CBS report – Safety for Lap Held Children

CBS Morning Show on airline safety for lap held kids on airplanes.

When you’re watching this – remember it is a US report. Lap held children in the USA are completely unrestrained. Infants on Australian aircraft are by law required to be held in a lap belt which is attached to the parents seat belt. The report they refer to is by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). The CARES harness is suitable for children from 10 – 20 kilos and up to a metre tall.

Why Use a Walking Harness?

walking harness

Safety Harness, toddler leash, walking harness…there is certainly a lot of debate on what they are and why use one! They seem to fit into the same category as the play pen or the working mum – everyone has an opinion on them! I believe such things are at the discretion of the parents, where the best interests of the child can be taken into account.

When would I use one?

When children are smaller we instantly strap them safely into their stroller when out and about. As they get older or if a stroller may not be available (especially when travelling or when a new sibling arrives) a harness can be a great option. It can ensure they are never out of your sight, while getting some exercise and burning off some of that energy – even in a busy airport or street.

I am noticing their use around my local area is increasing. I don’t often go to a shopping centre now without seeing at least one 2 in 1 harness buddy in particular. And last week I saw a Bear 2 in 1 Harness Buddy walking down the street with a proud owner! Specifically, if a child is a wanderer, then that may be a good reason to use one more regularly. Perhaps you are pregnant and prone to being a bit woozy or have young ones aged close together (they often run in different directions)? Some parents like them while the child is learning to walk, to help avoid spills (but note, they are not manufactured for this purpose). The main reason to consider one is while travelling, even if it gets packed away when you get home.


Airports and amusement parks are the most common recommendations for use – and for good reason! I always find checking through security at a busy airport difficult, watching the kids while making sure your laptop doesn’t disappear and look out if you’re wearing metal…Also try and consider yourself in an unfamiliar environment, such as shopping centres, parks, and museums where you may be more interested in the Louvre rather than your child for a second (only a second)! We also have one child who likes to touch everything, especially when asked not to. A harness can give them an extra arms length without worrying too much about them attempting to remove the crown jewels.

What types are available?

If you feel uncomfortable about using one, then maybe you shouldn’t – but there are many types available. Harnesses are very subtle nowadays and much more commonplace. They are now disguised in fluffy toys, backpacks and wrist straps.

The 2 in 1 Harness Buddy by Goldbug is popular worldwide. It is a cuddly backpack harness which comes in a fluffy dog backpack2number of animal styles. It has an adjustable chest and waist strap, making it safe and secure and has a cute animal backpack with ‘tail’ leash. The leash is detachable, so kids can wear it as a pet or small backpack on its own. (And if your daughter is of the girly-girl variety, then the new Butterfly option has fairy-like wings which may be a hit). The pouch is fully lined, but quite small. It would fit a small drink, purse or wallet, snack, tissues, play jewellery, playing cards, pirate treasure etc. Depending on which variety you choose, the pouch has either zip or Velcro closures.

  • Price – RRP $AU 34.95
  • Age Group – 18 months +
  • Care – Fully machine washable

Safety Harness & Reins These are generally made up of an adjustable chest and waist strap. They are popular for l_safety harness and reins_largetravel, especially due to their compact size. There are similar options available across a range of brands, such as Dreambaby, Roger Armstrong, Safety 1st, Valco and Playgro to name a few. The differences to consider are how they attach and detach, the easier the better. Some also have adjustable anchor belts which are useful for securing your little one, especially when you’re eating out and may not have access to a high chair. Also, the harness is generally fixed in a loop and is not a single tether (as some other types of harnesses are) so check that you’re comfortable with the length.

  •  Price range – between $AU 10 – 15
  • Age Group – toddler to preschooler

Backpack Harness These can be practical as they offer the ability to carry a little more of their own gear ‘on board’. owl-harness-lifestyle-webThe harness option can generally be tucked away or removed when not in use. It would be recommended for older children as the backpack adds a little bulk and weight. They are also a little harder to come by and more pricey, so consider how much use you’ll get from them.

  • Price – over $AU 45 +
  • Age Group – preschooler +

l_wristbuddy_largeWrist Strap There are a few options of this available (also see the Kinderkord below). One is the Dreambaby version which is a stretchy fabric designed for attachment on the carer and child’s wrist (called the Wrist Buddy). Handy if you’re not sure if you’ll need one as they can easily fit into a pocket or bag. It is also modestly priced with various colour options available.

  • Price range – $AU 8.95 +
  • Age Group – toddler +


Kinderkord The Kinderkord is unique in that Velcro wristbands are attached to yourself and the child. They contain a pulley system which makes the leash retractable. So, they could be used to act as an extra pair of hands if you’re carting luggage or checking in at an airport or motel. And (it was invented by a mother of 2 sets of twins) you can attach multiples to your one wrist strap. My experience at Little Gulliver has seen this especially popular for families undertaking long haul flights, particularly to Europe. It is compact and has a more subtle look than some options. Some like it also for warmer weather, as the child doesn’t need to be wearing extra backpacks which may heat them up.

