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How did your LO sit in their seat? In a carseat (DS despises his carseat, so I would love to hear other options), just sitting in the seat with the plane seatbelt, or did you use some other safety harness?
Not ideal and pricey but way better than a car seat!
DD flew on my lap until she was 2, including on international trips. It was where she was most comfortable. After age 2, we bought her a seat and tried using a CARES harness since we weren't traveling with a car seat that trip (ILs have one on the other end). The harness was a mess- way too easy for her to figure out how to take off. So the next trip, I tried the car seat and was told by an ill-informed counter agend that the Britax is too big for a plane and was forced to check it.
She was wrong, but in the end, it didn't matter. It seems that DD flies best without any kind of extra harness or car seat. She's great about sitting in her seat and is generally an awesome traveler. We've flown many times since she turned 2 last year and the only bad experience we had was the first flight we bought her a seat for- she insisted on sitting in my lap most of the time because she just wasn't used to having her own seat. Our return flight on that same trip was fine and we were able to convince her that having her own seat was a fun, wonderful thing.
We rear-faced her cosco scenera (our travel seat) until this most recently trip purely so she could not kick the seat of the passenger in front of her. That passenger couldn't recline as result, but they always chose that over a kicker!
There was a younger kid across from us on one flight who did well sitting in the seat with just the buckle, but I'm not sure how well T would do like that. because she's happy in her seat, and because we've needed it at our destination we've just kept to using the car seat.