You’ve seen the posts, memes, and witnessed the social media shaming over what car seat a child is in, and judgments over the decisions parents are making about car seat safety. Everyone claims to have the best interest of the child at heart and strive to educate — not add — to the mom guilt epidemic.
But when the day is over, car seat safety tops the list of controversial parenting issues; right up there with the breastfeeding vs. formula feeding argument and the co-sleeping or not debate.
We’ve broken down the legal rules about car seats, state by state already. This isn’t another post about the rules. You are the parent and you make the ultimate decision.
This is, however, a post about ideas that have worked for other parents in some “real life” situations. You know what we mean. When you are moving overseas and are juggling two car seats, a double stroller, a dog, and eight bags… without your spouse.
Those situations. Like when you travel to visit family and the car you rent doesn’t have a latch system. Or when your mother-in-law wants to be helpful but puts the car seat facing forward instead of backward for your three-year-old.
As with all things (car seat safety included), a little bit of grace goes a long way. To help you navigate these real-life situations, we have advice from experts and stories from real-life military parentsto see you through.
On a Plane
Q: Should I take a car seat on the plane for my child?
There are several reasons that car seat safety experts, like those from Car Seats for the Littles, recommend taking a car seat on a plane. The first reason is for safety. Yes, car seats may not save your child from a plane crash, but it will keep them safer during a rough landing, turbulence, or if the plane hits something while taxiing.
Parents with travel experience know that checking car seats at the gate is a risk they aren’t willing to take if they can help it. You’ve seen the state of your checked bags going on and off the plane, right? You’ve seen how things inside are disheveled and sometimes broken. If you wouldn’t use a car seat after it has been in a fender bender, you shouldn’t check it at the gate either.
Another reason to take a car seat on the plane is for the comfort of your child. Many children sleep in their car seats. Most toddlers — while they may scream — are more comfortable in their own space. Plus, if you are traveling with more than one child, you need to be able to tend to one while the other is safe. Car seats for everyone!
If you’re unsure as to whether your car seat is FAA approved, check here.
Bonus Tip: If you are flying on PCS orders, the government will pay for a seat for your child, even if he or she is under the age of two.
Renting a Car
Q: Should I rent a car seat with my rental car?
There are many reasons why renting a car is convenient when you travel. You may want your own transportation to escape your crazy family, or you prefer not to rely on friends to caravan you around your newest city. You may have heard that rental car agencies also rent car seats. Yay — now you don’t have to cart yours around, right?
Wrong. So. Very. Wrong.
Would you walk up to a babysitting agency at the airport and hand over your child? (I mean, you may want to after a particularly harrowing flight, but let’s be serious.) No, you wouldn’t. So why would you put your child’s life in the hands of someone at the rental car agency who doesn’t know the first thing about car seats?
A Daily Mom Military family rented a car seat and specifically asked for an infant car seat, but were given a booster upon arrival. Then they were stuck. Not good! Not safe! Don’t do it!
Even if you received the car seat you wanted and it fit your child, you still have to install a strange car seat in a strange car, while wrangling a child (or wearing one on your back) and while your spouse struggles to fit your mini-van-sized luggage in the back of a compact car.
Avoid this drama. Bring your own trusty car seat, use it on the plane, and install it in the rental car.
Bonus Tip: If you travel a lot, consider investing in a slightly less expensive, lighter and easier to install car seat, and leave the massive one at home.
Car Seats for Older Kids
Q: Do I need to send a car seat with my 8-year-old when he visits his grandparents?
Car seats are important for children of all ages. Let’s be honest, we don’t want to keep toting them around and transferring them from car to car, but we need to. Your child needs to be in the proper car seat until he or she reaches the maximum weight or height for that car seat. For some kids, that may mean sitting in a booster seat until they are 10 years or older.
Some military families may have to purchase a new car seat for their preteen when moving somewhere new. For example,in Germany, children who are under the age of 12 and are shorter than 59 inches, must be in a booster seat.
So yes, when your child visits grandma, he needs to bring his car seat with him. And when your daughter is riding home with someone else from basketball practice, she needs a car seat. They may fight you on it, but that’s okay because you’re keeping your children safe.
Don’t worry; there are a variety of lightweight and easy-to-transport car seats on the market. A favorite is the Bubble Bum. It is only 33 cm wide, so it fits nicely in smaller cars when two full-sized car seats are needed in the back. The Bubble Bum is inflatable, so when not in use it easily fits in a backpack. It has an added strap for children who aren’t tall enough so they can use the seat belt properly. It also comes in fun colors.
Bonus Tip: Keep an extra Bubble Bum in the car for when your kids’ friends travel with you.
Spread the Love
We can all agree that car seat safety is important. It’s more important than convenience, saving money on airfare, and avoiding hurting someone’s feelings. Use these examples and resources to make certain your littles (and bigs!) are seated safely in planes, trains, and automobiles.
MOVING TO A NEW STATE?
Check out this article on Car Seat Safety Laws By State