Toddler car seats are literal lifesavers. They are designed specifically to accommodate children’s bodies and keep them safe while on the road. They also minimize injuries in worst-case scenarios.
In 2019, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that 731 out of 22,215 passenger vehicle occupants fatalities were children. Out of 731, 266 were unrestrained.
The fact sheet also showcased adults’ examples and responsibility for their children’s safety. 67% of children riding with unrestrained drivers weren’t safely tucked into travel car seats or seat belts.
Why Look for a Toddler Car Seat Alternative?
As an adult, especially a parent, car seats give me peace of mind while I’m driving with my kids. There’s no problem if it’s just a quick trip to the local store or our favorite ice cream shop. The issue lies when we travel out of town or the country.
Toddler car seats are bulky, which is every parent’s nightmare when traveling. Imagine having to lug around your bags and a gigantic car seat for travel while guiding your family through the airport. It’s not a pleasant scenario.
Best Toddler Car Seat Alternatives for Plane Travel
Most parents try to look for a toddler car seat alternative when they travel. The substitute should be safe, comfortable, durable, and lightweight. If you’re riding on a plane with your young ones, here are some car seat for travel to consider:
Flight Safety Vests
Children under two years old are susceptible to injuries from turbulence. They’re also not as adept at maintaining their balance yet, so it’s best that they’re seated on a parent’s lap during a plane ride.
A flight safety vest easily slips over your child’s head. This infant car seat alternative has a loop where you can attach your safety belt to secure babies and toddlers, especially during turbulent moments aboard. Baby B’air’s Flight Safety Vest is approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for in-flight use.
It’s not approved for taxiing, taking off, and landing, though. Note that only an approved car seat for travel is eligible for full-flight use.
The product comes in two sizes. The Infant car seat size is ideal for newborns until 8-month-old babies. 9-month-old babies up to two-year-old toddlers should use the Toddler size. It’s made of 100% cotton with fully adjustable straps for the side and crotch area.
Lap carriers are another option for children who need to sit on their parent’s lap. This car seat alternative looks like a waist trainer or belt with two parts. One section wraps around the parent’s waist, while the other is for the baby’s body.
It’s suitable for those who are three years old and up. Primo, the manufacturer of LapBaby, recommends that children must have good neck support to use the belt.
The toddler car seat alternative is compact and lightweight. Upon purchase, it comes with a storage bag and washable drop cloth that you can place over your legs to protect your skirt or pants.
Airplane Travel Harnesses
For children who will be sitting on their own plane seat for travel, I recommend using airplane travel harnesses for utmost security. It works with the airplane seat belt and makes it into a four-point harness for children aged one-year-old and above, weighing 22 lbs. to 44 lbs.
The Child Aviation Restraint System (CARES) airplane travel harness is the only harness approved for all stages of flight, from taxiing, taking off, and landing. You can’t use it for automobiles, though.
Best Toddler Car Seat Alternatives for Car or Train Travel
For road trips, here are the best alternatives to toddler car seats if you’ll be renting a car rather than bringing your own vehicle:
The RideSafer Travel Vest is an ideal alternative to booster seats and car seats. It can accommodate children aged three and above, weighing 30 to 100 lbs. It also comes in three sizes.
It meets the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) #213, which regulates the performance and design criteria for child restraint systems. The product passed restraint crashworthiness as well as buckle and release pressures. The vest is legal in all 50 states.
The primary function of this travel car seat is to position the car’s seat belt optimally. It elevates the child for the right seat belt fit and brings the belt down to the child’s level.
Seat Belt Adjusters
The MiFold is a compact seat belt adjuster that lowers the seat belt, similar to the travel vest. Its age recommendation is for children aged four and above, with a weight limit of up to 100 lbs.
The solid adjustable strap should be secured to the integrated car seat. This backless booster is adjustable even for contoured seats. It also comes with a shoulder belt slip to achieve the best positioning. The MiFold is approved by the NHTSA and meets the FMVSS #213 standard.
Inflatable Booster Seats
The BubbleBum Inflatable Booster car seat for travel is one of the best alternatives to toddler car seats because it’s compact and foldable. It can be used across the US and even in Europe.
The product is made mostly of memory foam, which reduces air displacement during a crash. It offers better stability and structural integrity, which boosts your child’s safety on the road. You can’t use it on the plane, though, since the travel car seat doesn’t have shoulder straps.
Safety Issues To Consider for Toddler Car Seats and Their Alternatives
When you decide to purchase toddler car seat alternatives, you should be mindful of these safety issues:
Loose Seat or Harness
Make sure the seats and harnesses are locked in tightly on the car and children’s bodies. To test if they’re loose, try to jiggle the portable car seat. If it moves to the side or front and back, you should reinstall it. A child in a loose seat or harness can hit their face onto the back of the front seat and injure their head. Worse, they might come out of the seat during a collision.
Facing Forward Too Early
Children shouldn’t ride front-facing until they’ve reached the maximum height or weight limit of their car seats or alternatives. The strongest part of infants’ and toddlers’ bodies is their backs. If they face the rear at this age, their backs can absorb the impact from a collision better than their head.
Wrong Angle or Placement of the Harness Clip and Straps
Double-check the angle or placement of the harness clip and straps. Proper car seat strap placement is essential. If these aren’t positioned properly, they can slip off and increase the risk of ejecting the child from their seat. Always check the position of these attachments when buckling up your kid.
Looking for a toddler car seat alternative is useful if you plan on traveling since traditional car seats can be bulky. There are different variables to consider, whether you’re traveling by plane or automobile. The best thing to remember is to ensure your child’s safety by buying government-approved products that have passed rigorous standards.
Steph is a passionate mom who co-founded Wumblers to share her parenting journey with others. She graduated from Concordia University with a masters degree in Education Technology and worked as an advisor for many years. Steph loves being a mom and wants to have more kids.
Learn more about Steph and Wumblers here.