We recently flew “home” to visit family in Canada. It was our first flight since the birth of our son, and suddenly, travel with baby had turned into travel with baby and toddler! It was also the first time our daughter had flown since she turned two. Turning two meant we were now flying with a toddler who had her own seat – and was supposed to stay in it! So, how on Earth do you keep an energetic toddler in their seat, especially when you are already holding their baby brother? Enter CARES Child Aviation Restraint System . The perfect answer for all who are attempting to travel with kids old enough to be in their own seat, but not old enough to stay in it!
CARES (Child Aviation Restraint System), is a super compact seat belt attachment and turns the airplane seatbelt into a harness suited for travel with baby or toddler. It comes in its own (very small) bag and weighs just one pound – FAR lighter and more compact than trying to drag a toddler car seat onto your next flight! In fact, we easily fit it into the front pocket of our daughter’s backpack (filled otherwise with great travel toys for toddler). Naturally, we’d taken out the product ahead of time, figured out how to use it and practiced installing it at home, when we had all the time in the world, right? WRONG! Of course not! We’d been busy getting ready to travel with kids! We didn’t have time for that! The best part? We didn’t need to practice – it is ridiculously easy! We (naturally) didn’t bother reading the instructions (helpfully printed right on the bag, just in case!) and still had no trouble getting it to work right away. Easy peasy! It really, honestly did take, as advertised, less than a minute. In fact, we’re pretty sure it was less than half that. The design is very straight forward and we were able to look like pro parents who had travel with kids down!
Basically, you wrap the big strap around the seat back (and behind the seat tray of the person sitting behind your toddler). Then you adjust the straps to fit your toddler and thread the seat belt through the bottom of them, securing it the same way you normally would. There is no strap between your child’s legs, so yes, they could technically try to wiggle out – but the chest strap would keep them for going very far if they did. We’ve seen complaints that the chest strap was dangerous when the toddler fell asleep. We really don’t understand that. Car seats, high chairs and many strollers have chest straps. When done up tightly enough, they should not be hazardous to your child. Our daughter was perfectly comfortable and at no time were we worried for her safety.
Yes, we did have to ask the gentleman sitting right behind out daughter to lower his tray for a few seconds while we installed the belt. But, he was able to close the tray when we were done with no trouble. Given how squished airplanes are, and how often trying to get settled into your seat turns into an elaborate game of Twister with strangers, we feel like asking someone to lower their seat tray for a few seconds is hardly a big deal. Not to mention that we find most people are very accommodating when they see you are attempting to travel with kids and are happy to help you in any way they can. Basically, they’ll do anything they can to help you avoid having the kids scream the whole flight (of course, this won’t be happening to you, since you’ve read Travel with Baby: Flying Tips for Fearless Family Travel!)
Our daughter was happy to wear her CARES belt throughout the flight, and it kept her in her seat the entire time. It was great not to have to worry about her trying to get up and exploring while we took care of our baby son. (For other tips on how not to lose things while traveling, including your kids, check out our post on How Not to Lose a Thing While You Travel with Kids).
We are very happy with this purchase. Given that the CARES Child Aviation Restraint System is rated for children 1 year and older, weighing 22-44 pounds and up to 40" tall we are hoping to get quite a bit of use out of it. We’re sure it will help make our travel with kids easier for a long time to come! Planning on some summer travel with kids? Check out our post on how to Make Summer Travel with Kids Fun and Easy! If your vacation with kids includes travel with baby, check out our new updated post on Top 10 Items to make Travel with Baby Easy and Fun.