Should You Bring a Car Seat on Your Family Vacation?

You’re ready to book that dream vacation that’s a long and expensive plane ride away, and you’re fantasizing of all the adventures your family will have. But when you slide into your own car to get back to reality, you check the rear view mirror and see your kids smiling (or fighting) from their car seats. “Oh … right!” You instantly dread lugging those heavy monstrosities across the country or around the world.

You probably didn’t even think about what you would do about car seats and how to manage the process. Do you rent one from your destination or take your own with you? The answer can be especially tricky if your kids are past the baby days where their days in carseats and boosters are limited.

Here’s what to know before you decide what to do about the dreaded car seat issue.

Don’t Rely on the Car Rental Agency

It’s tempting to just rent a car seat from a rental car agency and call it a day. In reality, you could be leaving the fate of your vacation and your kids’ safety in jeopardy. Car rental agencies are notorious for running out of inventory or not being on top of the latest car seat regulations.

And you really don’t know how rental car agencies service the car seats. This shudder-inducing article from Consumer Reports shows just what can happen when you show up at a car rental agency. You could end up with a soiled seat without a manual for installation and car rental employees who refuse to do anything. Often times, the employees aren’t allowed to help because that could ultimately make them liable if anything happens. Don’t risk it. Skip the car rental agency altogether unless there are literally no other options and your own seat is somehow lost or destroyed in transit.

Rent One From a Reputable Baby Gear Company

If you must rent a car seat, you can look into reputable companies that will deliver gear to you and specifically cater to kids and families. Babierge is one place to start. Ask for the make, model and age of the carseat in advance and how it is cleaned and serviced after every use. You should also ask if the rental gear company will install the seat or if it’s up to you. If it ends up being the latter, bring along a manual or have a DIY installation video queued-up so you can install the carseat quickly.

Consider Local Car Seat Laws

What if your child is on the eve of outgrowing car seats and boosters altogether? If you’re traveling abroad, you can look into local car seat laws. Many countries don’t require car seats past the infant stage, if at all.

Although it’s not advisable to just throw caution to the wind and let your kid go nuts in the car, you can consider skipping the car seat or downgrading to a fold-up travel option if you feel your kids are big enough. But you also need to research the safety reputation of the roads where you’re traveling. For example, not every destination boasts four-lane highways and 70 mph speed limits. You may also decide the short shuttle ride from the airport to your resort is a reasonable distance to skip the car seat or booster for older kids.

Get Creative

Maybe you purchased the expensive, top of the line carseat with all of the bells and whistles, but that doesn’t mean you need it on vacation. You can always get creative when visiting relatives or staying at a hotel that will accept your packages. Order an inexpensive, yet safe and reliable, car seat from Costco or Walmart and use it exclusively on vacation. Ask the hotel if they can send a driver to the airport with the seat or instruct a relative to bring it along.

When your vacation is over, ask to store it for later use in your relative’s basement or ask your hotel to donate it. You end up with a low-cost car seat option that offers more control and peace of mind than going the rental route.

Whatever you decide to do about your kids’ car seats on vacation, make sure you’re keeping safety in the forefront of your mind. At the end of the day, convenience doesn’t trump safety and peace of mind can make or break your vacation.