Not taking your car seat onboard the plane? Here’s how to safely check your most important travel gear
Car seats are without a doubt one of the bulkiest pieces of kiddy kit you will need to travel within those early years. And also the piece that will be hanging out with you the longest!
Even once you have discarded travel strollers, car seats and boosters are still needed for many of your childhood years to come.
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 marketAlternative ways of dealing with your car seats when you travel
This post is part of our Tried & Tested product reviews.
Best Car Seat Travel Bags in 2022
We will summarise the best car seat travel bags currently available on the market here. Read on below for more on our thoughts on whether a car seat cover is really worth it and our detailed review of each of these market-leading products.
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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 imagine 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 for our smashed car seat).
Can’t I just take my car seat onto 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.]
You can find our complete guide on how to use your car seat on the plane here.
What does gate check mean?
It means checking an item in to be held under the aircraft at the gate. In reality, “gate-check bags” for car seats and strollers can also be checked in with your luggage if the item is not required on the plane. A stroller perhaps might be more convenient to gate check. Still, your car seat can be checked in immediately upon 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 it. 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 the 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.
Suitcases, stroller bags and car seat bags – with 3 kids we don’t often travel light!
Where do I collect my gate check items from?
Whether you have left your items at the aircraft door or checked them in with oversized at the check-in counter, most bulky items like car seats and strollers will be delivered at your arrival airport to oversized luggage. This is usually a separate location in the baggage hall. Do check the carousel though as it varies by airport, they may put it through the normal chute in a plastic tray.
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 onboard 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 extra 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 do you carry it? Does it have sturdy should straps? Does it have extra straps and handles to help with picking it up? Would you prefer wheels to pull it along? Will the car seat travel bag actually fit my car seat’s dimensions? Look for “Universal Fit”, but with any of the more structured/padded bags, you’ll still want to measure up it fits your exact model. 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 securely?How small does the product fold up when not in use? You will still need to keep it somewhere while you’re on vacation!
Unlike many brands of strollers 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 shape of your seat.
Here are our top Car Seat Travel Bags reviewed in detail
Our Top Pick Flexible Car Seat Travel Bag: VolkGo Durable Car Seat Travel Bag
The VolkGo boasts a durable waterproof nylon exterior and generous dimensions fitting seats up to 18″ x 18″ x 34″ suitable for most brands, including older kids’ high back boosters.
We like that it comes with two backpack straps and 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 12-month guarantee which is reassuring that you should be able to get multiple trips out of this product.
VolkGo also produces a matching stroller travel bag too.
Best padded car seat travel bag: 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 thick padding inside for extra protection, the Zohzo also features a padded back for ease of carrying with adjustable straps, a top lifting handle and a 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.
Zohzo makes a wide range of other sturdy travel accessory products including the travel stroller bag, infant rearview mirrors and car seat protector pads.
Another great choice for padded car seat travel bag:Yorepek Car Seat Travel Bag
Another great padded model of car seat cover, the Yorepek comes in several bright colours, which helps with baggage identification! Sturdy padded carry straps and an adjustable waist strap aid with carrying, though there’s only one top carry handle.
We like that the design is made to fold away compactly when not in use, and the 4 solid plastic feet mean that your gear is not sitting directly on dirty surfaces. The double opening zip gives ease of access in and out, and it’s possible to lock the zips.
Made from a scratch-resistant and waterproof material with several storage pockets, this would be a solid investment.
No matching stroller back, but Yorepek do have a good range of matching travel backpacks and travel accessories – everything from musical instruments to sewing gear; a lot of thought has gone into the safe protection of your important items.
Update! Since our first review, they now have a wheeled model, more below!
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 its weight, being only 10.7oz and stretching to a huge 46″ which is great for those high-backed boosters.
We’d consider this a budget investment if you’re only an occasional traveller or need a car seat travel bag only as a one-off. Remember with no wheels or shoulder straps, you’re carrying or dragging it.
The backpack model is quite a bit heavier at 6.6lbs but is a 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 is one of the more protective models coming with lockable zips and interior padding.
