When you're traveling by plane with a child who uses a booster seat in the car, the thought of dragging his booster through the airport might seem like more trouble than it's worth. Leaving it at the ticket counter as checked baggage seems like an easier way to get the booster seat to its final destination than gate-checking it or carrying it on the plane. You can, in many cases, check a car seat or booster for free at the ticket counter.
In the United States, major commercial airlines will normally let you check one piece of child equipment per child without a baggage charge, such a booster seat, car seat or stroller. If you only have one child and have two pieces of equipment, such as a stroller and a booster, you might find it less painful to gate-check or carry on the booster than pay for it. If you're flying a smaller regional airline, check for its policy on the company's website before heading to the airport. For international flights, check the website or call because policies also vary when you leave the United States.
Packing It Up
Boosters seats travel more safely in checked luggage if you cover them with heavy plastic or pack them in containers large enough to hold them. When left loose, they're more likely to be damaged in some way by bigger, heavier and pointier luggage. Airlines often supply bags to put car seats or booster in, but if they run out or can't put their hands on one when you get to the counter, packing it yourself will give you peace of mind. Make sure you tag your booster with your name and phone number, just as you would any other piece of luggage.
Carrying It On
You can carry on your child's booster seat, if it's backless and small enough to qualify as carry-on luggage. You will have to place it in the overhead bin; children are not allowed to sit in booster seats on the airplane, according to the U.S Federal Aviation Administration. If you have a booster with a back, you might be able to take it apart and make it easier to fit into the carry-on bin.
Gate checking means leaving a piece of luggage in the jet way right before you enter the airplane. Attendants take the luggage to the baggage hold from there and retrieve it as soon as the plane lands, so that you can usually -- but not always -- pick it up at the same place you left it, albeit in a different city on a different jet way. Some airlines send all larger gate-checked objects to the luggage carousel, so ask at the ticket counter. If you plan to gate-check a booster seat, make sure you get a tag for it from the gate agent, in case it goes astray. Also, tag it with your name and phone number.
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