Showing posts with label Carseats. Show all posts

Airplane travel without a toddler car seat - Cares Harness Review!

Once your kiddo reaches 2 years of age, you have to buy them their own airline ticket.  The truth is, jarringly expensive as it is, you may want to buy them their own seat even before then because an 18 month old is HEAVY.  Spend 3 hours with a squirmy, active, tired, 25 lbs in your lap, and you may be trying to pay someone $500 to take your child, not just put them in the seat next to you. Regardless, once they have their own seat, are over a year old, and weigh 22 lbs or more, you can do a little dance and ditch the car seat. Instead you can attach them to their seat with the only FAA approved harness on the market - the Cares Safety Restraint.  

This is a small strapy thing that comes in its own convenient little carrying case and can be wrapped around the child's seat to form a 4 point harness. Yes you read that right. It's not a 5 point harness because the bottom half of the child is still held down with the regular lap belt and so is lacking a crotch strap. If you read the Amazon reviews of the harness you may notice people worrying that their kid would slide out of the seat without this. In our experience this wasn't much of an issue with our 2.5 year old who complained that the chest strap was "too tight" the one time she began to slide down. In any case, reviewers have recommended putting a shelf liner or something similar on the seat to help prevent the kid from sliding, if necessary.

The strap is fairly easy to install (and MUCH easier than a car seat), though it does require you to get consent from the passenger sitting directly behind the child to wrap it around the seat back, between the seat and the tray table. Other than seeing the strap, it does nothing to impede their use of the tray table. Though (from the Amazon reviews) on sufficiently small aircraft, where the seats are smaller, the strap may not get tight enough.  We have only flown with this on 737 aircraft and it secured nicely.

So is it really worth it to buy a whole other thing? In my opinion - yes.  Sometimes you may fly to destinations where you don't plan on driving, such as Disney World or NYC.  Often you may be flying somewhere consistently enough, such as grandma's house, that it's worth it for them to buy an inexpensive car seat to keep at their house. If neither of those is a possibility, there's always the option of bringing your IMMI GO car seat with you and either checking it or making it your carry-on item (the IMMI GO is not suitable for use as a seat on an airplane but it does comply with carry on rules). Traveling with kids requires the bringing of so many things, that eliminating a bulky and unwieldy item from your packing list seems like a good all its own.

Finally, an additional bonus of flying with the Cares Safety Restraint, other than the obvious, is that the toddler's legs are now too short to kick the seat in front of them. One less behavior challenge in a day already brimming with chaos is a win in my book. Combine this with our advice on preparing your toddler for travel and entertaining them in the flight, and you are ready to go!

Picking an infant car seat as a city family

As we've mentioned previously, if you live in an urban area and are a carfree family (or even with just 1 family car), you will spend way more time obsessing about car seats than your friends with cars do.  Add to that the stress of picking anything safety related for a baby you haven't met yet, throw in some pregnancy hormones, and what you have there is a steaming cup of panic brew.  So while you practice your deep breathing, here are some thoughts about how to choose.

Do I need an infant car seat?

If you, or anyone else, will ever transport your baby in a car I really recommend going with an infant car seat rather than a convertible one. (Confused about the difference? Look here).  It's not often that we recommend buying more baby products when less will do and especially when it comes to car accessories.  The reason we recommend going with an infant seat is that they are much, much easier to install rear-facing than convertible ones.  In fact, I recommend strategizing such that you never have to own or install a convertible car seat at all, but very especially, rear-facing.  Yes this means you will likely have to own at least 2 different car seats over the course of your child's life, possibly even 3 in some circumstances.  But I promise it will be so very worth it in massive amounts of frustration saved.

What's important?

