Taking car seats abroad is often a point of discussion for not only considering their use on airplanes – but also deciding whether to take on holiday. There are several things to consider when doing so – this guide will help you decide whether you can take your car seat or if it may be more convenient to hire one. (For specific information on using your car seat on an airplane, please see here as it is only lightly touched upon in this article.)
Disclaimer: I am NOT a legal expert. Please verify any advice with a qualified legal adviser for any legal queries. The information below is from my own personal research and emailing government sources.
Car Seats Abroad: Tips & Information On Taking A Car Seat On Holiday/Vacation
Can I take my car seat for free?
If you don’t intend to use your car seat onboard: If you are travelling by air, most airlines will allow you to bring your car seats for free and it will not count as going towards your baggage allowance. Your car seat will go into the hold of the airplane and often will be checked in at the oversize counter. You may want to consider having it wrapped or put into a padded bag to help protect it.
Using it on board: You usually need a paid for additional seat and an airline approved car seat which meets that airlines rules.
Can I only take my car seat if I have an infant?
You can take your car seat for any child that requires one. If you intend to use it on the plane- it must fit and meet the airlines requirements. Some may only allow forward facing or for children under two
Is my car seat suitable for use overseas?
This very much depends on the car seat law within the country you are in, your car seat and your hire car.
Many newer car seats are now ISOFIX or ISOFIT (also known as LATCH and UAS)- to increase safety. Some ISOFIX models are not suitable for use with the normal 3 point harness seat belt method. They MUST only be secured to the ISOFIX/ISOFIT points in the car.
You will need to check with the hire car company if your hire car has ISOFIX points if you are intending to take this type of car seat.
Some car seat models can work dual purpose and can also be used in cars that don’t have ISOFIX points, as they have retractable attachments. They can attach by using the normal 3 point seat belt.
If your car seat doesn’t have ISOFIX then it will work with a 3 point seat belt. Always check the child seat legalities of the country you are travelling to first.
If you have an ISOFIX base and a car seat that slots into it- you will again to check with your manufacturer if the car seat can be attached to the hire car using the 3 point harness only, or if you need to take the base with you.
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Car Seat Law in Different Countries
- Countries like Australia, also have a tether strap attached to Australian made car seats which attach to a tether point on the car (for additional security). It is a legal requirement that the tether strap be used whether forward or rear facing. Australia car seat law also prohibits chest straps. All car seats must comply with the AS/NZS 1754 and have the appropriate sticker, so a UK, EU, USA car seat would not be suitable for use over there.
- USA car seats are not suitable for use in the UK as they cannot release with one clip (they have an additional chest clip) and because they are not tested as per EU regulations. Being on a short trip/vacation does not exempt you from this.
- UK car seats are not suitable for use in the USA as they do not have the official approval from the federal government. This goes for all NON USA Car Seats. I clarified this with the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles in Florida. Screen shot below and highlighted by the Department. (May 2022).
Below are some useful links to help you.
- Car seat law in the UK
- Car Seat law in the USA – these vary state by state – but ALL car seats must be FEDERALLY APPROVED
- Car Seat law in Canada – vary by territory
- Car Seat law in France
- Car Seat law in Spain
- Car Seat law in Australia
What are the pros of taking my own car seat?
Your child will be familiar with it plus you will know how to install it. You will know that it hasn’t been in an accident and how safe it is. Often the standard of car seats overseas is not as high and just meet basic regulations. Some countries do not legally require car seats to be used at all! If you decide to buy a travel one, first look at the level of safety. The Which? Guides online provide a useful starting point. Also check if it is legally allowed in the country you are travelling too as mentioned above.
What are the negatives of taking my own car seat?
They are bulky to transport and lug around.
Do I need a car seat in a taxi?
This is a personal preference in most cases – whilst legally you don’t require a car seat for a taxi in SOME countries/states, it can be impractical having to carry one around with you wherever you go. You may want to consider a travel booster for these times. Always check the law of the country and state if applicable) you are visiting!
Check with your tour operator if the coach can fit a car seat. Official London Black Cabs in the UK now have 1 child seat belt which is adjustable in the centre of their cabs.
Many now have the Mifold travel Car seat which adjusts the seatbelt to fit a child. The Mifold Grab And Go is a very light and compact travel car seat which works by adjusting the size of a normal seatbelt to make it fit a child.
