Prev Next

Of Car Seats & Charter Buses

By Amalah

Photo by StarMama

Hi Amy!

Love the column… its my go-to place when I need any sort of advice!

Soooo… I have a dilemma.. My brother is getting married in about six weeks and my two kids are in the bridal party. My daughter will be 3-1/2 and my son 2… We have about a 45-minute drive to the reception from the church – and there is some talk about stopping at other locations to take pictures, etc. My dilemma is that what do I do about car seats? I don’t feel comfortable having them just sit on our laps or whatever. They are getting on a party bus and not a limo.. will these seats accommodate car seats? We have toyed with the idea of having someone follow in the car with the kids, but its not really practical and my brother and his fiance really want the kids with all of us… what to do??


The very first thing to do is call the bus rental company and talk to them about it. Do their buses come equipped with seat belts? Shoulder or lap? Have they had passengers use car seats before? Do they rent or provide car seats? (Many car rental companies do!) A little cursory Googling led me to a few random limo/charter/party bus rental companies that provided clear information about using your own car seat on board OR using one that they provide — even on buses. But some sites were alternately clear: no seat belts on their buses, no way to secure a car seat. Others simply said: call to discuss.

Honestly, I’d say this is a task your brother (or whoever arranged the bus rental) should have already handled for you. Even if you did plan to hold your children on your lap, the bus company might not have the proper liability coverage for a child that small and could potentially not allow you on board the day of the wedding. Dramz! You can NEVER assume stuff like this: check, check, double-check.

So. Let’s say you call and confirm that the bus does NOT have seat belts. That means no car seats, at least not one that you aren’t MacGuyvering in there to dubious safety standards anyway. Then it’s up to you to make a judgment call. If you feel very strongly about the need for car seats, then perhaps the bus rental company could cut you a deal on a secondary rental car. I would not expect the bride and groom to pay for it, though, as it would be your call. (However, if the rental company says that your children are not allowed on board for liability reasons, then I’d say the cost of a rental car or cab should be covered for you.)

Now. Here comes the waffling.

The safety profile of a bus is VERY different from a car’s. There is a reason most buses don’t have seat belts — they’re actually safer without them, as a bus collision is vastly different than a car collision. Seat belts have been found to actually increase the risk of head and neck injuries on buses, due to the height and angles and build of the seats. Think about the hundreds of thousands of children who ride school or public transport buses every day, sans seat belts and car seats. (My 3-1/2 year old still rides in his Britax tank of a seat in our car, but rode unrestrained on a school bus multiple times this summer for camp field trips, and will be riding it every day this fall.) Even Disneyworld, with its entire prime demographic of the booster-seat-and-under crowd, shuttles everyone from airport to hotel to park to cruise ship in seatbelt-less charter buses, with small children expected to ride on their parents’ laps. A bus — even a short-ish charter bus — has a tremendous size advantage (and also doesn’t go as fast) over a car or SUV, so the chances of being seriously injured in crash are quite low, comparatively speaking. Your children would very likely be just fine on your laps. (You can also check the safety rating of a specific charter bus company here. )

Of course, you can also argue that the buses’ safety features are generally designed for adult bodies and not toddlers, and yes, there IS a risk of your child getting bounced off your lap or hitting the seat in front of you or some other injury. There’s also the risk of your child slipping in spilled champagne on the dance floor, or eating something tainted from the buffet, or pulling the ice sculpture down on himself. There is risk — there is always risk — and it is 100% up to you to decide if it is simply TOO MUCH risk. If so, well, practicality be damned. You make your own separate transportation arrangements. We all make a zillion of these judgment calls in our parenting lifetimes, and this one is no different. Good luck.


Published August 28, 2009. Last updated October 29, 2017.
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

icon icon
chat bubble icon


  • Tiffany

    August 28, 2009 at 11:22 am

    Okay, tangentially-related question, since I have no kids and was randomly wondering about this while on vacation: Taxicabs. Do parents with car seat-aged children just not take them? Do you walk around with a seat and base and try to install it for the cab ride? Inquiring minds want to know!
    Editor: The car seat lady does a great job explaining how to handle taxis:

  • Hey You

    August 28, 2009 at 12:34 pm

    When The Son was about 9 months old my parents surprised us with a trip to Europe for the whole family. (it was entirely by boat or charter bus tours) After the first day when we realized that his car seat would not fit in a charter bus– I said a little prayer and left his car seat in the cabin for the rest of the trip, he traveled in our lap through 5 countries and it worked well–and the tour company never even blinked at him on our lap.
    I would just let them sit on laps and enjoy the day without the hassle of car seats.

  • Joceline

    August 28, 2009 at 1:12 pm

    As Amy has said, this is a call that you have to make as a parent. That being said, maybe it will comfort you to hear that I have two children under the age of two and take public transportation all the time (buses, subways, taxis) with the kids sitting on laps. The buses and taxis are driving slowly in stop and go city traffic where the likely accident would be a tiny fender-bender, which is part of what influences our decision. Both kids ride in securely installed, rear-facing, tethered Britax seats when in our car, but a bus is very different.

  • Elaine

    August 28, 2009 at 1:41 pm

    Good food for thought all around. Another angle to consider is the route you will be traveling. Will the bus be in heavily trafficked areas? Lots of stop lights? Extremely curvy roads? Over bridges? Roads without shoulders? I personally might worry more if we were transiting on curvy roads with small shoulders than through residential neighborhoods with a speed limit of 30mph. I don’t have any answers for you. But in any case, I hope your family has fun at the wedding. Best wishes to your brother and his bride!

  • T

    August 28, 2009 at 2:10 pm

    @ Tiffany, whenever we go to see my sister in NYC, we use a car service that provides car seats for us to use just to get from the airport to her house and back at the beginning and end of the trip. Other than that, we walk or use the subway.

  • Melissa

    August 28, 2009 at 10:41 pm

    I think the advice you’ve received so far is great, with one minor disagreement. That is, in the event you aren’t able to take the bus because the company will not allow it, I would not expect the bride and groom to provide alternative transportation. While the bus is a nice gesture the bride and groom are making to make things easier on their bridal party (and likely themselves as well), simply because they’re making the party bus available doesn’t mean they’re obligated to provide transportation for everyone. Generally speaking, the bridal party is responsible for their own transportation. The option they chose may not work for everyone, which stinks, yes, but it doesn’t mean they’re on the hook for everyone. If they insisted that your kids ride the bus, then sure, they’d be obligated to get a bus that could accomodate your kids in a manner you’re comfortable with. The only other way I think they’d be obligated is if somehow the some aspect of their request caused you to incur some sort of special cost not typically associated with transporting yourself and kids from the ceremony to the reception (e.g., they insist you take the limo to the church, which means you have to cab to the reception because you don’t have a car at the church).

  • Olivia

    August 31, 2009 at 8:06 am

    I’ve always wondered why school buses weren’t required to have seatbelts, and now I know!

  • Lauren Woodley

    October 15, 2015 at 3:48 pm

    I have the exact same question as Lisa. My daughter’s friend is throwing a birthday party and renting a party bus, and I want to make sure that this is something that is safe and regulated. The suggestion you give to call the rental company and talk to them about it was really insightful, however, seeing if they provide car seats was really smart, too. I think that getting one of these will assure me that the company will be accommodating, and I can send my daughter to this party knowing she will be safe and will have fun. Thank you for sharing! 

  • Kate Branham

    December 1, 2015 at 8:45 am

    I like how you talked about the difference in safety features on a bus and on a car.  There are good reasons why most buses don’t have seatbelts.  I think that the children would be safe, and there wouldn’t be any problems.