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Looking to protect your car seat on your next big trip? We’ve found the best car seat bags out there to keep your car seat clean and safe while in luggage handlers’ control. Because no one wants to start their vacation with a dirty, wet, or broken car seat!
Checking vs Taking Car Seat on the Plane
Car seats are huge, heavy, and cumbersome. But they are part of the deal when it comes to traveling with babies, toddlers, and younger kids. So you gotta find some way to get them to your destination.
You can either rent them at your destination from a company like Baby’s Away (we wouldn’t recommend renting from the car rental company- quality is usually not great), bring them with you ON the airplane, or check them.
Why you'd want to bring the car seat ON the plane
For many families, having your kiddo in a car seat on the plane works out wonderfully. The FAA recommends small children ride in a car seat or CARES harness on the plane. It is the safest way for your child to fly. And it might be a comfortable and familiar resting place for your babe, making the flight easier for your AND your child.
Additionally, car seat experts recommend only checking the car seat in the box it came in to adequately protect it as car seats can be damaged in a way that is not visible.
And as a reminder, when bringing your car seat on the plane, first check to make sure your car seat is FAA approved (the sticker on the side will say that it is approved for use on airplanes), and make sure you have a seat in which to install it. In other words, you cannot bring a car seat for a lap baby, unless, for some reason, you have access to an open seat.
And also, don’t forget that you will need to lug said car seat through the airport. So you MIGHT still want a fantastic travel car seat bag, or this car seat travel cart to make that journey through the airport just a little bit easier!
Why you'd want to check your car seat
For some children, car seats are NOT a favorite (despite parent’s best attempts to make them fun and comfortable). So the idea of trying to get your baby or toddler to ride in this seat they hate on a flight full of strangers who are already giving you a judgmental eye waiting for the screams to begin does NOT sound like a lot of fun.
Additionally, bringing your car seat on the plane means GETTING your car seat through the airport. If you are traveling with multiple small children, and/or with only one adult, that might be impossible.
Airplanes are actually incredibly safe, when compared to car travel, so going without a car seat is a (small) risk many families (including mine) feel ok about.
Plus, for all US based airlines, baby items, such as car seats, actually check for FREE!
Options for Checking a car seat
If you’ve decided to check your car seat, you have a couple of options on HOW exactly you check it. No matter how you check it, make sure you let the airline know that it is a car seat. Most airlines will allow you to check your car seat for free, so it’s important that they know it is a car seat.
- At many major airports, your airline may offer a curbside check in service. They are usually free, but a tip is expected. Look for your airline’s kiosk outside of the airport, in the drop off area. You can drop your hefty car seat bag RIGHT there with extremely minimal lugging around. Curbside check in is a great option for families with kids who might have a TON of luggage, including huge, heavy car seats.
- Check your car seat at the counter. This is the most common way to check in any luggage. Once you are checked into your flight, head on over and drop off your car seat before you head through security. It’s so wonderful to lighten the load before waiting in line for security!
- Your last chance to check – gate checking. If you prefer to keep that car seat close through the airport, and pick it up RIGHT after your land, minimizing the time your seat is in the hands of luggage handlers, gate checking might be a good option for you. BUT that means carrying the car seat through the airport all the way to your gate. And waiting in the jetway, while everyone is de-boarding the plane, then hauling it back out through the airport.
Why you Need A Protective Bag
Checking your car seat can be super convenient, but there are some concerns. In fact, some of the car seat experts recommend that the car seat ONLY be packed in the box it came in for transport.
But because you probably don’t have the box it came in, and even if you did, putting all the little packing pieces back into place every time sounds like a puzzle I would NOT enjoy doing, a protective bag is the next best thing.
We all know how our luggage gets treated once it’s checked. And treatment of car seats is no different. They can get rained on, scratched, scuffed, or tossed. You definitely don’t want to find your car seat destroyed once you reach your destination. Protect it as best you can with an abrasion resistant, water resistant, padded bag.
What We Were Looking For
While evaluating the best travel car seat bags, we had a few criteria in mind. First, the bag needs to protect your car seat. Secondly, it needs to be easy to carry. Also, we like when the bag can be used for a variety of different car seats AND be budget-friendly (or at least worth the extra money, if the price is higher).
Protect Your Car Seat
Airplane luggage goes through a lot between when you check it, and when you pick it up. It’ll go down conveyer belts, tossed into the pile of luggage, left outside in the rain, dragged on the ground in the dirt, or who knows what else.
You’ll want a car seat bag that can provide as much protection as possible.
