Ridesharing With Kids | Does It Work?
By Wendy K. Leigh
Rideshare Apps are here to save little legs from metropolitan fatigue.
Busy metropolitan areas can be great fun for families if you plan ahead and “know the ropes.” But what about getting around on hectic and unfamiliar city streets, with exorbitant parking-meter rates and a litany of rules requiring 5 minutes of reading just to figure out if you can actually park there? Fortunately, today’s world has Uber and Lyft, which can be godsends for families.
When little legs are involved, walking in urban areas is exhausting – and that’s where rideshare apps save the day. Wherever you are, a quick tap on your smartphone magically conjures up a reliable car and driver to whisk your family away. It’s generally affordable, fast and reliable.
Things can come to a screeching halt, however, when you realize that most rideshare drivers do not have car seats or booster chairs onboard their vehicles. Can you picture yourself lugging those things around all over the city after being dropped off? The mere thought of that can make you want to just stay home.
The solutions are still evolving, but some are definitely worth considering – so read on for some helpful info on ridesharing with kids.
Uber Car Seat
Fortunately, in-the-know rideshare employees are finally realizing that families do indeed travel with young children – often and enthusiastically. In response to that, Uber launched a solution in several major U.S. cities. It’s known as Uber Car Seat, originally called UberFAMILY.
Using Uber Car Seat works the same as the standard rideshare procedure, except there is an option to choose a vehicle with a car seat. Requests for Uber Car Seat are routed only to drivers trained in car-seat installation and safety, and who are committed to carrying legal and current Uber-approved car seats at all times.
Like many of its tested pilot programs, including Uber WINE (wine-tasting tours), UberHEALTH (free flu shots) and UberPEDAL (bike racks), the Uber Car Seat option is rolling out gradually with just four major cities to date. If you’re traveling to New York City, Philadelphia, Orlando or Washington DC, you’re in luck.
How It Works and What You Get
To request Uber Car Seat, choose an UberX vehicle and then tap on the “car seat” option. If the service is available in the city you are visiting, it will appear on your smartphone. At present, each Uber Car Seat driver carries one forward-facing car seat, with the following requirements for the riding child.
- Must be a minimum of 12 months old AND
- Needs to weigh at least 22 pounds and no more than 48 pounds AND
- Has to be between 31 and 52 inches tall
Tip: Services and requirements for Uber Car Seat may vary slightly from city to city, particularly in Orlando – so check the app ahead of time for details.
Basic rate charges for Uber Car Seat are no different from other rides, but there is a surcharge of $10. This includes the seat and installation by the driver. You will be securing your child into the seat and making sure that you feel confident before the ride begins.
Not every driver is approved for Uber Car Seat, but you can generally expect availability whenever you need it as long as you are in one of the cities that offer the service. Families using it thus far have reported only slightly longer wait times, usually less than five minutes more than standard rides.
Any time you order an Uber ride, with or without a car seat, make sure that you choose the right vehicle size for your family needs. UberX vehicles are usually mid-sized cars, while Uber XL offers larger minivans and SUVs seating at least six people.
Though each city may have slightly different training procedures or car-seat brands, here are the standards for New York City:
- Vehicles are equipped with IMMI Go car seats, which adhere to all requirements from Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 213.
- The nonprofit Safe Kids Worldwide partnered with Uber to train its drivers on
installationof the IMMI Go car seats.
- All riders receive written material and video instruction. In New York City, Philadelphia and Washington DC, drivers also get hands-on training in their own vehicle. This includes practice in putting a child in the seat, in case the parent needs assistance.
- Car seats must be no older than six years and properly cleaned and maintained by the driver.
Lyft For Families
The Lyft rideshare service is new to the game, but as of July 2017 offers car seats in one place: New York City. Lucky travelers to the Big Apple can opt to use either Lyft or Uber. The specifications are the same, as both services use IMMI Go car seats with the same height/weight/age requirements. The current price for Lyft Car Seat in New York City is $8.98 plus applicable taxes and fees.
Portable Booster Seats
So what about the booster-seat crowd, the kids who are too big for a car seat but too small to ride like an adult? Here’s where the safety-seat manufacturers really outdo themselves. Portable booster seats these days do the unbelievable: fold up, deflate, fit in a glovebox, or can be worn like a vest. Here’s a roundup of the best portable booster seats for travelers, ones that easily work when using Uber or Lyft.
The most mobile families swear by the BubbleBum portable booster seat, which has all the dream features. It folds neatly to fit into a backpack or vehicle glove compartment, is lightweight, and can be inflated and deflated for carrying around or for packing on airplanes. It meets all safety regulations for Europe and the USA and functions similar to standard booster seats. Use this for kids aged 4 to 11 who weigh from 40 to 100 pounds.
If your child likes the idea of wearing a safety vest instead of being strapped into a booster seat, check out the Ridesafer Travel Vest. It meets all crash-test requirements for Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 213 and has energy-absorbing foam that protects a wider section of the child’s chest. It’s designed for children ages 3 and up who weigh from 30 to 60 pounds. You can have the vest already on the child and ready to go before hopping into a rideshare vehicle.
This Trunki Boostapak is exactly what the portmanteau implies: a booster seat and a backpack at the same time. This means you not only avoid bumping elbows with your big booty booster seat at airport security, your kid can actually fill it with toys and carry it on their own.
Ridesharing in major metropolitan areas is here to stay, and traveling families can thoroughly embrace the frolicking freedom it affords. We all want to keep our kids safe, happy and fulfilled – and anything that helps us reach that goal gets a big thumbs-up (especially when it makes things easier on the big folks as well!)
If you’re a newbie to ridesharing, you can even get a sizable “welcome” bonus when joining the service through a friendly referral.
Wendy K. Leigh, Freelance Writer