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  1. #1
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    car seat for airplane and car travel for 4.5 year old?

    Hi,

    I've been searching these boards extensively and have found the advice posted to be very useful. It just occurred to me that I could try to post my specific question to see what people advise. We will be traveling to Seattle from Detroit (non-stop flight) at the end of July for a vacation with our 4.5 year old son. He is about 35.5 lbs (without clothes) and 40.5 inches tall. I measured his torso (sitting down) at 14.5 or 15 inches. He rides in a Britax Frontier at home, but that seat seems too big lug on the plane (though I see that people have done it). Would it make sense for us to buy a fairly lightweight seat with a 40 lb. weight limit and high top harness slots like the Safety 1st Avenue or Evenflo Chase that we could use in both the plane and in the car at our destination? He may be able to get about 1 year of use out of it unless he hits a big growth spurt. At 5 1/2 (next summer) would it be okay for him to sit in the plane without a car seat and then use a hbb for travel, or would he still be too young?

    We considered the Safeguard Go but were concerned about the lack of side impact protection and that it requires a tether (and read that it is difficult to install with the seatbelt in the center seat). Also, we'd like a seat we could use on the plane. We also considered the Radian 65 but read that it might be hard to install in some cars. And we thought about the Ride Safer Travel Vest, but again are concerned about lack of side impact protection and are not sure about fit. The only other option we could think of was buying a Graco Nautilus, which I realize is only a little smaller than the Frontier he already has, but seems a bit narrower than the Frontier.

    Any advice would be appreciated!

    Thanks!

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  3. #2
    CPS Technician cookie123's Avatar
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    Re: car seat for airplane and car travel for 4.5 year old?

    The Graco Platinum Cargo would be a good choice. I've found it easy to install, but have not used it on a plane. I don't much like the harness adjuster on the Chase, personally. The Evenflo Generations would also be a decent choice, but is wider, so not sure about the plane. It does make a better booster seat later on.
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  4. #3
    CPS Technician firemomof3's Avatar
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    Re: car seat for airplane and car travel for 4.5 year old?

    I would also recommend the Graco Cargo
    DD1 10.5y/o seatbelt
    DD2 8y/o 45" 52lbs. backless
    DS 7y/o 51" 58lbs. ProBooster or backless

  5. #4
    CPST and ketchup snob ketchupqueen's Avatar
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    Re: car seat for airplane and car travel for 4.5 year old?

    I think the Radian is an excellent choice, it will last longer than the CarGo by weight and has longer "pass down" value as it's good for 2 more years. If you're travelling somewhere where you'll get a car with LATCH it'll be no problem. Or really where you'll have a lap-only belt you can install it with, it's pretty simple to install with lap-only belt too. Quite honestly I wouldn't worry about the SIP either and would probably go for convenience and get the RSTV and a CARES if money was not an object and you wanted something to use on the plane.

    If not, then a lighter weight 40 lb. seat with tall slots can work too. CarGo is a very good choice, Avenue if you can't find the CarGo cheap (Avenue is about $65 at the Sears website, pick up in store, right now.)
    CPST and Mom to Emma, 15, Bridget, 13, Maggie, 11, Katie Sue, 6, Jimmy, born May 2019,
    and Becky, waiting for us as part of our eternal family.
    Our '02 Odyssey, car seats, and seatbelts saved our lives. Now riding in a '13 Odyssey!

  6. #5
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    Re: car seat for airplane and car travel for 4.5 year old?

    Thanks for all of the advice. I hadn't considered the Cargo (there are just so many seats out there!).

    If we go with the Radian 65, would we need to worry about compatibility with various vehicles? I've read that it's hard to install in some cars. All of the vehicles we'll be riding in should have latch, and it sounds as though it is not as hard to install with latch. We have a 2002 VW Passat at home. Does anyone know how the Radian installs in that car in case we want to use it at home (we had it retrofitted with latch, but once my son is over 40 lbs, well have to install with a seatbelt, right?).

