We went from Korea to the US for the holidays. I had ordered a Britax Frontier Carseat-to-Booster and had it shipped to my parents' house with the plan of using it while we were there and taking it back on the airplane. Eva is ready to transition out of the infant carseat so I needed to get another seat. We travel a lot and have experienced the destructive powers of airline baggage handlers on our luggage and gear. The lesson:
Travel bags are essential for air travel!
Why? To protect against dirt and damage and help you transport the seat.
Yes, some airlines will put your carseats in plastic bags, but that really only provides some protection against dirt. It is not easy to carry a carseat in a plastic bag, either. Not all airlines do this so it is best not to count on them doing it.
I ordered the JL Childress Ultimate Carseat Travel Bag Back Pack. There is also a slightly different version with wheels. We went with the back pack style because it appeared to have more padding and we did not plan to wheel it through the airport, we just want to protect it during travel. Also, I've read in some reviews that the wheels on wheeled travel bags got caught or broke off.
This travel bag is awesome.
Its maiden voyage was international took our carseat on 3 flights with an overnight delay due to bad winter weather. Every plane change and every delay is just another chance for the airline baggage handlers to damage or lose your bags so I was so glad we bought this travel bag. Here are the best features of this product:
1. Made of heavy-duty, water resistent nylon: I have learned from my quest for durable luggage, that nylon is much better than polyester.
2. It is padded on the back, front, sides and bottom to protect your seat from damage, not just dirt.
3. Big opening makes it very easy to put the carseat in.
4. ID pocket built-in to the bag: Those little paper tags can break off, a built-in tag is better. I personally use the built-in pocket, a paper tag and sometimes even put something on the inside or directly on the seat. Maybe this is a bit paranoid, but I want to help the airline staff as much as possible to locate my bag. Of course, they also put their tracking stickers on the bags, but it sure doesn't hurt to have extra ID info.
5. It keeps all the straps and bits from getting caught. This advantage is true of all travel bags, but I wanted to point it out, because if a strap gets caught in the machinery, you could end up with a shredded carseat.
Two points to keep in mind when using this product:
1. The back pack straps do not detach so be sure to pull them as tight and flat as possible before checking so they don't get caught on anything.
2. The padding makes this bag a bit bulky so if you are planning to bring your carseat onto the airplane for your child to sit in and are looking for a way to transport ytour carseat through the airport, I would not recommend this bag or the wheeled version. I would get the Go Go Kidz Travelmate or the Traveling Toddler or the Tote a Tot. The first one attaches directly to your carseat and makes it like a wheeled suitcase. The latter two attach your carseat to a small wheeled bag so you can wheel it through the airport. I have the Go Go Kidz Travelmate and while it works very well, I don't bring the carseat on the airplane because my kids won't sit in the carseat for long trips so I would rather check them and have the room. Knowing what I know now about my own children, I would probably look into one of the products because they are much cheaper and take up less room.
So who needs this product? If you are a frequent traveler and will be checking your carseat, you DEFINITELY need this product. If you are going to check your carseat, even for one flight, I recommend this product. The grime and damage can occur in just one flight. If you always bring your carseat on the plane for your child to sit in, you don't need it.
There are some cheaper alternatives, like bringing your own large trash bag (construction quality trash bag), but trash bags don't have padding and aren't as easy to carry. The cheaper travel bags will probably not last as long. If you shop around, or wait for a sale, you can get this travel bag for the about the same as the cheaper polyester bags from One Step Ahead, but if you need it right now, spend the extra money on the JL Childress on the front end instead of dealing with a cheap, ripped bag that you will need to replace.