Not taking your car seat on board the plane? Here’s how to safely check it in
Car seats are without a doubt one of the bulkiest pieces of kiddy kit you will need to travel
If you are not planning on using your car seat on board an aircraft but will use it at your destination you need to make sure it is securely stowed in the hold of the plane.
When buying a car seat, it makes perfect sense that you should invest a few extra dollars to buy a car seat protector and also buy a travel bag to protect it in transit. In this post, we will look at:
- WHY you need a gate check bag
- The best car seat travel bags currently on the market
- Alternative ways of dealing with your car seats
This post is part of our Tried & Tested product reviews.
Do I need a car seat travel bag?
Serious you’re telling me I need to buy MORE travel kit! Have I not purchased enough already!?
We learnt very quickly after one of our early flights with a baby that yes, indeed you need to protect your car seats if they go in the hold. These items are treated as oversized luggage and if left unprotected in any way are prone to breakage (as well as rain if left out in the elements). We can’t image how hard our baby capsule must have been thrown by baggage handlers to completely smash in the way it did…
It made us much more conscious of keeping our gear protected and now we never travel without both our strollers and our car seats in a protective bag or covering.
(TOP TIP: It was also a lesson to photograph anything of value going into the hold so you have evidence for any claims for breakage with your airline or insurer – much back and forward with the airline concerned we were finally compensated).
Can’t I just take my car seat on to the plane?
You can only use your car seat on a plane if you have paid for a child’s seat and the car seat is approved by your airline’s regulating authority. [NB: The FAA does not control the world! It is pretty good guidance though so check out their Child Restraint System advisory here.]
(We will have more on car seat rules on planes to come in a later post).
What does gate check mean?
It means checking an item in to be held under the aircraft at the gate. In reality though “gate-check bags” for car seats and strollers can also be checked in with your luggage if the item is not required on the way to the plane. A stroller perhaps might be more convenient to gate check but your car seat can be checked in immediately on arriving at the airport.
Can I chance taking my car seat with me to the plane?
You can, but it could be a bulky and inconvenient strategy to try. IF there is a spare seat next to you, you might be able to use your car seat if the crew allow. Otherwise, it’ll have to be left at the plane door to go in the hold.
Some people prefer to do this regardless and pull their kid along in the car seat. To be fair I’ve not tried it, but it doesn’t look that convenient vs using a stroller.
If you do this, it’s even more important to make sure you can readily pull a protective bag over your seat before it’s left with ground staff to put in the hold. Make sure they issued you with a baggage tag at check-in that is visible on the exterior of the bag (airline issued, not just your own ID tag), or a member of gate staff has somehow tagged it.
Where do I collect my gate check items from?
Whether you have left your items at the aircraft
Does the car seat count towards my luggage if I gate check it?
This is entirely up to your airline, policies vary vastly. Most premium airlines (you can check our full collection of airline reviews here) allow a child’s car seat and/or stroller to be checked at no extra charge.
On a budget airline, you may need to weigh up the cost of simply buying your infant a seat on the plane so the car seat can be used on board vs the cost of paying for extra luggage and keeping it in the hold.
(TOP TIP: If you are ultra-clever and get an infant item for free, don’t let that spare space between the bag and the around the actual item go to waste! Perfect for shoving your blankets or extra clothes!)
Choosing the best car seat travel bag
Features to look for when purchasing a car seat gate check bag:
- Durable and waterproof material (thickness of the nylon and quality of stitching to prevent tears)
- How you carry it, does it have sturdy should straps?
Extra handlesto help pickingit up? Wheels to pull it along?
- Will it actually fit my car seat’s dimensions?
- How secure is the item inside? Will it be a snug fit or still jiggling around?
- How does the bag stay closed? Just a drawstring and velcro or can you zip and lock it?
- How small does the product fold up when not in use?
Unlike many brands of stroller that come with their own branded travel bags, very few car seats come with custom-fitted gate check bags so you will most likely need to get a generic brand that best fits the s
Here are our top picks compared side by side:
Best Car Seat Travel Bags 2019
Our Top Pick: Rogue Kidz Car Seat Travel Bag
One of the most robust offerings, the Rogue Kidz Car Seat Travel Bag has great dimensions to fit taller backed car seats (20″ x 20″ x 33.5″) and is made of durable waterproof nylon.
