Everything you need to know about holiday car seats before your next family getaway

Holiday car seats

by Lorna White |
Published on

If you’re planning a trip abroad with your baby, there’s a lot to consider before you go including the rules around holiday car seats and what the best option is for you and your tot.

Whatever you’re planning on doing on your holiday and wherever you’re planning on going, it's likely you’ll need to go in a vehicle at some point to get from the airport to your hotel or holiday home. One thing is for sure, you’ll want to make sure your child is safe in the correct car seat for their height, whether it’s one you take with you or one you rent when you get there.

Furthermore, many taxi firms, coach companies and private drivers will not allow you to travel unless your baby has the correct car seat to sit in, so you want to make sure you’re well prepared before you go to avoid any nasty surprises when you get there.

We've done the research for you to find out all the latest rules and advice around holiday car seats to help you make the best decision for you.

Do you need a car seat for holiday transfers?

This really depends on where you’re travelling to and what kind of transfer you plan on taking.

According to The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, children under 3 years old can travel on buses or coaches without wearing a seat belt, or using a child car seat, just as you might when taking a child on a bus in the UK. However, this may differ from country to country, and although you might not be breaking any laws, this is not the safest option. That’s why we’d recommend checking with the coach or bus operator before you travel to see if they will provide a child car seat for journeys. If they don’t, you can ask if you could bring your own, and if it can be fitted in the bus seats. Just be prepared for them to say it isn’t possible for you to fit a car seat in there. The same rules apply here for children over three years old and up to 135cm tall.

If there isn’t a way for your child to be in a car seat for your journey, you may want to consider other travel options to your accommodation such as a private pre-booked transfer, taxi or rented car.

If you plan on visiting different places during your holiday, a rented car with a rented car seat may be the safest and easiest option for you. Alternatively, if it’s just a transfer you’re needing to the hotel, you’ll still need a car seat if you’re taking a private hire vehicle or taxi. The RoSPA advise that children under three years old should be in an appropriate rearward-facing seat that meets the R44 or R129 safety standards or a forward-facing child seat with an internal harness that meets R44 or R129. Just note that it is illegal to carry a baby in a rearward-facing baby seat in the front of a vehicle if there is an active front passenger airbag. The airbag must be deactivated or the baby seat must be placed in the rear of the taxi, private hire vehicle or minicab.

Although children can travel in the back seat of a car without a child seat or seat belt if they are not available and fitted, this is not a safe choice. It’s a much safer option to book a different taxi with seat belts and with car seats provided.

In short, there are no legal requirements for a child to be in a car seat or wear a seatbelt when seated in the rear of a car or on a coach or bus in many countries, however, in terms of keeping your little one as safe as possible on their journey, we’d strongly advise parents to travel in the safest way possible for their child, depending on their height and age by booking a taxi with a car seat or hiring a car with a car seat.

Car seat law’s in Europe

The rules can differ slightly in Europe depending on what country you’re visiting. We’ve compiled the travel and taxi rules for some of the more popular holiday destinations in Europe to help you plan your trip.

Spain: It’s compulsory to transport children under 18 years old and less than 135cm tall in a UN R44/R129-approved car seat in the back seat of the car. Children traveling in taxis are not required to use car seats in city areas, but if you land at an airport and your journey is out of the city centre, you'll need a car seat.

Italy: All children under 150cm in height, regardless of weight or age, must use a UN R44/R129-approved child car seat. There is no requirement to use a car seat in a taxi.

Portugal: All children under 12 years old and less than 135cm tall must use a UN R44/R129-approved child car seat. You can transport children under three years old in the front seat in a child car seat as long as the airbag is deactivated. There is no requirement to use a car seat in a taxi.

Greece: Children under three must be placed in a suitable child restraint, while children between three and 11 (measuring less than 135cm) must be in an appropriate child restraint for their size. Taxis are not required by law to provide a baby seat.

Travelling with baby on holiday

Do I need to take a car seat on holiday?

You might be wondering if it’s possible to take your own car seat with you. After all, it’s a seat your child already feels comfortable in, you know it’s safe and it could save you money on car seat rental, as well as provide you with some much needed peace of mind. Firstly, it’s important your car seat meets the safety requirements in the country you’re travelling to. If it doesn’t, you’ll need to enquire about hiring a seat when you get there. Just be sure to pre-book this well in advance before you travel. If you get there and find the car seat the rental company is providing doesn’t meet the safety standards or isn’t quite the right size for your child, then you should ask them to offer a more suitable and safer alternative.

If your car seat does meet the safety requirements of the country you’re travelling to, then you’ll want to weigh up the pros and cons of taking your own car seat on holiday with you. Before you consider this, it’s a good idea to contact the airline you’re travelling with to find out their own rules on taking car seats on the plane as some may not allow this.

The good news is, that if you do want to take your car seat, most airlines will allow you to take your car seat or travel stroller on the plane for free, but you will probably be required to book a separate seat for your baby to place the car seat on. If there isn’t enough room for the car seat or you haven’t booked your baby a separate seat, then the car seat may have to be checked in with the rest of your luggage in the hold if there isn’t a spare seat on board, but be aware, car seats can sometimes get damaged when in the hold.

This is why many parents opt not to take a bulky car seat on the plane with them, and instead, carry their baby in a baby carrier through the airport and on the plane or in a stroller for older babies which can then be folded and placed in the overhead locker. It’s also not much fun carrying a big car seat around the departure lounge as well as any other hand luggage you might be taking with you. Then, once you get to the other side, you can pick up your rented car seat to use for the duration of the trip or use a transfer service that can provide a car seat for the journey.

In summary

Really, it comes down to whatever you feel most comfortable with as a parent. If the idea of your child sitting on your lap during a bus or taxi journey makes you feel anxious, then it’s probably a good idea to find a safer alternative and a form of transport that allows you to use a car seat.

You may also want to consider the length of the journey, the time of day you’re travelling and what the roads are like when you get there. For example, if it’s just a 10 minute drive sticking to major routes where there are suitable speed limits in place, you may not feel the need to hire a car seat. However, it may be a safer option to find a private taxi service that can offer a taxi with a car seat provided for the journey. On the other hand, if your transfer is a few hours long on winding roads, then it’s probably worth either finding a transfer that can provide a car seat or hiring your own private car with a car seat. Just be sure to keep in mind the safety rules around how long your baby should sit in a car seat for.

Lorna White is the Senior Digital Writer for Mother&Baby. After running the Yours magazine website, specialising in content about caring for kids and grandchildren, Lorna brought her expertise to Mother&Baby in 2020. She has a keen interest in a range of topics from potty training and nutrition to baby names and early development and has a wide range of experienced medical experts and professionals at her fingertips. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her two young sisters, dog walking and enjoying the outdoors with her family.

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