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A few months ago I posted about the ongoing debate over lap children on airplanes. After that post, a couple of people reached out to me to share how much they loved their CARES (Child Aviation Restraint System) harness. We had previously flown with C in her car seat on the plane and had not yet tried the harness. While I feel the car seat is a safe way to fly, and it is certainly a seat she is used to and comfortable with, it is a bit of a pain to lug it through the airport and onto the plane. In case you don’t yet have a car seat in your daily life, let me tell you they are big and heavy! It also puts her so close to the seat in front of her that she can easily kick the seat and her legs also get pinned if the person in front of her decides to recline their seat. So, we decided to give the CARES harness a shot. I reached out to the Kids Fly Safe company to see if they would be interested in sponsoring a giveaway so that one of you can try the harness yourself. They were generous enough to not only provide me with one to try (because I can’t in good conscience give something away that I wouldn’t use myself), but to share one with a Mommy Points reader as well!
First I will give you some of the official info regarding the CARES harness, and then I will share my experience using it for the first time on our flight yesterday.
- CARES is the first and only harness-type Aviation Child Safety Device to be certified by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as an alternative to a car seat.
- CARES is a harness-type safety device designed for children who weigh between 22-44 lbs and are sitting in their own airplane seats. (Generally 1-4/5 years old.)
- CARES takes the place of a car seat when traveling by air with your children and provides an equivalent level of safety (ELOS) to a car seat. (Stated in the FAA certification designation)
- CARES weighs 1 pound (car seats weigh 15-20 lbs).
- CARES comes in a 6 inch stuff sack that fits in a pocket or purse. (Car seats are over 2 feet high, 20 inches wide, heavy, bulky and hard to carry)
- CARES is designed specifically for air travel: it is portable, light weight and easy to use.
- CARES takes one minute to install on any airplane seat and augments the regular lap belt.
- Parents who need the car seat at the other end of trip can ship it through as luggage, and carry their CARES on board.
- CARES is manufactured exclusively by AmSafe Aviation, the foremost manufacturer of aviation seatbelts and pilot restraints in the world. (Turn over your airplane seat belt buckle. Chances are it says AmSafe.) CARES is made of the same industrial-strength webbing as your own seat belt and is engineered to the highest aviation-safety standards.
- CARES has been certified by Canada, the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore. Certification for many other countries is in process.
- It was super handy to not have to haul the car seat through the airport. We checked it as soon as we got to the airport and it was waiting for us at our destination. This harness easily fit in my purse. It is obviously great if you have reserved a seat for your kiddo, but it could also be handy to have this stowed in your carry-on in the event you are hoping to get lucky and score a “free” seat for your under-two-year-old.
- It was also really nice to not have the car seat filling up all the space on the airplane. It almost felt spacious sitting next to C without the car seat. There was much more room for all of her toys, snacks, and activities.
- Even though this was our first time to use the harness, it really did only take a couple of minutes to get it installed. Now, in all honesty it was not at all installed correctly at first. Getting it adjusted to C’s size did take a little bit longer.
Here it is before we got the straps adjusted. Reading the instructions ahead of time would have also probably been a bit advantageous. We did get it adjusted after this photo was taken!
- Since she is so used to being strapped down in car seats, having all of the buckles didn’t seem to bother her at all. It is handy to have a toddler not able to climb all over the seats!
- Once we had her properly strapped in, it did feel pretty secure! Thankfully we didn’t hit any substantial turbulence or anything, but I trust it would have held her secure if we had.
- I don’t know if it is just my toddler that does this or not, but C has a tendency to slump down out of harnesses or chairs that don’t have a bottom strap keeping them up. Especially once she fell asleep she started slumping out of the bottom of the harness.
- I also am pretty confident that she would have slept longer in her car seat than she did in the harness. The main issue I think is support for her head. It was flopping around a bit when she was asleep whereas with the car seat she has a little more head support. I think as she gets older this will be less of an issue, but for now I think a car seat is a just a tad more comfy than the airline seat/harness combo for toddler sleeping.
All in all I am really excited we now have the CARES harness in our traveling arsenal! Now here is the best part, one of you will get a CARES harness of your own! Just comment on this post letting me know who you want the harness for and we will pick a winner at random. The deadline to enter is 11/18/11 at 11:59PM CST.
Even if you don’t win one, you can pick one up online or they are for sale at some stores as well. The list of stores is available here. Although they aren’t inexpensive, retailing at $74.95, I absolutely think it is a worthy investment for a young traveling family. When I think how busy the planes and airports are around the holidays, I think having a harness in your bag instead of lugging a big car seat through the airport would make things quite a bit easier.
Do you have a CARES harness yourself? What do you think?
Other than receiving a CARES harness for myself and a Mommy Points reader, I was not compensated for this review. All of the opinions in this review are totally mine. 🙂