Getting your car seat in and out of the bag is made easy with a drawstring that can open wide and the bag can be tightly secured with two clip fasteners. As well as having two sturdy padded backpack straps, it also has a side lifting handle and a front strap for easy manoeuvring and an optional luggage strap that can clip on. When not in use it comes with its own handy storage pouch.
VolkGo Durable Car Seat Travel Bag
The VolkGo is a very similar product to Rogue Kidz, also boasting a durable waterproof nylon exterior and generous dimensions fitting seats up to 18″ x 18″ x 34″ suitable for most brands.
We like that it comes with two backpack straps as well as front and side lifting handles to help with manoeuvrability. It has a wide drawstring opening and closes with a velcro fastener. When not in use, it fits in a small and lightweight pouch.
It comes with a
VolkGo also produce a matching stroller travel bag too.
Zohzo Car Seat Travel Bag
This bag from Zohzo offers a snug fit for your car seat and slightly smaller dimensions (18″ x 18″ x 28″) so may not suit the taller bag seats but is a very secure fit with a zip closing that can be locked. The exterior is durable waterproof nylon.
As well as being padded inside for extra protection, the Zohzo also features a padded back for ease of carrying with adjustable backpack straps, a top lifting handle and strap for around your waist for a better ergonomic fit.
We love that it comes not only in black and grey but a distinct bright purple for item identification. It doesn’t fold down as small as other products when not in use due to the extra padding.
JL Childress Car Seat Travel Bags
JL Childress are big players in the children’s luggage market with several different models on offer for both car seats and strollers.
We feel their basic car seat bag model is a little lacking and by all reports, really only good for one trip as the nylon waterproof bag is not particularly durable. It comes with a drawstring close and a single front handle. For its lack of features, it makes up for it in weight being only 10.7oz and stretching to a huge 46″ which is great for those high-backed boosters.
The backpack model is quite a bit heavier at 6.6lbs but is the much easier product to carry with adjustable backpack straps and a top lift handle. Its dimensions are quite square at 19″x 15″x 16″ so it won’t work for your taller backed seats but
They also produce a wheeled version which we’ll discuss below. You can see their matching stroller cover range here.
Oowap Gear Car Seat Travel Bag
Another made from durable waterproof nylon material, double stitched seams and offering a top opening with a drawstring for easy access. Dimensions on the Oowap Gear Car Seat Travel Bag are generous at 18″x 18″x 34″ allowing most brands to fit. The fastener is a velcro flap which some purchases have claimed doesn’t stay securely closed in transit.
Carrying is made easy with backpack straps as well as side and a front lifting handle for manoeuvring. It packs down neatly into its own lightweight pouch.
The manufacturer gives a 100% satisfaction guarantee which is always reassuring.
Bububee Elua Car Seat Travel Bag System
Elua is one of the simpler models but still comes with added features, that make it one of the best value easy to use models. Made of a high-density Oxford waterproof nylon exterior and neoprene lined interior. It has adjustable backpack carry straps as well as top and side carry handles for lifting.
It closes with a drawstring toggle and a velcro flap. When not in use stores in its own lightweight pouch. Generously sized at 18″ x 18″x 33.5″ it fits most car seat models.
The Bububee Elua also comes with matching double stroller travel bag.
ReperKid Car Seat Travel Bag
Another fairly basic model, very similar to the Elua and Oowap Gear, The ReperKid claims to use a thicker 600D nylon than others (no evidence as to what thickness most others are using though when they say “durable”!).
It comes with two backpack style straps and a front handle for lifting. Fits most models at 18″ x 18″ x 34″ and comes with its own lightweight carry bag. Its bright colour for identification is one of it’s distinguishing features.
EleFox Durable Car Seat Bag Backpack
Also very similar to many of the competitor brands listed here though coming in at a cheaper price point. Feature-wise the EleFox fits most brands at 18″ x 18″ x 34″ and the durable waterproof 420D nylon comes in
The product is carried with two shoulder straps and a front lifting handle and its a drawstring and velcro close. Stores into its own lightweight pouch. A good value pick.
