As the spring and summer holidays are approaching we have been getting a number of enquiries about travelling abroad and also about coming to the UK for holidays. So it seems the perfect time to help with the preparation and give you some tips and advice on what you can and can’t do!
Travelling abroad with children can be one of the most stressful things to plan, especially if you’re intending on using hire cars, taxis or even if you’re visiting relatives abroad.
Welcome to the UK
Firstly, if you’re coming into the UK – or you have family visiting with children, the rules are the same for all of us from leaving the airport, train station, or port – every child must have an appropriate car seat, firstly this means that it conforms to the ECE safety regulations, the seat must have any of the following regulations displayed on it.
- ECE R44.03
- ECE R44.04
- Regulation 129 – i-Size
Don’t be tempted to bring seats that don’t conform to any of these standards because they aren’t classed as a legal seat and it’s highly likely they attached differently to the cars you may have at home.
“Appropriate” also means that the seat must be one that is suitable for their weight / height, this will be on the seat, and is compatible with the car you are transporting your little tourist in.
Older children legally no longer need a car seat after they reach 135cm in height or 12 years of age, which ever happens first. But you won’t be breaking the law if you choose to use one above this height as long as they don’t go over the maximum weight of the seat (usually 36kg)
Any child can travel in the front passenger seat– as long as you follow the airbag instructions in the vehicle handbook and on the child seat.
There are a few exemptions to the law – however that doesn’t mean that if a crash occurred they’d be exempt from being injured – so we’d always say, use a car seat, just in case. If you’re really keen to know the exemptions have a look here
Just remember if you’re driving the family around whilst they visit it’s your responsibility to ensure all passengers up to the age of 14 years have the appropriate restraint. After that it’s the individual passenger who receives the fine.
See you later Alligator!
If you are travelling abroad – check out the legal requirements before you travel. There are several places that you can find out the road traffic law, and some information on the rules for children.
Outside of Europe, It may be necessary to visit their governing body for Road Traffic Law, try typing “Road Traffic law for (country)” into a search engine and you’ll be able to find their regulations.
Just as a word of warning, check the dates on any articles you may read as some can be very old and regulations can change but the article hasn’t been updated – it’s no defence to explain to a foreign Police office that you read it in a blog therefore it must be right!
Come fly with me
Once you’ve checked you can use your car seat on holiday, you may need to take it on a flight with you. Transporting any seat on a flight is possible, most airlines will allow you to place a car seat onto a flight in the hold for free, similar to a pushchair. However do check before you arrive as some may make a charge or will state a weight limit and we all know how heavy these seats can be. Just also make sure you label it clearly with your details, protect it well and wrap it up securely. Don’t throw this packaging away as you’ll need it for the return journey.
Some car seats are approved by airlines – this sounds great, however you’ll have to pay for the seat to put it on so if your infant carrier is going in the cabin with you be prepared to pay for a seat as well.
There are seats which are airline approved, because they fit quickly and easily into an airline seat, so preventing any time delay of boarding or disembarking of other passengers. Car seats won’t protect your child like they do in a car if the plane was to crash or suffer severe turbulence. This is obvious when you consider that there’s no ISOFix points or lap and diagonal seat belts on a plane.
We hear so many horror stories form parents who have been given (or even thrown!) a car seat at the Hire car desk, that it’s enough to put you off travelling for good. However, if you can at least be prepared it can reduce the stress of a jet lagged family.
Check out the hire costs – it may be cheaper to buy a new seat and take it with you and then leave it at the airport when you fly home.
Send them an email and ask what seats they use, you can then research the fitting videos for these seats before you leave.
Most hire car companies will not allow the staff to fit the seat for you as they aren’t trained and could be liable if you misuse it. So it’s worth doing your background work.
Don’t be afraid to refuse the seat they offer you and demand a better seat – it’s worth learning beforehand what child seat is and what your child’s weight is in the countries language. Simply type it into google translate and it’ll even tell you how to say it!
Check the seat over
- Look at the harnesses that there not twisted or damaged and that they can be adjusted
- Slide off the cover and check theirs no damage to the frame, plastics or polystyrenes
- Make sure there’s instructions on the side of the seat to follow
- Check the vehicle handbook for the seat positions for a car seat.
- Look for the production date on the seat – usually they’ll be a grid or a set of dials to read to give you the month and year of production. We’d recommend you don’t accept anything over 5 years of age. As this is the average life span on a car seat, without it being used as a hire seat and no doubt it will have suffered more wear and tear than your child’s seat at home.
If you have any doubts about the seat they have given you, and you choose to refuse the seat – take plenty of photos of it, including your causes for concern and go and buy one. You could always try to claim the cost of your new seat back once you return home, but keep the receipt and photos as evidence.
Don’t get stressed about your holiday – get safe.
Safe Holiday Travel everyone!
Director at Child Seat Safety Ltd.