  • Price range – between $AU 30 – 35
  • Age Group – toddler +


Interesting Links

What is a walking harness, according to Wikipedia;


Some discussions on harness pros and cons;

Little Gulliver has an extensive range of walking harnesses; See our ‘walking’ category here.

I’ve tried to write and consider all the options available in the walking harness category. If there are any I have missed, please let me know! I’d love to see some discussion from users too, what do you like and dislike about walking harnesses? It’s always helpful to others…

What the blogs are saying about CARES

We keep an eye on some of the local blogs, here’s what people are saying about CARES

We keep an eye on some of the local blogs, here’s what people are saying about CARES;

Bub Hub

Wont let me take a car seat onto the plane!

Flying Qantas from US with a carseat or CARES?

Essential Baby

Child restraint / car seat on flight

Toddlers on flights, Did anybody use a CARES harness?

Video – Installing a CARES

how to install a CARES

Here’s a video showing some information and how to install a CARES. It’s a US video, so keep the metric conversions of 10-20 kilos and up to a metre in mind. There may be no Academy Award imminent, but it covers the topic well. If you’ve never seen a CARES in action, its worth a look.

CARES is available in Australia/New Zealand at


Before you travel, I also recommend practising installing a CARES on a dining chair at home. While doing so you can adjust the shoulder straps to fit comfortably across your child. When you’ve done this and are comfortable with how to install the harness, extend the red strap a little (as you will be placing this around the plane seat). This leaves fewer adjustments to do on the day.

I love how calm and relaxed the kids are in the video…I’m still hoping for a trip like this!

Choosing an aeroplane seat

Obviously there are many seating options. I saw one helpful website suggest First or Business class as a best option – well theres a suprise! Anyway, while travelling BC (before children) you may not have minded where you sat. But when travelling with a toddler, you may have some additional considerations. I’ve looked at these below. 

Your airline may be able to recommend which seating will suit your family’s needs. I also love Seat Guru, a website for travellers which explains the interiors and amenities of different planes. Once you know the model of plane you will be travelling in check You may be able to work out where you would like to sit based on where the toilets are, change tables etc. Generally, with kids,  it is recommended to sit at the front of the plane if you can. This gives you less juggling down the aisles, you are more likely to be fed first and are close to the amenities.


The aircraft bassinettes are generally attached to the bulkheads. This area also provides the extra oxygen masks necessary for infants and toddlers not in their own seats. Although there is extra leg room, often the armrests do not go up – which may make it more difficult for toddlers to get comfortable. Look out for movie screens, which may be on the wall in front of you and difficult to see. And with no under seat storage for carryon bags, all of your luggage has to be accessed from the overhead locker.


If you don’t buy a seat for your child, perhaps choose an aisle seat so you can easily reach around and get to amenities. If there is a spare seat, sit on the aisle with the child next to you, blocking them in. There is much less temptation for a wander up and down the aisle and still plenty of other passengers to stare at! Just watch your elbows or childs head on those food carts.


Be aware that some back row seats may be fixed, therefore are not able to recline or fix a CARES to. Some back rows do not have windows and it can also be a noisy area if close to the engines. For long haul flights, watch out for a block of toilets where passengers may queue while you’re trying to get someone off to sleep. 

Emergency row

Yes more legroom, but not an option when travelling with small children. Most airlines require passengers to be over 18.

Centre aisle

A good choice for families travelling together, if you can fit in one row and don’t miss a window. It can potentially give you 2 exit point to the amenities via the left or right aisle. More of a roomy feel? Maybe!

Split in front and behind

Maybe not a good option if one of your party has a lap child, especially a baby. I’ve travelled with my husband and two kids both in front and behind me at times (while I’ve nursed our baby). I found it annoying as its hard to communicate to the rest of the family and difficult to ask for something if the baby is settling. This situation also makes it more difficult to pass the baby to someone while you eat. I do like this option, however, for travelling with other families, friends or grandparents. It allows for a little “privacy”, some movement and perhaps the adults can briefly swap for a bit of time out from the kids row.

Split across the aisle

For larger families travelling together this is a great option. I prefer this myself as I can see all the kids and it makes communication with them and my partner a little easier.

Near the galley and toilets

This can be convenient, especially if you want a bottle warmed or will be making frequent trips to the bathroom (ours love the excuse of a jaunt to the toilet on planes). Our kids also love the food available as there is a good chance of a sweet biscuit or an ice cream!


In Far North Queensland recently, we discovered our 2 year old doesn’t like heights. She was seated by the window in a 13 seater aircraft. Fortunately she fell asleep quickly, but missed the spectacular view! In the larger planes this shouldn’t be a problem. I still think there is little reward for a view with toddlers (unless you have all the seats in a row), especially if you’ve just started potty training and/or are on a longer flight.

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CARES vs. Car Seats

Should you take a car seat on a plane?

kate said:   May 9th, 2010 2:09 pm

we are travelling 12 hours on a plane overseas with our toddler who doesnt sleep and gets hyper. She has her own seat this time but we cannot decide whether to look into bringing her car seat or not . We are thinking of buying the wheels accessory to push her in the airport . But we cannot decide to go this route or buy a safety harness instead. Would love some feedback . I suppose we need to be sure both airlines accept car seats . thank you .