Comes with a matching stroller travel bag.
Best Car Seat Gate Check Bags with Wheels
If the idea of lugging your car seat on your back is not appealing (let’s be honest, car seats are quite awkward and heavy!), there are a few wheeled products available – just be conscious you compromise a little on weight and they won’t fold down as small when not in use.
Our Top Pick: Hello Jolie Car Seat Bag
This is probably one of the best padded models we’ve seen for keeping your gear protected with 4 swivel wheels, the only one on the market to offer this feature.
The attractive Hello Jolie has a thick internal fleece lining and waterproof nylon outer, opening complete flat for ease of use and a luggage strap to attach your wheelie car seat bag to your suitcase. It comes in black, grey and navy and with ample dimensions will fit the largest of car seats.
It is one of the heavier products at 5.5lbs but as you will be pulling it on swivel wheels rather than carrying this is really not so much of an issue. You will need storage space at your destination too as it’s one of the bulkier ones when not in use. What it makes up for in these small inconveniences though is the best possible protection and convenient transportation.
No matching stroller bag yet, but they do produce great matching travel cubes.
The JL Childress Wheelie Car Seat Travel Bag
Similar to the JL Childress backpack model reviewed above, this wheeled product from J L Childress comes with a durable nylon exterior and a padded interior for superior seat protection. It also has lockable zips.
The product is 20″x 30″x 32″ so still quite reasonable dimensions that will fit most but not all high backed models. The product folds flat but not tiny like the pouch products reviewed above. It can be used whether you are checking your luggage or want an easy way to get your car seat to the plane.
Jeep Child Car Seat Travel Bag
Another sturdy option that comes with built-in wheels. Jeep Child Car Seat Travel Bag has a front zip lock for a snug fit and gives the option of being pulled with a top handle, picked up with a front handle as well as carried as a backpack.
It claims to fit most car seats but does not specify exact dimensions which
Alternative methods for transporting your car seat
You can, of course, stick your car seat into oversized luggage and hope for the best! As an alternative, if you don’t want to buy a travel bag, you can shrink wrap your kiddy travel products at the airport. It’s not as effective as having a durable bag, and inevitably ends up costing more if you pay for items to be wrapped on every flight you take but it can be a quick and easy method to protect your gear without investing in a travel bag.
If you are just interested in a quick and easy way to get your car seat to the plane without a cover over it (really only needed if it’s going in the hold, these are a few suggested ideas:
Summing it up – picking the best car seat travel bag
As you can see, there are a lot of similarities in the travel bag products on offer and the price point is not huge for the protection that it adds. There is a distinct price jump for those products that fit more snuggly and offer padding or wheels, but they may not work with your larger booster seats.
Most of the travel bags reviewed gave options for backpack carrying shoulder straps – but let’s be honest unless you are hiking for miles (Ok, some airports are huge!) really you need something to get you from car to check-in. As long as there are enough points to easily pick the item up, it will be heavy and bulk no matter what
The other things to be mindful of is how secure the item is once in the bag. Yes, drawstrings always make it easier to get things in and out, but you don’t want the item moving around too much in the bag. There’s only so much protect a nylon cover alone can give, even if you are adding blankets and clothing etc into the travel bag.
Although there was a lot of similarity between the products, we picked Rogue Kidz in
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Check out all our handy buying guides before your next vacation:
- How to choose a gate check stroller bag – keeping your stroller safe is as important as your car seat.
- Getting cosy on the move – best kids travel pillows and seatbelt comforters.
- Best kids plane sleep devices – a comparison of the top brands and which airlines actually accept them.
- The best compact strollers – that can even fit on a plane.
- Best compact double strollers – keeping it light while you push 2 kids
- Are travelling high chairs worth it? – from clamp ons to boosters, do they help with feeding on the go?
- Items that travel-loving parents-to-be will actually use – Get clued-in on what to buy new parents that they will get a lot of practical use from for their baby.
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