Consider for a moment the signs of wear and tear on your well-traveled suitcase, which was built for airport baggage systems. Then take a good look at your child’s car seat. Better yet, turn the car seat over and see where the harness straps feed through the back. That thin plastic shell was only tested to withstand the forces of a suburban-speed crash — one time only. And your car seat manual undoubtedly instructs you to stop using the seat after an accident because, as Graco warns in the ComfortSport manual, “A crash can cause unseen damage and using it again could result in serious injury or death.” If that doesn’t boost your confidence in car seats, keep in mind that the same plastic shell also “expires” after a certain number of years (see the date stamped on the back). Now do you really want to risk having 50 lb. and possibly 70 lb. suitcases dropped on your car seat in the baggage system? Not to mention, it can be hard enough to make due when one of your checked bags doesn’t make the connecting flight, but your child’s car seat? With rare exception, you should be allowed to check your car seat at the gate. While it may be one extra thing to get through the airport, it’s also possibly the most important thing you will use at your destination. Whether it attaches to your stroller, converts into a stroller, is worn against your back, or rides on your carry-on, there are plenty of ways to help streamline travel with your child’s car seat. If you’d like to see some suggestions, check out my car seat pages.
Shelly Rivoli, author of Travels with Baby
The Ultimate Guide for Planning Trips with Babies, Toddlers, and Preschool-Age Children