Donna @ Travel Toddler said:   May 9th, 2010 5:25 pm

Hello Kate,

CARES vs. car seats on planes: CARES is superior to a carseat when travelling with toddlers on planes* and I see it as the best alternative.

I dont like the idea of taking the seat out of the car, making sure its fitted back in correctly and then the potential of damage to the seat in transit. I like that CARES fits directly onto the aircraft seat and allows it to flex as intended, while supporting the childs upper torso. And, its light and fits in my carry-on luggage! This is why I created my business (Little Gulliver) and brought the CARES to Australia*.

Some people use a car seat believing their children will sleep better in them, as they do in a car. Others say they wont use car seats on planes again as the child has been uncomfortable. Many times the airline seat cant recline with the car seat in it, the tray table can’t lower over the childs legs, I’ve heard of angry fellow passengers as the child can kick the back of the seat in front! I guess the main problem is that once you have the car seat on board there isnt really an option to remove it if things go awry.

I’ve never had any problem with my children sleeping in a CARES, remembering that plane travel is never that pleasant for everyone anyway. We alway’s take the standard snacks, activities and soft toys from home and hope for the best. I think a good place to start is to see if your particular car seat is approved by your airlines, as you mentioned. Many makes and models are not, while Virgin Blue and Tiger Airways don’t allow car seats at all. Also, consider a travel stroller as an option if you do want wheels at the airport. There are some great travel strollers around (we use a Quicksmart) and Ive heard of people buying cheap umbrella strollers to use (strollers on planes though starts a whole new conversation)!

Thank you for your questions and feedback, I hope my comments help.

Happy Mothers Day to all!


Flying With Babies

Flying with Babies

Flying With Babies

Booking a Bassinet
Check with your airline if you can book a bassinet. This may not be possible though, as not all airlines or planes have them. Also, there are a limited number of them available, so book early if a bassinet is really important to you.

Each bassinet is quite different from each other and have different features. The one pictured here has straps to hold the infant in place, others have a stretchy netting which is pulled over the babies torso.

Also, check the weight limits of bassinets with your airline. They vary. When planning future travel, the Child and Maternal Health graphs are handy at estimating your child’s likely weight at a certain age

Lap restraints
Under 2 years, your baby is considered a “lap child”. In Australia this means the child is to be seated on your lap and a lap restraint is given to you for use by the airline. To use you must adjust your own seat belt and loop the babies belt through, then fasten and loop around your baby. Some airlines will let you purchase a seat for a child under 2 years at a reduced rate.

The lap belt provided by our airlines is not used in many overseas countries, where car seats and more recently the use of CARES is more common. Local authorities don’t see that a carseat provides adequate protection for a child on a plane, as the car seat cannot be bolted onto the seat as in cars.

How to Help Babies Unblock their Ears?
Babies cannot intentionally pop their ears, but popping may occur if they are sucking on a bottle or pacifier. Feed your baby during the flight, and do not allow him or her to sleep during descent. Children are especially vulnerable to blockages because their Eustachian tubes are narrower than in adults.

Reference; The American Academy of Otolaryngology

A word on Baby B’Air
Some consider, in an emergency situation that this restraint is no more ‘safe’ than the restraint already provided by our airlines. Don’t be confused by o/s blogs that talk about this product, as US airlines do not provide the lap restraint we have in Australia. Also, the Baby B’Air is NOT able to be used during take-off and landing.

CASA article
‘Flight Safety Australia, September-October 2013’ Page 16.

What is a CARES Harness?

Find out more about the CARES Harness

CARES Child Aviation Restraint System

Have you heard of CARES? Its a harness type restraint manufactured by AMSAFE, one of the world leading aircraft seatbelt manufacturers. It takes the worry many of us have about flying with children on planes. We use ours regularly on Qantas and Jetstar. However, it is approved by CASA (Civil Aviation Safety Authority) for use on Australian planes and other countries all over the world.

If you’ve ever considered that our kids need car seats in cars, but only lap belts on planes, then you may have been as confused as I was. This is how I found the CARES! Invented by a US grandmother, the CARES protects the child upper torso by a secure harness which is attached to the aircraft seat. The aircraft seat belt goes through the bottom loop.

It is not designed to keep children in the chairs (although this can be an added benefit), it is specifically designed for safety in turbulence or an emergency situation. (It is also not for use in cars).

The other alternative to a CARES is a carseat. However, there are many difficulties in having your carseat approved for use on the aircraft and there are no bolts (as in cars) to secure it. Other parents suggest their kids aren’t as comfortable during long haul trips in their carseat, while others report difficulty using the tray table and other irate passengers who can’t recline their seat in front of them.

If you’re flying and your child is in the recommended weight limit of 10 – 20 Kilos and up to a metre tall then the CARES may be for you.

More information is available at The product is available locally in Australia and New Zealand at