    At one point I was leaning toward the RSTV, but my son always complains about having a sweaty back, so I was not sure how he'd like it. Also, since he's at the bottom of the weight range (about 35 lbs), I wasn't sure if it would fit, though he is a bit top heavy, so that might help.

    I was also still wondering whether it would be safe for us to consider putting him in a booster for future travel if we end up buying a 40 lb. seat, which should last him until he's 5 1/2 or so. I know we'd have to see how well he sits in a booster at that point, but would a 40 lb. 5 1/2 year old be safe in a booster?

    Thanks so much for all of your advice!

  7. #6
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    Re: car seat for airplane and car travel for 4.5 year old?

    I'd go with the CarGo. Affordable, will probably last you several years based on weight/age ratio. Very comfortable seat. Installs easily almost everywhere. Easy to haul around.

  8. #7
    Admin - CPST Instructor wendytthomas's Avatar
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    Re: car seat for airplane and car travel for 4.5 year old?

    We have a Radian solely for a travel seat. We've had some tough times getting it in, but not in the US. Just in international cars. With LATCH it's generally very very easy. In any car (except a Lincoln Towncar).

    VW usually has a 48 pound limit. I don't think the retrofitted LATCH is any different. We have a 2004 Audi, so similar era, and I've had the Radian in forward facing, rear facing, with the belt, with LATCH. Goes in just fine in all positions in any direction. Remember, no center LATCH in the VW. And rental cars are hit and miss with center LATCH.

    The RSTV may be a bit big on him, though if he's top heavy then it'd probably fit him perfectly. My 38 pound daughter was very slim in it, but she's slim all over.

    I agree that a Cargo would be a nice lightweight travel seat, though. And yes, I'd put a 40 pound 5.5 year old in a booster for travel, provided he sat properly in one. That had been my plan for years, but we went to a RSTV after the Radian (mostly just because I wanted one).

    Jim Henson's Muppets are at the Experience Music Project at the Seattle Center until August 16th. And Animal Grossology is here until September 7 at the Pacific Science Center (also at the Seattle Center). There's also a great amusement park right at the base of the Space Needle, and of course you can't miss the Space Needle!! You could easily spend an entire day there, though, at the Seattle Center. The SAM, Seattle Art Museum, also has a kid's passport program, so if you go they're given a booklet to color in and things to find in the museum. It makes it a lot of fun for them to visit. We used to live right across the street from it and Piper would beg to go. They have family rooms with activities on each floor as well. Golden Gardens beach is nice, up in Ballard, if you want to dip your feet in the sound and freeze them off. LOL On Sundays you can go for free sailboat rides on Lake Union via the Center for Wooden Boats. http://www.cwb.org/ But you need to get there early to reserve a spot, they fill up fast. I haven't done it, but Nathan and Piper have tried a couple of times. We're doing a locks cruise later this month, which I've heard is great, but we haven't done it yet.

    Have a great time!!

    Wendy
    wendy, cpst-i mom to
    piper, 7/26/02, 62", 108#, seatbelt, driving her own car
    laine 9/16/09, 54", 96#, Nuna Aaces, Diono Solana 2
    in my husband's 2018 Toyota Land Cruiser, my 2017 Volvo XC90, and big sister's 2016 Honda Civic
    https://www.car-seat.org/image.php?type=sigpic&userid=1353&dateline=1552329  785

  9. #8
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    Re: car seat for airplane and car travel for 4.5 year old?

    Quote Originally Posted by wendytthomas View Post
    We have a Radian solely for a travel seat. We've had some tough times getting it in, but not in the US. Just in international cars. With LATCH it's generally very very easy. In any car (except a Lincoln Towncar).

    VW usually has a 48 pound limit. I don't think the retrofitted LATCH is any different. We have a 2004 Audi, so similar era, and I've had the Radian in forward facing, rear facing, with the belt, with LATCH. Goes in just fine in all positions in any direction. Remember, no center LATCH in the VW. And rental cars are hit and miss with center LATCH.

