“Should we bring the car seat?” It’s a top question asked by traveling parents. It seems like such a hassle – the pile of luggage is already so giant once you’ve figured out what to pack for baby. For me, in a word, the answer is yes. A lot depends on your destination and the type of trip you’ll be taking. Most countries (Canada included) don’t require infants or small children to be in a car seat in the back of a taxi, but just because it’s not against the law, do you really want to take the risk?
If you’ve purchased a package holiday where your transfers are included, you probably can get away with not bringing it, so long as you don’t have big plans to leave the resort. Your airport transfers and any package tours you book will likely be by coach bus, where no car seat is required. However, if you’re heading down South and planning on renting a car or touring around via cab, you might want to think about lugging it along. Car rental agencies or taxi firms in smaller destinations may not have any (or any suitable) car seats for you to rent, and the roads can be quite wild. Sometimes it can be a challenge finding cabs with functioning seat belts, but most places that rely on tourism dollars can usually scrounge up a car that will suit your needs. You may get an incredulous look or even an eye roll, but isn’t your child’s safety worth it?
If you’ll be mostly exploring urban destinations and using public transit to get around, the car seat will definitely be cumbersome, and perhaps not entirely necessary – though small infants that are still in their “bucket” car seats may be comfiest and safest to stay in said seat. Some don’t require a base for all usage and bringing along a frame to snap it into means you can avoid lugging the big stroller along. Book your airport transfers with a car company that can supply seats, or a shuttle bus where seats aren’t necessary. Now on the market there’s gear that can make your life a little easier (not to mention your conscience) by helping keep your child safe while you’re out and about. The Safe Rider Travel Vest seems like a good alternative to hauling along your massive seat just for the occasional cab ride. The Sit ‘N’ Stroll (shown) seems to be pretty popular, but to me it looks like a massive seat to lug and not-that-great a stroller. Please feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.
We’ve always brought our own car seat along. It’s a bare bones, lightweight car seat that’s suitable for travel. We attach it to one of our rolling suitcases with a bungee cord, and even on trips where it isn’t used, just having it with us brings piece of mind. I once got “flamed” on a message board, when I suggested to another mother that she bring her twins’ car seats on a trip. The “flamer” mocked that she should pack her microwave as well. Here’s the thing: it’s not always easy to find places to rent clean and functioning car seats. If you’re not sure, isn’t your baby’s safety worth a little inconvenience?
Corinne McDermott is the founder of Have Baby Will Travel – your online guide to family travel with babies and toddlers. Connect with her online at www.havebabywilltravel.com or www.twitter.com/hvbabywilltrvl