Nothing makes me angrier than carrying stuff: gym clothes, suitcases, books, papers and worst of all, a stroller and car seat when I travel with my toddler. Even though I wound up with the world’s lightest umbrella stroller (hello, Maclaren Mark II) and a super light car seat (this one cannot be beat), sometimes carrying them are literally too much to bear.
On a recent trip, and determined to cut down on how much stuff I was carrying, I ordered the Ride Safer Travel Vest. The idea is kind of genius: a vest/harness contraption that you strap your kid into, and then route the car’s seat belt through the vest to position the belt correctly on the child. If you get the optional tether attachment (for use in cars that have only a lap belt) you can tether it to the top anchor of the seat as well.
After measuring my child to make sure that she was heavy enough and tall enough (30 pounds, 35 inches, 3 years old), I tried to get her to test it. She refused to even get near it. I used this time to watch several too long videos on how to properly use the vest, which is a bit complicated. (Note to company: step-by-step drawings with arrows showing key parts would be a huge help.)
Morning of our trip, I had to coax her into it, but it was simple enough to get it on her, adjust the straps, pop her into the car service car and route the seat belt through. She protested, but it’s a pretty quick ride from downtown NYC to Newark.
Once we arrived in Honolulu, I again put the vest on her, but utilized the optional tether and lap strap. The tether connects the harness shoulders to the top anchor point of car, where a forward facing car seat would connect. The lap belt then goes between a child’s legs to mimic a 5-point harness and keep them from sliding down in seat.
Over the trip, she warmed up to it, likely due to the novelty of facing forwards. But, it was really hard for her to nap in the car, and the included headrest did not seem to really help a kid get their head in a position to comfortably nap. Also, even though the instructions noted that the seat belt strap may fold or pinch together when it’s through the clips, the clips could be wider to accommodate a standard-sized seatbelt.
Overall, it was great for this trip (carrying a one pound harness that fits in my purse vs. seven pounds of car seat that is as unwieldy as a sea turtle), but if you rely on your kid napping in the car, it may not work for you. Additionally, I used it on this trip because I don’t drive a lot in Honolulu and traffic moves at like, 10 miles under the speed limit there. If I was going to LA or Chicago, with a lot of fast highway driving, I’d suck it up and schlep my actual car seat.