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Flying Free or Burdened with the Beast? A Dilemma

We love our Clek Foonf. Like, really really love it. So much so that we own two of them. Some of our favourite features are the ease of installation, the safety, the comfort (Little L falls asleep in it all the time!), and the high profile.

However, we do not love its heavy weight (38 lbs in RF mode with the attachment, 33 lbs in FF), nor do we love the idea of bringing it on a 6-hour flight to Maui. Lugging the Foonf and our carry-on and Little L and her umbrella stroller would be too painful to do. That's a lot of stuff.

Checking our Foonf (or any carseat, for that matter) is not an option because most checked car seats are considered "as good as crashed" to safety techs, because of the airline's lack of care when handling them in the cargo area. We cannot risk our beloved chair being damaged.

However, it's debatable if the Foonf would even fit on an airplane; because it does have this wonderfully-high profile, the Foonf is a major beast to install on a narrow window seat in rear-facing mode. In front-facing mode, we would need a tether, which is not available on a jet.

So basically, even though we love the idea of having the Foonf with us for two weeks in Maui, it's simply not practical.

Some have suggested that we just take the CARES harness in-flight and rent a carseat at our destination. That would have been my first inclination too, but not anymore. Why?

a) The car seats that you rent may have been in a collision that the rental company isn't aware of.
b) The car seats that you rent are usually not properly cleaned between rentals, especially the straps!
c) The car seats that you rent are never guaranteed for make/model, so you could end up with one that you are utterly unfamiliar with and have to try to install at the rental car shop. How's that for pressure when you have a 2-year-old who wants to be anywhere but there?

The only other options are to either buy a smaller carseat for travel-only, or buy a smaller carseat once we get to Maui (and take cabs until we get one). I'm thinking that the latter option isn't going to happen, given that our flights will likely arrive in OGG at night, and that puts a lot of pressure on us to find and buy a proper car seat on Day 1.

So basically, I need to buy me an airplane-friendly, 17" wide (or less), toddler-friendly, install-friendly lightweight carseat. I looked at the Cosco Scenera, which everyone recommends because it is so light and so affordable and so safe. Unfortunately, its weight limit is 40 pounds in FF mode and less than that in RF, which means that its shelf life with us is limited. Not a good option.

I've also read about the EvenFlo carseats, which are again lighter, and also have a larger capacity in FF mode. However, they're 18.5" wide, which won't work in the narrow seats of our carrier. Plus, they use the crappiest form of the LATCH systems, and those kinds of latches are very difficult to install and remove from the vehicles we've rented.

Which leaves the Diono line. It's still heavy (20+ pounds) even though it folds up. It is also pricier than most other seats, almost enough to make me think that I should just bring the d@mn Foonf after all. Finally, it has a lower profile, which renders looking out the window a near impossibility in a car. I don't want to be stuck with a carseat that Little L hates (like the one we rented for 3 weeks in Oahu last year). She cried on virtually every drive. It made us never want to drive anywhere!

I am at a loss. What should I do? Have you traveled with a carseat? Which one would you recommend? Help, please!


Andrea Firmani said…
We have traveled with a bucket seat/car seat/booster seat to and from Hawaii/Arizona/Florida many times.

For us, we did not find toting along the carseats to be a big hassle. However, after weighting pros and cons and realities of flying, we did not bring them on the airplane. We checked them right after we got our tickets and it was no stress. We also brought a stroller that we gate checked. Somehow it all worked out!
Mrs. Loquacious said…
That was my original plan too (check the Foonf and fly with the CARES harness) but I was told that if I checked the seat, it could get damaged and because of rough handling, could be compromised in terms of safety. How did you get the airline to deal gently with your gear?
Andrea Firmani said…
I' sure there is always a risk of damage...but we have had no problems with the many flights we've done with the kids (which is over 8 with 2 kids). When you check your carseat they wrap it up for you in plastic wrap and then you personally bring it to the back conveyor where it is checked in.
We haven't had a scratch or mishandling or anything broken.
Then you wheel your stroller to the plane along with all of the other strollers...and if you are going to Hawaii there will be MANY other strollers on your plane! I guarantee that one! We actually don't take our full size Uppa Baby Vista and we bought a cheap stroller that is smaller and lighter for traveling.
I haven't yet been on a plane where a family brings a carseat on, especially for our Maui flights. Hope you are feeling excited for your trip. It is a great spot to go as a family.
Mrs. Loquacious said…
Yeah... Maybe we will check it as delicate and pray for the best! We usually bring our Maclaren Sport stroller for traveling and would never dare navigate an airport without it. Did you put your car seat in a travel bag? I'm thinking of buying one for ours.
James Wong said…
I have both Foonf and a Radian RXT. I would say the Radian is nice to travel with if you do not trust the car seat from rental companies. It folds up to be more compact than a regular car seat, it still fairly hefty and has attachment points if you have a shoulder strap to help carry it.

To be honest, I never really carried it around because I would just put it on a luggage cart so it was not a huge deal. The construction on it seems to be on par with my Foonf.

My only suggestion would be whichever seat you bring, wrap it in a clear plastic bag so the luggage handlers will see it is a car seat and hopefuly be more gently with it.

I know others who purchased the cover and their cover got ripped since I think the luggage handlers just thought it was some heavy piece of equipment while my seat in the clear plastic bag was is good condition with no visible holes in the bag.
mazoola said…
i have to say that we winged it (pun intended) going to mexico and brought nothing. no car seat no stroller. we were grateful nothing happened of course and i can go on about the what ifs, but i was happy to not have to lug that 50lb diono we have around on top of our luggage. if Max was potty trained and i didn't need that carry on full of diapers we would've just brought backpacks and be hands free
Mrs. Loquacious said…
Thanks all. I might risk gate-checking and plastic-bagging and fragile-labeling a new non-Foonf car seat and pray that it gets there safely. There just doesn't seem to be much of a way around it and the last time we flew to Hawaii we didn't see a single car seat on board. Plus I've never seen one in any of our 50 million flights to Edm either.

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