A sturdy bag that keeps the car seat covered, preventing snags and dirt is the minimum we’d want. We prefer a bag with a reasonable amount of padding as well. Perhaps even a bit of extra space you can sneak in a bit of extra padding for more protection.
(In fact, we often travel with this awesome Pack n Play Mattress topper, to use on rental or borrowed Pack n Plays- my boys won’t sleep on the regular Pack N Play Mattress. It fits perfectly in the back of our car seat travel bag and provides extra car seat protection for the journey).
Easy to Carry
A car seat is heavy, odd shaped, and overall awkward to carry. So when purchasing a travel car seat bag, we expect the bag to make things easier. The specifics on how that is done kinda depends on your specific situation (Do you already HAVE a backpack, or will you be rolling a suitcase? Do you have a lightweight car seat or a tank of a car seat?).
So we considered it all- backpack straps, wheels, big carry handle, or a combination- just as long as the bag made our lives easier when transporting a car seat.
Very few families wind up using the same car seat from birth until they are done with car seats.
(But we LOVE that that is an option with this very cool Britax and this amazing Graco car seat).
So we love car seat bags that work for every car seat you’ll wind up purchasing. Travel items, like a travel car seat bag, just aren’t going to get a TON of use for most families. And they don’t expire like a car seat, so we prefer to just buy ONE and use it forever, even passing it on to younger children, or to a friend when you no longer need it.
No one wants to overpay for their gear. So, though we always look for quality, we make sure we balance quality against price. We were looking for a bag that’ll last, keep your gear safe, but WON’T cost an arm and a leg.
I love the JR Childress Backpack SO much, I had to include the wheelie version because it provides another amazing option for families.
It has many of the same features as the backpack version, including durable padded fabric, a wide opening and enough space for nearly all car seats. But for families with heavy car seats, back problems, or who just prefer not to lug a giant car seat on their backs, the Wheelie is a great way to safely transport your car seat.
The wheels are sturdy and durable, and roll smoothly and easily. It can be easily attached to other roller bags with a simple strap, like this making the airport manageable even for families with lots of luggage.
This fantastic car seat travel bag features an adjustable waist strap, adjustable, padded backpack straps, a strap to keep your car seat in place, and extra padding to keep the seat safe, and side mesh pockets. Construction quality is high, with a smooth, wide opening zipper and tough, durable fabric.
Neat freaks will love that it’s designed such that it can be folded down and strapped together small and neatly when not in use.
Brand-Specific Car Seat Bags
Some car seat brands manufacture car seat bags specific to their brand of car seats. While we do prefer versatility, sometimes a brand-specific car seat makes sense.
For example, some families are pretty loyal to their preferred car seat brand. So if you are ALWAYS going to buy Britax car seats, then you aren’t really limiting yourself by buying a Britax bag. Also, some brands, like Diono, have a pretty different design than the standard car seat. So you might be happier with the fit you’ll get with a Diono-specific car seat bag rather than a one-size-fits-all bag.
However, we haven’t found that all brand-specific car seats are worth purchasing. These are the ones we do recommend, if brand-specific is for you.
This car seat bag features both backpack straps AND wheels. So you can pick your favorite mode, or switch between as needed. It also has side carry handles for quick transfers. Britax car seats are pretty standard, and the bag is designed to carry all Britax models, so you can bet it’ll fit basically every other car seat out there. So if you are a Britax owner, but not SURE you’ll always buy Britax, this bag is still a great fit!
The bag has comfortable, padded backpack straps. The fabric is durable and water resistant, but doesn’t have a lot of padding to it.
Diono car seats are shaped and designed a bit differently than a ‘standard’ car seat. So the Diono-specific travel bag will give you a snugger, better fit than a standard bag.
We like that the Diono bag is a bit slimmer so it’s easier to move around when wearing it. Plus, it’s waterproof and has reinforced seams to make it super durable. It has adjustable, slightly padded shoulder straps, to make carrying your car seat as comfortable as possible. Or adjust the straps to carry as a duffle. There is an additional padded side carry handle for quick transports as well.
If you are looking for a super budget-friendly car seat, we’ve got you covered. This bag will keep the dirt and rain off of your car seat, and prevent your car seat from catching on something that rips and road rash. This bag isn’t padded, but perhaps you are thinking that little bit of padding in the other bags won’t make a huge difference anyway (and maybe you are on to something).
This bag has a simple, durable design. Just a cinch-top bag with simple backpack straps, and a number of other carry straps all over the bag for alternate carry options. The fabric is water resistant, and durable with reinforcements on all the handles.