Travel Basics: To travel with a Car Seat or Not?
Updated: Feb 22
We travelled with our son close to 4-6 trips per year and the one major decision we had to make on each trip is whether to take a car seat, hire one abroad or do without one.
Let's get real, its clunky to travel with a car seat - even if you check it on on a plane, there is a risk for damage. The option to travel with your own car seat is also fully dependent on the type of car seat you might have and its weight. Hiring one abroad also poses challenges as smaller car hire firms may not be consistent with providing a clean and safe car seat, and then there's the cost perspective - they can be pricey. Travelling without one with your infant on your lap might give you anxious butterflies, on the other hand. Its slightly different, if your child is slightly older, like a toddler where they are more stable.
One main consideration to help your decision is whether you will be spending much time sight seeing or on the road travelling. If the latter, you will need a car seat. For our California road trip when Alexander was 5 months old, taking our car seat was a must as we did a lot of driving. However, if you are mostly based at a villa or resort for example, then a car seat might not be necessary.
Here are a few factors to consider when deciding on the need for a car seat or whether to go without one or hire.
TAKING YOUR CAR SEAT FROM HOME
This is the easiest option at the start of your travel for sure. The advantages are that your baby knows the seat so it will make travelling a lot easier and there is no additional cost attached. The disadvantage is that it might prove bulky if you are flying with a lot of luggage and the ability to take it is highly dependent on the car seat weight. I highly recommend that you plan how many luggage items you plan on travelling with, including hand luggage, before making this decision.
Ensure that you check the airline caveats for taking a car seat on board the plane. Most airlines allow this along with a overhead cabin friendly stroller, and 1 hand luggage per adult. However, it must be placed in overhead luggage.
If you buy a seat on the plane for your baby, you will have the option of using the car seat on the main seat.
Most countries have an exemption allowing infants to travel without car seats in taxis (UK, EU and US included). Please check this before you travel. Some taxis might have an option to provide a car seat at a small additional cost.
However, the safety question still sometimes arises depending on city/country. In New York for instance, taxi drivers are fast and furious so driving with an infant on your lap might be quite risky.
Some parents just don't feel comfortable travelling with their baby without the security of a car seat, especially on long drives to airports - we certainly did not until our infant was a little older and more stable. Choose what makes you most comfortable. At the end of the day, you have options.
If you plan to use public transport, most buses, trains and trams have an exemption allowing babies to travel without a car seat (UK included). Check with your travel destination in advance.
CAR SEAT HIRE
Car hire companies and baby travel companies offer car seat hire at many destinations. There is a cost associated with this sometimes in the region of £20 per day.
Another consideration is the number of days you are travelling for, as it might be cheaper buying a car seat at your destination, especially if it is a longer trip.
Most new cars have Isofix or Isofit points so you want to select a seat that is compatible with this, as it will also adhere to European safety standards. Select your seat in as far in advance as possible to ensure that you get something you are comfortable with.
Hope this helps with the car seat dilemma! Happy Travels!
The Kensington Diary