There are 3 things you need to consider when picking a carseat (infant or otherwise).
  1. 1. Ease of installing it (correctly!), with and without a base.  This one is really important for obvious reasons. But in particular when you try this out at a store (many stores have a sedan seat for you to practice installation), make sure you pay attention to the baseless install.  Frankly, I can count on one hand how many times I've installed the base with either of my kids.  Get a seat you can easily plop in with just a seat belt, and that's 5 lbs of bulky weight you can say good bye to transporting.
  2.  
  3. 2. Ease of transporting it.  A seat can be easy to transport because it is light, because it snaps into your stroller, or because it has its own wheels.  If none of these things is true, you're going to be very sorry about buying it. 
  4.  
  5. Car seat clicked into stroller via an attachment
  6. 3. How quickly your child will outgrow it. Ok this fact is discussed very poorly on the parent internet in my opinion.  For some reason the number always thrown out for the "max" measurement of a child with infant seats is the maximum weight a child can be to use a seat.  The number that's really hard to find, unless you really go looking, is the maximum height a child can be to use a seat.  This is really weird and insane.  For example, many infant seats top out at 30 lbs and 30 inches of height.  A 30 inch boy is in the 50% percentile at 12 months, a 30 lb boy is in the 50th percentile at two and a half years.  What this tells us is that the overwhelming majority of children will outgrow the seat in height way before (a year and a half before) they outgrow it in weight.  So why do you keep advertising the weight? I don't get it.  Anyway, since you're required to keep your child rear-facing by law until 1 and by recommendation as long as possible or until 2, you want to pick an infant seat with the tallest possible height.  I really recommend trying to find a seat that's rated for at least 32 inches of height. (If you want to play around with percentiles look here).  That will almost guarantee you use of your seat until 1 year of age, but likely 18 months or more.  At that point you can go straight to the folding IMMI GO.
Why didn't I put safety on the list? All infant cars eats go through a ton of testing and are pretty equivalently safe when installed correctly.  The best thing you can do for your baby is to pick an infant carseat that you can install correctly until they are as big as possible.

Who are the winners?

Doona Infant Car Seat 

Yes the Doona is kind of ridiculously expensive (you can often find it a couple hundred dollars cheaper at Magic Beans than on Amazon). However, if you have the money (or if someone else is buying) this seat is amazing.  It's pretty easy to install without a base, even for the inexperienced.  It's rated for babies up to 32 inches tall.  The wheels roll surprisingly well and the break is easy to access (also flip flop friendly!).  This seat is approved for use in cars both in the U.S. and Europe (which is quite rare), as well as air travel.  Plus, it's just a really well made, well thought out seat. Much like the IMMI GO it falls into that non-committal space of "we're going somewhere on foot/transit but may want to take a car back".  It's perfect for occasional car users and heavy air-travelers.

Note: I would not recommend using this seat exclusively as both your car seat and stroller.  This is a car seat on wheels, not a primary use stroller.  Remember, car seats restrain kids enough to keep them safe in a car crash, which is to say they pretty much restrict all movement.  This is not good for babies if it's done for too many hours a day, every day, for a year.  This is a great solution for a family trip to avoid having to bring extra gear.  This is a poor solution for daily continuous stroller use.

Graco SnugRide Click Connect 35 Infant Car Seat

I have not personally used this seat myself, but it looks like a fantastic value for the following reasons.
  • - It's inexpensive ($119).
  • - Rated for babies up to 32 inches tall.
  • - Graco is a brand which all strollers that make any adapters at all, will make an adapter.
  • - It weighs only 7 lbs, for those times you do have to carry it.
  • - Recommended by The Car Seat Lady for easy installation in a taxi.

Other thoughts

When we were shopping for baby products in preparation for my daughter's arrival 3 years ago, all infant seats topped out at 30 inches.  We selected a Chicco Keyfit 30 Infant Car Seat because of all the seats we tried, it was the easiest to install (and we tried a lot of seats).  The seat served us well until my daughter was 15 months old, at which point she became too tall for it.  We ended up having to purchase a convertible car seat for her until we were ready to turn her around.  We got an Evenflo Tribute because it was cheap and light.  However, though light, the bulk of the seat made it a pain to transport and its poor construction made it really hard to install rear-facing.  It is reasonably ok to install forward facing, but the transport issue remains.  (This may help to explain to you some of my enthusiasm for when the IMMI GO came on the market).  Much as the Chicco served us, I don't think I would buy it today because of the better options available.

Ok but an infant car seat still seems like a huge waste...

