This post is for newbie parents and/or soon-to-be parents that are planning their first trip with their little one(s). We realize that some of our readers do not have kids and don’t care about family travel tips, so if you fall into that category, may we suggest ‘28 Epic Adventures by Travel Bloggers‘ or take a look at these pretty photos from our travels to Northern India.
Do you need to bring your car seat when you travel?
There are so many things to consider when taking your first family trip with your infant or toddler. One of the big questions is whether to bring your clunky car seat or rent one at the destination.
Who knew you’d get to a place in life where a car seat has become an important decision?!
On the one hand, bringing your car seat means you don’t have to worry about a taxi providing a car seat (which is not often available, especially in third world countries). On the other hand, traveling with a car seat sucks. They’re big, awkward, heavy and annoying.
Most destinations require that children use a car seat during transportation, at least in North America and Europe. So, unless you plan to only travel by bus, you will need a car seat for taxis and/or car rentals.
We always bring a car seat.
For us, the main reason we bring our car seat is safety and fit. We learned fairly quickly (when Braydon was 5 months old) that bringing a car seat was an essential travel item.
On a trip to Ontario last year, we arrived but our stroller and car seat did not. It was a pretty big problem. We needed a taxi to get to our hotel from the airport, but no taxi had a car seat available. We talked with every car rental agency at the airport to see if we could borrow a seat, but none of them had the proper size or fit for Braydon (he was still quite small and needed a rear facing car seat).
In the end, Cameron had to take a taxi to a department store and buy a car seat. The airline refunded us the cost, but it was still a huge headache and took a couple hours to get sorted – not ideal after 8 hours of travel with an infant.
In this case, the airline was at fault, but we learned an important lesson: do not rely on car rental companies for proper car seats.
Currently, our infant is still in an infant car seat. We use the Peg Perego Primo Viaggio. We like it because it can be used without the base, making it easy for travel.
Our toddler uses the Foonf car seat, made by Clek (pictured below). It’s super easy to install (ideal for getting in and out of taxis) and it’s one of the safest on the market. Read reviews here.
Renting vs bringing your own car seat is a personal decision, with advantages for both options. Below are some of the reasons for each option, based on our personal experiences.
Reasons to bring your car seat from home
- History – you know your car seat. You know its history. Car seats become compromised if they’ve been in an accident. If you use a rented car seat you don’t know its history and whether its been compromised. Personally, I do not trust car rental companies to follow these rules.
- Cleanliness – when it’s yours, you know it’s clean (at least I hope you do). When renting, it’s highly likely that other children have left their mark. I’ll let your imagination paint the picture. How often do you think these car seats are really cleaned?
- Safety – we chose our car seats because of their safety features. When traveling to foreign countries, or in vehicles with unknown drivers, it gives us comfort knowing our car seat is top quality. Plus, all car seats have an expiry date and I don’t like the hassle of checking dates to ensure the rented car seat is still valid.
- Extra baggage space – we travel with the Weelee by Clek, a universal car seat travel bag (check it out here, it’s pretty sweet). It fits our Foonf car seat perfectly but we also love the extra space it provides. It can fit small travel beds, extra diapers, and last minute items like shoes and coats, which saves on extra baggage costs. Most airlines, at least in Canada, allow car seats to be checked at no additional charge.
- Airplane approved – the FAA recommends that the safest place for an infant on a plane is in a car seat. If you wish to bring a car seat on a plane, you do need to purchase a separate ticket/seat for your child. But you also need to ensure your car seat is airplane approved (look for a sticker on the back of the car seat). The Foonf and our infant car seat are airline approved.
- Reliability – it does happen, you’re promised a car seat and it doesn’t arrive. Or, it isn’t the proper size for your child. You will be stuck buying a new car seat or faced with potentially significant delays. I can think of better ways to start a vacation.
- Cost savings – bringing your own seat will save you money. On average, car rental companies charge $15 a day for renting a seat. That adds up if you’re on an extended holiday.
