Thursday, June 22, 2006

Homegoing: Travel Safety in the Motherland?

So, staying on this travel/carseat tip we're on, I have a question for you, dear globetrotting readers.

We're planning a big trip to the Philippines in January, the first for both me (after 8 years of marriage to my lovely came-to-the-U.S.-at-age-one wife) and The Pumpkin, who will be just over 2 years old. We'll be with my parents-in-law and my sister-in-law's family, the only part of la dra.'s huge extended family in the States, and we'll be spending almost all our time with said huge extended family in the provinces.

In starting to plan the trip, la dra. was remembering how she and her mom took our nephew, now ten, back with them when he was about the age The Pumpkin will be on this trip. Not being her own kid, and motherhood still just an idea and years away at that, my wife, she is horrified to admit, was not thinking like a parent. She can't really remember how he was on the plane (except for when he mimicked a nearby coughing passenger), and her enduring memories are of how he almost got bitten by a goat he was teasing and how he subsisted on a diet of mangos (fine) and, because of the water quality, Coke (not so fine). Contemplating a similar trip with our babygirl, with all of our anxieties and the precautions they engender, she's really quite amazed that they survived that earlier trip unscathed.

And so, here's the thing that's prompted this post: carseats. They didn't have one for our nephew back then, and being years pre-baby, it didn't even cross my wife's mind at the time. So on every overcrowded jeepney and in every rental car packed with relatives, he sat on her lap. Now, thinking about taking our Pumpkin on a similar trip, our first instinct is, of course, "Duh! Of course we're taking the carseat." [I lug our Britax Roundabout in a bulky backpack thingy, by the way—lots of fun navigating airports with that thing in back and a top-heavy luggage cart in front, I'll tell you. That, of course, is because we've always taken the stroller with us. Maybe, by that age, we'll have to switch to a more portable umbrella stroller? Or take P.L. and F-Bomb's advice and go for the Go Go Kidz? Or maybe just have the relatives take turns passing her around?]

But then, other thoughts creep in. [Don't go gettin' all smackdown on me, CityMama, we're still gonna take one, just hear me out, okay?] First, the issue of logistical practicality. Can't exactly put a Britax in a jeepney, yeah? Okay, we'll probably be renting the biggest van they can find on the island, but still.... Of course, weighed against the potential for a crash with one of those jeepneys [I'm told that traffic signals and laws are seen more as suggestions—kinda like when we lived in Rhode Island]—again, duh.

But here's the trickier one, in which the subtle nuances of culture come into play. Will us, bringing and insisting on using our fancy European carseat, be seen as just another signal that we're self-important, stuck-up Americans? Again, this is not something that would make us not take it, it's just something we hadn't thought about before. And, again, fitting in vs. our baby flying out of a car? Yeah—duh.

So, after all that, here's the question: What have been your experiences in other countries (ancestral homelands or otherwise) with vehicle safety and the use (or not) of carseats? Especially in places where practice, whether due to law or custom, is different from here? [Anybody actually know the situation in the Phils.?]


superha said...

You know us... car safety is priority number 1!

AmericanFamily said...

You may want to consider taking a Tote N Go rather than a full sized car seat.

( )

I haven't tried one myself, but the meet basic saftey standards, but are very small and lightweight.

Ka_Jun said...

In the 'Pinas, you could always strap the Britax onto the jeepney's roof, next to the crate of manok.

kathy said...

Here's what I'd do: bring some kind of car seat for the plane ride and giant rental van, and then wing-it with the jeepney. ka_jun is right, no way would you be able to get a car seat strapped into a jeepney--pretty sure they don't even have seat belts!

FWIW, when we were in Spain we only used the car seat in the taxi to/from the airport and in the rental car. We just held Lex in our laps for all other taxi rides. Even in MA, babies are not required to ride in car seats, though I'd still recommend it!

One last thing, definitely bring a cheapo umbrella stroller, but you may also want to consider a cheap backpack. As I recall, strollers require some relatively even surface and once out of the cities flatness is not always guaranteed. Also, since you're going in January, it won't be too hot to have her on your back.

