While your toddler most likely rides facing forward in the car at home, you may want to consider the advantages of installing his car seat rear-facing on your next flight — if that is an option. Keep in mind that most convertible car seats have rear-facing upper weight limits of 30 lbs. or more (see your car seat’s manual for your limit), and even the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends keeping children rear-facing until they reach the upper weight limit for their car seats (standard practice in some other countries).
In the airplane, there are other advantages as well. First, your child may travel more contently while facing you, enjoying regular eye contact and watching to know you are calm and confident about the takeoff, even if he is not so sure about it all. Second, it’s easier to keep track of toys and books and snacks on his lap, and especially when they start to escape (fewer hunts under the seats). You may also be better able to recline his seat in this position, helping him nap or nod off more successfully during your flight.
But best of all, he won’t drive the forward passengers — and you — crazy by kicking the backs of their seats and obsessing over the fold-out tray. If you’re concerned there won’t be room enough for his legs, consider how he sits when watching TV or during story time, and don’t overlook how much more comfortable your own legs would probably be when folded and resting against the seat, versus dangling unsupported for hours. If you have an upcoming flight with your toddler, you might just give it a try.
Shelly Rivoli, author of the award-winning guide Travels with Baby
The Ultimate Guide for Planning Trips with Babies, Toddlers, and Preschool-Age Children