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Old 01-16-2010, 12:13 PM   #1
brergnat
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Does your 4 year old use a carseat on the plane?

We are flying to WDW from California (LOOOONG FLIGHT!).

I will have a *just* turned 4 year old with me (as well as a 5.5 year old). He is a bit of a defiant fellow (understatement!) but he's becoming increasingly aware of wanting to be like his big brother, and do things like he does. However, he tends to be very clingy, and gets scared of things often. When that happens, he wants to jump in my lap for a hug.

I'm at a loss of what to do for the flight. He's flown before, but just once. He rode in his giant, heavy carseat, and did fine. But, that was only a one hour flight. He couldn't really play with toys or watch anything on the dvd player, because he wasn't able to put the tray down and use it (him + seat left no room for that). He was very happy to have his carseat, and did not want to sit on the seat next to me during snack time. This was about 9 months ago.

So, what would you do? I am worried that he might refuse to sit on the seat, or to STAY nicely seated and buckled in when we need him to be. He is too big to sit in my lap for takeoff, and he can be very difficult in the throes of a tantrum. He has a speech/language delay, so has a hard time comprehending reasons for things (long explanations get lost on him) and expressing how he feels. But, he might do just fine. He rides the bus from school everyday and sits on the seat with lap belt only and does great (but it's only a 15 min drive).

On the other hand, we will be on two long flights (3+ hours each), and I want him to be able to use the tray, play, watch dvd's, etc. without feeling confined and be able to move a bit more than when he is strapped down fully.

What has been your experience with a 3-4 year old in JUST the seat, no carseat?

We really want to minimize the stuff we have to carry through the airport, especially. It was VERY hard last time to deal with the two kids, carryons, and the giant heavy carseat. We are not renting a car, so no need for the seat upon arrival.
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Old 01-16-2010, 12:18 PM   #2
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My 4 yo sat without a car seat last time we flew, 2 1/2 hour flight............not a problem, he had a window seat, and stuff to keep him occupied, but just looking out the window on takeoff kept him occupied for a bit.......LOL
he buckled and unbuckled when he had to.
I would let him sit without the seat, bring toys and items to occupy him for sure!
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Old 01-16-2010, 12:23 PM   #3
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I don't fly with any carseats. At 4 I would definitely not bring one. I would think that you should be able to entertain him with no problems at that age.
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Old 01-16-2010, 01:18 PM   #4
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I never flew with car seats so my kids always did fine with just a belt.

Truly I can't imagine having a 4 yr old in a car seat on an airplane. That would be very tight quarters! And if you do then you absolutely HAVE to have a member of your traveling party sit in front of him and get kicked in the lower back because there is no way a 4 yr old could sit in a car seat and NOt kick the seat in front of him.

I would just tell him it is just like the bus that when he is seated he needs his belt on end of story.
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Old 01-16-2010, 03:24 PM   #5
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At 4 years old my DD flew in a car seat, and back then she only flew from SLC ~ S. CA - her travel seat was a Cosco Scenera (light weight, cheap *$40*) I'm sad that she's now too big for it ~ it's a great travel/2nd seat. Her main seat (now) is a Britax Wizard but I wouldn't fly with that, now if she'll be in a vehicle with seat belts after a flight I gate check a back less booster for her. So yes from CA to FL I'd bring along a lighter seat assuming your kid fits in it ~ the Scenera has a 40 lbs weight limit and somewhat shorter height limit ~ kids are too tall for their seat when their shoulders are above the harness slot(s) ~ **but when a little one is rear facing their shoulder should be above the harness slots.
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Old 01-16-2010, 05:10 PM   #6
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Airplane seats are more shallow than the seats in cars. Unless your child is very small, he should be in on the plane without a carseat.
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Old 01-16-2010, 06:09 PM   #7
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NO there isn't enough room - and boosters aren't allowed. Our then 2 yr old flew last month in just the seat and did great- she had her belt on and just sat there like a big kid with her sisters, watched her DVD (Tom and Jerry of all things!) IT was great!
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Old 01-16-2010, 06:16 PM   #8
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This year will be the first year we fly without a car seat in the cabin of the plane and our daughter will be 4! Our friend is a Southwest pilot and he never carries on a carseat for his 3 year old. As long as your child will stay buckled in, you will be fine.

