Ridesharing With Kids | Does It Work?

By Wendy K. Leigh

Teddy bear in a seat belt.
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.

Pricing

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.

Availability

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.

Safety

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 installation of 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.


Bubble Bum Booster Seat

Bubble Bum

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.


Mifold

Mifold

The Mifold identifies as a “grab-and-go” booster  ­– and for good reason. At 10 times smaller than standard booster seats, it folds up to 10-by-5 inches and looks like a groovy little toaster with a handle. A unique feature of the Mifold is that instead of raising the child up, it secures the seatbelt down. The safety, age and weight designations are similar to the BubbleBum.


Ridesafer

Ridesafer

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.


Trunki Boostapack (green and black).

Trunki Boostapack

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. LeighFreelance Writer

Wendy is a travel journalist and photographer from Seattle. She’s also the owner of Delta Media Seattle and the Islands America travel blog.

19 Comments

  1. Thank you for a highly informative post on UBER. I wasn’t aware of this feature. I remember a UK family that wanted to stay with an Indian family in Delhi. They wanted a kid seat in the car and thus wanted to avoid Uber for the reason that they weren’t aware that Uber has the features you described.

    1. Ambuj, currently it is only in select cities in the US but we should start seeing it more and more in other areas UBER services. They realize they are missing out on a large demographic and have been testing this solution. I am excited to see problems like the one you mentioned, solved for us traveling families! Thanks for reading!

  2. I don’t have kids, but I’m sure these are brilliant for ridesharing. I didn’t know about this concept, but it’s very useful for families travelling with children!

  3. I am pretty sure Uber has introduced this concept in Dubai too (or it’s their competitor, Careem, I am not sure!). I think it is high time companies became aware of the fact that families use ride-sharing apps too and make adjustments accordingly. With so much competition in the market, its these small things, services that they provide, that’ll help them stand apart!

    1. Medha, I agree, it is what makes companies stand apart! It is good that more and more companies are recognizing this need. Thanks for reading!

    1. Martina, Thank you so much! We love when we can provide information that you feel is valuable to share. I hope it helps your sister! Thanks for reading!

  4. We’ve luckily not needed to worry about this aspect of traveling with kids (we always take the kids places we have a car with seats already) but I have wondered how others handle it. I would be very likely to get the easily transported booster seats and harnesses should I only need them for brief amounts of time. Thanks for sharing!

  5. This was really informative. I wasn’t aware of the launch of uber family. We do have the Bubble Bum for our boys and are very satisfied with it. Totally recommend for rental cars but it could be challenging to carry around.

    1. Catherine, not many people are, as it is still new, but I’m so glad that they are rolling it out! Thanks for reading!

  6. Although not someone with children myself, must admit your article was very interesting. I have to confess that I was not aware that people might have this issue. I guess you have to look around and open your eyes to see the challenges other people face, which you take for granted. Thanks for that!

    1. Julia, yes, life changes drastically when you have little humans that you are responsible for! So glad we could help you gain a different perspective. Thanks for reading!

  7. This is such a great idea! I’m glad Uber is looking at the needs of the family! I didn’t know they made the compact car seats in the bottom of your post! This would also be great for travel!

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