Recently, a friend of mine wrote me to ask what the best child car seat for travel is and what I use when I’m traveling with my toddler. She and her husband are new parents about to take their baby on vacation and were simply looking for advice. Well, here’s the sum of my answer to her.
When traveling with children, picking out the best child car seat for travel is one of the many safety aspects you need to consider well ahead of your trip. There are dozens of car seats designed for making travel easier and many more regular car seats that are FAA approved for flight.
So which is the best child car seat for travel for your family?
Ahhh, if this had a simple, clear cut answer, I wouldn’t need to write a blog on it. Do you go with a light weight car seat so it’s easier to carry through the airport? How about a safe FAA car seat in case of a plane crash? Or maybe an older, hand-me-down car seat because it may be damaged in flight? What about the expensive specialty gear designed specifically for making travel easier? Really… it all depends on your personality and your family and parenting style.
What is the frequency and type of travel you typically take?
If you mostly fly to visit family or only travel once a year, you may not need to buy the best child car seat for travel or even take one through the airport. Unless you want your child to be secured in a car seat during the flight, consider keeping a spare at a relative’s house or renting one when you get to your final destination. They can make sure it’s in the car when they pick you up, which makes one less thing for you to worry about.
If you do a lot of vacation or international travel, however, you need to think about your destination and travel plans before you can pick the best child car seat for travel. Will you be doing a lot of road trips or general driving with your child at your destination? Then you may want a super safe Britax. If you won’t be in the car much, though, a light-weight spare may be fine.
One of the first things you learn as a new parent is that all kids are different and all families are different. We remind ourselves constantly of this when we catch ourselves casting a critical eye on the way another parent is handling their child… right? Well, this theory applies to picking the best child car seat for travel with your family, too. Every family has different ideas for raising and traveling with their kids.
If you need or just prefer to take a car seat, here are some other things to consider…
What stage is your child at?
- The stage your child is at can help you determine their needs. Stage is more complicated than age because it includes age, ability, travel awareness, and more. If they can’t walk yet, it may be easier to wear them through the airport and check your car seat at the ticket desk. If they are a new walker or very active toddler, it may be better to tire them out walking and running to the gate so they won’t be so restless on the plane. If they are a toddler, you may be able to get away with a super easy booster seat.
What kind of family are you?
- If you’re the type of family who plans everything out and/or prefers the latest trend in baby gear and safety, you may be interested in the latest and greatest best child car seat for travel. These would include ones that are specifically designed with airport travel in mind. These ‘car seats’ will have wheels and a roller handle and let your child ‘ride’ as you pull them through the airport.
- If you’re style is more go-with-the-flow parenting, then just take a lighter weight car seat or a spare when you’re traveling so that you won’t . Then you don’t have a deal with all the other things like protective bags, having a $400 car seat damaged by the airport, and so on.
- If you’re somewhere in the middle, you may just want to use your existing car seat and buy an accessory that turns it into a wheeled ride.
Is the investment worth it?
- If you don’t travel frequently or don’t want to burn up your travel budget on gadgets, just make do with your existing car seat. Too often, especially with new parents (like myself), we end up with tons of baby gear we didn’t need or don’t use often enough to make worth the investment. A specially designed travel car seat may be a good example of this.
For my son and me… we’re frequent travelers and mostly go it alone ourselves since daddy doesn’t like to travel as often as mommy does. This made me keep our style laid back and super simple. We don’t use a car seat on the plane since I don’t want to lug it down the airplane isle. I wore him through airports when he was little so I could have my hands to deal with luggage. Later, I invested in a great stroller, the City Mini by Baby Jogger, because it’s one handed fold is worth the money when going through airport security and keeping your toddler under control. Haha. Also, we didn’t invest in protective bags for our baby gear because it’s an extra step that… doesn’t really matter in the end to us. Why get irritated over little scrapes, dirt and damage to your stuff when your toddler is just gonna smear banana and permanent marker over it later anyway?
So, because there are so many different family needs, travel destinations and parenting styles, there is no best child car seat for travel… only the best child car seat for travel for your family!
Do you think there’s a best travel car seat? What works best for your family? We’d love to hear your thoughts on the best child car seat for travel in the comments below.