I recently took a trip to Taiwan with my family, and things have changed a lot since my last couple of trips in 2009 and 2012. I’m definitely going to need to update my “travel essentials” post—and one thing I might include this time around is the WhizRider.
The WhizRider is a portable car seat alternative, currently seeking funding on Indiegogo. The price is $64 (with some slight savings if you get more than one), and there are two sizes available, in two color options (blue with red trim, or pink with yellow trim). I was sent a sample to try out just before my trip, so I could put it to the test.
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On previous trips to Taiwan, I’ve spent a lot of time in cabs. Of course, car seat laws are a bit more lax there than in the U.S.: kids typically aren’t required to use them (at least in cabs), and they’ll even let you squeeze in extra kids because they only count as “half a person” toward the seating capacity. This time around, since we had a really large group (my family, my parents, and my sister’s family), we actually spent more time on public transit than in cabs. We did have an extended jaunt down south where we rented vehicles and drove ourselves, and we also took cabs to and from the airport (both in Taiwan and home in Portland).
Taking a car seat on an international trip, even a backless booster seat, is a bit of a pain. In Taipei, we’d spend a lot of time walking around the city. If you take a cab to get into town, carrying a car seat for the entire time you’re out and about wouldn’t be feasible. In past trips, we’ve just gritted our teeth and put our kids in the back seat, hoping for the best.
This time, I gave the WhizRider a spin. Here’s the concept: it’s a vest that includes a chest strap and two straps that loop around the upper thighs. The shoulders and leg straps have metal loops—the shoulder belt and lap belt slip into these loops. The shoulder loop keeps the shoulder belt from going across your kid’s face, and the leg loops keep the lap belt across their hips rather than sliding up to their stomach, so your kid can’t slide under the lap belt. Once your kid is wearing the vest, strapping them into the seat belt takes only a little more time than buckling it for yourself: you just buckle it, and then slip the straps into the three loops.
Our 6-year-old was on the upper end of the smaller size, so that’s the one we used for the trip. She was excited to try it out, so we didn’t have any trouble convincing her to wear it. There are a couple of downsides that we noticed. For one, it’s not very comfortable to walk around in. Typically we’d just put on the vest shortly before we were boarding a vehicle, and if we were going to be walking for any length of time, we’d just stow it away in its carrying case. As you can see from the photo above, the leg straps fit a little bit like the sort of safety harness you’d wear for rock climbing. The trim on the edges is reflective, so presumably it’s intended to be a safety vest that they could wear while walking after dark, but realistically I probably wouldn’t use it for that. The other downside is that sitting on the car’s seat without a booster meant that my daughter couldn’t see out the window as well because she’s too short.
The vest itself scrunches down easily and fits into the carrying pouch, which has a little belt that you can clip onto a bag, though the whole thing is small enough that we usually just stowed it into a backpack. There are instructions printed on the outside of the bag itself, with more detailed instructions printed on Tyvek attached to the inside of the pouch. I thought that was a nice touch—it ensures that you won’t lose the instructions because you pulled them out of the pouch.
We used the WhizRider extensively for the few days we were driving around on the southern end of Taiwan, and a couple of other times when we took cabs or other vehicles, and it was definitely a nice balance of convenience and safety. I felt better about having the vest than just strapping her into a seatbelt in a cab (or having her sit in a lap!), which is what we’ve had to do with our kids on previous trips. Now that we’re back home with our own vehicles, I’m less likely to use the WhizRider on a regular basis because we have booster seats, but I could see using it if we’re catching a ride with somebody. Mostly, I think it’s something that will be nice for when we travel, but won’t be as needed for everyday use. (If you don’t have your own vehicle and are frequently using cabs or car services, though, it may be more useful to you.)
If you’re interested in getting one for yourself, check out the WhizRider on Indiegogo! The campaign ends this weekend.