Children up to the age of 12 or 135cm tall must use a child car seat, so it’s important that you remember to take one on holiday with you.
IAM RoadSmart has issued its top tips for driving abroad with children, which advises parents to travel with a child car seat, as not all car hire companies provide them.
“Most airlines will allow you to bring your car seats for free,” it says, “but please call and check with your airline first. The last thing you want is to arrive at the airport and be charged a fee.
“Consider getting the car seat wrapped with padding at the airport as it will be going in the hold and may get damaged during the flight. If you choose to hire a car seat from a hire car company, get them to send photos to ensure it is is up to standard.”
Check in advance
It’s worth checking with the airline in advance. For example, British Airways allows travellers to take up to two of the following items free of charge as checked baggage: a fully collapsible pushchair, car or booster seat, travel cot or baby back carrier.
EasyJet says parents can carry two child items for free, including a travel cot, pushchair, double pushchair, buggy, car seat, collapsible or non-collapsible pram, booster seat and/or baby back carrier.
Ryanair allows parents to carry one pushchair, plus one of the following items free of charge: car seat, booster seat or travel cot. The items must be tagged for travel at a bag-drop desk, while other items of baby equipment must be checked in and paid for.
Wrapping the car seat is essential if you want to avoid damage during the flight. A traveller was unable to get their child home safely after their seat was damaged during an EasyJet flight from Venice to Liverpool.
It’s also worth remembering that child car seats – especially the bigger ones – are an awkward piece of luggage to carry around, so it might be worth contacting your hire car company to see if safety-approved seats are available at your destination.
Using a child car seat during the flight
There are a separate set of guidelines and advice for parents intending to use the child car seat during the flight. The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) says that children under the age of two must be secured whenever the seatbelt sign is on.
This can be achieved through the use of a seatbelt loop provided by the airline to secure the infant on an adult’s lap, or by using a child restraint device, i.e. a car-type child seat, or an alternative provided by the airline.
British Airways permits travellers to bring their own car seat for use by infants in their own seat, subject to a number of conditions.
Thomas Cook says that parents need to bring a car seat on board if they have reserved a seat for their infant. The car seat must fit between the armrests and must be secured in accordance with the seat manufacturer’s instructions.
The website eSky.co.uk has an excellent guide to the rules and regulations of different airlines.
More advice for travelling abroad with children
IAM RoadSmart has the following advice for driving abroad with children:
- Plan your journey: travelling can be stressful, so check where the hire car company is located
- Make sure you’re familiar with your hire car and that the child seat is safely secured
- Make the journey fun: ask the children to look out for landmarks or play a game of I-Spy
- Make sure your child is as comfortable as possible
- Pack your children’s favourite toys, games and books to keep them entertained
- Pack some snacks and consider taking a cool bag for chilled drinks
Richard Gladman, head of driving and riding standards at IAM RoadSmart, said: “If travelling a long distance try to arrange your travel to coincide with nap time or bed time – this may make for a more relaxing drive for you and the children. For short journeys encourage simple games. It not only distracts but can be educational, too.”