If you’re traveling in the USA, or to the USA, with babies or toddlers, chances are that you’ll need a car seat. The problem is that car seats tend to be heavy and burdensome to bring. I’ll compare the cost, safety, pros and cons of the different options to solve this problem.
|Rent a Car Seat||Buy a Travel Car Seat||
Buy a Car Seat Bag (without wheels)
|Buy a Car Seat Bag (with wheels)|
Rent A Car Seat
You could rent a car seat, but it’s costly, can have safety risks, and probably not very clean. Most major car rental companies charge from $10 to $15 per day to rent a car seat. This means that a 7-day vacation could cost $105 to rent a car seat. These fees will add up, especially if you’re planning to travel again within the next few years.
Safety is a risk because you don’t know the history of the car seat you’re renting. Has it been in any accidents? Is it expired? The truth is, you don't know and won’t know. When you’re driving in unfamiliar territory, safety should be a priority.
Cleanliness is also a factor. Have any other toddlers had any “accidents” in that car seat? What germs are on that seat? Are your kids going to eat during the car ride, drop their snack onto the car seat, and pick it back up to eat it? My kids would. The chances of the rental car company taking off the car seat cover to wash it is slim. In my opinion, it's not clean.
CONS: High cost; safety; lack of cleanliness
Buy a Travel Car Seat
You could buy a travel car seat, which could cost anywhere from $40 - $60. They are lighter in weight than conventional car seats are, but it doesn't have the same type of protection as the car seat that you bought for every day use. Again, when you're driving in unfamiliar areas, I think it's crucial to have a car seat that you're familiar with installing.
With a travel car seat, you also still have the problem of transporting it and protecting it from dirt and rain (if you’re checking it in), or carrying it throughout the airport (if you plan on taking it on the plane with you). No one wants to sit in a dirty and wet car seat.
PROS: Light weight; clean initially; moderate price
CONS: If checked in at baggage claim, could get dirty or wet unless it’s protected; not easy to transport by itself; store an extra car seat
Buy a Car Seat Travel Bag
You could buy a car seat travel bag to bring your own car seat. Car Seat Travel Bags range anywhere from $10 to $125. There is a difference in the quality of the bag. I’ve tried them all. Here’s my take on the types of car seat travel bags on the market:
- Drawstring bags: These bags are probably the most frustrating bags I’ve experienced. It’s basically a slightly nicer and more expensive garbage bag. There’s no padding, which won’t protect your car seat from being thrown around everywhere. Car seats are big and getting the car seat in the bag is a challenge in itself. It will cover your car seat, but the material tends to rip, and don’t rely on the straps - they will break! Buyers beware – you get what you pay for.
- Bags with backpack straps or two wheels: I’ve owned a few of these. Some don’t have any padding and some do. My car seats were still too heavy to carry on my back. It was difficult because I also had to carry my backpack and my baby, so that didn’t help either. Plus, after two uses, the backpack straps broke (on all of my bags), leaving me to have to carry the car seat with two hands! I expected more from a $30 to $40 product.
- Bags with 4 Wheels: The Car Seat Travel bag with four wheels will allow you to transport your light or heavy car seat easily because the burden of the weight is on the bag; not on you. The four spinner wheels glide and can attach to other luggage. This can especially be really helpful if you have more than one car seat to bring. This is my clear choice; I took everything that we didn’t like about other bags and designed a bag to fix all of those problems.
My final thoughts
Spend the money on getting a nice Car Seat Travel Bag with 4 Wheels. You won't regret it. You’ll want to take trips with your kids and make memories. This bag will go with you on all of your trips for the next few years. You’ll save money overtime from renting a car seat. You’ll also be able to use a car seat where you know its history and can feel confident that your child is safe.