    The RSTV may be a bit big on him, though if he's top heavy then it'd probably fit him perfectly. My 38 pound daughter was very slim in it, but she's slim all over.

    I agree that a Cargo would be a nice lightweight travel seat, though. And yes, I'd put a 40 pound 5.5 year old in a booster for travel, provided he sat properly in one. That had been my plan for years, but we went to a RSTV after the Radian (mostly just because I wanted one).

    Jim Henson's Muppets are at the Experience Music Project at the Seattle Center until August 16th. And Animal Grossology is here until September 7 at the Pacific Science Center (also at the Seattle Center). There's also a great amusement park right at the base of the Space Needle, and of course you can't miss the Space Needle!! You could easily spend an entire day there, though, at the Seattle Center. The SAM, Seattle Art Museum, also has a kid's passport program, so if you go they're given a booklet to color in and things to find in the museum. It makes it a lot of fun for them to visit. We used to live right across the street from it and Piper would beg to go. They have family rooms with activities on each floor as well. Golden Gardens beach is nice, up in Ballard, if you want to dip your feet in the sound and freeze them off. LOL On Sundays you can go for free sailboat rides on Lake Union via the Center for Wooden Boats. http://www.cwb.org/ But you need to get there early to reserve a spot, they fill up fast. I haven't done it, but Nathan and Piper have tried a couple of times. We're doing a locks cruise later this month, which I've heard is great, but we haven't done it yet.

    Have a great time!!

    Wendy
    Wendy,

    Thanks for the advice on Seattle activities, too! My son has his heart on visiting the Space Needle, so we'll definitely have to do that.

    I still haven't decided what to do re: the travel seat, but thanks to you and everyone else, I have all the information I need to decide. My son seems very interested in the RSTV, and I was thinking of giving it a try, but unfortunately, it seems to be sold out of many places that have a flexible return policy (i.e. no restocking fee, allow return of merchandise that has been opened). And it sounds as though I can't go wrong with a 40 lb. seat (to be followed by a hbb when he hits 40 lbs) either.

  10. #9
    CPST and ketchup snob ketchupqueen's Avatar
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    Re: car seat for airplane and car travel for 4.5 year old?

    Lots of places online have the RSTV in stock, and it's not a big deal to ship back since it's light and small; if you want to be sure, elitecarseats.com has it and offers $5 return shipping insurance.

    But I agree that a 40 lb. seat should get you over the hump, so to speak. If you go for the Avenue, check out the Deals section of this forum, I think there's a code posted to take another little bit off.
    CPST and Mom to Emma, 15, Bridget, 13, Maggie, 11, Katie Sue, 6, Jimmy, born May 2019,
    and Becky, waiting for us as part of our eternal family.
    Our '02 Odyssey, car seats, and seatbelts saved our lives. Now riding in a '13 Odyssey!

  11. #10
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    Re: car seat for airplane and car travel for 4.5 year old?

    Also, Targets have the Chase on clearance right now. They are regularly ~$70 and are 15% off so that would be around $59.
    ANDREA

    DS1 | 6 | 45lbs, 45", 14.5" torso | Cowmoo PW & Let's Go TB
    DS2 | 3.75 | 37lbs, 40", 14" torso | Harnessed Reese Nautilus

  12. #11
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    Re: car seat for airplane and car travel for 4.5 year old?

    Thanks everyone, for being so responsive! I've ordered a RSTV and will try it out on my son before we leave. If he likes it, it should be a good solution, as it will last us beyond 40 lbs and will be convenient for travel. If it doesn't fit, I'll buy a 40 lb. wt limit car seat. It sounds as though many kids his size are okay on the plane without a carseat, or I might try renting a CARES harness.

    Thanks again...

  13. #12
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    Re: car seat for airplane and car travel for 4.5 year old?

    I'm not a tech but I'll chime in briefly on my latest travel experience as my child is roughly the same size as yours, she just turned 4 and is about 35# and 42" tall.

    In the past, I've traveled with either a Britax Roundabout or a Marathon.

