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Do You Care about Keeping Your Child Safe when Flying?

One grandmother is so passionate about keeping children safe while flying that she invented CARES (Child Aviation Restraint System), the only compact child safety restraint approved by the Federal Aviation Administration for use on airplanes. Louise Stoll got the idea for CARES when greeting her daughter at the airport. She watched her daughter, who was seven months pregnant at the time, struggle to carry a heavy car seat, her toddler, and a diaper bag off the plane. Louise said, “That’s when I thought, ‘There’s got to be a better way.’”

Children wearing their CARES restraints aboard a flight

My children are pictured above wearing their CARES restraints aboard a flight (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Why you should book a seat for babies and toddlers

Louise believes parents have been lulled into thinking flying with lap children is safe because the FAA and airlines allow it. She told me, “It’s rather amazing that in this day and age we permit babies to hurdle through space at 600 miles per hour in their moms’ arms, which cannot, as a matter of physics, hang on to them in serious turbulence.”

Even the FAA advises parents to avoid the hazard of flying with lap children. The FAA website asks, “Did you know the safest place for your little one during turbulence or an emergency is in an approved child restraint system (CRS) or device, not on your lap?” The site continues, “FAA strongly urges parents and guardians to secure children in an appropriate restraint based on weight and size. Keeping a child in a CRS or device during the flight is the smart and right thing to do.”

Louise Stoll, inventor of CARES, with five of her nine grandchildren

Louise Stoll, inventor of CARES, with five of her nine grandchildren (Photo provided by CARES)

Finding another way to keep kids safe in the air

Frustrated that airlines refuse to offer the same safety protection to children as they do for adults, Louise said, “What it is going to take to correct these unacceptable situations is a lot of noise from parents – and one brave airline to initiate a child-safe policy.”

Originally Louise intended to sell the restraints to airlines, which would provide them to child passengers, just as extender belts are given to oversized passengers. She suggests airlines offer half-price discounts for children under age two to fly in a booked seat. Additionally, Louise believes airlines should provide a CARES to all flying children aged one to five to use on flights for free. This would enable parents to afford flying safely with young children. She said, “There is no doubt in my mind that the return on investment for the airline (which implements these changes) will be in triple and quadruple digit dollars by the families that will swarm to it.”

Her career path has transitioned from business woman to politician to inventor. When I asked Louise if she has always been an inventor, she said, “It was the only original idea I ever had in my life, but it was a good one.”

A background in transportation safety

Did I mention that Louise was appointed by the Clinton Administration as the Assistant Secretary for Budgets and Programs and CFO of the Department of Transportation? She had been working as an executive managing construction of public works projects when she received a phone call from the White House. Louise said, “None could have been more surprised than I.”  In her role in Washington D.C., Louise helped to mandate car seats and seat belts in cars.

Louise has also fought to install seat belts on school buses. She said, “There are no seat belts in buses but there should be. That’s a criminal situation in my judgment.” She explained, “Children who die in bus crashes die because they hit their heads, not because they’re crushed.  They don’t need to die.”


CARES keeps kids safe, while helping traveling parents stay sane. Not only is it more manageable to navigate the airport without lugging around a heavy toddler seat, but also a CARES restraint is much easier to install and uninstall in an airplane than a car seat. I have personally waited on board an airplane until all of the other passengers had disembarked for a maintenance crew member to assist me with uninstalling a toddler car seat. Those days of inconvenience and frustration are over now that I have purchased two CARES for my children.

The CARES restraint comes with easy to follow instructions, a carrying case, and an instructional DVD

The CARES restraint comes with easy to follow instructions, a carrying case, and an instructional DVD (Photo provided by CARES)

The CARES restraint weighs less than one pound and is appropriate for children who weigh between 22 to 44 pounds. CARES is sold in hundreds of stores throughout the U.S. and Canada. The company also has distributors in numerous other countries.

What do you think about flying with lap children? Let us know in the comments below!

A Note from The Travel Mama: I interviewed Louise Stoll by telephone for purposes of this post. I personally paid for my children’s CARES restraints. When this story originally went live in 2009, Kids Fly Safe provided one CARES to give away to a contest entrant. I did not receive any compensation related to this story.

About Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama

Colleen Lanin is the founder/editor-in-chief of TravelMamas.com. As the author of her book, "The Travel Mamas' Guide," she teaches parents not only how to survive a trip with children, but also how to love exploring the world with their offspring. Her stories have appeared online and in print for such outlets as the "Today" show, NBCNews.com, Parenting Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, Chicago Tribune, Expedia, San Diego Family Magazine, and more. Colleen gives tips on television, radio, and as a public speaker. She has a master’s degree in business administration with a background in marketing. She lives in Arizona with her husband and two kids.


  1. We’re going on a fourteen hour trip this Spring. This product has changed from a product I want to a product I NEED.

  2. I have never seen this before! I have 2 young children and we travel a lot back and forth to visit family. My husband is in the military so we will just about never be living in the same city as our families. I usually lug my HUGE Britax Marathon carseat through the airport to strap my son in to but this is sooooo much easier!!! My mother also works for an airline and we are always looking for an easier way to fly the kids across country…I think I found it!

  3. I think it’s a great idea to have the airlines supply these. $75 is too expensive for most people. Even though it would protect their children most people think the risk is very low that they would need it, and thus, won’t spend the $75. I would love to have one of these for the next time I fly with my 12 mo old twins (ok, I need two but the contest is only for one! I’ll have to purchase the other…) 🙂

  4. We are traveling with two young children this winter and plan to use this system to avoid lugging 2 car seats through the airport. Great product!

  5. With all the traveling we do, and the fact that number 2 is on the way, having a way to keep my two daughters safe while flying is paramount. Not having to add an extra car seat will simplify transportation through the airport!!

  6. My 15 month old granddaughter likes to kick the seat in front of her while traveling in her car seat, much to the dismay of her parents and the passenger in front of her! Airline travel is stressful enough without annoying other passengers so the CARES would be perfect for her. The only other option is to take her as a lap child which I feel is unsafe.

  7. I would like to see a story on the Cares restraint in one of the airline on-board magazines. Would they accept a ad? This seems to be a good way to reach the right audience.

  8. I have been waiting for a product like this! I have a two year old and a six year old and flying by myself is very challenging. I have used two car seats on the plane so trying to put in both car seats while juggling the children is frustrating. (all with people trying to get around us). The Cares retraint sounds like a great solution to moms who need a safe and easier alternative to a bulky carseat.

  9. Stephanie says:

    I would LOVE to have this system! I have to fly w/ my 23 month old and will be 6 and a half month pregnant then..it would be AWESOME to not have to tote a full size car seat along w/ everything else required to travel w/ a toddler..not to mention his mommy:)

  10. Wow this device looks like it makes traveling semi-enjoyable! My little Maggie would look so cute wearing it 🙂

  11. This is exactly what I’ve needed for years! Awesome product!

  12. I would love this for one of the little gals or guys in my life, maybe check it out to different friends as needed 🙂 Awesome product!

  13. Great idea! I love to travel, but now that I travel with a 16 month old mostly to the east coast, traveling isn’t as fun as it should be. Now I have to carry a car seat, fold up a stoller, lug my carry-on bag and manage not to lose my boarding pass and my daughter. This product would help so, so much.

  14. I would love a CARES for flying with my son! I just took him with me to fly down to my parents’ house, and it was a huge hassle. The CARES would make it so much easier for me and safe and comfortable for him.

  15. Maybe we would take Connor to visit his new cousin in Amsterdam!

  16. Roxanne Ellis Raymond says:

    I want my small grandchildren to visit, but want them to fly safe and the car seats are a huge pain to get through the airport

  17. Roxanne Ellis Raymond says:
  18. I would love to win one of these! I have 3 small children and we haven’t gone any where on a plane yet as I’m so worried about the hassle of trying to travel with the children and trying to carry 3 car seats too!

  19. Love to have this for travelling with my son!

  20. Stephanie V says:

    Have tickets for a trip across the pond and my 2 yr. old needs something safer than the lap belt that doesn’t fit him. This looks fantastic and crossing my fingers!

