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Family Life

How do you travel with a child but without a car seat?

How do you travel with a child but without a car seat?


Maggie Downs

posted in Life

Years ago I went on a year-long backpacking trip that took me through Southeast Asia, where I fell in love with golden temples, kind people, night markets, scooters, khao soi soup, elephants, monkeys, and what humidity does to my hair.

At the time, I was childless, but I wondered what the trip would be like if I had a child with me. I wondered about my interactions with people, what foods my child would like, how my child might make friends with other little kids.

A Caucasian woman with curly hair poses with an elephant that doesn't fit into the Frame because it's a dumb selfie

Now this summer, my dream trip is becoming a reality. My son will be turning 4 years old, I saved up a little bit of money, and I think/hope we are ready to endure 20 hours of travel to get to our first destination, Chiang Mai, Thailand. (Fingers crossed, toes crossed, everything is crossed.)

Along the way we will also visit a friend in Siem Reap, Cambodia, before we explore Indonesia, a country that will be as new to me as it is to my son.

The world's cutest toddler rolls a leopard-print suitcase in front of a White House with a pink door

We’ll be traveling in multiple planes, taxis, buses, rickshaws, boats, and possibly scooters, which begs the question: How can I keep my son safe in so many modes of transportation?

I quizzed several travel writers about this topic, and they gave me some advice based on their previous trips. However, most of these writers are experienced in traveling to international locales with similar car seat regulations as the United States. The question becomes stickier in places where seatbelts themselves are a suggestion, not a rule.

Seriously cute little girl in Cambodia standing up on a bus seat

Here are my options, as I see it:

* Bring a traditional car seat along. This is impractical, as we will be using several modes of transportation without safety belts, so there’s no way to secure the seat.

* Bring nothing. This is probably the easiest, but the worst for my anxiety. If you are traveling without a car seat this summer (not recommended!), the Car Seat Lady has several suggestions for making it as safe as possible.

* Purchase a special travel seat to make do. Options here include the inflatable BubbleBum seat and the MiFold, which folds up into an unbelievably tiny package. Like, wallet-sized.

It’s true that we won’t always be traveling in vehicles with seatbelts during this trip. But when we are, I want the peace of mind that comes from having a booster seat. I still haven’t decided which seat we will take along — the BubbleBum or the MiFold — but I’ll definitely be bringing something to keep our dream going while staying as safe as possible.

Have you traveled internationally with your child? What did you use for a car seat?

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