    After much consideration, on our last trip I took both a Radian and an RSTV. My child is at the minimum weight of the RSTV and I played with it quite a bit before we left so that I was comfortable with the fit and installation. It was time well spent, I was not happy with my original efforts with the RSTV so I'm glad I figured it out at home, not after a long travel day.

    We used the Radian on the airplane and I was really delighted how well it went. I'm a single mom and purchased the carry straps to carry the Radian as a backpack. It is surprisingly comfortable for such a heavy seat. It really is easier to get on and off the plane and around in general because it folds. Again, I spent quite a bit of time playing with the folding mechanism and practising adding and removing the safe stop thing because I knew I'd have to do this in a tight space on the plane in short amount of time. It really installs on the plane like a dream. When I forget to use the recline, my childs head slumped when she slept, so I do recommend using the recline for added comfort for your child. I don't think I'll be flying without a car seat any time soon. My child is so comfortable on the plane in her own carseat, I don't think she'd sleep without it. On our way to Alaska, I actually read a entire novel while she slept on our 5hr45min flight.

    Anyway, on land I used both the Radian and the RSTV. I bought a backpack large enough to accomodate the RSTV and carried it with me all day every day just in case we decided to grab a cab or whatnot, and took the Radian when I knew I could use that. We were on a cruise and rode in a couple 18 passanger type vans but mostly small 24-40 seat busses, most had seat belt only. As I said, I'm not a 'pro' with the Radian, but I had no problem installing the Radian anywhere. The times I had to install it where there were strangers in the vehicle, everyone was helpful and understanding and I never felt rushed.

    We already had the Radian, but did purchase the RSTV for this trip knowing we'll get lots of use from it in the future. I use it for my niece and will use it for preschool field trips and future travel needs.

    All that said, I probably wouldn't hesitate just lugging a Frontier along on a trip. I'm a believer in using what you have. I've been traveling with carseats for 15 years and it is never as big of a hassle as I think it will be. If I can do it as a single parent, I think anyone can.

    HTH

  14. #13
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    Re: car seat for airplane and car travel for 4.5 year old?

    Quote Originally Posted by Northriver View Post
    I'm not a tech but I'll chime in briefly on my latest travel experience as my child is roughly the same size as yours, she just turned 4 and is about 35# and 42" tall.

    In the past, I've traveled with either a Britax Roundabout or a Marathon.

    After much consideration, on our last trip I took both a Radian and an RSTV. My child is at the minimum weight of the RSTV and I played with it quite a bit before we left so that I was comfortable with the fit and installation. It was time well spent, I was not happy with my original efforts with the RSTV so I'm glad I figured it out at home, not after a long travel day.

    We used the Radian on the airplane and I was really delighted how well it went. I'm a single mom and purchased the carry straps to carry the Radian as a backpack. It is surprisingly comfortable for such a heavy seat. It really is easier to get on and off the plane and around in general because it folds. Again, I spent quite a bit of time playing with the folding mechanism and practising adding and removing the safe stop thing because I knew I'd have to do this in a tight space on the plane in short amount of time. It really installs on the plane like a dream. When I forget to use the recline, my childs head slumped when she slept, so I do recommend using the recline for added comfort for your child. I don't think I'll be flying without a car seat any time soon. My child is so comfortable on the plane in her own carseat, I don't think she'd sleep without it. On our way to Alaska, I actually read a entire novel while she slept on our 5hr45min flight.

    Anyway, on land I used both the Radian and the RSTV. I bought a backpack large enough to accomodate the RSTV and carried it with me all day every day just in case we decided to grab a cab or whatnot, and took the Radian when I knew I could use that. We were on a cruise and rode in a couple 18 passanger type vans but mostly small 24-40 seat busses, most had seat belt only. As I said, I'm not a 'pro' with the Radian, but I had no problem installing the Radian anywhere. The times I had to install it where there were strangers in the vehicle, everyone was helpful and understanding and I never felt rushed.

