Traveling with small children can make you feel more like a sherpa on Mount Everest than the jet-setting goddess you were before you became a mom. Between remembering to pack extra diapers, your toddler’s favorite lovey and strollers galore, it can feel overwhelming just getting to your destination. It’s no wonder that rental car agencies and other travel companies offer car seat rentals for families who would rather not lug one more thing through the airport.

With the holiday season approaching, many of us have planned trips to see family or vacations during time off school and work. If you’re traveling by car, then your child’s car seat is likely making the trip as well. But if not, it can be tempting to just rent a car seat at your destination.

But before you give in to this temptation, take note that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children use only new car seats due to the risks associated with used car seats. It can be difficult to tell from visual inspection whether a car seat has been involved in a crash or subject to a manufacturer recall.

ADVERTISEMENT

There is also no guarantee your car seat rental will be in good condition. According to a Consumer Reports study, safety technicians examined car seats available from several large rental car agencies and found many were expired, had broken parts or were missing labels or infant carrier bases. And even if your car seat rental is in working order, there is no way to assure it will not be covered in crumbs, spills or unknown stains.

The bottom line? Car seat safety is not worth sacrificing for convenience.

Your best bet is to purchase an affordable, no-frills car seat at your destination or bring one with you. With devices such as the Baby Trend Snap-N-Go or Go-Go Babyz Travelmate, you can convert your car seat into a stroller. And, if your child is at least 4 years old, you can leave their everyday car seat behind and pack a small, travel-friendly booster seat like the BubbleBum.

Traveling with small children is no small feat, but with a little planning, you can ensure you keep your little ones safe throughout your journey.