CARES Travel Harness Review

15 September 2010

CARES 6 Have you travelled with a small child or older baby in an airplane? If they're sitting on your lap, you might get a little lapbelt that wraps around them and loops through your seatbelt. On some airlines though, they don't even provide that. I was flabbergasted to be told on Air Canada that I had to hold my baby against me, over my shoulder. And on budget airline German Wings, not only did the steward insist I do that, he wouldn't even let me use my baby carrier insisting that if I tried to do so I would be forced to disembark!

Have none of the airlines seen any car safety ads in the last thirty years? We're told repeatedly that we can't hold on to a baby when a car going 30 miles an hour comes to a sudden stop. I don't think I'd have much chance if a plane on the verge of take off or landing came to a sudden stop!

The only comfort I could take when travelling with my son at the age of 13 months (and again at 18 months, 2 years and 2 and a half years) was that statistically, planes don't really crash all that often.

CARES 1If that seems like a cold comfort then you could try the CARES 55) - it stands for child aviation restraint system. This is a product that seems to have some sort of success in the US. According to the website it is a "harness-type safety device designed for children (aged 1-5) to keep them safe and secure on aeroplanes. Aeroplane seatbelts alone do not protect small children who cannot brace themselves."

I gave one to PlayPennies mum Tracy to try out, and see how it actually worked in practice.

What was her first impression? Perplexed initially! "Now to start with I spent a good period of time wondering why they had a picture of a baby carseat on the cover of the box. Surely no strap-in system would hold an infant in place? I still don’t know why there is a picture of a baby car seat on the box."

Understandably, this initial experience made Tracey look more closely at exactly what specifications made up the CARES. "I did find, in big bold letters, that this was suitable for kids 22-44lbs. It has been approved by the FAA for all phases of airplane travel and won the Good Housekeeping 2008 Good Buy Award to boot."

CARES 5"Then I opened up the box. " Tracey continued. "The restraints (snort) are wrapped in a lovely red string bag which won points in my book. Nothing more frustrating than a tangle of straps when you are busy squeezing into a plane. This way you can leave the box at home and just pop the system into your handbag. Note: a Mommy handbag not a neat chic designer one."

With the restraint you get both a DVD and an Instructional Safety Card to show you how to install the system. Tracey found that "the card amused me with its similarity to the ones you get on planes."

Finally, it was time to try it out. "So, off I went on my holiday armed with this device. The instructions ask you to slide the strap over the seat and drop down the tray of the seat behind. This did not go down well with the stressed businessman sitting behind my daughter's chair. You could see that he was already annoyed that he had to sit so close to a small human and my touching his food tray was a step too far."

Oh dear! I have to say that personally, that would put me off entirely. But Tracey is clearly made of much sterner stuff than I am. "I had to actually swap seat my daughters seat to avoid a scene. This is not the designers fault, obviously, but well worth being aware of. Fortunately the other lady made a point of being super helpful to spite angry man."

CARES 2Once that was sorted, it was time for Tracey to actually fit the harness. "You attach the shoulder straps and adjust them to suit your child – this was easy enough although I have to say that I did make quite a few huffy noises as doing all this while bent at an unusual position on an aircraft does demand a level of gymnastic ability that I just don’t posses. Then it was simple. I slotted the plane seatbelt in, clicked it all into place and bada boom, my child was locked into place."

Tracey continues "there are two things that bothered me". To be honest I would have to say that there would be more than two things bothering me with this, but then I already find the stress almost overwhelming getting a small child and all its belongings into the economy seating of an airplane.

"First", Tracey says, "if the tray table of the chair you are using is recessed then you have to install CARES on top of it – this will just annoy the passenger who’s tray table that is. Especially when the instructions tell you to remove the system, lower the tray, reattach the system, if the person CARES 3behind you wants to eat. That seems a LOT of effort."

"Second", she continues, "What happens if you have to get out of the system FAST? There are two buckles and two straps to get her/him out of and if you’re in a rush that’s not going to be easy. I don’t need to tell you what kind of a rush that would be either. Shudder."

And Finally

Tracey's final thoughts? "Overall this was easy enough to use once I got the hang of it, felt very sturdy and strong, made me feel like my child was safe. If you are good at wrapping stuff up you’ll be able to compact it to a tiny portable size. Your child may object to being strapped in by so many straps. Mine didn’t. She loves that."

TOPICS:   Family Holidays

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