By Stacy Whitman
Planning to travel during the holiday season? Remember: Safety doesn’t take a vacation, says car seat expert and NewParent.com contributor Alisa Baer, MD, aka “The Car Seat Lady.” Whether you’ll be traveling by plane, train or bus, she recommends bringing along your own car seat or booster. “It’s the only way to ensure you have a seat that’s in good working condition and appropriate for your child’s weight and age—and that you know how to use—when you arrive at your destination,” she explains. And be certain to use your seat for all car rides (either in a rental vehicle or taxi). More travel safety tips:
Airplane Your child will be safest if she’s buckled into her car seat; she’ll also sleep better and you won’t have to worry about her escaping into the aisle. As long as you bought her a ticket and her car seat has a label that says “certified for use in aircraft,” you should be able to use it on board, Baer says. (If it doesn’t fit in your toddler’s assigned seat, the airline must try to find her a seat where it will fit.) But since many non-U.S. airlines don’t allow you to bring car seats on board, Baer suggests calling the airline beforehand.
Long-distance bus These buses typically move fast on crowded highways, so your child should be in a car seat if the bus has seat belts. Good news: More bus lines (including BoltBus, Megabus and newer Greyhound models) now have seat belts and lower LATCH anchors for installing them—but call to make sure before booking your trip.
Taxi Taxicabs are notoriously unsafe, so it’s important to use your child’s car seat, even on short rides. Never hold your child on your lap or in a front carrier, or ride unrestrained yourself. Using a seat belt is always better than nothing.
Public city bus Public city buses don’t have seat belts, which means you can’t use a car seat. Fortunately, they tend to be very safe because they’re so visible, they move slowly and passengers sit high off the ground. Your best bet: Hold your child tightly on your lap or use a front carrier while riding the bus.
Train There are no seat belts, so your child will have to sit on a seat, ride on your lap or stay snuggled in a front carrier—but don’t worry, trains rarely run into trouble. Baer suggests still taking a car seat with you, however, since you’ll need it to get to and from the train station.
Safety doesn’t take a vacation—even when you’re traveling for the holidays. Here’s how to get from point A to point B safer, no matter what your mode of travel.