Should You Bring A Car Seat When Traveling With Kids?

"Traveling with young children is worth it," they said. "It will be fun," they said. Never once, however, did any of these wanderlust parents mention the great debate regarding traveling with a car seat and whether or not you should bring it while on your adventure-filled family trip

Should you choose to lug one or more car seats around on your family trip, it can be greatly inconvenient and put a damper on the whole priceless, memory-making extravaganza. There's also the logistics of managing the car seat along with other pieces of luggage, maybe even a stroller, and yes, the kids themselves. Never mind the fact that we mere mortals only have two arms. But if you opt to leave the car seat at home, the guilt and "what ifs" might also threaten what is supposed to be a good time full of family fun. Not to mention the lofty glances from others silently judging you for daring to leave home without it. So what's a parent to do? Let's get to it. 

There is no right or wrong answer

Traveling with a car seat is a personal decision and should never be approached using a one-size-fits-all mentality. The choice to travel with a car seat hinges on many circumstances, including your mode of travel, where you're traveling to, your child's height, weight, age, and other factors as well. At the end of the day, there is no right or wrong answer. But don't just take our word for it.

While the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recommends that children under the age of two travel in an approved child restraint system, the opposite is advised for those traveling on public buses — namely, due to the fact that the seats are not equipped with seat belts or latch anchors. And the same goes for trains and subways, too. 

Alas, getting to and from the destination is only half the battle. One must also take note of the travel during the trip. If you're traveling around your destination in a rental car, you should probably consider lugging that car seat after all. While some countries are less concerned with car seat safety and even seatbelt safety, it's good to remember that car crashes can and do happen. And unlike hefty public buses, smaller vehicles aren't nearly as likely to absorb the force from an impact and usually travel at much faster speeds. Fortunately, if you decide to bring a car seat, you still have some options.

The decisions aren't over once you choose to bring the car seat

To check or not to check? To rent or not to rent? These are the questions you must answer once you've decided to bring the car seat. And once again, there are pros and cons galore.

According to the Travel Car Seat Mom, checking the car seat is a big no-no for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, there's a chance the seat could be damaged by the airline. Sadly, car seats are deemed non-effective after one big impact and should be replaced immediately. So in the event they are damaged en route, once you land they're of no use to you or your child anyway. Secondly, you run the risk of losing it altogether as airlines are notorious for losing luggage and other items. Alas, renting a car seat can also be risky. Sometimes parents are dismayed at the condition of the car seat upon arrival — assuming the rental company actually follows through with the request and delivers one at all. A nightmare, indeed. 

In an effort to avoid any and all surprises, pediatrician Dr. Alisa Baer aka "The Car Seat Lady" encourages parents to consider investing in a lightweight FAA-approved travel car seat and keeping it with them for the duration of their travel. "It's one thing to leave your diet at home while on vacation," she told Today. "It's another to leave your child's car seat at home."