Air Travel Series: The Car Seat & Stroller Conundrum Part 2: Convertible Car Seat

There are so many facets to air travel with a baby that I’ve decided to break them down into multiple posts. I found that one of the most seemingly daunting (but in reality not that complicated) part of baby travel is what to do about a car seat and stroller. Depending on your baby’s age, you’re either dealing with an infant car seat or a convertible car seat. So here’s the deal for older babies/toddlers and their convertible car seats.

A New Stroller Situation (#itgetsbetter)

In terms of the gear you have to drag along, life gets a little easier with the move to a convertible car seat. Why? Because now instead of lugging your massive Uppa Vista on the plane, you can bring a TRAVEL STROLLER!! But which one should you pick? Allow me to just instruct you right now to go buy the BabyZen Yoyo+ Stroller. This thing is pure magic. You can snap it down with one hand while holding a baby, it’s super light, it has a strap so you can carry it on your shoulder, and it FITS IN OVERHEAD BINS AND UNDER THE SEAT ON A PLANE. And that’s all while still looking nice and being comfortable for your baby. It ain’t cheap, but it’s worth every penny.

Convertible Car Seat Travel Options

When it comes to convertible car seats, you essentially have 4 options when you’re traveling:

You Can Bring Your Main Car Seat: I don’t like this option for a few reasons. One, we splurged and got the Nuna Rava, which is an extremely pimped out awesome car seat. I want this bad boy to last and stay in excellent condition. No matter which way you spin it, car seats get banged up during air travel, and you don’t want to compromise the quality (and safety) of the car seat that your baby spends the majority of his or her time in. It’s also heavy AF (comes with the territory of being pimped out and all) and lugging that around the airport would be a nightmare. Car seats are also a bitch to install and uninstall. You don’t want to do it more than you have to.

You Can Buy A Car Seat To Keep At Your New Location: This makes sense if you fly somewhere very frequently – this way you don’t have to travel with a car seat at all (#blessed) and have one waiting for you when you arrive. Obviously this is an expensive option, so it only makes sense for frequent use. We have one at both of Grandma’s houses. For Grandma’s houses, we chose the Britax Boulevard as an excellent, high quality, highly safe car seat that was a least slightly cheaper than the Nuna Rava, our everyday seat.

You Can Rent A Car Seat: If you’re renting a car, you can actually rent a car seat from the car rental agency. Sounds convenient, right? Might not be worth it. In fact, I highly advise against this. I have heard story after story about families arriving at the rental agency to find a car seat that was dirty, extremely old, missing it’s manual, the wrong size, impossible to install, even BROKEN. Guys, when it comes to car seats, I am not willing to be “meh” about it – this is not where you want to make compromises. 

Caveat: There are a few new services on the market where you can rent baby gear from local people when you travel. It sounds interesting, but I have not tried it myself yet, or know of anyone who has. 

You Can Bring Your Backup Car Seat: Ding Ding Ding! This is what we do when we’re traveling anywhere OTHER than a Grandma’s house with Teddy.

I did a ton of research and selected the Evenflo Tribute LX. Here is why I love this option:

  1. It’s extremely safe – just as safe as the Nuna and Britax
  2. It’s extremely light and easy to install – important because I lug it through an airport and have to install it quickly in cabs & Ubers
  3. It’s extremely inexpensive – car seats DO get banged up whether you gate check or baggage check, and I don’t want to be in poverty (and enraged) if they somehow lose or damage my car seat. Given how often we travel, I plan on replacing the car seat every 18 months or so.

Now, is it as nice or comfortable for the babe as the Nuna or Britax? No. I wouldn’t want to use this as my at-home every day car seat. It’s extremely bare bones. But what matters is that it’s safe, cheap, light, and easily replaceable.

At The Airport

We generally now keep Teddy in the Baby Zen YoYo throughout the airport. It’s very easy to get this bad boy through TSA on the conveyer belt as opposed to the big ole Uppa Vista, and then one of us pulls the car seat in it’s carrier bag. Allow me to recommend the Jeep Car Seat Travel Bag – super cheap, works amazingly, has wheels and shoulder straps, and fits all convertible car seats (that I’m aware of). Don’t waste your money on a fancy one, it’s going to get banged up regardless.

At The Gate

You just put the luggage tag on that car seat (in it’s carrier) and gate check! We bring the Baby Zen Yoyo onto the plane with us, and put it either under the seat or in the overhead bin, depending on the size of the plane. And by “bring” I mean we sneak it on in addition to our carryons. Listen, after the s**t these airlines have pulled on me over the years, I am entitled to my extra stroller carry-on. Plus, no one wants to challenge a stern-looking woman holding a baby on an airplane, trust me.

Not yet ready for convertible car seats? Check out my tips for Infant Car Sear Travel HERE..

You could be sleeping through the night
next week.