Jun 16, 2010

CARES Harness Review

We recently had the good fortune of being able to take a 7 night Alaskan cruise with our extended family including our 3 1/2 year old daughter. I knew I'd be bringing along one of our Child Aviation Restraint Systems (CARES) for the 10 hours of plane rides there and back, but I immediately thought, do I need to bring her car seat just to try to find a place to store it in the tiny cabin? The only time we'd be in vehicles other than a boat was our transfer to the hotel for the first night, our transfer to the port the second day, and one tour we'd booked. Since we were on a one-way cruise, renting in Anchorage was not an option (although visit Northern Lights Traveling Tykes if it is for you), so I started researching. I came across the Ride Safer Vest, which seemed to fit the bill perfectly for us. Since this was my first time personally using both of the CARES and the Ride Safer Vest, I thought I'd share my experiences. First I'll review the CARES harness.

CARES Harness Review
We grabbed the 6" stuff sack, threw it in our backpack, and headed out at 4am for our flight. I was VERY happy I didn't have a car seat to haul when we got held up at security alone (yes, at 4am) for a full backpack, stroller, and carry-on search. My daughter and I then ran to the gate to be the last ones on the plane. I had the CARES out of the bag, slipped over the back of the seat and had her strapped down in less than a minute, never having used it before. Of course, I suppose I had a little advantage having been renting and inspecting them for over a year.

The process is easy:
  1. Lower the tray of the seat behind you
  2. Slip the harness over the back of the seat and tighten
  3. Raise the tray back up
  4. Strap in your child and adjust the shoulder straps as necessary
The Pros:
  • Extremely light weight and small
  • Good for kids 22-44 lbs (has also been approved for special needs children and adults)
  • Easy to install and secure
  • Child can't kick the back of the seat in front
  • Can be used in any seating position (car seats typically can only be installed at the window seat for evacuation purposes)
  • Approved for taxi, take-off, in flight, and landing
  • Used on 4 different flights and 4 different aircraft including a small commuter plane with no problems or questions from the flight attendants.
The Cons:
  • No crotch strap meant my daughter could wiggle down
  • Since the airline seats were curved, the back of the strap holding it on tended to hit her at the back of the head. This didn't seem to bother her though, even when I asked.
  • No head support when she fell asleep. I just unbuckled her and gave her a blanket to lay her head on.
  • This isn't related to the harness but she could unbuckle the airplane seat belt herself, but not the chest clip on the harness.
All in all, I highly recommend this as an alternative to a car seat, especially for older toddlers and preschoolers. If you're flying with a 1-2 year old on a long flight, you may consider the car seat for comfort if you want them to sleep for a long stretch. In those cases, check out the Go Go Kidz Travelmate to turn your car seat into a stroller for the airport.

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