Still not convinced and absolutely want to avoid an infant only seat? Sigh... ok... at least get a high quality convertible seat that's light weight (Combi Coccoro).  You can even turn it into a makeshift "travel system" with the Mountain Buggy Nano Stroller according to The Car Seat Lady. (The Nano will accept any car seat without an adapter because it attaches them via what is basically a seat belt).   That said, only choose this combination if you plan on using a carrier exclusively until the child is ready to go into the Nano directly (probably around 3 months, though the specs say 6 due to overly conservative rules on this).  Alternatively you can transport the child in any regular stroller of your choosing and put the Coccoro in a car seat backpack. (We did the backpack with our Evenflo Tribute and "lovingly" referred to it as our "man-sized safe").


       

This post is in the series of posts about carfree living. Other posts include thoughts on strollers for urban use, necessary accessories, and whatever else we think to blog about!

The amazing folding toddler carseat - lifesaver for Carfree families!!

2 year old in IMMI GO seat.
Anyone who knows me personally knows that I have a tendency to effervesce in the form of wild gesturing and Valley girl-style high pitched squealing when I get excited about something. Let me tell you, when I first read about the IMMI GO Car Seat, I reached full Alkaseltzer crossed with 1995 Alicia Silverstone. I was so excited! Since that initial love at first read, I've had the joy of using this car seat and being proven correct. 

Live carfree? You'll spend more time obsessing about carseats than your suburban friends...

Let's start with why car seats are the mortal enemy of city-dwelling families and then we can discuss why this particular one rises so far above the rest. What I need in a car seat is one that's light, foldable, easy to carry, and importantly, easy to install correctly - bonus if I can do it quickly enough that my toddler doesn't decide to bolt into traffic while my attention is elsewhere. Car seats, especially ones designed for kids after the infancy stage, are heavy, bulky, and not meant to be taken in and out of cars frequently. In fact studies show that most kids ride in car seats that aren't installed correctly, which means that more and more families are going to police departments to have their car seats installed professionally. This is all fine, but it in no way encourages car seat manufacturers to make these seats simpler to install correctly (again... improperly installed car seats aren't all that useful). And if they're so hard to install, then there's no reason to make them easy to transport. Add to this the recent trend to steel reinforced seats which are twice (or more) as heavy than regular seats... So car seats - the mortal enemy of the carfree family.

Aren't steel reinforced seats installed by professionals the safest thing for my child?

Yes? Maybe? Sometimes? The answer is, in fact, kind of murky.  First of all it's not actually clear according to the data that carseats are all that effective for kids over the age of 2 anyway.  Second of all, if you live carfree in a city, the overwhelming majority of the time you want to drive somewhere, you're driving on much slower-moving roads than if you live out in the middle of the country, in a state with very straight borders. (For good data on this look here - most fatal crashes occur on straight, fast moving highways... if you live in Massachusetts you have never seen one of those). Prior to the availability of the IMMI GO, many people have suggested things like a Car Seat Travel Cart or the Lilly Gold The Sit 'n' Stroll. These are fine for what they are, but they still require lugging a giant thing around, just on wheels. They also don't solve the problem of "I may need a car seat later so I'll just take one in case we decide to take a cab home for a quick get away".  These are not "maybe" solutions you'll just casually haul around with you - they are commitments.  (Also they are expensive so I've never gotten desperate enough to invest in either of them.)

How the IMMI GO changed my life!

Folded, the seat is about the size of a bulky briefcase
The IMMI GO fits all my criteria for a carseat and is totally small enough that I can carry it around as a "maybe". It folds, comes with its own attached carrying case, weighs only 10 lbs, is easy to install and adjust... correctly! It's brand new so you might not find tons of info about it but it is Carseat Lady approved (so I'm not the only crazy Internet lady who likes it).   

The only small, tiny quibble I have with it is that it only has a handle and not a shoulder strap.  But! We live in the age of the internet and such problems can be solved.  I ordered a strap from Mautto.com and was able to convert it into the ultimate portable carseat (pictured - Cotton Canvas Webbing Strap, 1.5" wide, 55" adjustable length).  At just 10 lbs, and carried hands free, I can take this on the train with me along with my toddler, purse, and whatever else I need.  I can know that if we're cutting it close to bedtime or dangerously approaching a toddler freak out, we're just a safe taxi ride away from home.

IMMI GO - you have this tired Mom's very sincere thank you!

This post is in the series of posts about carfree living. Other posts include thoughts on strollers for urban use, necessary accessories, and whatever else we think to blog about!