Reason to rent a car seat
- Less luggage – it’s one less piece of luggage/equipment to worry about. But, think about how you plan to get to and from your home airport.
- Heavy and awkward – if you don’t have a travel bag like the Weelee (pictured above), carrying a car seat is very annoying, especially if you’re traveling solo with your kids.
- Convenience – one of the big drawbacks to bringing your car seat is storage. On our recent trip to Arizona we made a visit to the Phoenix Zoo. In order to get to the zoo, we took a taxi that required our car seat. Once we arrived, we had to check our car seat at customer service, otherwise we would have to carry it with us all day (not fun). Fortunately the Phoenix Zoo was accommodating, but that’s not always the case, especially if your daily activity is sightseeing.
- Cost savings – in the event that you are charged extra baggage fees to check your car seat, it might make sense to rent. However, you will need to factor in the rental cost. We’ve never been charged to check our car seat, but check with your airline first because policies vary around the world.
Travel tip – when you arrive at your destination, look for your car seat at the over-sized luggage pick-up area. They normally do not arrive on the belt with regular luggage.
Do you travel with young children?
What are your thoughts on car seats?
Share your feedback in the comments section below, we’re always looking for advice from other traveling families.
Dave Dunn says
This is a great post, thanks! We will be travelling with an 8-month old come June, on a trip to NYC, and were wondering about the car seat issue. She’ll still be in her rear-facing car seat, so it makes sense for us to take it, but I didn’t know about the car seat travel packs – I now have something else to research besides accommodations and flight prices. 😉
Traveling Canucks says
Your welcome Dave. The Weelee is great since it fits so much more than just a car seat. Have fun on your trip!
I’m surprised you had issues on arrival in Toronto. Legally you don’t need a car seat in taxis as it’s considered public transportation. I’ve done intensive research on this and can definitely confirm this fact for Toronto. Ofcourse it’s better to have them in car seats – not arguing that. Never needed a car seat in taxis in Europe or North America. However if we rented a car we needed one!
Traveling Canucks says
YashY, very interesting. I had no idea that we wouldn’t need a car seat for a taxi. But, we just wouldn’t feel comfortable not using one. Every time we are in a taxi they drive a little crazy and fast.
Definitely it is very good to bring your car seat from home as it will be very helpful in so many cases. Having your own car seat will save you some money in car rentals. It will be a comfortable and cost saving for you and your family. I would like to advise about car rental services here as so many people need to rent a car in traveling abroad. We should always make a research before renting car. Advance booking will help you in saving some bucks in car rentals for sure. For more information you can visit this link as http://www.dan-dooley.ie/car-rental-hire-dublin-airport.htm. I have a personal experience with this car rental services when I was in Ireland last month for my family trip. I hope you will like this.
Traveling Canucks says
we are traveling to las vegas next month, and we are planning on taking 2 car seats to the plane. We want to know if anybody had tried to put clek weelee (empty) in the overhead bin.
Traveling Canucks says
I think the empty WeeLee bag would fit, but I’m not sure. I would check with the airline regarding the width of the overhead storage first. You can also gate check the bag once your car seats are set up, I’m sure the airline will accommodate.
Hi, I actually travel worldwide with my son and never had an issue. You do not need a carseat in North America. As a taxi is considered public transportation. And now, they actually have an app called Uber that you can book taxis that have carseats in their cars already! They are brand new and they install your child in there safely. This is only offered in NYC at the moment, but is making its way into bigger cities as well. In Europe youdont need a carseat in taxis, and you can hire a private car and they can provide a carseat.
Traveling Canucks says
Thanks for the feedback Lauren. They’ve tested Uber here in Vancouver, to mixed reviews. It’s certainly an interesting concept.
While I understand you can “legally” ride in a taxi in North America and Europe without a car seat, it’s the safety concerns that must also be addressed. Hiring a private car that supplies a car seat is a good option if you don’t want to bring your own.
