Traveling in general is always going to come down to your own comfort level & travel style. Child car seat laws can vary from country to country or even between states. Here in Mexico there aren’t any enforced laws regarding babies or young children needing to be in car seats but in my opinion that doesn’t make it ok to not follow the same common sense safety rules you’d abide by at home. Usually tourists travel in taxies, buses & vans to and from the airport to their hotel but there are still ways of keeping safety a top priority. Some resorts here in Mexico are only a 20-minute drive from the Cancun airport and some can be as much as an hour and a half away. Guests are often traveling in vans on quick moving highways and of course safety & accidents aren’t defined by the length of time spent in a vehicle. I’ve never bought into the whole “When in Rome” train of thought. It boggles my mind how the same parent who freaks out about a child’s car seat restraint chest clip being placed too low or too high at home is the same parent who suddenly thinks it’s ok to hold their child on their lap while in a car in Mexico. Very recently we drove past a pretty bad crash between 2 airport transfer vans in the hotel zone and it was a good reminder it can happen! I personally recommend planning ahead to ensure your little one will be kept safe & comfortable while vacationing.
For us traveling as much as we did during our little one’s first year between Mexico & Canada we chose to always have our bucket style infant car seat with us. Everyone might do things differently but this is how we did it. We had the Britax B-Safe infant car seat as part of the travel system with our Britax stroller. An infant car seat along with its base is by far the most compact & travel friendly solution. Most can be used up until 30 pounds and let me tell you…I kept my daughter in there as long as possible. I hear stories of parents who stop using them when their child is just a few months old and I realize they likely have no idea the travel flexibility they kiss goodbye when they change over early. We used to just click the infant carrier style car seat on top of the stroller and pop the base in the hanging basket on the very bottom of the stroller and that was it. We were then all set to make our way through the airport knowing we had everything we needed in one place at our final destination. That way no matter which direction we headed or whoever was picking us up from the airport in Canada or Mexico, it only took a few minutes to install the seat for Isla. I literally shed a tear when she outgrew the convenience of the bucket style seat. We took advantage of the travel friendly feature of that infant car seat for many, many flights and even a few train rides (twice I hopped on a train alone with a then 6 month old Isla in her stroller with the bucket car seat travel system attached from Toronto to Niagara Falls and back again. My friend picked us up from the train station and I was able to quickly & easily install & uninstall the car seat without a lot of fuss).
Gate checking both the car seat & stroller was always easy. We would place both in a large sturdy stroller bag and gate check them for free right before boarding the plane. The travel bag we had was designed for a double stroller so it perfectly fit both our stroller and car seat all together. We would pop off the large back stroller wheels just for a better fit & keep the whole thing locked when folded inside the bag. Our stroller was fairly lightweight (26 pounds). The stroller bag came with a large over the shoulder strap & carry handles but it could get awkward to carry for a long distance. We always chose to neatly fold everything down into the bag while still waiting at the gate when we had lots of time (instead of feeling the pressure at the hand off point outside the plane). We only had to get the bag down the jetway/boarding bridge so it wasn’t that bad. I’d carry our daughter in a baby carrier to allow me to be hands free as we board and pull any carry-on luggage we had while my husband dealt with the stroller bag. We only used a stroller bag while we still traveled with our infant car seat. After that we would just regularly gate check our stroller direct without ever having any issues (our stroller has been pretty durable & has never suffered any damage during traveling).
For many parents bringing their child’s large convertible car seat with them to Mexico is the safest option. For us when we changed our daughter Isla to a convertible car seat we had the luxury of having a home base in both Canada and Mexico so we bought 2 brand new car seats to leave one in each country. Our car seat here in Mexico was actually purchased in Canada so that first time we travelled with it, we just kept it in the original packaging (all that great Styrofoam support) & box. We stashed a ton of clothes and diapers in the box to give the seat some extra cushioning which also helped create more space in our other suitcases. We checked the box in where you drop off luggage as a fragile item. Although we brought it here to Mexico as our new full time use car seat there’s no reason anyone couldn’t do the same thing going on vacation using a box they collapse & tape together again.
We’ve only actually travelled with our convertible car seat once. When we have travelled to other destinations (in the U.S. & Europe), we’ve always rented a car seat with our rental car. I wouldn’t be able to comment on the exact condition of every rental car’s available car seats but I’m not sure I’d have a lot of faith in ones found in a country with no car seat laws or standards. I’ve heard stories here in Mexico about car rental seats missing important pieces or just not tightening properly. It’s always going to be a crap shoot no matter where you are but personally I’d suggest bringing your own here to Cancun if you’ll be renting a car.
Our daughter’s regular every day car seats that permanently live in our personal vehicles (our Jeep in Mexico and SUV in Canada) are Diono convertible car seats. We chose to forward face them both a few months after her 2nd birthday. Here in Mexico we’d often find ourselves having to jump in someone else’s car especially for a ride to & from the airport. I’ve never wanted to do things the “Mexican way” and completely forgo safety but I also wasn’t interested in lugging around our full size car seat.
I know some people use car seat transporters that are devices you can attach to the seat itself. They come with wheels on the bottom and an extendable handle to easily pull it through the airport.
