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CARES ~ How to Keep Your Toddler or Young Child Safe While Flying

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One grandmother is so passionate about keeping children safe while flying that she invented the only compact child safety restraint approved by the Federal Aviation Administration for use on airplanes. Louise Stoll got the idea for CARES (Child Aviation Restraint System), when greeting her daughter 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. 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)

How 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 so they can fly in a booked seat. Additionally, Louise believes 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 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. Buy your CARES from Amazon now!

What do you think about flying with lap children? Do you have experience with a child aviation restraint system? 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

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. Tweet

  9. 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.

  10. 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!

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

  12. I Tweeted:

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

  14. 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!

  15. Angela Gaffke says

    I tweeted httpss://

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

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

  18. 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 🙂

  19. kids are wriggly and need strapped down somehow

  20. susan smoaks says

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

  21. susan smoaks says


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

  23. 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.

  24. tweet httpss://

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

  26. lilshuga2001 says

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

    Thanks for the giveaway!!

    better safe than sorry

  27. 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.

  28. tweeted


  29. Teajelficesse says

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

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

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

  32. 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, 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!

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

  34. 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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