They also produce a wheeled version which we’ll discuss below. You can see their matching stroller cover range here.
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 giving easy access. 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 from infant cat seats to high back boosters for older children.
The Bububee Elua also comes with matching double stroller travel bag.
ReperKid Car Seat Travel Bag
Another fairly basic model, very similar to the Bebubee Elua, 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. The ReperKid 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 its distinguishing features.
Also Consider: Rogue Kidz Car Seat Travel Bag
We’re leaving this one in here as it used to be our top pick when we first started shopping for car seat covers a few years ago, but unfortunately looks like it’s been out of stock for some time now – hopefully, it returns this year!
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.
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 only a few wheeled products available – just be conscious you compromise a little on weight. They won’t fold down as small when not in use.
Our Top Pick Best Car Seat Travel Bag with Wheels: 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 it, 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 being the best possible protection and convenient transportation.
No matching stroller bag yet, but they do produce great matching travel cubes.
Another great wheeled car seat bag: Yorepek Car Seat Travel Bag with Wheels
Delighted to see the Yorepek come out in a wheeled model, they’ve transferred across all the great features of this car seat bag with adjustable shoulder strap and waist strap, top lift handle and added 4 independent spinner wheels without changing the product’s overall weight.
Again, it’s made from scratch-resistant and waterproof material and offers a double opening zip for ease of access and the ability to lock. You can still get a pretty compact fold out of this wheeled bag when not in use which is impressive for what it can do.
A little more pricey than the plain backpack model (i.e., more than double!), but we think you’ll find those wheels can be worth their weight in gold; we are big converts to wheels over backpacks aft 10+ years of dragging car seats worldwide!
Also Consider: 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 is not tiny like the pouch products reviewed above. Whether you are checking your luggage or want an easy way to get your car seat to the plane, it can be used.
Worth a Look: Jeep Child Car Seat Travel Bag
Another sturdy option that comes with built-in wheels is the Jeep Child Car Seat Travel Bag. It 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 is frustrating as a buyer and a crucial piece of information! We understand from customer reviews that the product may not be made from as robust material as others due to reported rips and tears.
Branded Car Seat Travel Bags
As we mentioned at the outset, very few car seat manufacturers sell separate car seat bag that matches their product. A few we have spotted though not tested:
UPPAbaby MESA Travel Bag – designed to snuggly fit the UPPAbaby MESA, it is made of 600denier material and comes with two carry straps.Chico Car Seat Travel Bag – perfectly fits all the Chicco car seat range (and would pretty universally fit most car seats) with a 4 swivel wheel design.
We’ve found a lot of people searching for Cybex car seat bag, but so far we’ve only spotted a Cybex travel bag for their twist stroller.
Likewise, Maxi Cosi has surprisingly not released a Maxi-Cosi storage bag for car seats, but you can get a stroller protector bag for their new range of ultra-compact travel strollers.
Britax used to have a car seat bag we recommended but it appears to be discontinued as we can only currently find their stroller protective bags. These do not look deep enough to fit a Britax car seat.
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 costs more if you pay for items to be wrapped on every flight you take. Still, it can be a quick and easy method to protect your gear without investing in a travel bag.
Car Seat Travel Cart
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 that you could use as a car seat travel cart for the airport:
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!), you really just need something to get you from the 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 because it’s carrying an awkward large piece of essential kiddy kit!
The other thing to be mindful of is how secure the item is once in the bag. Yes, drawstrings always make getting things in and out easier, but you don’t want the item moving around too much in the bag. There’s only so much protection a nylon cover alone can give, even if you are adding blankets and clothing etc., into the travel bag.
Although there were a lot of similarities between the products, we picked VolkGo as the best car seat bag with a buckle fastener and sold at a decent price point. The best padded car seat travel bag with a little more potection is the Zohzo.
If we were taking our seats on board, we would find the Hello Jolie Car Seat Bag with its 4 wheels the best model for dragging along through the airport without needing to carry.
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