Infants and toddlers on airplanes are safest in a car seat with a harness, in case of turbulence. A child who rides in a car seat on the ground should ride in that car seat on a plane. Air turbulence can be dangerous and can appear suddenly without warning.
Not all car seats can fit on standard airplane seats, which are typically about 16 inches wide, but Safe Kids Carroll County and the Federal Aviation Administration strongly recommend using a car seat if it fits. As in cars, babies under 2 years old are best restrained in a rear-facing car seat, and a forward-facing car seat can protect toddlers up to 40 pounds or more. Make sure your child’s car seat is labeled “certified for use in motor vehicles and aircraft.”
You need your child’s car seat to travel to and from the airport anyway, and car rental companies might not have reliable car seats available. Your kids are better off in their own car seats.
Children who have outgrown car seats should sit directly on the airplane seat and, like all passengers, keep the lap belt buckled across their thighs or hips. Booster seats cannot be used on airplanes, because they require shoulder belts and airplane seats have only lap belts.
The FAA advises travelers with small children to reserve a pair of seats by a window. Car seats are not allowed in aisle seats or exit rows, where they could block emergency escape routes; they must be installed at a window seat. Most airlines offer a significant discount for children under 2.
Adult air travelers should buckle up, too. Children learn safety behavior by watching parents and caregivers. Safe Kids Worldwide released a study in showing a strong correlation between adult safety habits and children’s safety behavior.
Children who ride in car seats on the ground appear to be more comfortable and better behaved when using one on a plane.
At your destination: Be wary of hotel cribs
Safe Kids Carroll County also cautions travelers to take a close look at cribs provided by hotels. In several random surveys, Safe Kids Worldwide found many hotel-issued cribs to be defective, damaged or even recalled from the market.
New Crib Standards:
- Prohibit the sale of traditional drop-side cribs; immobilizers and repair kits are also not allowed;
- Require stronger wood to prevent slat breakage;
- Require anti-loosening devices to keep hardware secure and prevent detaching;
- Strengthen mattress supports; and
- Require more rigorous safety testing.
If you can bring your own folding playpen, that’s better than relying on borrowed cribs.
If you must use a hotel’s crib, inspect it carefully for broken or missing parts and look up the model on Recalls.gov to make sure it isn’t subject to any safety notices.
For more information about crib safety, visit the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission at 800-638-2772 or www.cpsc.gov.