    We already had the Radian, but did purchase the RSTV for this trip knowing we'll get lots of use from it in the future. I use it for my niece and will use it for preschool field trips and future travel needs.

    All that said, I probably wouldn't hesitate just lugging a Frontier along on a trip. I'm a believer in using what you have. I've been traveling with carseats for 15 years and it is never as big of a hassle as I think it will be. If I can do it as a single parent, I think anyone can.

    HTH
    Thanks for sharing your experiences with both the Radian and the RSTV. Your mention of the Roundabout reminds me that I shouldn't have given our Roundabout away when we got the Frontier because I think he'd still fit into it! It was great to travel with.

    The RSTV should arrive tomorrow, so we'll see how it fits him.

    Thanks also for the information on the CARES harness. I had not realized that it had a 40" height limit--when I looked at the eBay rentals, they usually mentioned the weight ranges, but not the height. I think my son would probably be okay in it, since he's only 1/2" over the limit and not very long torsoed.

    And I agree that whatever I get, I should practice using it before we leave!

  15. #14
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    Re: car seat for airplane and car travel for 4.5 year old?

    A brief update...
    We received the RSTV. The box was all banged up and crushed, but we took it out and tried it on our son. It seemed to fit him (he has skinny arms, legs, and butt--he can still fit into many of his 2T summer clothes-- so I guess most of his 35 lbs is upper torso and head!), perhaps a bit big. However, he didn't like sitting so low in the car and felt restricted in the vest (perhaps because it came up so high on him when he sat down). So, we are returning the vest (we didn't feel comfortable using it anyway because of the condition the box came in, and also we were surprised to see that the vest had an Oct 2003 manufacture date--I know they don't expire, but I wonder what the vest has been doing for the past 6 years?).

    So, after wavering back and forth between getting a 40 lb. seat and trying a Radian (can you tell we are indecisive people?) we decided to give the Radian a try. I got it for 15% off at hipmonkey.com. It should come next week, which should give us time to practice installing it in a few vehicles. If the Radian doesn't work, plan C would be to get an Uptown at Big Lots for $65. I hope it does work, though, as he can stay harnessed a lot longer for travel with the Radian, and we can also use it in the plane. We are trying to justify the cost with the fact that we only have one car and one child, so we should have to buy fewer carseats overall.

  16. #15
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    Re: car seat for airplane and car travel for 4.5 year old?

    Thanks again to everyone for your advice. We finally were able to order a Radian 65 (on sale from Target) and it worked wonderfully in our car, on the plane, and in two different vehicles (including a 2004 Nissan Quest) in Seattle. We are thinking of keeping it as his everyday seat and selling his Frontier (and getting a booster after he outgrows the Radian). He's a little below the 2nd to top slots on the Radian, so he has a bit of growing room.

    At one point, we thought we couldn't get the Radian in time for the trip and bought an Uptown at Big Lots, but even though he had 1-2 inches of growing room when the seat was uninstalled, he was even with the top slots when the seat was installed!

    Anyway, thanks again!

  17. #16
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    Re: car seat for airplane and car travel for 4.5 year old?

    Quote Originally Posted by Unregistered View Post
    Thanks everyone, for being so responsive! I've ordered a RSTV and will try it out on my son before we leave. If he likes it, it should be a good solution, as it will last us beyond 40 lbs and will be convenient for travel. If it doesn't fit, I'll buy a 40 lb. wt limit car seat. It sounds as though many kids his size are okay on the plane without a carseat, or I might try renting a CARES harness.

    Thanks again...
    I believe the CARES has a MAXIMUM height of 40", someone please correct me if I'm wrong.

  18. #17
    Admin - CPST Instructor wendytthomas's Avatar
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    Re: car seat for airplane and car travel for 4.5 year old?

    Quote Originally Posted by Northriver View Post
    I believe the CARES has a MAXIMUM height of 40", someone please correct me if I'm wrong.
    As with any height guideline it depends a lot on the torso length of the child, I'm sure. Even moreso for an item that doesn't have a hard shell and is nearly completely adjustable.

