Road trips with children, long or short can be very stressful. There have been numerous times where I have just wanted to turn the radio up full blast to cancel out the high pitched sobbing from the back seat and the familiar sounds of those five words ‘Are we nearly there yet?!’.
Joking aside, one thing I cannot stress enough when traveling with babies, toddlers and children is the importance of car safety. I did a lot of research before Katie was born and I couldn’t believe that seatbelts weren’t actually a legal requirement for rear-seat passengers in the USA in New York until 1984 and even more shocking was that laws requiring children to use special car seats weren’t introduced until 2006! Thank goodness they were!
If you are expecting your first child is important to buy a car seat before they are born so you can drive them home safely. It is also a good idea to practice fitting the seat so that when the time comes it’s stress-free, as you are naturally going to be very tired and emotional from the birth. After I had Katie I was an emotional wreck for the first few months and the slightest thing would set me off!
My advice would be to buy a new car seat and not second-hand as you cannot be certain of its history. For all you know it could have been damaged in an accident, missing parts and may not even fit your car. Obviously if your friends and family have one that they can pass on, that’s a different story.
Here are some key facts to get started:
1. Each state has its own child seat laws and travellers must comply with the laws in each state that they are travelling through. The legal restrictions vary a lot between states so make sure check.
2. All child seats on the market must pass the requirements (including crash tests) of FMVSS 213.
3. Make sure you deactivate any airbags before fitting a rear-facing baby seat in a front seat and never fit a car seat in side-facing seats.
4. Make sure your car seat is suitable for your child’s age, weight and height.
5. Don’t buy the first car seat you see, compare on different websites to make sure you are happy with your purchase. Comparison websites have conducted numerous tests and can provide useful recommendations.
6. It is highly recommended that all children aged 12 and under ride properly retrained in the back seat of a car.
7. Always read the manufacturer’s instructions carefully before fitting the car seat for the first time. If you aren’t sure as the retail staff to show you. I’m not embarrassed to admit that I had to ask for help in the shop I bought Katie’s from. It put my mind at rest that I was doing it correctly.
8. Make sure your child is comfortable. Give them their favourite blanket or comforter so they feel safe and at ease.
9. Keeping your child entertained whilst traveling may avoid distracting screams from the back seat and those dreaded five words I mentioned at the start of my blog! Sticker and activity books are great for toddlers as they allow them to be creative without using pens and damaging your upholstery. Or buy an in-car DVD player so they can watch their favourite show, or play their favourite CD so that you can all sing-along. And my best tip - always carry treats!
10. Allow extra time for your journey as you may well need to stop for feeding, nappy changes and some well needed fresh air! You will be much less stressed if you accept the journey may take longer than usual.
I hope you have found this blog useful. If in doubt please refer to the governments website, which clearly states the rules and regulations for car seats.
Wishing you all safe and happy travels…