just above the shoulders, as recommended. When it was placed lower and closer to the shoulders, the seat’s shape worked against it the red CARES strap would actually stick out from the seat center and kept sliding down. Moving it up higher did the trick and didn’t seem to be a problem for our 2-year-old. Leather (or faux…) is more slippery, so we needed to adjust the main belt much more snugly around the seat back than we did when flying with a fuzzy, upholstered seat.
CARES vs. flying with your child in a car seat
Also, when both girls were very tired and I hoped at least one would snooze, the straps did little to comfort or support them in that respect, whereas a car seat with deep side wings and a slight recline might have aided in the nodding off. However, I've since discovered that some car seat strap cushions can be added to CARES to help support the cheek or chin during redeye and naptime flights (see the Cradler and CushyStraps).
While it was also more difficult for both children to reach their trays (it was easiest on the first airplane, where the tray extended toward the seat), it also made it impossible for them to kick the seat in front of them (bonus!). You can see from this photo how CARES gives a small child more legroom than most car seats installed on airplanes.
Find it online at: Amazon.com
Others you might consider:
At this time, CARES is a truly unique product and there is no other car seat alternative that is FAA-approved for use during all phases of air travel for toddlers and young kids riding in their own seats. As an alternative to using CARES during the flight, you might consider using any of the recommended car seats for travel (check out the Sit N Stroll car seat + stroller shown left or lightweight and low-cost Cosco Scenera) or accessories and travel bags that can help simplify travel with your car seat.
If you will be using CARES for your flight, you might also be interested in pairing it with the RideSafer Travel Vest to use in motor vehicles on the other end, or the Go Hybrid portable car seat which folds up into an easy-traveling bag you can check along with your suitcases.
Find it online at: Amazon.com
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