If you are taking a family trip and you plan to spend a lot of time in the car during your vacation, there are many good reasons to bring along your child’s car seat.
Many parents assume that the car seat is too much of a hassle to bring along when flying, and instead opt for either trying to rent one a their destination or even buy one at their destination, but are they correct?
Is It Safe To Gate Check A Car Seat? The reality is that it’s much safer to gate check your car seat than to counter check it and much more cost effective than buying one at your destination. Gate checked items are lost and damaged less, and you may even get the opportunity to bring your child’s car seat on the plane with you.
Additionally, when you check your car seat at the gate, you get to see and talk to the individual will be responsible for putting your car seat in the hands of the individual who will ultimately stow your car seat in the plane.
This puts extra pressure on the airport staff to take care of your property and prevent a critical mistake.
Why Bringing your Child’s Seat With You is the Best Option
It is true that some rental car companies allow their customers to rent car seats for their children.
But if your rental car company does not fall in this category, and you don’t want to bring your child’s along with you on your journey, buying a car seat at your destination is the only option.
There are two reasons that this is an unacceptable option:
- The first reason that buying a car seat at your destination is unacceptable is that you would have to drive your rental car to a store that sells car seats, without your child being in a car seat. The second reason is that car seats for children typically range from $50 to $400 in price. But you can get very solid seats in the $100 to $250 range.
- Buying another for a single trip is just a waste, and you don’t want your child to have a lower end seat if you can help it. This leaves bringing your child’s current seat with you to your destination as the clear cut best option for your family vacation.
Three Big Reasons Why Checking your Child’s Car Seat at the Gate Beats the Counter
Most airlines allow you to check your car seat for free.
So again, definitely don’t opt to rent a child seat at your destination and especially do not buy a new one at your destination.
This still leaves us with the question, should one check their child’s car seat at the gate or at the front check in counter? Below are three key reasons why you should aim to check at the gate.
Reason 1: Your Car Seat is Less Likely to Be Damaged if You Check it at The Gate
If you bring your car seat to the gate, it simply will pass through fewer hands before reaching the belly of the plane.
This means that the chances of someone mishandling and/ or damaging your car seat are much less likely than a counter check.
See the video attachment below to view the journey of luggage checked from the front counter. It shows how easily damage can occur.
Reason 2: Your Car Seat is Also Less Likely to Be Lost if You Check it at The Gate
Airports frequently lose luggage and unfortunately, car seats are not exempt from this unfortunate trend.
The following video is not just fun to watch, but also reveals how easy luggage checked at the front counter can get placed on the incorrect flight, damaged or just lost in general in the large luggage rooms of airports.
NOTE: Sometimes airlines can provide car seats for passengers who receive the dreaded news that their own has been misplaced, but don’t count on this.
Reason 3: Sometimes When You Check a Car Seat at the Gate, You Can Bring it on the Plane
Oftentimes a plane does not fully sell all of its seats. In these cases, many individuals with a child seat will be allowed to bring their seats on the plane.
With empty seats, a child seat can simply be stowed in one of them.
This is the best possible outcome for you and your child, as it will mean no handling by anyone else outside of you and or your significant other will occur, given they are present for the flight.
To increase your chances of receiving an open seat near you, select you or your family’s seats to be located in the last few rows of the plane.
To further increase your chances, select a row near the back and pick your seat(s) to be the window and/ or aisle seats.
Check out this article we made an entire article about picking the best seats when traveling with kids on a plane.
This is a good decision because the middle seats in the back of the plane are usually the least appealing seats on the plane, giving them the best chance to be open for your child and their car seat.
Remember to be kind to flight attendants as they absolutely want to help you get your child’s seat on the plane if they can. This will make the flight more comfortable for your child, and the rest of the plane as a result.
Additional Tips to Consider When Checking Your Car Seat
There are several things you will need to consider when traveling with a child that is still in a car seat. The process does not need to be difficult, and with a little preparation, it won’t be.
- Get a car seat protector bag. Putting your child’s car seat in a protector bag will maximize its chances of avoiding damage, but more importantly, will maximize safety for your child. The frequent handoffs and contact with other people’s baggage can subject an exposed car seat to germs or becoming dirty, which could be unhealthy for your child.
- Buy a seat for your child and their car seat, if you can afford it, and you want to exercise your right to the very best option for your child and their safety. This will assure no loss, no damage, no dirty car seat and the best option for making your child as happy as can be on their flight. This is most definitely the no gamble play.
- Consider Uber Family. If the disaster scenario unfolds in front of your eyes, and you gate check your child’s car seat only to learn that it has been lost upon arrival at your destination, there is one cheaper option than buying a new seat or trying to rent one. In big cities, Uber has a feature called Uber Family, where you can call cars that come equipped with a child car seat.
- Remember that tagging your car seat is a required process for airport staff. This is nothing that will take any extra time or production and is simply a gate agent placing a small tag with your seat number and flight information onto the car seat.
- If you gate check, the car seat will not come through the baggage claim. When you gate check your child’s car seat, you will be able to pick it up on the runway when exiting your plane after landing at your final destination. Do not make the mistake of thinking that it will come through the regular baggage claim area!
- International flights often handle car seats the same way domestic flights do. If you are flying internationally and plan to experience a language barrier, do not worry. Flying internationally does not change the globally accepted flight practices of dealing with a child’s car seat. If you cannot communicate with a gate agent simply relax, look at the gate agent in the eye, point at your child’s car seat, and then shrug your shoulders. They should know what to do.
- One great rental car company for renting car seats is Hertz. If you rent a car from Hertz and you are also a member of AAA, it’s free of charge for you to rent a car seat. Keep in mind that Hertz is one of the more expensive car rental agencies, but it is good to know that so many of the steps of travel really do think about their customers who are traveling with young ones.
Traveling with children is not for the faint of heart, but it can also involve making some of the best memories of your life together.
When car seats are involved, everything gets a little more complicated, but the easiest and safest thing to do is to gate check your child’s car seat because it is convenient and it will prevent your car seat from becoming damaged.
Most airlines allow this without any extra charge, and if there is an extra charge, it is worth it!