When traveling with kids, we’ve always been torn about whether to bring car seats with us, or whether to rent. We usuallygo for longer trips (min. 3 weeks), although car seat rentals (at least in Europe) are often capped at around 60 to 70 Euros. For the hassle of carrying the car seats through the airport (just one more thing!) Is it worth it?
Well, we’ve done this quite a bit now, and there are definite pro’s and con’s to either approach. One of the things that really surprised us when we first rented car seats in Germany was that car seat standards lag way behind where we are in the US. You’ll notice in the picture in this blog post, for example, there is no chest strap – which is not legal in the US. We also found that as our kids got bigger, there was no boosters with a back to accommodate larger children – they just got relegated very early so simple backless boosters.
And then, there’s the filth. When we rented from Hertz in Munich (close to the train station), we were shown to this dingy room in a basement full of heaps of car seats in various states of repair and cleanliness. What we rented (pictured) seemed like the safest choice – and actually one of the cleaner choices. So, make sure you have a stash of these when you arrive, and budget at least 10 minutes for disinfecting and preparing before you let your kid who eats anything within a mile of it!
When our kids got a little older (out of the baby seats) the choice was clear: we needed to bring car seats with us if we wanted them to be safe, and have a car seat that would support them as they nodded off. Our seat of choice was the Safety 1st Go Hybrid Booster, now known as the IMMI GO seat. We absolutely love this seat – it’s light as anything, folds to nothing, is super easy to install, and is safe for the kids and provides somewhere for them to lean their heads. The only catch is that it requires a rear tether. We’ve never had a problem finding a rear tether in Europe or in North America, but we struck out in the Caribbean (Curacao) with our GO seat.
For shorter trips, we’ve used the BubbleBum inflatable booster, and it certainly doesn’t get lighter and more compact than that! We wouldn’t recommend it for longer trips though as it doesn’t offer any side protection or a place for your kids to rest their head.