How many times have I been asked if I think a family should take
their car seat on vacation when they'll "only need it a couple of
times," particularly in a taxi when they know they'll be legal
without one? Plenty.
But for those who will be
traveling mostly by train or public transportation during their
trips--when the ability to travel light makes a great difference in
their travel plans and bottom line, it's an understandable question.
Well, guess what? For those who will be traveling
with a child 3 years old and 30 lbs. on up, I say yes, leave that
car seat behind. Take this instead.
Since I've been recommending the
RideSafer since before Travels with Baby was published, I was
delighted when Safe Traffic System offered me one of their first new
& improved models (for 2010) released to the public.
I tested ours out with each of my
children to see how it worked at different sizes. Here's what I
RideSafer vest at a glance:
- A safe alternative to car seats or
boosters for children over 3 years and 30 lbs.
- The new small fits children 34" to
52" tall, 30 to 60 lbs.
- The new large fits children 45" to
57" tall, 50 to 80 lbs.
- Meets Federal Motor Vehicle Safety
Standard 213 (FMVSS 213) for use in cars
- Can be used with either shoulder
seatbelts or lap belts in conjunction with a top tether anchor point.
Find the newest
models of RideSafer travel vests online at:
Click here for important differences between these models
What's changed? You might
still see some old copy around assuming all that's changed are the
colors, so do be aware that the new version offers a better range of
fit, with small accommodating smaller children (it used to fit from
38" tall and 35 lbs.). Also, the new version has one belt buckle
rather than two. The new belt paths are also a little easier /
faster to use, and the optional / removable top tether strap enables
you to use it quite securely in a center seating position where
applicable (more comments on this below). And yes, it's now
fun colors: blue, pink and red. However this one that they're calling red is more of a
"vintage coral" in my
opinion (with a hip retro texture, no less). Update:
Please click here for key differences between the newest models
available (the RS2 and RS3).
Your child can actually wear just
the vest (minus the head rest and optional crotch strap) and
buckle into a taxi, rental, or relative's car safely, allowing you
to travel with little more than a padded vest in the side of your
It weighs 4.5 lbs.
The removable padded head rest
adds comfort for long drives.
Kids can actually recline in
back seats that offer the option.
For bigger families requiring
multiple car seats or a combination of car seats and boosters,
this also makes it much easier to fit three children across the back
seat even if two are still in proper car seats. That alone could
save you some money on rental car upgrades or having to request a
minivan taxi rather than a standard cab.
If you plan to use the
CARES flight harness for a
child 3 years or older, this is your perfect on-the-ground
companion and car seat replacement. Zip it into the side pocket of
your checked suitcase or carry-on and it will be handy on arrival.
No expiration date: I can't
pass up this opportunity to point out that, unlike other car seats,
the RideSafer has no expiration date. Which means it doesn't become
gradually less safe through years of use, and it doesn't need to end up
in a land fill a few years from now.
Carpooling with kids: If you
carpool with other people's children, you can use this as a
back-up to an extra high-back booster seat you can simply stuff
under your seat. And as mentioned above, you can fit three kids
across smaller back seats when at least one is wearing the travel
How it works:
1. Slip the vest onto your child
and close the heavy Velcro front panel, then click the belt and
adjust, as you would do with a safety belt.
Optional: Add the height-adjustable
head rest for comfort (it's not there for safety).
2a. With shoulder belts: Have
your child sit in the seat and open the appropriate shoulder belt
cover (as shown), then route the shoulder belt through the metal
guide. Then route the
portion through the two slots on your child's lap (as shown below). Buckle the seat
belt, pull up the shoulder belt to tighten as needed.
With lap-only belt and
tether: Hook the tether strap (included)
to the two metal latch loops on the shoulders of the travel vest.
Have your child sit and route the lap belt through the two guides on
the lower portion of the vest, then tighten the belt. Attach the
other end of the tether belt to the corresponding anchor point in
the car and tighten the strap.
While it sounds great that you can
use this with lap-only belts as well as shoulder belts (unlike
safety boosters), you are only supposed to use it with lap belts
when a top tether may also be used (note: tether now included only
RS2 model travel vest,
not the new
RS3 model travel vest). In the wider world of travel,
many lap-only belts you encounter will be in older vehicles that
pre-date car seat tethers.
Depending on the vehicle and your
child's size, he may have trouble seeing out the windows. For kids
that get car sick, this could be a problem. On the flip side, kids
who get car sick riding in side position seats may have the
advantage when able to use the RideSafer vest in the center position
(with a shoulder or lap-only belt and tether) and enjoy a better
view out the front window.
Also, on my 40" tall child the back
straps had some slack, and there is no way I see to shorten the
straps. However, she seemed plenty secure when belted in with both
shoulder belt and lap + tether strap configurations. The design doesn't allow for
"slack" in the front of the vest where the safety belt guides are,
so I don't think this is a safety concern.
As far as fit is concerned overall,
many parents have reported that the large was REALLY large on their
children, and considering that the small overlaps in size up to 60
lbs. or 52" tall, you might go with the small unless your child is already well into the second
size range. As you can see, it's also a great fit for my lanky 6-year-old.
Bottom line and my suggestions
Yes, kids, my own included, continue
to surprise us with their love of the "astronaut vest," and while I
was in hysterics watching as my oldest daughter insisted on wearing
our vest with the head rest even as she did her homework at
the kitchen table, as a grown-up traveler I feel a little silly
about the double dose of American flags printed on the shoulder belt covers.
Still, both kids love it enough to
fight over who gets to wear it. I love it enough to wrestle with
getting a second for our family for upcoming travels. Since I always
like to include a few suggestions to the manufacturer for future
enhancements--and in case anyone wants to jump onboard with a
"Travels with Baby edition." Here's how I would improve upon this
already great travel product:
- Reverse the openings of the Velcro
shoulder strap covers. This will make it much easier for the older
children to thread the seatbelt through by themselves.
- Create an adjustment to shorten
the back straps a little for the smallest children (now
available in the newest RS3 model per my suggestion!). ;-)
Find the newest
models of RideSafer travel vests online at:
Click here for important differences
between the RS2 and RS3 models
you might consider:
SAFEGUARD GO/Safety 1st HYBRID BOOSTER: If you need
a portable car seat for a smaller child,
and using a tether and LATCH attachments won't be a problem in your
travels, you might be interested in the Safeguard Go hybrid booster. It
can be used with children at least 1 year old and 22 lbs. (31" tall) who
can ride forward-facing, and provides a 5-point harness for children up
to 65 lbs. From 40 lbs., it can be used as a seatbelt-positioning
booster, still using the top tether, and finally as a backless booster up
to 100 lbs. Since it has no plastic shell, it
also folds up into a lightweight "travel bundle" in its own carrying
bag. Still, it is not nearly as compact as the RideSafer travel vest and
weighs twice as much (still only 9 lbs., however).
Read the full review of the Go
Hybrid travel car seat.
See also: Best Toddler Car
Seats and Boosters for Travel
Car Seat Alternatives
Car Seat Accessories
Car Seat Travel Bags & Carriers
All photos, video, and content (c)
2011-2012 by Shelly Rivoli.
RideSafer Travel Vest provided by
Safe Traffic System, Inc.