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Car Seats Abroad: Tips & Information On Taking A Car Seat On Holiday

Car Seats Abroad: Tips & Information On Taking A Car Seat On Holiday

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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)

Car Seats Abroad: Tips & Information On Taking A Car Seat On Holiday

Can I take my car seat for free?

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. (However, unless you have an infant and have purchased a seat, you cannot use the car seat on the airplane.) 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.

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.

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.

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 – 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)
  • UK car seats are not suitable for use in the USA

Below are some useful links to help you.

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 – whilst legally you don’t require a car seat for a taxi in SOME countries/states, it can be unpractical having to carry one around with you wherever you go. You may want to consider a travel booster for these times.

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 have slight differences so the UK version cannot be used in the USA and vice versa.  No version can be used in Australia.

For more information on the Mifold and to see how it works click  here.

The Mifold portable travel car seat

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)

I’ve verified that a Bubblebum booster seat is an exception and is valid in the U.K., EU and the USA and is exactly the same model in all countries.

Car Seats Abroad: Tips & Information On Taking A Car Seat On Holiday

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.

Car Seats Abroad: Tips & Information On Taking A Car Seat On Holiday

Other options for using a car seat on holiday

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.

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.
https://carseat.org/Legal/FMVSS213.pdf

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 beagle 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!

Further references:

Made for Mums: https://www.madeformums.com/school-and-family/baby-toddler-and-child-car-seat-laws-in-europe-and-around-the-world/

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.”

Which? Consumer UK guide on car seats abroad.

Please check before you travel with your car seat company and insurance!

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Car Seats Abroad, car seat on holiday. Tips for taking your car seat on vacation. #familytravel #carseat

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Stacey

Thursday 20th of February 2020

This is really interesting, we used a trunki backpack car seat in New York and Florida for my 5 year old, i never realised they wernt legal. Just assumed they would be! Im looking into getting something for my 3 year old this year for Greece, we will be in Taxis and hiring a car. Which travel car seat would you say would be best? Ive been looking at the Trunki, Lettas (though it says age 6 so may give it to my eldest and put the youngest in the trunki?) Wimaha (says from age 3) or the Hifold though this is a lot of money...the mifold doesn't seem sturdy enough for my 3 year old who is almost 17kg. I would love your suggestions. I wont something that will last to go anywhere.

Sunday 10th of November 2019

Take your own (if possible). Renting a car seat at your destination may seem like a smart alternative to schlepping your own to and from the airport, especially when you have multiple children. But depending on a third party to provide car seats has risks. 

Zahid Shafi

Tuesday 24th of September 2019

okayy thats a comprehensive post you can also update the content

such as the expiry of car seat and also how and why do these car seats expire it would add more value to the content

Jolene Ejmont

Wednesday 31st of July 2019

thanks for the tips, great read! what do you consider the best travel car seat that is lightweight and good for ages 0-3 at least? something not too expensive? is it easy to hire one in more countries?

CarrieB

Wednesday 31st of July 2019

Hi Jolene, it depends on which country you are buying from. In the UK the Which? Guide goes through most models are is a good consumer guide to which is the safest. We like the German brand Cybex. Rental wise, I advise to get in contact with the car hire company and ask for pics and details of the models they have so you can make your decision.

Rachel Train

Wednesday 26th of June 2019

I’m going to Florida in August with my 15month old. I’ve been advised by the booking agent to take our own, works out silly money hiring! However our usual seat is a very heavy isize isofix model. Im thinking I will order a cheap and lighter group 1 seat and that way If it gets damaged it’s now big deal. ? any thoughts?

Carrie - Flying With a Baby

Wednesday 26th of June 2019

Hello- are you in the UK? If so legally a UK car seat is not allowed in the USA ( although they are generally better than the USA ones, so it makes no sense but technically they are not allowed. So should you be in an accident, it may harm your claim. Obviously loads of people bring their own (me included before I knew) but it is something to consider and weigh up. We are heading out to Florida in a Few months and are buying some online from walmart and leaving them at the hotel. We are getting them deliver directly to the hotel and it’s much cheaper than hiring from the car hire company - plus we know they haven’t been used before. This might be another option to consider too?