One of the most convenient things about using an infant car seat is that you can leave the base installed and pop the seat in and out. This is great if you’re somewhere that has nasty weather or you’re just running a quick errand.
But many parents wonder about flying with a car seat base. Do you bring the car seat base when traveling? Some families even wonder if they have to bring the base or if it’s ok to leave it at home.
After reading this article you’ll understand your options and what to do with the car seat base when flying (if you choose to bring it along).
Do you have to fly with the car seat base?
As of this writing, all infant car seats for sale in the United States and Canada can be installed without a base (also called a “baseless” install) using just a regular seatbelt in cars and airplanes. This is great news for families who love to travel!
Quick note: Until recently, the Nuna Pipa Lite, Lite R and Lite LX were available and required a base for installation. Those are discontinued but if you have one from a previous child know that it does require a base.
Installing an infant car seat with a seatbelt is extremely easy. You’ll want to follow your car seat’s instructions but generally you run the lap portion of a seatbelt through the belt guides on each side of the car seat and tighten it, as you can see above. If you’re using a lap-shoulder seatbelt in a car, you’ll lock the belt as well.
Generally speaking you can’t install the base itself on an airplane. The base would also make it much harder to physically fit the infant car seat within the limited front-to-back space of an airplane seat.
Advantages of flying with a car seat base
The big advantage of flying with a car seat base is that you don’t have to uninstall and reinstall the car seat every time you want to take it out from the car.
Many families also find the base easier to install, since it has lower anchors and often a “lock off” for easy seatbelt installation. Many bases also have a recline adjustment built in to make the seat level.
If I’m being honest, it can be a pain to get your baby in and out of an infant car seat installed with a seatbelt because the lap belt is over their legs. It would take some real ninja skills to transfer a sleeping baby that way!
We’ve brought the car seat base when we’re going somewhere for a week (or more) and renting a car the whole time. We felt like the convenience of having it for that long of a trip outweighed the inconvenience of flying with the infant car seat base.
Disadvantages of flying with a car seat base
The downside of bringing the infant car seat base when you fly is that it’s one more thing to lug through the airport, store on the plane, remember to take off the plane and then carry on to a rental car shuttle. A member of my Facebook group recently forgot hers when traveling overseas and had to purchase a new one!
If you’re planning to Uber with a baby, it would be a real nuisance to schlep the car seat base around down with you in between rides!
What to do with the car seat base when flying
First things first: while I don’t recommend flying with an infant on your lap or checking a car seat for safety reasons, if you plan on that you should pack the car seat and base together either in a shipping box (if checking with luggage) or a sturdy car seat bag (if gate checking) that has space for both.
You may be wondering about getting your infant car seat base through the airport. Some of them are really heavy, so the best thing to do is use wheels! When we flew with our car seat base we put it in the basket of our car seat caddy or stroller – obviously the more open the basket the better! If you’re bringing a smaller stroller, you can wear your baby and put the car seat base and car seat in the stroller seat.
Alternatively this car seat bag has wheels and can accommodate both the car seat and its base, just be sure to order the correct size.
Once you get to your car seat base on the airplane, your best option is to put it under the seat in front of your baby. If that isn’t an option, you can try to find space to put it in the overhead bin. Just don’t forget it there!
If your baby doesn’t have their own ticket and you’re gate checking the car seat, you can pack the base with it in this bag.
Before you go…
Traveling with a car seat doesn’t have to be intimidating! Be sure to read these tips for bringing a car seat on a plane so that you’ll be cool, calm and confident.