It’s for children aged 4 and up and easily fits into a tote bag. It’s available to buy internationally and convenient for when you can’t use your normal booster seat.
However, international versions may have slight differences so the UK version cannot be used in the USA and vice versa. Check directly to see if this has changed. No version can be used in Australia.
For more information on the Mifold and to see how it works click here.
The Trunki BoostAPak is also not tested for use under USA regulations- this has also been verified by them independently. (screen shot from July 2019 pictures below)
Bubblebum booster seat is apparently an exception and is valid in the U.K., EU and the USA as it is tested to both standards. BUT laws can change, so please check BEFORE you travel in case this is not current.
I want to hire a car seat at my destination. What should I ask?
Ask if they can send you a picture or make and model of the car seat. Ask if you need to fit it or if they have a designated car seat fitter. We have experienced after a long, night flight, no one would assist in helping us fit the car seat due to insurance and liability reasons.
Other options for using a car seat on holiday/vacation
Look into buying a car seat and having it delivered to your hotel, villa etc. If you have any family and friends at your destination you could always have it delivered to them too. There are many parents groups online and of course eBay or even Amazon. Official advice is not to buy a secondhand one in case it has been in an accident, so if you purchase one, check it over thoroughly before use and check if this will impact any insurance.
Further reading for car seat law in the USA.
Most UK car seats don’t meet the USA FMVSS 213 regulations.
If you have an accident in the USA and use a UK car seat which does not meet the FMVSS 213 regs, you will likely not be covered via your car rental insurance for car seat replacement or some MEDICAL travel insurance for your child IF they become aware of this, as you have technically broken the USA law. I spoke to an AXA holiday insurance rep to verify this- I was advised any breaking of a law of the country I’m in regarding this particular circumstance will invalidate insurance)
Importantly and confusingly, the USA car seat law varies state to state too and can differ from national guidance from the National Highway Traffic Association (NHTSA).
For example, Florida law requires a full car seat only to age 3 and a booster seat until age 6! (UK regs are much stricter!) but the NHTSA recommendations for car seat use are much more complex and (it it obviously safer to use a properly tested legal car seat or booster for older kids too!)
For example, even though Florida’s age for full car seats is to age 3, NHTSA recommends full car seats to age 4.
The National Highway Traffic Association (NHTSA) makes car seat recommendations based on the child’s age and size.
NHTSA also recommends booster seats at least to ages 8-12 rather than until age 6 under Florida law.
A very lengthy legal document for the USA legal requirements is here.
More info on Florida law from the Florida Gov website https://www.flhsmv.gov/…/chi…/safety-belts-child-restraints/
Child Restraints – Car Seats and Booster Seats
Florida law requires children age 5 and under to be secured properly in a crash-tested, FEDERALLY approved child restraint device.
Children ages 0 to 3 must be in child restraint devices of a separate carrier or a vehicle manufacturer’s integrated child seat.
Children age 4 and 5 must be in a separate carrier, integrated child seat or booster seat.”
I’m not a legal expert and am aware this isn’t very widely known and I know people have had accidents and the USA police have not said anything – again they are not legal experts either. But I think it is important to know and for people to be aware of.
Insurance companies are and they are very thorough.
Most car hire places don’t realise (they are not legal experts either) but I do suggest you check with your USA car hire legal team underwriter to also confirm this or your car seat manufacturers legal team. This is why they have different car seat versions for different countries.
NB. For those of you with kids 6 and over.
What is also unclear is the state by state variations and having a child that is (according to state law) over the age of legally requiring a car seat or booster.
Eg if you are using a U.K. car seat for a child over the state legal age in Florida (say a 7 year old), is this invalidating insurance still, as surely it is not breaking the law as the legal requirement to use a booster in Florida is under 6 – but it’s not a USA car seat? If anyone legal in the USA know this answer, please let us know!)
Even if it’s not the law to use an approved one after aged 6, it’s much safer to use an approved and fully tested car seat ! Please do your research!
From Britax UK direct: “I can confirm that unfortunately, the legal requirements of the European and Federal Standards (USA/Canada) are incompatible so it is not legal for you to use a European approved child seat in the US/Canada or vice-versa.”
Please check before you travel with your car seat company and insurance!
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