Car seat regulations and booster seat requirements vary from country to country and often state to state and province to province. Regardless of our destination and their child seat laws, we have always brought our car seat along. For us, the hassle of lugging it always paled against the thought of not using it *just this once*. Most items marketed as travel car seats are anything but and could seriously compromise your baby’s safety, so if rental cars or taxis play a role in your vacation plans, so should a car seat or booster.
The infant carrier car seats are so easy to bring baby along in, and if you plan on doing any traveling, make sure you buy one that you can use without the base. Our Peg Perego Primo Viaggio was able to be installed without the base, but Peg was a bit late to that game. The reason it’s discouraged to use your seat without a base is because it’s more difficult to ensure a proper install. For travel purposes like quick taxi rides or day trips in a car, take your time and install the seat properly each time. If you’re going to be doing a lot of car travel at your destination, it might be worth it for your peace of mind (and your back) to bring along the base and gate check it.
For convertible car seats, most of my friends had ginormous Britaxes, so of course they balked at the thought of lugging it through the airport, and it’s practically a guarantee that it’s too big to be installed on an airplane if you bought your baby a seat. And while our day to day car seat (an Evenflo) was also of the big and bulky department, our travel car seat is light as a feather (less than 10lbs) and easy to install. We bought a Cosco Scenera (similar to the the Onlook) specifically for travel A) because uninstalling and then installing the Evenlfo was a royal PITA and B) it’s handy to have a second car seat kicking around sometimes. The Cosco is very affordable. We strapped our version it to one of our rolling suitcases and I even stashed it in the basket of our Uppababy Vista to zip through the airport.
Once your baby becomes a preschooler (and it’s scary how fast that happens) you may be tempted to just ignore the idea of bringing your booster seat, because after all – how much car travel will you really be doing. Again, we always bring our kids’ booster seats, and we have never regretted it. We don’t bring the big high-backed one in from the back of our car. We traveled with a small and lightweight booster that easily fit in the stroller basket. And, once on board, it fit in the overhead compartment. You cannot use a booster seat in an airplane.
Car rental agencies can supply car seats for an extra fee, but we’ve always been suspicious of their cleanliness and maintenance. If the idea of bringing baby’s car seat is really too much to bear, there are lots of baby travel gear rental agencies that will even meet you at the airport.
Sticking to public transportation means a car seat is one less thing you need to lug along or worry about. And with little kids those rides become part of the adventure. Most Caribbean destinations and even major cities don’t require infants be in a car seat in the back of a taxi, but that never sat right with me. I felt uptight insisting on a cab with seat belts and sweating profusely installing these seats under the curious eyes of local taxi drivers, but I can live with that. Un-helmeted toddlers have zipped past us on the back of motorbikes, and I denied my family rides in super-cool vintage cars, but I wouldn’t compromise on their safety. And they put up with my rigidity on this issue with the promise of tuk-tuk rides in Thailand one day 😉
There have been times when we’ve lugged our seats along and they never left our room until it was time to leave for the airport to go home, but we have never regretted not having them.
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