New York — Many young children take their first plane trip during the holiday season -- maybe to a relatives' home or to a warm-weather amusement park.
While toddlers age 2 and under can travel on their parent's laps, the Federal Aviation Administration recommends parents secure their children in appropriate restraint systems. (Car seats less than 16 inches in width often fit airlines' safety guidelines and narrow plane seats.)
"Child-restraint systems are as beneficial on airplanes as they are in automobiles," says Carol Helminski, a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration-certified installation specialist. "When properly used, these seats can make a world of difference in the instance of turbulence or an emergency."
Helminski also is a safety coordinator with Graco Children's Products and offers these tips for keeping children safe when traveling:
l Installation. Read the manufacturer's instruction for proper set-up and use of the child-restraint system. Infant seats should be rear-facing. Child restraint systems should be placed in window seats so they don't block emergency paths, and they shouldn't be used in exit rows.
l Timing. Arrive early at the gate, as many airlines let passengers with children to board first, allowing plenty of time to properly install car seats. An early check-in also makes it more likely the family will be able to sit together.
l Help. If parents arrange for assistance in advance, most airlines will help families change planes to make a connecting flight, which can be especially helpful when carrying both a child-restraint system and child through a busy airport.
Many airlines offer a discounted fare for children traveling in a child-restraint system.