I received this note from a reader and thought my response might be helpful to a number of you.
I am traveling to India with my 2 year old for a couple of weeks. The flight is crazy long—it adds up to almost 30 hours of travel time. Any recommendations? We plan to bring his car seat but it is really big—do you have any thoughts on travel seats that can be used in a car once we get to our destination?
Dear Jennifer and other travelers,
India! With a 2-year-old! What a great adventure you’ll have. It isn’t cheap, but from what you describe, you’d be a really great candidate for the Sit N Stroll car seat that can convert to a stroller—definitely for this trip, and possibly others you have lined up. I got mine for travel, but I’ve found it very helpful with wily toddlers for running around town, too, just doing errands and quick outings to the post office or bank. More on that below.
When you have crazy-long travel times like that with a toddler, with very long flights, airplane changes, and layovers, there are two pieces of gear that can really be helpful to have with you—though you might normally assume the lighter you can travel with kids the better. For this kind of seriously long travel by plane with a 2-year-old, I suspect you will be glad to have:
1) The car seat, which will make your 2-year-old much more comfortable for long periods of sitting than the adult-size airplane seat (which, let’s face it, is not built for comfort!), and the 5-point harness with buckles will also help keep him contained, unlike the airplane easy-lift seat belt which he’ll be out of in a blink if he decides to bolt. Not fun on a long flight! Plus, if he’s used to riding in a car seat already and understands that it means staying put in the car, the consistency may be helpful for the long-haul. Since it fits him better and hopefully has some side wings, it will also make sleeping during flights much easier for him—extremely important for any child during 30 hours of travel!
2) The stroller, which may be essential to getting between gates in time at large airports, and/or helping your child nap during lengthy layovers. A reclining travel stroller can be really helpful for this. Especially at age 2, the airports will be so exciting, and where you’re headed strangers will likely be so friendly that it may be hard for him to disengage and get the rest he needs. A stroller can help provide a buffer while you stretch your legs and get some activity pushing him around the terminal. Once he’s asleep, you can clip a blanket to the front of the stroller’s canopy (with your trusty binder clips, as recommended in Travels with Baby!) to keep bright lights off of his face and strangers at a respectful distance. Also, being able to keep your son safely strapped in to a stroller until you’ve managed to get all your items and shoes onto the X-ray at security, then collected again on the other side, or until you’ve finished using the restroom (!) can be very helpful with a 2-year-old!
Suggestions for gear:
The Sit N Stroll gives you one piece of gear to keep track of that can serve both purposes of car seat and airport-friendly stroller as you travel. The wheels are small and glide smoothly through airports and across even surfaces, but it probably won’t be rugged enough to use on walks around town where sidewalks are often rough or missing, etc. Once you get to India—you’ll want your regular stroller or possibly even a backpack carrier (Ergo travels well!) in some cases (not sure what’s on your agenda!) once you have arrived. But with the Sit N Stroll, you can simply check your stroller through or backpack carrier, etc., and just take the Sit N Stroll with you through the airport. The Sit N Stroll also has a retractable canopy that can be quite helpful during long flights in shielding children from other people’s reading lights, flickering TVs and movie screens, and turbulent air currents (you can read more about the Sit N Stroll in my detailed review here).
If not the Sit N Stroll, you might want to take a look at the GoGo Kidz Travelmate, which is like a hand cart that attaches to toddler-size car seats, so you can keep him strapped into the car seat as you wheel her through the airport and to the gate. Some drawbacks in your case might be that it will not provide the napping benefits of the Sit N Stroll or a stroller, both of which have canopies and will provide at least a little recline to help with the snoozing. It also puts only the distance of roller blade wheels between the car seat and floor, and there may be times you would like to have him up higher than that… particularly near baggage claim where the suitcases fly and outdoor areas or restrooms that aren’t so tidy.
A third option that may work for you is to use your existing car seat with a PacBack backpack-style carrier and gate-checking your existing stroller as you board each flight. Just be aware you will have to unbuckle it from your car seat upon boarding and deplaning, and will still have two separate items to manage as you travel.
Other concerns and considerations:
Size – Since you mention your car seat is “huge,” you may also opt to go with the Sit N Stroll over other options that will work with the car seat you have. It will be much easier to fit in the smaller cars and taxis you’re likely to find along the way, and a huge car seat is never much fun to lug around and is seldom practical in the small cars abroad! 😉 I have a recommendations for other easy-traveling car seats on my site at http://www.travelswithbaby.com/gear/car_seats_et_al.htm.
Seatbelts – Even with a car seat in your hands, don’t expect to find a seat belt in the back seat of every taxi you hail in India. Many older cars and smaller vehicles simply do not have seatbelts in the back seats. To get around this, aim for the newest looking and largest taxis you can find, and always point out your car seat quickly to the driver who will likely know you’re looking for seatbelts. If it’s in the budget, you might prefer to arrange a car and driver to meet you after your extended hours of travel who knows in advance you’ll need to install a car seat and will have an appropriate seat belt or even LATCH.
Safety – While there is no car seat law in India, and car seats are still fairly uncommon (and financially out of reach for countless families), I think you will be very glad to have your toddler safely in her seat as you navigate through the traffic, so it’s worth the effort to bring a car seat and use cars where it can be safely installed. Hope this helps!
Shelly Rivoli, author of the award-winning guide Travels with Baby
The Ultimate Guide for Planning Trips with Babies, Toddlers, and Preschool-Age Children