The Car Seat Dilemma in the UK

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Oh car seat. How I love you for keeping my children safe and comfortable, but how I hate you for how complicated you can make family travel with little ones. We had escaped the carseat dilemma for a while as our six year old grew out of a traditional car seat and our baby cruised along very easily in the Doona that switches effortlessly from a car seat to a stroller and back again.

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But, our baby is now a one year old (almost) toddler, and the Doona is officially maxed out. She still fits in it technically, but not only is she pushing the upper limit for the size limits, but it increasingly is not ideal for a stroller because she literally dangles out of it, and it isn’t a fully upright ride. In other words, it still works for short trips around town, but it sadly isn’t really appropriate for long haul excursions anymore. Sniff, sniff.  

Doona S

We have a big international trip to the UK on the horizon, and I have to decide what to do about the car seat, no car seat, Doona, or stroller dilemma. I don’t think it is feasible from a logistical “stuff” stand point to bring both the Doona and another stroller, although I would love to have a stroller for longer walks and sightseeing adventures and the Doona for when we are on shorter jaunts in and out of cabs.

We aren’t renting a car on this trip and only have one potentially longer cab ride back to the airport, a ride where we can request a car service with a child seat. We will be within walking distance to many activities in both London and Edinburgh where a real stroller would be handy. We will also likely use the Underground while in London at times where a car seat obviously isn’t an issue. However, I know we will have some short cab rides at times because…um, time zone changes, a one year old, a six year old, and tired adults. Need I say more.

While it is legal there to travel in a cab with an unrestrained little one, obviously that isn’t the safest method of transport. While a couple of cab companies in London used to be known for having child seats available, that doesn’t really seem to be the case anymore. There also sadly doesn’t seem to be an UberFamily option the way there is in some US cities.

So, to cut to the the chase, we either have a safer option for Baby S on our few short cab rides, or we have a better stroller option for our time on foot. On the one hand safety is paramount, and of course the Doona is the winner so she can be secured in cabs. On the other hand, we are talking probably a combined 30 minutes in cabs versus hours and hours in a stroller.

Good stroller? Or good car seat?

There really is no easy answer, and at T-minus just a few days until departure and counting I cannot decide what to do because both options present real downsides.

So, I turn to you…especially if you have recent experience with little ones in London and Edinburgh. How did you solve the car seat/stroller dilemma for your trip with a baby or toddler?

Editorial Note: The opinions expressed here are mine and not provided, reviewed, by any bank, card issuer, or other company unless otherwise stated.

Comments

  1. Leave the car seat, take a stroller and a baby backpack. Using the tube with a stroller is painful, so you’ll likely find that putting her in a backpack is the far more practical solution. We did it at Christmas with Rory in Paris and couldn’t recommend it more.

    • Aw yes, the Ergo. Forgot to mention that in the equation. We will be bringing that either way…though she does get QUITE heavy in it after a while…that chunker! 😉 Thanks!

      • Consider a hiking backpack, so much more support than an ergo. One day I did 5mi with Rory in ours and it was no issue. Kate can give you the brandname, but it’s got an aluminum frame, etc… Weighs maybe 2lb?

  2. If I were you I would leave the car seat and take the stroller. Try to book cabs with car seats if you can. London has some of the most stringent, if not the most stringent training for can drivers in the world. You are in good hands.

    Would you take a bus without a car seat?

  3. Have you considered using the buses more? We were in London for 10 days this spring, and used the buses more often for several reasons including 1)more scenic 2)also on the oyster card system, however its one price (not by zone) 3)its easier to get on and off the bus with a stroller than to and from a tube station. With buses, there are no stairs, there is usually a dedicated area for strollers. We also found most bus patrons very willing to accommodate a stroller. If you take the underground, you have to go get down into the station, maybe down a few more levels, go through the turnstiles. On top of that we found that the stations were incredibly packed.

    I believe you have been to London before, but keep in in mind that several of the major draws are located very,very close to eachother.

    I would recommend a small compact stroller (Maclaren or similar) and not the large BOB stroller.

    We also used a car company to get to/from LHR.

  4. I would go for the stroller. A high quality one such as a Maclaren umbrella which is a very nice, comfy one for baby with tall handles and easy collapse for Mom and Dad. That is the route we went when we decided to forego a car seat when we knew we would only need it for cab rides to and from the airport. It pained me to put my baby at risk and I prayed hard enroute. The only difference for us, though, was a 40 min plane ride vs a trip like yours over the pond. Our girls always rode on the plane strapped into their Britax carseats. We didn’t have premium or lay flat seats like your family so I don’t know if Baby S will be strapped in on your flight or not ie do you need a car seat for her on the flights??

  5. Totally agree on no Bob type stroller. For travel we have the City Mini Stroller, which I love so far. No car seat for the plane as she is a lap child as there is a 0% chance of a happy plane flight with her in her own seat.

  6. Ditto on leave the car seat, take the stroller. Absolutely. I’ve got 3 kids (youngest now in blow up booster for travel) and did this all the time. Also just got back from London and used my contactless Amex for our bus and tube rides. EXCELLENT and easy experience. Kids are free. But it makes getting on the bus super easy. Also, to be honest, I regretted the 2 taxis I took in London last week b/c good grief the traffic!!! Taxis were 2-3x cost what they should have been b/c of all the congestion. On 3 occasions we actually got off a bus and headed into a nearby tube b/c bus hadn’t moved in 20 minutes. And this was not rush hour…maybe 10 AM and 2 PM.

