If you are travelling with kids, chances are a big question is “Should you take a car seat when travelling with kids?

Well, the quick answer is ‘maybe’.

Whether you choose to take a car seat when travelling with kids depends on a few things:

  • Will you need a car seat when arriving?
  • Will you want a car seat on the plane?
  • How old are your kids?
  • Will you feel comfortable using alternative options?
  • How are you getting to the airport?

Why take a car seat when travelling with kids?

There are a few reasons why parents choose to bring a car seat when travelling.

  • It’s safer on the flight for a young child to be seated in a car seat.
  • Using a car seat on the flight will keep your child in their seat for the entire flight. **If they are rear facing, it will also stop the toys from falling on the floor!
  • Your child may feel more comfortable and even sleep better if they are in their regular car seat
  • Depending on how you are getting from the airport to your accommodation, you may need a car seat in the taxi or airport transfer.
  • If you are renting a car at your destination, you may want to bring your own car seat instead of trying to rent one. It’s safer (you don’t know what’s previously happened to the car seat that you are renting) and cleaner (again, you don’t know what’s happened IN the car seat previously)

So with all of those reasons, why wouldn’t you want to take your car seat if you are travelling with kids?

Well, there’s a few reasons why you might not want to:

  • Car seats can be heavy and bulky and they’re not always easy to carry.
  • It’s just one more thing that you have to cart around (in the airport and every time you transfer to a new place) in addition to your luggage and your kids!
  • They may only be used for a few hours of your trip (or even only to get to the airport!)

While there are pros and cons to travelling with a car seat, ultimately the decision is yours. We’ll go over each of the reasons below and a few commonly asked questions, so that you can make a better decision on whether or not to take a car seat when travelling with kids.

Should I take the car seat on the flight?

If you are bringing a car seat on your trip with you, there are a few options for what to do with the car seat on the flight.

  1. Bring the car seat on the plane and have your child use it during the flight. The car seat must be FAA approved and installed correctly on the plane – not in the middle or aisle seat, only in the window seat unless you are putting two car seats beside each other, then it can be window and middle seat. Rear facing is ok if child is rear facing regularly in the car as well.
  2. Check the car seat either at the gate or as checked luggage. The best option is to pack the car seat in the original box with lots of padding, as checked luggage gets tossed around and you wouldn’t want the car seat to get damaged. Gate check is not much better, as I have seen some car seats (and strollers!) being thrown onto the luggage carts after landing. There are travel bags (find them here on amazon) that you can put the car seat into, but that doesn’t guarantee that they won’t be damaged.
  3. Use an alternative to the car seat on the plane. Cares harness and rider safe vest are great alternatives, depending on the size and weight of your child. These can also be used in some taxis and rental cars.

Do I need to use a car seat when transferring from the airport?

The answer to this depends how you are getting from the airport to your destination. Some airport shuttles have seats where you could install a car seat, while other types of shuttles don’t have this option. If you are taking a bus, train or other type of public transport, you may not be able to use the car seat either. Many taxis will be able to accommodate car seats (although in some countries, this may not be possible with the seat belts). The best option is to call ahead, either to the taxi company or another airport transfer service to check whether it is possible to use car seats.

What type of transportation are you using while on your trip?

After you have transferred from the airport to your accommodation, are there any other times that you would need transportation? Are you going on any day trips? Excursions? Sightseeing? Travelling to another location? If yes, then you will need to consider whether a car seat is needed. With public transportation such as a bus or train, chances are you wouldn’t be able to use a car seat (there isn’t seat belts to attach the car seat too). If you are renting a private car, you would able to use your car seat. 

What about renting a car seat with the rental car?

If you are renting a car while travelling, it may make sense to take your own car seat. While some rental companies do offer car seats, you won’t know the history of the rental car seats (whether they’ve been in an accident, or how they are stored between rentals). There’s also no guarantee that the car seats are even clean and the expense of the daily car seat rental will add up. While it’s a bit more convenient to consider renting a car seat with the rental car, the safety aspect may make you re-consider bringing your own car seats!

How do you travel without a car seat if you have young kids?

If you choose not to bring your own car seat when travelling with kids, there are some other options. The CARES Safety Restraint and Ridesafer Travel Vest are both great options that provide a 5 point harness and ensure your child is safe in transit. The Ridesafer Travel Vest is designed for use in motor vehicles but is also able to be used on some airlines (not in Canada though!). The CARES Safety Restraint is designed specifically for flights and is FAA approved.

If you are renting a car or planning on using a taxi or private car while at your destination, you can also use a portable booster seat. (You can’t use booster seats on a flight though!)

To use a booster seat, most recommendations are that the child is 4 years or older and more than 40 pounds. If your child meets these requirements, using a booster seat when travelling is an easier option and there are some great travel booster seats for kids!

We love the mi-fold as it’s compact and folds up small enough to fit in a purse or carry-on bag. It’s different than a traditional booster as it’s adjustable to make the seatbelt fit close to the child’s hips and shoulder. We have used the mi-fold seats a few different times while renting a car internationally and really recommend them.
Another option is the Bubblebum, which is recommended by many travellers with young kids. We decided not to go with the Bubblebum, as they aren’t certified to use in Canada (or Australia) but they are approved to use in the United States and the EU. 

You can find all of these options on amazon.

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And don’t forget about getting TO the airport.

If you are taking a taxi, uber or other type of car, you will need a car seat.

If public transportation such as the subway or bus is available, a car seat wouldn’t be needed.

Alternatively, you could get drive your own car and leave it at the airport or ask someone to drive you in your own car (and pick you up on your return home). This would save you needing to bring a car seat, if you only need the car seat to get to the airport.

Whether you choose to take a car seat when travelling with kids or travel without one, the decision is up to you! There are benefits to travelling either way, and only you know what is best for your family!

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What do you do when you travel with kids? Let us know in the comments below!

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  1. I find another reason you may want to take a car seat is for feeding your kids. Some people just don’t like the idea of their kids sitting in high chairs because you never know how clean they are. But we found a nice little travel high chair that we lug around with us to help with that. I do know my kids sleep better if they are in their car seat.

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