Welcome back to the final installment of our comprehensive guide to using car seats on airplanes.
In this last part, we’ll explore everything you need to know about car seats after your flight, including rental car options, alternatives to bringing your own car seat, and what to do in case of lost or damaged seats.
Before we dive in, make sure you’ve checked out the previous parts of our guide for a complete understanding of car seat use during air travel. Here are the links:
- Part 1: Car Seats at the Airport
- Part 2: Car Seats on the Plane
- Part 3: Car Seats at Your Destination (you are here)
Should You Rent a Car Seat from Your Rental Car Company?
The decision to rent a car seat from your rental car company depends on your personal risk tolerance. Rental car companies may provide car seats that appear brand new and in great shape, but there is always a chance of receiving a dirty or visibly damaged seat.
One important factor to consider is that rental car seats often come without manuals, making the installation process more challenging. Additionally, during peak times, rental car companies may run out of seats, leaving you without a suitable option for your child’s safety.
While car seat safety experts generally do not recommend renting seats, many parents have had positive experiences with rented car seats. If you decide to rent, it’s helpful to choose reputable rental car companies like Hertz, as they tend to provide car seats in better condition compared to lower-budget companies.
Ultimately, the decision to rent a car seat from the rental car company or bring your own depends on the driving you plan to do at your destination. If you will only require a car seat for minimal driving, renting can be a convenient option. However, if you’ll be embarking on a longer road trip, it’s wise to bring your own car seat to ensure familiarity and maximum safety for your child.
Which Car Seat Type Should You Select from the Rental Car Company?
When making a reservation with a rental car company, you’ll typically encounter three selections for child safety seats: infant seats, toddler seats, and booster seats. Choosing the right seat type can be challenging when you are unfamiliar with the specific car seat models and their approved ages and weights.
Infant seats offered by rental car companies usually refer to bucket-style seats with a carry handle. However, most kids outgrow these seats by their first birthday, so it’s important to consider the height and weight recommendations of each model.
For kids weighing up to 40 pounds, toddler seats are suitable. Many toddler seats are convertible and can be used both rear and forward-facing, but there is no guarantee of rear-facing compatibility. The most commonly offered toddler seat by rental car companies is the Cosco Scenera NEXT, which is lightweight and versatile.
If you have a child over 40 pounds, keep in mind that many convertible car seats provided by rental car companies are not designed for larger kids. In such cases, it’s recommended to bring your own car seat if you prefer using one for your older child.
Lastly, booster seats are intended for kids who are at least 4 years old and over 40 pounds. Rental car companies may offer high-backed or backless boosters.
Are There Cheaper Options for Renting a Car Seat?
Yes! One budget-friendly option for car seat rentals is to use your AAA membership to rent from Hertz. AAA members are entitled to a free car seat rental from Hertz, which can significantly reduce costs for families in need of multiple car seats.
Safe Travel Options Without a Car Seat
In situations where you don’t bring your own car seat and are not renting a car, it’s essential to consider the logistics of your destination and planned activities.
If you are visiting friends or family who have an extra car seat, consider purchasing an inexpensive seat for use during your stay. Having an extra seat readily available for airport pickups can save you from potential safety concerns.
For other destinations, public transit is often the best option for traveling without a car seat. However, ensure that you can safely navigate the transit system with your children and luggage. Some cities are more family-friendly than others in terms of accessible public transportation.
If you prefer ridesharing services, Uber Car Seat (formerly known as UberFamily) is available in select cities such as New York City, Philadelphia, Washington, DC, and Orlando. This service offers a single car seat for a minor at an additional fee. Keep in mind that availability may be limited, especially during peak periods. Certain taxi companies in a few locations may also provide car seats upon request, although waiting times could be considerably longer. Alternatively, some baby gear rental companies offer the option to meet you at the airport with a rented car seat and other baby gear.
Private car services that guarantee car seats are a reliable option in many places. These services may be more expensive but can accommodate families with multiple car seat needs. Additionally, they often provide personalized services such as meeting you at the baggage claim, assisting with luggage, or making stops for groceries en route to your hotel.
For older kids, there are compact alternatives to traditional car seats. The BubbleBum inflatable booster seat is suitable for children aged 4 and above, weighing at least 40 pounds. Younger and smaller children (ages 3 and above, weighing 30 pounds or more) can use the Ride Safer Travel Vest, a convenient and portable alternative to traditional car seats.
A standout product that offers convenience and safety is the Pico Car Seat from WAYB. This foldable 5-point harness car seat is designed for kids aged 2 to 5, and it fits in an airplane overhead bin. With the Pico Car Seat, there’s no need to worry about gate check damage or loss, and it can be used on the plane as a regular car seat as well.
Lost Car Seats: What to Do?
In the unfortunate event that the airline loses your car seat, take immediate action by visiting the lost baggage desk of your airline. Many larger airlines have loaner seats available specifically for this situation. While you won’t know the history of these loaner car seats, they provide a safer alternative than traveling without a child restraint at all. You can use the loaner seat temporarily until your lost car seat is found and returned to you.
If your airline does not have loaner seats, inquire if they can check with other airlines or rental car companies that may have spare seats. As a last resort, one parent can go to the nearest Target or Walmart to purchase a new car seat. Ask the airline if they can reimburse you for the immediate purchase, as some airlines may not be responsible for lost car seats according to their contracts of carriage.
Damaged Car Seats: Seeking Compensation
Airlines are technically not responsible for damage to checked car seats. To avoid such situations, it is advisable to avoid flying with expensive baby gear whenever possible.
However, airline employees sometimes have flexibility in addressing complaints, so it doesn’t hurt to ask for compensation if your car seat is damaged during the flight. Keep in mind that you shouldn’t rely on receiving compensation. If your car seat is damaged, check with the baggage desk to see if they have a loaner seat available while you work on replacing your damaged seat.
Congratulations on completing our three-part guide to using car seats on airplanes! We hope this comprehensive resource has provided you with valuable information and insights into ensuring the safety and comfort of your child during air travel.
Feel free to leave any questions or thoughts in the comments, and we’ll continue updating this guide to address every aspect of the airplane car seat experience. Happy travels!