We did carry on a carseat (Graco) for our son until he was 6 so they do fit. He was the type that needed his car seat to fall asleep on the plane so it just made things easier.
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Old 01-16-2010, 06:38 PM   #9
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Have you thought about getting or renting a CARES harness? That is what I've done with my 3.75 yo and my 4.5 yo (well, at the time) on the plane when no seat was needed at the other end.

Just a thought. It will make them feel more secure than just the regular airplane seatbelt. I will say my 3.75 yo took it upon himself to unbuckle the lap belt portion quite few times so I had to stay on top of him.

At those ages when they were in their carseats on the plane, we brought clipboards along for them to bear down on for coloring, etc, and they just held the dvd player in their lap. Worked great.
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Old 01-16-2010, 08:20 PM   #10
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My 4 year old has done ok on planes without a carseat. That said it depends on your child!
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Old 01-16-2010, 11:05 PM   #11
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My son is too tall for CARES. Already looked into that. My main concern is that he might NOT keep his belt on. I'm leaning towards no seat at this point. Thanks everyone.
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Old 01-16-2010, 11:58 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by brergnat View Post
My son is too tall for CARES. Already looked into that. My main concern is that he might NOT keep his belt on. I'm leaning towards no seat at this point. Thanks everyone.
We used our CARES on my oldest when she was 5 (98th %tile height.) Unless I missed something in the instructions that says not to, we just kept moving the shoulder harness strap higher and higher without incident.

Feb will be our first flight without carseats (YAY!!) and without strollers (YAY again!!!) DD7 in lap belt, DS4 in CARES (he's also 98th %tile height...)
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Old 01-17-2010, 07:03 AM   #13
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The Graco high back 5 pt harness/booster will fit nicely in the seat, but I think it is up to you whether you really need it or not.

I have twin 4 year old boys and they have always used carseats up until they turned 4. I used the seats for the reasons you mentioned. I wanted to relax on the plane and not worry about them moving around and such.

On our last trip they had just turned 4 and we decided to leave the seats home. I was nervous but they actually did great. They had been on an airplane so many times that they knew what was expected of them.

Good luck! Let me tell you--it was SOOOO nice not having to carry two carseats around with us on our last vacation!!
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Old 01-17-2010, 09:20 AM   #14
Erica09M
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If I was flying with a 4 year old, yes they would have their 5 point harness seat with them. I am actually torn about our upcoming trip because my daughter will be 4 the day we leave and turn 5 the next day. My rule for my family is: children 4 & under in car seat on plane, children 24 months and under rear facing on plane.

It's not required, but they recommend children who weigh under 40 pounds to use a car seat on the plane. I have seen several pictures of children using a forward facing 5 point harnessing seat at this age and there is plenty of room. In fact, the Graco Nautilus (which is a not so small seat) fits great on a plane. I'll post a picture if I can get permission from a parent

Quote:
Originally Posted by pooh4evr View Post
NO there isn't enough room - and boosters aren't allowed. Our then 2 yr old flew last month in just the seat and did great- she had her belt on and just sat there like a big kid with her sisters, watched her DVD (Tom and Jerry of all things!) IT was great!
A just turned 4 year old shouldn't be in a booster anyway, so that shouldn't be the problem.
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Old 01-17-2010, 09:37 AM   #15
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My son will be 6 when we go in May and it will be his first trip without a carseat on the plane. He just switched to a booster several months ago because it took him that long to hit the 40 pound mark. I oldest daughter switched about the same age as I recall and my 2 year old will absolutely be in a carseat. Our rule is if you have to sit in a carseat in a car, you have to sit in one on a plane.
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