Of the many concerns I hear from new parents preparing for their first big trip with the car seat, one topping the list is a fear of having to install their car seat without the LATCH attachments they’ve grown accustomed to in their own cars. It’s an understandable fear–especially considering the multitude of seatbelt types you might encounter in vehicles without LATCH (which are covered in detail in Travels with Baby in Chapter 11: Before You Go By Car). However, I think it’s helpful, and even reassuring to understand a couple of points about LATCH as you prepare to travel with your child’s car seat. First, there is a common misconception that your car seat functions more safely somehow if it is installed with LATCH rather than your car’s seatbelt. However, as long as you car seat is properly installed with a seatbelt, it is equally safe–some people might even argue that it’s more safe with a seatbelt installation, which brings me to my next point. Many parents don’t realize that LATCH anchors are only rated for use with children weighing 48 lbs or less, or more importantly for a maximum combined child + car seat weight of 65 lbs. If you use a car seat with a higher upper weight limit, such as the Britax Marathon that is approved for children up to 65 lbs., you will see the note in your car seat’s manual to “Use vehicle belt (not LATCH connectors) for installations with children weighing more than 48 pounds (21 kg).” The bottom line is, if you aren’t already accustomed to installing your child’s car seat with a seatbelt, practice before you travel. It can save you a lot of time and stress as you try to get the car seat in place on aircraft, in taxis, in shuttle vans, and in the cars of friends and extended family. For help, take a look at your car seat’s manual (find it online here) and be sure to see Chapter 11 of Travels with Baby, which includes sections on Installing Car Seats with Confidence and Seatbelt Specifics, plus Car Seat Laws Across State Lines and Driving with Children in Foreign Countries. For recommended car seats and accessories for travel, click here.
Shelly Rivoli, author of Travels with Baby
The Ultimate Guide for Planning Trips with Babies, Toddlers, and Preschool-Age Children