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One of the real struggles of traveling with children is keeping them safe on the go. A hot topic on the Bebé Voyage Facebook community board is always when and how to travel with your car seat.
The Bébé Voyage Club is a great place to find out about the range of travel car seat options available. Here is a roundup of information and products recommended in the community.
Car Seat Rules & Regulations
We would be remiss to write an article about car seats without mentioning safety standards. When traveling with kids you have to make a lot of judgement calls about safety. As travelers, we know that every country approaches car seat safety differently. Our goal is to provide you with information so you can make the best decision for your family.
It’s often hard to know exactly what the requirements are for kids traveling in car seats. AAA provides a good rundown for car seat regulations by state. Each country also has their own laws, so it is key to check specifics before you head out on your trip. The American Academy of Pediatrics recently revised their national recommendations. Healthychildren.og has a wonderful resource page on car seat information for families. Further, Safecar.gov provides a handy chart to explain the recommendations.
Using a car seat on an airplane is equally as confusing. If you are flying in the U.S. you can refer to the FAA page on “Flying with Children.” In my experience car seats are easily used on flights in the U.S. If you are traveling in Europe and wish to use a car seat you will need to notify your airline 48 hours in advance. (Here is a link to EASA’s page on car seats onboard aircraft.) Asian based airlines seem to also be hit-or-miss on car seat usage, so we recommend contacting your airline before the flight. Remember that as you travel each country, region, or area of the world has different accepted practices of using car seats. You will need to be prepared to adapt to these.
Despite most airlines allowing kids under two to travel for free (you do owe taxes and fees when traveling internationally) on an adult’s laps, the FAA clearly states that your child is safest in a car seat. (Here is the handy FAA page with all the guidelines.) They clearly state “The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) strongly urges you to secure your child in a CRS (Child Safety Restraint System) or device for the duration of your flight.”
The CARES Harness ($70) is the only FAA approved restraint device. It turns the lap belt into a harness. It’s lightweight and easy to use but pricey. Some people find that children slip out the bottom as this harness does not have a crotch strap. We have not personally had that problem. I’m a bit of a stickler for my kids sitting up straight though. We have run into European airlines telling us that this devise can only be used in the last row of the airplane, but so far no one has made us move.
Traditional Car Seats
In the traditional car seat category the Cosco Scenera NEXT Convertible Car Seat ($50) seems to be the big winner. Members love that the Cosco Scenera is light weight, low price and low frills. The Scenera has a rear facing weight range of 5-40lbs and a forward facing weight range of 22-40lbs, making it a great option for most kids.
Another popular choice is the Diono Rainier ($315) . Members love that the Diono seat folds flat-ish for travel, making it more compact for carrying. The Diono is also one of the slimmest convertible car seats on the market. It is the go-to for extended rear facing, with a rear facing weight range of 5-50lbs. It also has the highest forward facing capacity of any 5-point harness with a 20-90lbs weight range. It also comes with a locking clip stored in the back, so you’ll never forget that at home! (Learn when you need to use a locking clip here.) All these features come with a price. The Diono Rainier is heavy.
If your still not sure which car seat to purchase check out the Babble Out’s Best Budget Friendly Travel Car Seat review for more options on seats and a guide on what to look for when shopping for a travel car seat.
Traditional Car Seat Gear
If you choose to travel with a traditional car seat there is a wide range of gear available to help you lug it around.
The GoGo Babyz Travelmate ($88) and Mini Travelmate ($59) are popular choices for converting your car seat into a stroller. This is my personal solution when we are going to use a car seat on the plane and then again in a car upon arrival at our destination. I can easily move the car seat around the airport and to our rental car, while carrying one of the kids or some of our stuff.
If you plan to check your stroller (curbside or gate) you will want a bag to protect it from all things airport. Some car seats, like the Diono ($27), have travel bags specifically made for them. The J.L. Childress Ultimate Car Seat Bag ($40) is a great generic option that fits most car seats. They can take a lot of abuse and your car seat will still look good. Members like that the fabric is thick, but this means it does not fold up as small as the Travel Babeez Car Seat Bag.
If all this is just too much, then take some advice from one of our members. Christine says, “I highly recommend the Magna Cart ($50) which is lightweight, folds compact, and has a 150-lb capacity. I chose it out of so many similar carts on Amazon, only to find out when it arrived that we already had one in our garage.”
Portable Booster Seats
There are a variety of new products coming online that are much more portable. Most of these fit into the “booster seat” category, but each product has its own age, height and weight requirement for use. If you decide to use one of these make sure your child meets all the requirements. All the products mentioned here are certified for use in motor vehicles and meet applicable safety standards.
The Mifold ($40) is the slimmest of the bunch and my favorite. Instead of raising the kids up to meet the seat belt, it brings the seat belt down for proper placement. It is incredibly easy to use and I can carry it around in my purse, making it perfect for travel. The Mifold is designed for kids aged four and up, 40 to 100 lbs and 40 to 57in tall.
The Ride Safer Travel Vest ($145) provides a car seat alternative in two sizes. Children 3-6 years weighing 30-60 lbs can use the small travel vest. There are versions for both the U.S. and E.U. to meet different safety standards so make sure you check the Ride Safer webpage to see what you need.
The Bubble Bum Inflatable Booster Seat ($26) is another popular option. Its low price point and small size make it a popular option for traveling families. It is usable for children 4-11 years old weighing between 40-100 lbs. It works like a traditional booster seat. Many members love these for their ease of use, particularly in large cities where you will be in and out of a taxi.
What We Do
In practice the rules are a bit grey. Our family personally is willing to take a bit of a risk for convenience. If we are staying in a city and plan to have an occasional taxi trip. I don’t pack any car seats. Most places do not require children to be in car seats on public transportation or taxis, so we pile in and try to avoid long rides.
At home, our 5 year old is in a high back booster seat, our 3 year old is rear facing in a convertible car seat and our infant is in a rear facing seat. When we travel, though, the 5 year old uses the Mifold, the 3 year old is in a Ride Safer Travel Vest and we bring the infant seat along with us. We are admittedly gear heavy.
We use the Dionos at home and have traveled with them. They fold, making them slim, but they are heavy! When we brought the Diono seats over on the Queen Mary 2 we loved how they folded and fit under the beds. We used the Go-Go Wheelz to tow them along with us. The kids have actually fallen asleep in their car seats on the Wheelz as we were on the go! Up until my middle-little turned three we were still lugging one of these with us in the Diono car seat bag and checking it with each flight.
On board a plane we use the CARES harnesses for the two older boys. They love their harnesses. I love that the harnesses keep our kids in place on the flight.
What Do You Do?
We would love to know how you bring your car seat along with you! As always use the hashtags: #bbvgear and #bebevoyage to share your trips with us.
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