Does your 4 year old use a carseat on the plane?

Discussion in 'Disney for Families' started by brergnat, Jan 16, 2010.

  1. brergnat

    brergnat DIS Veteran

    Sep 1, 2006
    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.
  2. npmommie

    npmommie <font color=red>Channels George Michael in her car

    Oct 11, 2007
    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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  4. Mouse House Mama

    Mouse House Mama <font color=red>Luckiest Mommy in the World!!!<br>

    Aug 28, 2004
    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.
  5. Hannathy

    Hannathy <font color=darkorchid>When I stop laughing I will

    Jan 24, 2006
    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.
  6. DisneyMomma81

    DisneyMomma81 DIS Veteran

    Aug 18, 2007
    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.
  7. stacy6552

    stacy6552 Keep to the code!

    Jun 18, 2000
    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.
  8. pooh4evr

    pooh4evr Mouseketeer

    Mar 13, 2005
    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!
  9. MinnieForMe

    MinnieForMe DIS Veteran

    May 15, 2007
    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.
  10. Cedarmom

    Cedarmom Mouseketeer

    Aug 24, 2009
    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.
  11. hillview

    hillview Mouseketeer

    Aug 5, 2007
    My 4 year old has done ok on planes without a carseat. That said it depends on your child!
  12. brergnat

    brergnat DIS Veteran

    Sep 1, 2006
    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.
  13. brentm3

    brentm3 Mouseketeer

    Apr 29, 2004
    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...)
  14. my2minnies

    my2minnies Mouseketeer

    Jul 21, 2004
    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!!
  15. Erica09M

    Erica09M Mouseketeer

    May 31, 2009
    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 ;)

    A just turned 4 year old shouldn't be in a booster anyway, so that shouldn't be the problem.
  16. syudelson

    syudelson Mouseketeer

    Jan 12, 2010
    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.
  17. jodifla

    jodifla WDW lover since 1972

    Jan 19, 2002
    I stopped when DS turned 3. The car seat took up SO much room -- his legs were jammed into the seat in front of him.
  18. PearlySwan

    PearlySwan "I have spread my dreams under your feet; tread so

    Jul 15, 2009
    DS, now 4yr. old, was only 3.5 yrs. old when we went to WDW June 09. He isn't particularly tall (he's in the 55% height percentile). We didn't take a car seat with us. He did just fine on the plane both ways. Since we didn't drive, and only used WDW transportation, we didn't need to bring a car seat.
  19. tam626

    tam626 DIS Veteran

    May 17, 2008
    Our ds was 3 on our first trip & we did'nt do a car seat. He is super active & somewhat defiant but the portable dvd player worked great at keeping him in his seat. We did only have a 2 hour flight though.
  20. brergnat

    brergnat DIS Veteran

    Sep 1, 2006

    FYI, from the Cares website (in the FAQ section):
    What are the upper weight and height limits for children to use CARES?
    The current upper limit of the CARES certification is 44 lbs and 40 inches tall.
  21. mamaLori05

    mamaLori05 DIS Veteran

    Feb 4, 2008
    The last time we went to Disney my then 8 mo old and just turning 3 year old rode on the plane without any car seats. Our plane wasn't full and we happened to have a seat next to us open, so when we weren't taking off or landing, our then 8mo old sat in the seat with a seat belt just like his big sister. We had a dvd player for each of them, and they did fabulous!!! They watched their movies, played some games, colored, looked out the window, and were easily entertained. I did pack a carry on bag full of activities and things that were "new" to them, which really seemed to help!

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