I went looking for a safe convenient option that didn’t involve me having to uninstall and install a car seat a 100 times (if you own a convertible car seat you already know they aren’t that fun to move around) or having to bring a car seat on board a plane. After a little searching I found & bought a great travel vest by RideSafer that works with a car’s regular seatbelt in the back seat. It tethers right into the car and properly places the seatbelt across a child’s chest and waist to hold them in place. The vest is designed for children 3 and up but we started putting Isla in it a little earlier. It gave us peace of mind to help fill in some travel safety gaps while allowing us to get around in taxis (both in the U.S. & Mexico), airport transfer vehicles & friends cars here in Cancun. Again this all comes down to your own personal comfort level but for us having a compact portable device was ideal for us as a family regularly on the go. I often hear people question the type of car seat they’d receive if they rented one through a car rental agency or for use in a transfer van. In my opinion the RideSafer vest gives you the control to know the type of child restraint your child will use, you know you’ll have all of the pieces (I’ve heard horror stories where not all of the tethers or buckles were in proper working order on a rental car seat) and the convenience of just carrying it all in one handy bag.
When staying in a place like the Cancun hotel zone public buses are a super convenient way to get around. The buses basically run in just two different directions up and down the hotel zone strip. There are different route numbers indicated on the bus but unless you’re leaving the hotel zone headed to the downtown area it only matters that you’re on a bus going in the right direction. Buses in general are the same as public transportation in any city. Some of them will have a/c and even wifi but take note that most bus drivers tend to drive fast. I don’t believe there are any fancy fully kneeling buses so you might need to think ahead if you’ll be alone with your little one and a stroller.
This might seem like a strange category to some but when you live in Cancun you’re only a ferry ride away from Isla Mujeres, an island notorious for golf carts as a regular mode of transportation. We’ve always loved renting a golf cart to go off exploring. Obviously golf carts don’t come with seat belts nor are they required but it felt important to try to somehow improvise something for Isla on some of those early golf cart rides as a baby. We used a Velcro sash that was part of our portable high chair harness system & just basically strapped her in to the seat. Having her belted in just made us feel a little better in case of sudden stops or when our wiggly little worm got any ideas to try and break free. It made her stay put and she never fought it.
Strollers & Carriers
I used to always keep both my stroller and carrier handy depending on the situation often storing our carrier in the bottom hanging basket of the stroller. As long as you have a fairly light weight stroller that’s easy enough to fold & unfold you should be able to bring it with you anywhere. Our Britax stroller is considered full size but I could fold & unfold it with one hand and it’s quite light. We always managed to find a place to prop it during transportation in other vehicles. For walking around large resorts, parks like Xcaret or strolling down 5th Avenue in Playa del Carmen, I’ve always preferred to have my stroller so my daughter could easily get in and out of it or lie down to take a nap. Longer days and more ground to cover also meant I’d have a place to stash little extra items I might need as well as have a spot to hang my bag so I didn’t have to carry it or place any drinks or snacks.
Some spots just aren’t stroller friendly and I’m glad I always had a baby & still a child who likes to be worn in a carrier. I’ve used various carriers with my daughter on Isla Mujeres, Holbox, heading out for an excursion on a boat like the Pirate Dinner cruise here in Cancun & lots of time on the beach. I’ve also learned from experience that there’s also lots of streets here in Cancun & while travelling just aren’t incredibly stroller friendly (no ramps so you’re having to lift up the stroller over high curbs, uneven sidewalks, narrow sidewalks or no proper sidewalks at all). I’d always recommend parents have a good carrier with them so they can decide as they go what method of toting their little one around is best for that particular day’s activities or situation. For us our Tula Toddler carrier has been our go to carrier. As a mommy living in extreme Cancun heat & humidity and constantly on the beach, it passes every test when it comes to staying cool, rolls up nice and compact & can be easily cleaned since it’s just cloth.
I noticed pretty early on that many small boat operators here in Mexico didn’t carry proper life vests on board for infants or small children. For my own peace of mind I purchased my own life jacket to keep on hand.
One time I found myself unprepared without her proper life jacket while we were in Celustun heading out on a boat ride to see flamingos up close in the rivers off the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. I did have her puddle jumper and realized it is US Coast Guard approved as a PFD (personal floatation device)! Although when I have a choice I prefer a life jacket for her when out in open water…a puddle jumper is still a much more secure option in my opinion that often the adult size life jackets some tour operators have tried to hand me for my toddler daughter. So if a puddle jumper is more convenient to travel with and you’ll get more use out of it also in the pool & swimming in the ocean, don’t be shy to bring it along with you on a boat excursion as a backup device.
Again how you choose to get your little one around Mexico will vary. Whether it’s just to & from the airport in a taxi or to go off sightseeing in a golf cart or on a day trip in a tour van there are still many ways you can keep your child safe. Many of the items I’ve mentioned were products we’ve used to make our lives a little easier while keeping safety in mind. And since we are regularly on the go and always out & about they are all items we have literally put to use many, many times…if not still using them! Especially if you travel often many of these items will make your family vacation life easier.
The following products were mentioned as items we personally bought and used with our daughter…
- Britax Travel System stroller & infant car seat
- RideSafer-Travel Vest
- Totseat-Portable High Chair Harness
- Tula Toddler Carrier
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