How to keep your kids safe when travelling

car seat

Car seats haven’t been a topic for debate in our family. I was adamant about getting a fantastic car seat for Harley when she was an infant, and when it was time for her to get something bigger, I was lucky enough to get a Volvo Britax seat for her that lets her rear face until she is 4-6 years old. Harley has never been in a car without a car seat. It simply wasn’t an option. If we had to go somewhere, she was in her seat – if we didn’t have a car seat, she simply couldn’t go.

Moms often feel isolated with kids, like they can’t leave the house, let alone travel to cool places, with their tiny person. I always encourage parents to just keep living their lives, with little ones along for the ride, but sometimes this is an easier task than other times. It’s always easiest when we drive in our car. The car seat is installed, and it is quick and easy to just pop Harley in and out. Things get trickier when traveling, but it’s still totally doable. Here are the ways and means that can help you still see the world, even if you aren’t in your usual vehicle.

Travelling around town

Local trips are usually easy enough in your own car, but that’s not always possible. A couple months back, we took our car in for a service expecting it to be a morning at the shop. Instead, it was two whole days! That meant we had to be able to get around (and get Harley to school) without our usual car, or car seat. Yes, I was silly enough to leave the car seat in the car for our service. Pro tip: Don’t do that! Take your car seat out of the car if you bring it in for a service.

Unfortunately, that was also the morning that I learned that Uber in South Africa has REMOVED the car seat option. I even spoke with a couple Uber Van drivers who said they used to have car seats but had them removed because they weren’t allowed to offer that option anymore. As you can imagine, I was livid.

There are a few other options for parents who need to get their kids around. Cool Cabs tried to help me, but it just wasn’t going to work for me. They have a thorough application process, which I appreciate seeing as they transport our most precious cargo, but for an ad hoc thing it just wasn’t worthwhile. They also were going to charge me extra to ride along with Harley, so we had to scrap that idea.

In the end, my mother-in-law drove me and Harley to her school using a spare car seat. I was very lucky that Harley is still so tiny and fit in the spare seat! Unfortunately, I’m not really sure of what other options there are for ad hoc travel around your city, but there is room in the market for it so perhaps Uber or Taxify will step up and start offering it again. Until then, even if you don’t have your own regular vehicle, I’d recommend getting an easy-to-install car seat that you can use when making trips in friends and family’s cars.

Travelling further afield

CSFS travel with kids

Some of you might remember that Dean and I went with Harley for a fantastic holiday before we moved, heading to Cape Town for almost a week. It was a wonderful trip, establishing a ton of fantastic memories. It can be a bit daunting to figure out the car seat thing when getting on a plane, but actually airlines and rental car agencies make it as easy as possible.

When you fly, whether nationally or internationally, car seats are allocated as complementary excess baggage. This means that it’s totally free to bring your car seat (and pram). These can either be checked through at the normal baggage check section, or at the gangway if you prefer. I was a bit paranoid about this for our Cape Town trip – the car seat Harley normally uses costs more to replace than our entire flights to the Mother City. So instead, we opted to rent a car seat.

This was a surprisingly easy and enjoyable way to do things. When we picked up the rental car, they saw that we had also rented a car seat. They asked how much Harley weighed and gave us a seat to use that was size appropriate. I wasn’t 100% pleased as it was a forward-facing seat and I know it’s much safer for Harley to be rear facing. However, it’s still 100% safer for her to be in a forward-facing car seat than nothing at all, so at least she had something for the days we were away.

Most recently, we have moved to the US, where car seats simply aren’t negotiable. It’s amazing to see how people actually obey this rule, strapping their kids into car seats. Even when we bought a new car, the car salesman said that of course we must put Harley in her car seat along for the test drive – how else could we be sure that our seat fits nicely in the new car? It was just so normal that Harley needed to ride in her car seat and come along for the test drive, as it should be.

Travel is a lot of fun, and something that’s honestly quite doable with a kid. Sure, it has its hurdles to overcome (let’s not even talk about our TWO 10.5 hour flights to the US), but it’s no excuse to let your kid be unsafe, or not to go in the first place. If you have a quality car seat and enjoy driving, you can road trip like we did to Knysna, or you can fly and rent a seat if need be. The main thing is to just decide that car seats are not up for negotiation, any more than travelling safely in others ways might be for you. I wouldn’t think of travelling without my phone and charger, passport, wallet… and a carseat for Harley. It’s just that integral to the basic things we all need.

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If you have an old unused car seat gathering dust in your garage, please consider donating it to the NPO, Wheel Well. You can drop your seat at your closest Renault dealership and they will get the seat to Wheel Well. They will clean and safety check it, before giving it a new home with somebody in need for a small donation

Because of our shared passion for car seat safety, BeSafe allows our supporters to purchase their seats through us. This means that you can buy one of the safest car seats in the world from us! And the profits will go to maintaining #CarseatFullstop, saving your littles and helping us to save all the other littles out there.

If you are interested in purchasing a BeSafe car seat, you can join the “BeSafe with #CarseatFullstop” group on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/supportcarseatfullstop/. If you have any questions, you can ask them in the groups or email besafe@carseatfullstop.org.

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  • Ursula Van Lelyveld

    so so important, my kids are 7 & 10 and still travel in booster seats

    • Zoe Hawkins

      that’s awesome! Harley is so small, I’m hoping that I can keep her in her rear-facing seat until she’s old enough to drive 😛 (Or at least move into a cool booster seat)

  • Cant go anywhere without a car seat! I have skipped trips and weekends away because it mean doing it without a car seat, I would rather walk lol

    • Zoe Hawkins

      SAME! It’s what I threatened when I couldn’t figure out getting Harley to school at first that day. Figured I’d walk her there in her carrier.