European beltpath routing. If you’re not already familiar with the term – let me explain. It references a particular way to install a rear-facing convertible or infant carseat without using the base. European belt routing is only for installations using the vehicle’s lap/shoulder seatbelt. It does not apply to installations using the lower LATCH anchors or to installation of the infant seat base. Only a few seats sold here in the U.S. allow European belt routing but it has become a popular feature so we decided to make a list of which seats currently available allow it.
Benefits of European Belt Routing:
When the shoulder belt is routed behind the shell of a rear-facing child restraint it helps to maintain a semi-upright position during a frontal crash. Limiting the downward rotation that a rear-facing seat makes during a frontal crash has several potential benefits. Maintaining a more upright angle during a crash means the impact loads are distributed more to the back of the child – which is ideal. The more a rear-facing seat rotates downward in a crash the more the impact loads are applied to the child’s shoulders and neck – as it stretches, pulling away from the body. The other potential benefit of maintaining a more upright orientation during a crash is that it may reduce the likelihood of the carseat striking the back of the front seat or console directly in front of it.
Installation Issues & Incompatibilities:
The biggest potential issue with Euro beltpath routing is that some seatbelts aren’t long enough to accommodate this routing. If that winds up being the case in your vehicle – you can install the seat without the base using the traditional seatbelt installation method instead. None of the carseats that allow Euro bethpath routing actually require it. They may recommend it, but they don’t mandate it. That’s because the carseat manufacturers understand that it’s not possible in all vehicles due to seatbelt length which varies from vehicle to vehicle.
Rear-Facing Carseats that Allow Euro Beltpath Routing:
I hate February, I’ll admit it. It’s my least favorite month of the year and the fact that it’s a short month is little consolation. It’s 28 days too long as far as I’m concerned. But Amazon seems to like the month of February since they tend to have really good deals this month year after year – at least on carseats. A few of them are listed below. If you see a good deal on something you want or need – I suggest you act promptly since Amazon is fickle and some of these prices may be here today and gone tomorrow. I’ll update the page throughout the month as I notice new deals pop up so check back often. We have complete and thorough reviews on most of these seats. See a list of all our carseat and booster reviews here.
All Chicco NextFit convertible carseats made during or after October 2013 have some minor updates. The harness strap covers are now entirely optional and remove easily thanks to Velcro on the sides. These new strap covers lack the grippy material that lined the back of the original strap covers. The new strap covers are also slightly shorter as you can see in the comparison picture.
The 2-position chest clip can now be used in either the more narrow or wider setting with no restrictions – use your best judgement. Newborns and younger babies with narrow shoulders will benefit from the more narrow setting which will draw the harness straps closer together and keep them positioned properly over the baby’s small shoulders. Older babies and bigger kids can use the wider setting. When you switch is entirely up to you.
The crotch strap has also been lengthened just a little bit. The new crotch strap is almost (but not quite) 1″ longer. Replacement [longer] crotch straps will be available after March 1.
The replacement directions in the link above were written prior to the update so you can ignore the language that says “Never use your NextFit car seat without shoulder pads”. Just follow the directions on how to remove them, put the chest clip and buckle tongues back on properly and reattach the harness safely. *At the end of the process, once the harness pin has been fully re-inserted, check to make sure that the plastic tab is back in its original position preventing the pin from moving forward again.
There is also a video detailing the process here: http://www.chiccousa.com/nextfit/installation.aspx (the link to the video can be found in two places: on the left side of your screen under “Shoulder Pad Replacement Kit” or under the Rear-Facing Videos “Installing Shoulder Pad Replacement Kit”) Again, this is an existing video meant to detail the process of swapping out the original harness strap covers with identical replacement strap covers so you can ignore the language that warns you to never use this product without the harness pads.
It’s the travel season and for many families with small children, that includes flying somewhere. Since so many carseats are heavy and bulky, it makes sense in some cases to invest in a lightweight carseat just for traveling. Plus, this spares you the hassle of re-installing your main carseat when you get back to your own car, weary from traveling.
Ideally, a spare travel carseat should be lightweight (under 15 lbs), easy to install with the lap-only belt on an airplane seat and narrow enough to fit in a typical coach seat. With that criteria in mind, here are several options to consider.
Infant carseats – no need to buy anything new as long as your current infant seat can be installed without the base. I guess it’s possible to drag the base with you on the plane but that’s just making life harder than it needs to be. As long as your infant seat allows installation without the base (most do but there are some exceptions so make sure you know for sure), it’s easy to install the carrier rear-facing with the lap-only belt on the plane.
If you’re leaving the base at home – make sure you practice baseless installation a few times so when you arrive at your destination you know how to install the carseat properly in the car, using a typical lap/shoulder belt. Here is a video that demonstrates my technique for quick and easy installations of an infant carseat without the base.
Stay clear of products like THIS and THIS. These products are NOT acceptable alternatives to using an actual carseat on the plane to restrain your child. Along the same lines – using a sling or infant carrier also isn’t a safe alternative for your baby or toddler because you aren’t allow to wear your child during take-offs or landings when the risks are highest. There is a good reason for this but the details are ugly so I’m not going to go into it right now. If you would like more info on why slings and infant carriers are not a safe alternative to using a carseat on a plane, please see the NTSB website.
UPDATED May 2016
Convertible seats – if you intend to install the convertible seat rear-facing on the plane then you’ll be best served by a seat that is fairly compact which will increase your chances of the seat actually fitting rear-facing in the space you have to work with.
Rear-facing 3-33 lbs., or up to 36″ tall. Forward-facing 20-40 lbs., or up to 40″ tall
No matter which seat you decide to take on the plane for your child – you will want to know where the FAA approval language is stated in case one of the flight attendants asks to see proof that your carseat is certified for use in an aircraft. Look for RED lettering on one of the sticker labels on the carseat. The FAA language is required to be written in red. The language can vary slightly but in general this is what you’re looking for:
For forward-facing kids, you’ll be best served by a seat that’s lightweight, fairly narrow, with tall top harness slots and a weight limit of 50 lbs. or more. Keep in mind that combination seats (harness/booster) can only be used on the plane in harnessed mode. Booster seats (or combination seats used without the 5-pt harness in booster mode) are not FAA certified and cannot be used on an airplane because all booster seats require a lap/shoulder belt, which airplanes don’t have.
Rear-facing 5-40 lbs., Forward-facing 20-65 lbs., or up to 49″ tall. *Forward-facing beltpath is behind the back of the shell. This unique design means your FF child won’t have the metal latchplate of the airplane seatbelt in their back during the flight.
Harness for kids over 1 year old who weigh between 22-44 lbs., and are under 40″ tall. *CARES harness is certified for use on the plane ONLY. It’s very useful for situations where you don’t need a carseat to use on the ground when you arrive at your destination. We have a review of the CARES Harness here.
Remember, only carseats with an internal harness can be used on a plane. You cannot use a booster seat on an airplane because booster seats require a lap/shoulder belt and airplanes only have lap belts. If your child rides in a booster seat and you are bringing it with you, you can gate check it or bring it on the plane and put it in the overhead bin (if it fits).
For more info on flying with kids and carseats – check out our related blogs on the subject: