Vacation Prep With A Baby Or Toddler: The Car Seat Situation

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Traveling with little ones can be an exciting yet challenging adventure, especially when it comes to ensuring their safety on the road. One crucial aspect that parents often grapple with is managing car seats during travel. In this guide, we’ll explore the essential questions parents should ask themselves before embarking on a journey with their precious cargo.

1. Is the Car Seat Appropriate for Travel?

If you plan to fly with your car seat, make sure that it is approved for air travel. Look for the FAA approval label on the seat, ensuring that it meets safety standards for use on airplanes. You can find everything you need to know about car seats in the airport and on the plane in this mini course!

2. Should I Bring My Everyday Car Seat or Buy a Travel Car Seat?

Personally, I have Baby Jogger City Turn car seats in my car but when I travel, I don’t take them because they are heavy! I prefer to use a lightweight travel car seat that is easy to carry through the airport (and onto the plane if I’m not checking them). I made a list of my favorite travel car seats that you can find here. Most infant car seats are going to work out great since they are lightweight but if you’re looking for a few that I recommend, you can find those here.

Read more: How To Get A Free Airplane Seat For Your Baby Under Two Years Old

3. Should I Bring My Own Car Seat or Rent One?

Evaluate the pros and cons of bringing your own car seat versus renting one at your destination. Do you want my opinion as a CPST? I personally like to bring my own car seats with me because I know the history, quality, and how to install them correctly. However, if you decide that renting a car seat is best for your family, I would recommend first looking for services like Rents4baby (discount code- whereisbriggs) or Baby Quip (discount code-PARTTIME10). I recommend renting from providers like this over airport car rental locations!

If you need to rent from a rental car company, there are a couple of things I would do beforehand. First, call and ask them to send you photos of the car seat. This can be a good way to check them out before getting to your location. Do note- I’ve heard many horror stories where people show up and they have incorrect car seat for their little ones or worse, not have a car seat at all. Next, the day before travel give them a call and remind them that you’ll be picking up your rental car with the car seat tomorrow and please make sure to have it available for you.

4. How Will I Carry the the Car Seat?

Regardless if you have a lightweight travel car seat or a heavier car seat, you’ll need to figure out what the best way is to carry your car seat during your travel day. Check out this article I wrote about the top 11 ways to carry a car seat while traveling!

5. Decide If You’ll Use Your Car Seat On The Plane or Check It

As a CPST, I’ll tell you that the safest place for your car seat (and little one) is sitting in their car seat on the plane. Now, I know that it’s not always the easiest route but this course can help! If you decide what’s best for your family is checking the car seat, here’s a few things to plan for.

-Will you be using a bag to check you car seat in? I would say this is a must! You want to protect your car seat as best as you can and if you no longer have the original box it came in (or your airline doesn’t allow you to check it like that) then the next best option is a car seat bag. Here are the ones that I use and recommend.

Spinner Wheelie Deluxe Car Seat Bag

Standard Wheelie Car Seat Bag

Backpack Car Seat Bag

-If you do plan on checking your car seat, will you be checking it at the check-in desk or the gate? I have no evidence of this but I feel like gate checking may be just a little safer since it doesn’t have to travel so far to get to the plane without your eyes on it. Like I said, I have absolutley no evidence of this so do what you feel like is best. Additionally, check airline policies to see what they allow.

6. Learn how to properly install your car seat on the plane

There’s nothing like finally making it through the airport and boarding the plane only to realize that you have no idea how to install your car seat onboard and the flight attendants aren’t able to help (please don’t expect them to install your seat for you!). I have a step by step video tutorial for you inside of the airplane course and it’s also part of the mini car seat module that can help!

7. Know How To Install Your Car Seat In The Rental Vehicle

I also recommend researching what exact car you’ll be renting to know if there are any quirks you should be aware of when installing your car seat inside. You’ll want to feel confident and prepared to install your car seat in a new vehicle after getting to your destination! Note- If you’re using a US car seat in an international destination, please read below!

8. What’s the Plan for Airport Transfers?

There are sometimes where you might feel like you don’t need a car seat on your destination. Whether it be because you are going to an all-inclusive resort and don’t plan on leaving the property or just will simply be going to a place where public transportation is widely available (buses, trains, etc.) you may not need a car seat in your destination. One likely scenario is that a resort offers a shuttle from the airport to their property. There are sometimes that those shuttles also offer car seats on board. I would call ahead and chat with their team to check out if that is a good solution for you.

9. What To Do If You’re Traveling Internationally (Using a US Car Seat)

If you decide to bring your US car seat with you to an international destination, there are a couple of things to keep in mind:

-More than likely, it’s illegal to use your US car seat

-More than likely, you’ll need to learn how to use a car seat locking clip (because international vehicles use different seat belt types than we have here in the US

This mini module will help you get prepared to know everything you need to know about traveling with a US car seat!

By addressing these essential questions before embarking on your journey, you can ensure a smoother and safer travel experience for both you and your little one. Remember, proper preparation is the key to a stress-free adventure with your child’s car seat securely in place. Safe travels!

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