  7. if you are going by bringing the stroller, see if the GB Pockit Stroller is right for you. It folds so small you can carry it in a backpack!

    • I was just dropping in to recommend the gb Pockit too. Just took it on a 8 day trip with my 2.5 year old through theme parks, national parks, and everything in between. Folds in about 7 seconds and is light enough to carry in one hand with the baby on your hip in the other. We took it on the plane and put in the overhead bin (it folds small enough that you don’t need to gate check it). Pricey ($249), but I’ll never travel with anything else.

  8. I agree with the others – no car seat and take a stroller (an umbrella one that folds up quickly and easily). The Tube with a stroller is not fun. There are a few stations with elevators and ramps (marked with a wheelchair for handicap access on the tube map). I advise only using those stations if you can, especially if the baby happens to be asleep and you can’t quickly fold up the stroller. Also, if you can avoid traveling on the Tube during peak times (8-9am and 5-6pm especially), I would highly recommend that as everyone is in a rush and it’s packed. We’re lucky that my in-laws live just outside London so they pick us up at the airport with a carseat already installed and we just travel by Tube into London with a stroller. London buses are also a great option, and if they are not too crowded you can keep the baby in the stroller and not fold it up. I hope you have a wonderful time! Oh, and if you haven’t already looked into it, I think Little C might love to do the afternoon tea bus tour in London (http://www.bbbakery.co.uk/afternoon-tea/afternoon-tea-bus-tour/). My son and I did it last summer when he was 6 and it was a lot of fun, especially if you aren’t already planning a city bus tour.

  9. We’ve gone to the UK a couple of times in the last year, and I also vote to leave the car seat and take the stroller. +1 also to the commenter above who suggested buses over the underground or even taxis. There are bus stops everywhere, buses come frequently, and there are no long crowded walks/escalator rides with a stroller in tow. The buses were also more scenic (my son LOVED riding on the top floor), and riders are very accommodating to families with strollers. For the first trip to the UK we were there for a month and didn’t bring a stroller, but in desperation ended up ordering a cheap umbrella stroller online at Tesco and had it delivered to our closest Tesco store. It was so inexpensive and surprisingly well-made, and we donated it before we left. It was nice not having to lug a stroller all the way to the airport and back!

  10. I’d skip the car seat and bring a lightweight stroller. We went to London/Ireland last summer with our 2 kids (3 and 5) and had no issues with 2 strollers. The lightweight ones were easy enough to handle in the tube. However, we primarily walked around and used the bus for long distances. Restaurants were very accommodating with storing the strollers somewhere out of the way too.

  11. We have an expensive and nice Uppababy G-Luxe. Several times we ran
    into annoyances with getting it into bins, on the plane, checked as luggage etc.
    The worst was Vueling from London to Rome, where they made us check it.
    Then after sitting on the tarmac, waiting for a bus, being shuttled to the
    terminal, we had to wait TWO HOURS in a hot baggage claim area.

    That was the final straw. After that it was, we carried her on the hip or
    shoulders, or in a Ergo/sling or something. ANYTHING but being handicapped by
    large accessories and their transport. CARES harness, Bubble Bum, or
    anything else that can stuff into a carryon fine. If it doesn’t fit in a
    carryon in European bins it’s a hangar queen at home.

    Somehow nomadic tribes manage to bring their little people along
    without strollers, and we can too.

  12. I am quite impressed that most people say skip the car seat. Most parenting blogs or tripadvisor questions would hang a person for even thinking of not taking a car seat. I agree that sometimes safety can take a back seat to reasonableness (or no seat at all in this case!!!).
    I would say take an compact stroller for the city and when going through the stations leave it folded up. Carry baby or use a harness when going through the stairs or escalators and leave the folded up stroller to someone else in your party. Dont be one of those people that carries it down the stairs in some awkward manner.

  13. We’ve had great luck putting both the safety first and cosco convertibles in our maclaren. I use the top teather to tie it around the stroller for extra saftey. I then put my tot in the seat (buckled) and stroll her through the airport. It secured in the stroller nice and tight. We are headed to England and Scotland next December. We are renting a car so it makes sense to bring our travel seats but I’m not looking forward to hauling two convertibles and a double stroller for my then 3 year old and 9 month old. I will also bring my toddler and standard lillebaby carriers as we will be doing some hiking. We are headed to San Fran next month with both girls. I figured out how to rent car seats for just the one day we need them. I’m also contemplating renting a double stroller instead of bringing mine. I should check to see if I can fit our travel seats next to each other in our Zoe double stroller. I have pictures if you want to see how we worked it in the past.

  14. When we have travelled to Europe with our little one we always take the stroller and the ergo. When we did take short cab rides one of us would strap our daughter in the Ergo and then buckle up as we normally would. It made me feel a little more comfortable that just having her free in the cab. Good luck!!

  15. I’m late to this (and haven’t read the other replies) but my son was born in London and we did taxis many, many times without carseats. I know it isn’t ideal, but in London you never go super fast with traffic and in the black cabs you could just roll your stroller right up into it and be off. It is obviously a personal choice but I would skip the carseat.

  16. We have 2 of these car seats. They fold up very tight, perfect fit on airplane seats. Expensive and heavy but awesome seats. We also have a Sit n Stand double stroller. In the airport both car seats fold up and can easily fit on the back bench seat while our youngest son can still sit in the front seat. The stroller ends up being able to hold most of our stuff if he isn’t sitting in the front seat.
    https://us.diono.com/product/radian-rxt/

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