Greatful for your website! we are traveling to Germany and it has been a struggle deciding if we would travel with our Carseat; but I have to think of my sons safety first-so the carseat is coming with us. Have you been to Germany with your kids. If so did you use public transportation only to get around for sightseeing? I am not sure if I want to rent a car. Please your experience is needed.
Yes, we have traveled in Germany with our baby. We visited family in the countryside, so we had access to a vehicle. If you’re in the city (depending on the city) you should be fine with public transit, depending on what you want to do. Renting a vehicle is obviously the most convenient, but that convenience comes with a price.
Excellent post. I especially like the idea of having a good bag for the seats. I also never considered actually using the car seat on the plane. Thank you.
We are struggling with what to do about carseats for a trip to England. Last time when we went with a rear-facing carseat (a Chicco Keyfit, without the base), it was not compatible with the seatbelts in the UK. The UK seatbelts didn’t have the autolocking function that keeps the carseat from moving. We ended up borrowing one from a friend of a family member. This time we’ll be travelling with 2 children, a 4 month old and an almost 3 yr old. I’d like to take our carseats with us because we plan on renting a car from the airport but the research I’ve done online suggests that UK/European safety standards are different than ours and require additional anchors for the carseats. I’ve emailed Britax (the manufacturer for our toddler’s carseat) so will see what they say. Does anyone have positive experiences of taking carseats to the UK? I have often wondered if we had brought the base for our chicco if the LATCH system would have been compatible with Isofix, and if that would have solved our problem. Help or advice would be appreciated!
This is a very good question. We are heading to the UK in June and plan to bring our car seat with us. We too, don’t like to rent. Both our car seats have a latch system, so we are hoping they are compatible. We haven’t had any troubles in other parts of the world, so I think there’s got to be a way to make it work. I think you’re on the best track by asking Britax. They will be able to let you know for sure if your car seat will work in the UK. Good luck and happy travels.
We are planning on traveling to England in a little while, and want to bring our clek fllo. You say that you travelled there in June, what was the car rental situation like? Is clek compatible with their latch? Any feedback that you have would be very helpful!
Robin Nixon says
I totally agree that bringing the car seat on board with you is the best and safest way. We traveled internationally and checked the car seat. Huge mistake. It was broken when we arrived (at Seattle airport). It prompted me to look into better ways of traveling. I also think that airline staff need to be better educated on traveling with car seats. They typically tell us to check them or insist they are not permitted on board (even when the airline website says otherwise).
James Limo says
These tips are very helpful, I really appreciate you for sharing such amazing and interesting article, Keep on sharing
Hi, i was wondering im travelling with a six month old from montreal to punta cana, at arrival we will be taking a bus. Should i bring a car seat? Even if i do, im not sure there is any attachement on the bus for one. Have you ever travelled to the south? tips and advice?
Traveling Canucks says
If you plan on only going from bus to bus, it’s unlikely that you’ll need one. However, if we ever needed to take a taxi, we bring it with us. Yes, it’s a bit of a hassle, but we prefer to have our kids in a car seat in a car. Bus, we are ok to have them sit on the seat or on our lap.
I hope this helps.
Thank you. Very useful info. ^^
Vivienne Smietana says
We are travelling to the UK this summer with a 4 children ages 5 to nearly 2. We were going to take car seats with us but read that North American car seats are not legal in the UK and Europe. If by any chance we got into an accident we might not be covered. Renting car seats there is very expensive. Does anyone have any other ideas?
We are planning to travel Italy, paris and greece with our 6 month old boy. We have chicco travel system. Should we take the car seat along with the base in the trip?
Thanks so much for the article, it is a great overview. However, I think something that is missing is the mention of laws and car seat standards requirements in the country you are travelling to and bringing the seat from. We are travelling from Australia to the UK later this year and no Australian car seats are legal in the UK as they do not have the EU standards sticker on them, and ours are attached to the car differently.
Just thought it worth mentioning for people to really do their research first to work out if it is legal or not to bring your car seat to the country you are travelling to.