  21. Michelle Draveski says:

    wow I wish this was around when my son was little would have saved me sone headaches but now I have a baby daughter and have plans for vacation and really need it

  22. This is the first time that I have heard of CARES:( My son and I travel by airplane a lot and this would be perfect for us. I am always so paranoid when we travel and with this I wouldn’t have to be:)

  23. susan varney says:

    child safety of any kind is of the utmost importance

  24. I’ve wanted one of these for years, but could never swallow the price tag!

    My hubby is a pilot, so we travel, A LOT! I never struggled with the idea of the car seat for my under 2’s, but never felt my over 2’s were really safe in those massive belts (mine are both on the slender side of life). I would love to have this to help my kids be safer.

  25. I want a CARES so bad! I travel a lot with my toddler but usually I don’t need a carseat once we arrive at our destination. I can’t carry a carseat JUST for the plane flight, so CARES would be ideal!

  26. This would be awesome to have. We have only traveled by plane once with my 20-month old daughter and we brought her carseat along. What a heavy thing to tote around the airport.

    athrahans at hotmail dot com

  27. We’re planning at international trip this summer with my kids 6, 1 year old twins and a baby due in February. We’re buying seats for the twins but the baby will be a lap baby and I would love to be able to secure him especially after watching the scary videos on the site.

  28. This is a wonderful idea which I didn’t know existed. After having just done a very stressful trip to the middle east with a 1 and 4 years old I can now say i would LOVE to have one of these. We hit turbulence several times and my 13 month old would not sit on my lap – she hit her head on the seat in front of her despite my arms. So now i am 1. going to get her a seat 2. hopefully win one of these 🙂
    great idea and keep up the good work.

  29. I have never seen this before! I like it because it seems like it would be a better fit for my child than just the regular belts on planes.

  30. I would love to win this. My 3yo is about to outgrow her Sit ‘n Stroll carseat/stroller (the other greatest travel invention). I’m thinking keeping her in the seat would be more comfortable–and keep her feet out of the seat-in-front-of-her range–but I’m not willing to compromise on safety. Thanks a lot!

  31. Monique Rizzo says:

    Taking my little one on her first flight this holiday. Would REALLY love one of these. Thanks for the chance.

  32. I am traveling with my 14 month old over Thanksgiving and Christmas and I would LOVE to have the CARES seat belt! My daughter can easily unlatch the regular airline seat belt, not to mention the CARES seat belt is much safer. I am doing 3 of the 4 legs of our trip by myself with my daughter and this would save me from having to lug all of our things and the car seat on the plane.

  33. Both my parents and my husband’s parents live in other states, so we travel by air quite frequently. I love the idea of CARES – so much easier, safer and lighter!

  34. I would love a CARES harness. After flying with my 2 year old to Paris, I know it would be not only be wonderful to have something that would keep her safe, but to also have a restraint.

  35. This product would give me serious peace of mind because my family and I travel a lot. My husband is a pilot and likes to take us places and we also go on many vacations. Also we travel to my husbands family in the Philippines which is a very long flight. This would keep my child much safer.

  36. We fly to see my in laws at least once a year. We also love to travel, so it’s inevitable that we will be on a plane at sometime during the year. I would love to have this harness to keep my son safe during the flight.

  37. I want to get this for my new niece!

  38. I would love to have a CARES to use while traveling. We always get our 2-year old (going on 3) a seat, and usually end up traveling with his car seat and go-go-kidz. However, sometimes when we travel to cities where we know we will be using public transportation and the seat just sits in the hotel room, I would prefer to use the CARES. So far I have not bought one, but with a trip to Europe coming in March, I could definitely prefer to use the CARES. Thank you for this opportunity.

  39. I was so happy to discover the CARES harness. We are going to Belize for Christmas with our 1 1/2 year old and would love to avoid holding a squirming toddler or lugging a carseat that we won’t even need when we get to our destination.

  40. I just recently heard about the CARES harness. I asked around but no one seemed to know what it was. I travel a lot to my Mother In Laws with my daughter because she lives out of state. We just recently had a baby boy and now that my daughter is 2 she will need her own seat. The CARES harness looks like it would help me out a lot, especially when my husband is unable to travel with us. Seeing their Grandma is very important to me and anything that would help with the trip is a blessing!

  41. i would love to have this product for when we travel with our 2 year old son in the springtime. it would give me peace of mind – we buy the best car seat, but this would allow us to travel without the excess baggage.

  42. I’m just starting a family and live far away from family and friends. I never knew that such a thing existed. What a great idea!