Just my two cents!

Deirdre said...

To be perfectly honest, although I am Ms. Britax-for-all at home we did go on a few car-without-seatbelt tours in third-world countries because we didn't want to deal with lugging the carseat around (due to the possibility of unsafe cars without seatbelts).

In a similar situation, I might be tempted to just buy a smaller carseat (okay, I might even be tempted to bring a booster seat, but I have big kids for their age), then bring an umbrella stroller (I actually recommend a MacLaren Volo for travel - not cheap but they are light and have a carrying strap right on them), and a mei tai cloth carrier (it can be worn like a backpack but is totally not bulky).

Christopher said...

Where are you going in the Philippines specifically? You won't be taking any jeepneys if you stay in Metro Manila. (And truthfully, if the jeepney is in an accident, the car seat you're holding in your lap isn't really going to help with it being strapped in). Just spent a month there and didn't see a single car seat anywhere and only one or two cabs had working seat belts.

dennis said...

We have also had this discussion (me being an godless devil of the West and her being from RPI) and decided after our first trip that we would definately bring carseat. Let's face it, traffic laws are more rumors than suggestions in RPI.

Just remember no matter where you go, it's your kids you are considering. For that I am more than willing to endure a few stares from people I will probably never meet again.

Sprog Mamma said...

Growing up on Guam we used no car seats and there was no seatbelt law until I was 13 or so. I have been to Manilla and Bangkok and know about the jeepneys and the tuk-tuks. Bring along your car seat but are you sure there will be seat belts to hold the car seats in place?

la dra said...

we're going to Pinamungahan in Cebu which is a tiny town with hardly any cars in it. How about karabao? No seat belts on that! But moves too slow to pose much danger anyway, right? ;)

Anonymous said...

love your blog!

I would follow the metroblogging Manila, and ask the questions there.

Christopher said...

la dra:

Karabao might not be such a bad way to get around!

Actually, you'll probably see more trikes than anything where you're going. (Motorcycle with a sidecar made for 1 1/2 people that you'll have to squish in. Oh, and maybe stick your head out the back window like the giraffe from the Schoolhouse Rock cartoon. But I digress). If you're flying to Cebu, you'll probably take a bus from there (for god's sake, make sure it's not the regular bus--no air con) without seat belts.

I think you'll be better off with a soft front/backpack carrier type of thing. Of course, you're going to need a seat for the plane, but carting it around the Philippines isn't going to work. Maybe use it to get to Pinamungahan but ditch it until the ride home?

la dra said...

yeah, the "trisycol" fits 1 american but 5 locals! Definitely no car seat! haha! The last time we went I remember we had to pay double because the dude was losing the fair of 2 other people because of us!

jellogirl said...

We took our kids (ages 2 and 4 at the time) to Japan and did not bring carseats. My cousins with even younger kids did not use them at all, and there was no way we were going to fit into the cars with it, so my mom basically told us we shouldn't bring one, and definitely not two. There is a carseat law in Japan, but it was barely enforced at that time. Given the obsessive-compulsive nature of the country in other ways, I've always found their approach to auto passenger safety to be totally perplexing. There is a seatbelt law now -- but only for FRONT seat passengers; if you are sitting in the back seat, they apparently do not care if you are ejected from the vehicle! But I digress. We rode mostly in cars, and in a "micro-bus" that didn't even HAVE seatbelts. And you know what? My then two year old daughter remembers almost nothing about that trip -- not even meeting Hello Kitty at her Palace in Sanrio's Puroland -- except for how much fun it was NOT to have to be in a carseat, and how she got to roll around in the back of the station wagon with her cousins while we were there. She is almost 8 years old now -- one of two kids in her class who still use a booster seat in the car -- and still talks about that like it is one of her fondest memories EVER in life. It makes me realize how constrained children are, literally, unlike when we were kids ... and got to roll around in the back of the station wagon with our cousins.

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