The Advantages of CARES, the airplane harness for kids
There are certainly times it would be much easier to leave the car seat behind as you dash off into the airport with your toddler, particularly when you know you won’t be needing a car seat on the other end. I’ve been there myself when journeying to Europe and using trains and public transportation on the other end, and visiting parts of Asia where back seats of taxis often don’t have seat belts even if you do bring your car seat along.
More commonly, there are times when you could simply rent a car seat or borrow one during your visit once you reach your destination. And of course, if you’ll be flying at 7 months pregnant with two small children in tow, as I will be next month, you might be especially relieved to leave your car seats right where they are in the airport parking lot.
However, the thought–and reality–of buckling your 2-year-old into an airplane seat with nothing but the lap belt may feel a bit risky. And many spirited toddlers simply won’t last long with the easy-lift seatbelt buckle alone. The alternative is the new CARES safety harness the FAA has approved for toddlers 1 year and 22 lbs. or more to use on airplanes in place of car seats. With an average price of $79, however, it’s hard for most families to justify the cost for the simple set of nylon straps that attach to the seat back and lap belt. Especially if they may use it just a couple of times before their child reaches the 40 lbs. / 40″ tall the FAA considers safe for flying with the airplane’s seatbelt alone. And remember, CARES can only be used on airplanes, not in motor vehicles.
Rent CARES by Mail
Good news. I recently learned about Sweet Pea Baby Rentals, a baby gear rental agency based in Phoenix, Arizona, that is making it very easy to rent CARES by mail. You can rent a CARES harness just for your trip, regardless of where you live in the U.S. or Canada, and it will arrive at your door packaged with the instructional DVD, a flight information brochure, and the CARES carrying pouch.
You can rent your CARES from Sweet Pea Baby Rentals for $5 a day or a full week for $20, plus $8 priority shipping to have it delivered to your door. To Canada, the shipping rate is $15 priority. Families with twins or two children close in age will get an extra break for renting a second CARES harness (and priority shipping for the pair goes to $10). Click here for more details about renting CARES by mail. Understandably, the CARES rentals book up quickly, so contact Sweet Pea Baby Rentals right away to reserve yours for holiday travel: https://www.sweetpeababyrentals.com/ or call (602) 549-9918.
Families that live in the Phoenix metro area and Scottsdale can simply pick up their CARES in person if they like and save any shipping or delivery fee. Or they might also be interested in the other items Sweet Pea Baby Rentals offers for air travel, which include the Gogo Kidz Travelmate and Safeguard Go folding hybrid booster seat (see them here).
If your planning a trip to the Phoenix area (or Scottsdale, Sedona, Surprise, etc.), take a look at Sweet Pea Baby Rental’s great package deals and a la carte items that include high-end car seats like the Britax Marathon (not one you want to lug through the airport!) and strollers like the the Phil & Ted single and double. As with the CARES rentals, Sweet Pea offers a discount for any second like item (rent two car seats, cribs, etc.). What’s more, they’ll even meet you at the Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport (rental car center or cell phone waiting lots) with your rented car seat and any other items you need for a great stay.
Thanks to Sweet Pea Baby Rentals, I will indeed be leaving my children’s car seats in their places at SFO parking next month. I look forward to test-flying CARES and traveling a whole lot lighter than usual–if you don’t count the pregnancy bulge. Stay tuned for my detailed product review of CARES in early December. UPDATE: CLICK HERE TO READ MY FULL REVIEW OF CARES WITH TIPS ON USING IT AND PHOTOS.
Shelly Rivoli, author of the award-winning guide Travels with Baby