Is Your Car Seat Ready For a Summer Road Trip?

By Rebecca Alwine, Army Spouse

It’s summer! Yes, it’s still summer. Just because the kids start going back to school in a few weeks doesn’t mean summer is over, promise. You have plenty of time for a vacation! Even if you can’t squeeze one in before school starts, fall is the great season of four-day weekends every month!

The number one concern parents have is safety. From what their kids are eating to what they are watching, they want to keep them safe. This should be first and foremost in our minds each and every time we put our kids in the car. I’ll be the first to admit, with a six year gap between my middle and my youngest, I forgot a lot about car seat safety. Luckily, I have a friend who is passionate about it.

I spoke with Laurel Frock, a military spouse, Child Passenger Safety Technician, and a member of the editorial team at Car Seats for the Littles.  Here are some of the questions parents frequently ask regarding car seat and child safety.

If I’m travelling through multiple states, which car seat law do I need to follow?

Laurel Frock: Follow best practice recommendations. The law is only what you have to follow so you won’t get into trouble. Rarely does it meet nationally accepted safety recommendations. If you’re going by best practice recommendations, you’re meeting state laws, by and large. More info is available here.

Do I really need to bring my car seat on the airplane? (Who hasn’t asked this question?! I am guilty of not wanting to pay for an extra seat and haul that thing around.)

Frock: Short, answer? Yes. Virtually all transportation authorities and organizations recommend using a car seat on the plane – even for babies. Having a “lap baby” is now widely understood by safety and government agencies as an unsafe practice. Generally kids need a harnessed seat on the plane until the belt fits, which is around 40 pounds.

Kids can continue to use a rear or forward facing seat until the seat’s limit. Almost all US seats with a harness are FAA approved for use in harness mode. Some rear facing seats don’t fit as well as others, but there are inexpensive options available.

Why shouldn’t I rent a car seat from the rental agency?

Frock: Just like renting a mid-size sedan is a guessing game as to what you’re actually going to get, renting a car seat from the agency is risky. It’s like a box of chocolates. You’ll never know what you will get. What you consider an infant car seat, they may not. Sometimes there may even be high chair boosters available for rent! Read more here.

How do I know when my kid is ready for a booster? (Boosters are so much easier to travel with!)

Frock: Generally around 5-6, when kiddos start to have a good belt fit, meet the booster seat’s minimums, and can sit properly for the entire ride – even when sleeping. No leaning over or slouching, no fussing with the belt. Some states and many boosters now have a 40 pound booster minimum, but it has to do with maturity.

My kid hates being in the car seat, can I just switch him around for the road trip so he faces front?

Frock: We don’t recommend forward facing kids under two for safety reasons. It is definitely up to the parents to forward face at that point. Personally, after two cross country PCS moves totaling 12 days of driving with kids, I didn’t see a difference between rear and forward facing. What really matters is stopping frequently. Not only is it better for kids, but it is safer for them, and for adults too. Stopping every 2-4 hours (no longer than 2 if newborns are in the car) is recommended. Driving through the night seems like a good idea, but drowsy driving is as dangerous as drunk driving so it is a very real concern. The National Safety Council warns against drowsy driving on long trips, in fact. If driving through the night, one will need to completely change ones sleep schedule. Relying on coffee and caffeine is not a safe alternative.

My Experience

I recently drove cross-country for a move and then a week later flew with my family. My big kids are 7 and almost 9 and still ride in booster seats all the time. We use a bubble bum car seat for them for several reasons, including the size. It easily fits in their back packs and allowed us to fit 3 car seats across in a rental car. While we did not bring the car seat on the plane for our 13 month old (I know, I know – but I’m being honest) we did continue to rear face him in the rental car and for all car trips.

What works for me may not work for you, ultimately following these tips is up to you. But I want you to have all the information possible so you can make the right decision for your family. For more info on car seats and how to find a CPST in your area, visit Car Seats for the Littles on Facebook.

AuthorRebecca Alwine is a PCSgrades’ Blogger Affiliate, freelance writer, army wife, and mother of three. Over the past 10 years, she’s discovered she enjoys coffee, running, lifting weights, and most of the menial tasks of motherhood. Her writing experience includes military family topics, research pieces, guest blogging, and much more. She’s a contributing writer for ARMY Magazine, a regular contributor for several publications including to Homefront United Network, PCSgrades, ESME, and has also been published in Ms. Magazine and The Atlantic. You can follow her online at www.whatrebeccathinks.com or on Twitter (@rebecca_alwine) and Instagram (@rebecca_alwine).

 

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