Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Car Seats

According to the State Department's country profile for the Dominican Republic (dated June 22, 2009), there are no child car seat laws in the Dominican Republic - and hence Punta Cana. This does not mean that you should not bring a car seat on your trip, but it does mean that you may encounter a few more surprises in terms of some local driver experiences and habits if you do bring one.

1) Contact Club Med Punta Cana (or your resort, if you stumbled on this site and are going somewhere else) directly to ask what they normally recommend that parents do when traveling to Punta Cana, and if they can recommend a known transportation solution that *will* work with a car seat. Note that you may need to contact Club Med Punta Cana reception directly rather than calling sales/customer service in the US to find the answer to this very local question.

2) Find contact information for taxi companies prior to your trip (there are #s online, some even have websites), email them, and ask about using a car seat. Siutratural Tax Bavaro Punta Cana and Beron Taxi come up quickly in searches - note that I have *not* used these companies. Ask if their cars have LATCH. Confirm what make/model/year of vehicles their drivers usually use - if they don't address the LATCH question, the info about make/model/year may inform you more as to whether your car seat(s) will fit and if the car will have a LATCH system for familiar installation. You may pay more for a taxi if arranged this way (rather than getting one randomly on arrival at the airport - although the Siutratural rate to Club Med as "Hotel Club Med / Los Corales Punta Cana" listed on their site seemed fair, at $12, as we've paid $10 - but at least you'll be more informed and hopefully have a good outcome.

3) For random selection of a cab at the airport (there are plenty waiting), one parent could walk with the driver out to the parking area to check out the vehicle and see if the car seat would fit and are seat belts readily available, and then walk back quickly (it's not far) to get the parent/kid(s)/gear. No point in both parents and kid(s) going through hot parking lot with all the gear if you may not go with that driver/vehicle - you'll feel under more pressure to say "yes" to the driver if you've got everyone/thing assembled there.

4) Review your car seat instructions for non-LATCH installation to figure out how to install without using LATCH, in the event that the vehicle you get has seat belts but no LATCH system. In 2001, US law required car seats and most vehicle to begin featuring LATCH, but not all vehicles you'll encounter overseas were made in or made for export to the US. (If you can find your original instructions, try the manufacturer's web site.)

5) Bring your own car seat rather than relying on one provided (if you can find one) by a taxi or car rental company. If you don't want to lug your car seat on the plane and through the airport, you can check it and use the 1-lb CARES flight restraint system instead.

Additional things to consider
Type of vehicle you'll take from airport to village and back to airport
If you don't arrange for private transport ahead of time --

  • Tour-style bus/coach: You'd most likely take this type of bus (or coach) if you travel with a group, via air transport arranged by Club Med. I don't know how a car seat would work with this type of bus. Not to say that it wouldn't, but even in the States, car seats are not required in buses and suitable accomodations (such as provision of seat belts) are not required.

  • Taxi: Some taxis at the airport are not sedans - they are like a compact van. We took this type of taxis to/from the resort in both '08 and '09. In '08, I don't think the vehicle had seat belts readily accessible. In '09, it was a nicer vehicle that did have seat belts (so somewhat easier to install a car seat).

Type of car seat
Many infant car seats require a base, and parents are accustomed to installing the seat rear-facing. This type of installation may be more difficult in one of the compact van-type taxis (not sure about tour style bus). It's possible that some front-facing styles might work more easily (particularly booster seasts).

Planning your family's stay at Club Med Punta Cana? More info here:

Please post and let others know your solution!

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