The Great Car Seat Dilemma (Part I: Taking the Seat with You)

Every parent knows that the safest way to carry young kids in a car is in a car seat. I think one of the biggest dilemmas I have when we travel internationally is ‘should I take my baby/toddler car seat with me, or organise one at our destination’. It’s become an even bigger question now that I have 2 under the age of 2 and it’s a hot topic of conversation that crops up among mums when talking about travelling internationally with little ones. In this post  I’ll talk through the pros and cons of taking the seat with you.  In a few days, I’ll provide a follow-up post of the other option: organising the car seat at your destination.

Pros:

Most airlines allow you to gate check a car seat, so taking it as part of your luggage shouldn’t be a problem. If you’ve booked a seat on board the flight for your child (or if you get lucky and there is a spare seat beside you) then most airlines will allow you take a car seat on board and use it on top of the airline seat. However, if your child is under the age of 2, you’ll still need to hold them in your lap for take-off and landing, as well as during periods of turbulence. If your child is a toddler over 2 then it may be worthwhile investing in a harness such as the CARES to restrain them during take-off, landing and turbulence, and to use the car seat at all other times. Note though, you will have to contact your airline as they do have specifications for the types of car seats that are allowed on board. This information is usually accessible on their webpage.

I think it’s easy to take a car seat with you if your child is less than 18 months old, as most car seats clip onto a push chair, and in fact it can be a very convenient way to get around, especially at the airport.  It becomes a bit trickier as your toddler gets older, because the booster car seats aren’t the easiest to cart around. There are solutions for older toddlers such as the ‘Sit’n’Stroll which I haven’t personally used, but have heard first hand that they are a fantastic travel product for children over the age of one. 

Cons:
Although you may think that your own car seat can be suitable in another country, it is not always the case.  First, you may not have the capacity to carry around  a car seat on your travels.  Second, your car seat may require a particular setup to attach in the car, such as an isofix, which is almost impossible to travel with.  Third, even if your car seat attaches via seatbelt you still may not be able to use it.  The capsule car seat that we sometimes travel with is handy because it is harnessed via a seatbelt, however, there have been a few instances where we could not use it because the countries we were travelling in (Egypt & parts of Malaysia) seatbelts weren’t always a feature in the car – particularly in the back seats.

Finally, and probably the most important.  Different countries have different regulations for car seats, so your car seat may not meet local regulation.  For example, an Australian car seat must be fitted with a top tether attached to an anchor point in the vehicle. The use of European car seats without the tether is, therefore, not regulation. A great resource I’ve found for finding the standards in other countries is www.childcarseats.org.uk

Other Take Along Solutions
Some other pretty cool take-along solutions that I have stumbled across for children 3 and up are :

  • The BubbleBum, a blow up booster seat for children aged between 3 and 11.  It’s lightweight and it easily deflates so you can fit it in your handbag!

BubbleBum inflatable booster seat

  • The Easy Car Seat, another blow-up chair solution for children aged 4 plus, it weighs less than a kilo and also fits into the handbag.

Easy Car Seat

I’ve not trialled either of these products because my children are too young.  However I’d be interested to hear from those who have.

Part II of the car seat dilemma to follow soon!

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