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CARES Restraint Review: How to Keep Your Toddler or Young Child Safe While Flying

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Do you care about keeping your child safe when flying? Car seats protect toddlers and young children on airplanes, but they are bulky and difficult to secure in airplane seats. Thankfully, one grandmother was so passionate about children’s flight safety that she invented the only compact child airplane travel harness approved by the Federal Aviation Administration. Louise Stoll got the idea for CARES (Child Aviation Restraint System), when greeting her daughter and grandchild at the airport. She watched her 7-month-pregnant daughter struggle to carry a heavy car seat, her toddler, and a diaper bag off the plane. That’s when she thought, “There’s got to be a better way.” Read our interview with Stoll and our review of the CARES airplane safety harness to learn more.

My toddler in a CARES airplane harness

My toddler in a CARES airplane harness (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Why Book a Seat for Babies and Toddlers on Airplanes

Stoll believed 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.”

My preschooler in her CARES safety restraint on an airplane

My preschooler in her CARES safety restraint on an airplane (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

How to Keep Toddlers and Young Children Safe When Flying

Frustrated that airlines refuse to offer the same safety protection to children as they do for adults, Stoll 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, Stoll intended to sell the CARES restraints to airlines, which would provide them to child passengers. This is what airlines do with extender belts for passengers too large to use a standard safety belt. She suggested airlines offer half-price discounts for children under age two so they can fly in a booked seat. Additionally, Stoll believed airlines should provide a CARES to all flying children aged 1 to 5 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 transitioned from businesswoman to politician to inventor. When I asked Stoll if she has always been an inventor, she said, “CARES was the only original idea I ever had in my life, but it was a good one.”

CARES Airplane Travel Harness (Photo credit: CARES by Kids Fly Safe)

CARES Airplane Travel Harness (Photo credit: CARES by Kids Fly Safe)

A Passion for Protecting Children

Did I mention that Stoll was appointed by the White House 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. Stoll said, “None could have been more surprised than I.” In her role in Washington D.C., Stoll helped to mandate car seats and seat belts in cars.

Stoll 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 Inventor Louise Stoll with five of her grandchildren (Photo credit: CARES by Kids Fly Safe)

CARES Inventor Louise Stoll with five of her grandchildren (Photo credit: CARES by Kids Fly Safe)

Why Use a CARES Restraint When Flying with Kids

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 child airplane travel harness is much easier to install and uninstall. I have personally waited on board an airplane until all the other passengers disembarked for a maintenance crew member to assist me with uninstalling a toddler car seat. Those days of inconvenience and frustration ended when I purchased two CARES for my children.

The CARES child airplane safety harness is super compact and light. In fact, it only weighs one pound! Plus, it comes with its own convenient carrying case. Rather than sweating and struggling with a cumbersome car seat, parents can easily attach the kids airplane harness within minutes. It’s a comfortable option for flying toddlers and preschoolers as well.

Toddler and luggage in airport

Avoid lugging yet one more thing through the airport (Photo credit: encrier,

An Alternative to Lugging a Car Seat on the Plane

What to do with that car seat? You can gate check it typically for free! Just ask the airline for a gate check tag, attach it to your toddler seat, and leave it at the end of the jetway. It will be waiting for you when you disembark. Or, you can rent baby and toddler travel gear for even more convenience. You’ve got enough to juggle without lugging around a heavy toddler car seat, too.

Little boy secured in a CARES kids airplane harness

Little boy secured in a CARES kids airplane harness (Photo credit: CARES by Kids Fly Safe)

CARES Airplane Safety Harness Reviews

Don’t believe me? Take a look at just some of the CARES restraint reviews that I found on Amazon. This product received 4.5 stars out of 5 overall!

Mariana from the United Kingdom said:

“This has been a lifesaver for us. We’ve flown with our now 2-year-old with this for the past six months and it’s been amazing. We have bought tickets for him and also have chanced it without a ticket in hopes we might get lucky and get a free seat next to us (happens often). For short or long haul flights it worked perfect. Even in countries like Thailand and China the stewardesses knew this was approved to be used on their flights.”

Another review said:

“Worth every penny. Stop dragging that car seat on the plane.”

Thomas J. said declared it a must have for air travel with a toddler and said:

“This thing is awesome because no more carrying the car seat on the plane! If you travel on a plane with a toddler this is the way to go.”

Velika said:

“Easy to install, easy to use, comfortable, sturdy and safe! It’s perfect!”


CARES Toddler Airplane Travel Harness (Photo credit: CARES by Kids Fly Safe)

CARES Toddler Airplane Travel Harness (Photo credit: CARES by Kids Fly Safe)

Buy a CARES Child Airplane Travel Harness

The CARES restraint is appropriate for children who weigh between 22 to 44 pounds and are up to 40 inches tall. The CARES child airplane travel harness comes with easy to follow instructions and a carrying case.

Buy your CARES child airplane travel harness from Amazon now!

Flying with a baby or toddler

Flying with a toddler (Photo credit: Melpomene,

Learn More Tips for Traveling with Toddlers and Young Children

Thinking about booking flights with your little one? You’re definitely going to want to read our tips for flying with toddlers and babies.

If you want to keep your child content while flying, then take a look at our Airplane Kit for Toddlers and Babies with all the gear you’ll need to bring on board. Check out our recommended best travel toys for babies and beyond, too.

Lack of sleep can ruin the best vacation. Be sure to review these travel sleep tips for kids from a child sleep expert.

CARES Child Airplane Travel Harness for Toddlers and Young Children

Save this CARES Child Travel Harness Review

For future reference, be sure to save this information about the CARES restraint. Just pin the image above to Pinterest. We hope you’ll follow Travel Mamas on Pinterest while you’re at it!

What do you think about flying with lap children? Do you have experience using a CARES child airplane travel harness? Let us know in the comments below!

A Note from The Travel Mama: I interviewed Louise Stoll in 2009 for the purpose of this story. I personally paid for my children’s CARES airplane harnesses. 

About Colleen Lanin

Colleen Lanin is the founder/editor-in-chief of 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,, 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. 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.

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

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

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

  6. Shane Martin says

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

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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!

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

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

  12. 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!

  13. we need this bc we love to travel – but that car seat is getting HEAVY!

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

  15. 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 🙂

  16. kids are wriggly and need strapped down somehow

  17. susan smoaks says

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

  18. I would like CARES because my nephew flies once a month and I would like him to be more safe.

  19. 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.

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

  21. lilshuga2001 says

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

    Thanks for the giveaway!!

    better safe than sorry

  22. 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.

  23. Teajelficesse says

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

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

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

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

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