    Wendy
    wendy, cpst-i mom to
    piper, 7/26/02, 62", 108#, seatbelt, driving her own car
    laine 9/16/09, 54", 96#, Nuna Aaces, Diono Solana 2
    in my husband's 2018 Toyota Land Cruiser, my 2017 Volvo XC90, and big sister's 2016 Honda Civic
    https://www.car-seat.org/image.php?type=sigpic&userid=1353&dateline=1552329  785

  19. #18
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    Re: car seat for airplane and car travel for 4.5 year old?

    Quote Originally Posted by wendytthomas View Post
    As with any height guideline it depends a lot on the torso length of the child, I'm sure. Even moreso for an item that doesn't have a hard shell and is nearly completely adjustable.

    Wendy
    They must state a maximun height for a reason especially since the 40" max drastically reduces the market for their product. I sold mine when my DD hit 40" to adhere to the labeling of the product.



    ETA: At one point I emailed about this and the response I got from the company was that the 40" and under was a requirement, not a guideline.

  20. #19
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    Re: car seat for airplane and car travel for 4.5 year old?

    I appologize to the original poster for the slight off topic discussion on CARES but here is the wording in an email I received from them on 8/25/08:

    "Hello,

    Thank you for contacting Cares - Kids Fly Safe.

    Here are the technical requirements for using CARES. The child must meet all
    three of these requirements:

    1) The child must be between 22 and 44 lbs.

    2) The child must be no taller than 40 inches.

    3) The child must be able to sit up by himself without support.

    The order comes with an installation DVD. The instructions are also on the website.

    I hope this helps!

    Regards,

    Tianna
    Customer Care Center
    Cares - Kids Fly Safe"

    "The child must be no taller than 40"" is pretty clear on the issue, imo.

    So many people seem to use CARES for taller kids, I guess I've never understood why people feel it is ok to use THIS product outside the stated requirements.

  21. #20
    Admin - CPST Instructor wendytthomas's Avatar
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    Re: car seat for airplane and car travel for 4.5 year old?

    Just like we do for all other seats. We constantly tell people to ignore the height guidelines. Of course the manufacturer will tell you it's a requirement. They take the average that kids outgrow the seat and put that. They can't tell if a child is all torso or legs. But if you came to me with a 25.5" child and a 26" infant seat I'd tell you to ignore the 26" and go when they have less than 1" above their head. If you say the Marathon has a 53" maximum (I honestly have no idea what the Marathon's stated height limit is) but your 53" child has two inches to go in the torso then keep using your Marathon. But if you call Britax they'll tell you the 53" is solid (they may have changed that, since now they're stating seated heights in addition to overall heights). The old Evenflo Triumph had a 40 pound 40" limit, the Roundabout may as well. That kicks some kids out of it before it's actually outgrown, others are in it too long. Same as CARES. Since CARES isn't a solid seat I would use it until either the weight limit is reached, or until the shoulders go over the top harness height that it can achieve. Without having played with one I'm not certain how tall it could go, but I would completely ignore the 40" depending on the torso of my child. I never look at height limits other than as maybe a guide for a new seat. A seat with a 40" overall height will be smaller than a seat with a 59" overall height, and we can take a guess on shell and slot heights due to that. Otherwise, they're ignored completely here. Always have been.

    We generally like the forward facing height minimums since they often encourage children to stay rear facing longer, so you'll see us using those, but they work for us and don't work against the manufacturer. The maximum heights don't work for us much, and the three rules of outgrowing a forward facing seat are based on physics, not what a customer service rep says.

    Wendy
    wendy, cpst-i mom to
    piper, 7/26/02, 62", 108#, seatbelt, driving her own car
    laine 9/16/09, 54", 96#, Nuna Aaces, Diono Solana 2
    in my husband's 2018 Toyota Land Cruiser, my 2017 Volvo XC90, and big sister's 2016 Honda Civic
    https://www.car-seat.org/image.php?type=sigpic&userid=1353&dateline=1552329  785

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