  43. Great idea, however the price point seems a bit high for some. Maybe this could be marketed in combination with car seat purchases. Would love this for my brothers’ child.

  44. I want it to keep my son safe. I’ve read that airplanes are not safe for kids without restraints and car seats are a real pain.

  45. We travel a lot with my son and using the Cares is much easier than lugging the car seat around. I need this product!!

  46. I think the airlines forget about the small travelers, I think this would make me feel much better to have something like this when I travel with my daughter.

  47. We’re going on a trip sometime this winter with both our girls and it worries me how little they are and if they’ll be safe. This looks like a great product!

  48. Excellent product! Would be perfect for my 18 month old…I wish the weight limit was higher because my 3 year old is over 44 lbs…maybe something needs to be made for older kids too! And I agree with Ms. Stoll about seat belts on buses too.

  49. we’re about to take a very long flight, and I’d love to have this for our toddler.
    Thank you.

  50. While I do not have children myself, I have siblings that have 1,2 and 3 children. I am always concerned about one sibling who lives and works in China. He has two little ones 2 and 1 and their safety is is very important to me.

  51. This looks like an amazing product. I fly alone with my daughter and managing the carseat on and off the plane is often the hardest part of the trip.

  52. id love to have this for use with my grandchildren

  53. Shane Martin says:

    I keep my daughter as safe as possible in the car, why should the plane be any different?

  54. I’d love to win this because we’re planning a trip to Florida next year and I’m concerned about my toddler flying and being secure in his seat. He’s very wiry, so I wouldn’t want him wiggling out of the regular belt. And since there are other youngsters in our extended family, this would be great to share when they travel too.

  55. I’d love a CARES for my son. We travel cross country at least twice a year to visit family and it is such a pain to have to lug the huge caraway at the same time as his portable crib, stroller etc. But we can’t compromise on safety.

  56. CARES looks awesome! We’re planning on taking our little one to England, and we’ve been dreading having to cart the car seat around as hand luggage, especially since we’ll need to change planes at least twice!

  57. I would like a CARES because it’s FAA-approved, unlike other restraints. THanks!

  58. I want CARES because we’ll be flying with my little girl next year. I need this!

  59. Angela Gaffke says:

    This would be incredible! I’m taking a trip with my boys next year and I was really worried about my 2-year-old’s safety during potential turbulence. What a great product!

  60. Angela Gaffke says:
  61. we need this bc we love to travel – but that car seat is getting HEAVY!

  62. I too think that the Airlines do not have appropriate safty restrains for children. This is so wonderful!.

  63. Renee Richardson says:

    I want CARES because I have 3 young children and traveling with them can be stressful enough without worrying about their safety. Prevention for what may seem like no big deal can save lives. If nothing else it gives parents peace of mind. Thanks for the great contest and for making me aware of this product 🙂

  64. kids are wriggly and need strapped down somehow

  65. susan smoaks says:

    air safety for children is important to me, because our children are important to us!

  66. susan smoaks says:
  67. I would like CARES because my nephew flies once a month and I would like him to be more safe.

  68. A child buckled in the airplane seatbelt is still too loose for their small frame. They can slide around too much with it. CARES is important, because it prevents that.

  69. It’s important because it’s safe 🙂

  70. lilshuga2001 says:

    air safety for children is importaant becauase a childslife is super important!!

    Thanks for the giveaway!!

    better safe than sorry

  71. Saftey for the small children is so important and I am appalled at how little the airlines do to make sure every passenger is safely buckled in.

  72. Hey there everyone i was just introduceing myself here im a first time visitor who hopes to become a daily reader!

  73. this looks like a well made and thoughtout product that should save many lives:)

  74. Air safety for children is important to me because I care about their welfare.

  75. Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

    Thank you to everyone who entered the CARES giveaway on Travel Mamas! Congratulations to Travel Mama Sherri Meeks, the winner of the contest. The winner was chosen using the site, Random.org. I so enjoyed reading all of your comments about why air travel safety is important to you and why you want a CARES to keep the children you love safe while traveling. I hope you’ll join future Travel Mamas contests. Stay safe!

  76. I so wish I would have had this last year when we flew with my almost 2 year old for the holidays!

  77. Cletus Kupper says:

    Love your post. This is great information, and I’m really glad I found it. Keep up the awesome work.


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