Want to take a ridesharing service on your next family vacation? Whether you are a newbie to using Uber with kids or Lyft with kids or a newbie to them altogether, learn how ridesharing services work. Get pro tips to make ridesharing work when you uber with kids with your family in your travels.
Uber with Kids: How to Use Ridesharing Services
In the past few years, ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft have become serious players in the transportation market of most major cities. With a smartphone and data connection, you can hail a ride, monitor a driver’s progress to pick you up, and pay for the ride in one easy transaction. Gone are the days of waiting in the rain on a curb for a taxi that never materializes. No more worries about carrying cash to pay for rides.
The services are a bit more complicated for families with kids. Will a car be big enough for a family? Is ridesharing even safe? And for younger kids, what about car seats?
I have taken both Uber and Lyft extensively in my own travels domestically and abroad. I have also had kids along for the ride on many occasions. Here are the things you need to know about using Lyft and Uber with kids as well as some tips for all newbies to Uber and Lyft.
5 Travel Tips for Lyft & Uber with Kids
1. There are More Choices than Just Uber Now
The word Uber has become nearly synonymous with ridesharing. Uber certainly is the most ubiquitous ridesharing service, particularly in many major international cities. But there are other services travelers should know about.
Lyft is now a major competitor all over the USA and in many major international destinations. I personally choose Lyft whenever possible because of its friendlier corporate culture. Many ridesharing drivers now tend to drive for both companies, so the distinction between the two options is breaking down a bit. Additionally, for a long time, Lyft was the only service that made it possible for riders to tip their drivers in the app. Uber has now added that feature as well.
Although most travelers have heard of Uber and Lyft, there are other start-ups fighting for attention. Taxis in particular are trying to step up to compete. Flywheel is one app that allows passengers to request a regular taxi in many cities using smartphone technology. Many traditional cab companies now license its technology, making it one of the most widely available alternatives to Uber and Lyft.
Curb is another alternative to consider. Curb has now moved to a model that offers rides only with traditional licensed taxis (it used also to offer professional black car service rides). It operates in about 50 major cities, from New York to Chicago to Seattle, making it a major growing competitor in the ridesharing market.
Ridesharing service Via focuses on carpooling options, offering cheaper rides that may take a little longer as other passengers are picked up. Via is currently in New York, Chicago, and Washington DC.
There are other services like Wingz, which started as a pre-scheduled ridesharing service to airports. Wingz is expanding into more cities and now serves more than just airport dropoffs and pickups.
Finally, there are even ridesharing services like HopSkipDrive to chauffeur kids to after-school activities when parents cannot. HopSkipDrive is available in the San Francisco, Los Angeles/Orange County, and Denver areas.
2. Car Seats Can Be a Big Challenge
The most important thing that families need to know about taking ridesharing services with kids is also the biggest challenge – car seats. If you have little ones of car seat age, Uber and Lyft may just not work for you on certain kinds of trips in certain locations. Plan accordingly!
There is no Lyft car seat service anywhere. Luckily Uber offers an “Uber Family” or “Uber Car Seat” service in four cities: Washington DC, New York City, Philadelphia, and Orlando (more info on Uber Car Seat Orlando). You’ll see the option in the app when available. You’re likely to have to wait a bit longer for a car. Only one seat is available, usually forward facing. It doesn’t work well if you have an infant or two kids of car seat age, but it’s better than nothing.
What’s a traveling family to do? With little ones still in an infant bucket car seat, consider taking the bucket and a simple frame stroller (like the Graco Snugrider Car Seat Carrier) so you can take the car seat with you at your destination to act as a stroller. For older kids who are 4 years and 40+ pounds who can sit in a booster, take a compact booster like the inflatable Bubble Bum or the newly released mifold. It’s the in-between ages and sizes when kids are in a convertible car seat that can really be the challenge when Uber Car Seat isn’t available.
I know some parents go without a car seat like many have done in a taxi over the years, but there are obvious safety concerns. Plus, many drivers will refuse to take you because of their own liability worries (and state laws vary on whether car seats are legally required).
3. Bigger Cars Are Available for Bigger Families
You have probably seen those adorable Priuses with Uber and Lyft stickers on them puttering around your town. As a parent like me, you have likely worried whether you can even fit an entire family in one. Never fear. Most ridesharing cars are bigger than you would think.
My family of four regularly fits into a standard Uber or Lyft, even with one child in a car seat and another in a booster. If we need more space, that’s almost always available too. Both services offer cars that seat up to six – Lyft calls it “Plus” and Uber calls it “UberXL.” Just select appropriately in the app when you request a car. Often even bigger vehicles can be found in most major markets.
4. Watch Out for Surge Pricing
While a big draw of using Uber and Lyft is cheaper pricing, it’s possible that your family could pay more than a taxi if you aren’t careful. Both companies have surge pricing where rates for rides increase according to the on-the-ground demand. The thought is that by raising fares, more drivers will get out on the roads to be paid more, thus satisfying the demand. The risk for passengers, of course, is that they have to pay a lot more if they really need a ride when a surge is in effect.
For this reason, I strongly suggest that everyone always have at least both the Uber and Lyft apps on their phones at all times. The companies don’t always have surges at the same time so at least you can price shop a bit. And when surges are really high, hailing an old-fashioned cab might save you a bundle.
5. Check for Airport Pickup Availability
The most common time that traveling families will use ridesharing with kids services is to or from the airport. After all, that’s the time you are most likely to have a car seat with you that isn’t a burden. Be aware, however, that many cities have prohibited ride-sharing services from operating on airport property. It was only last year that both LAX and Orlando International Airport allowed Uber and Lyft. (Related: Using Lyft and Uber in Orlando).
Check before your trip whether your destination has convenient ridesharing service. When you land, know that many airports now have designated ridesharing pickup spots on the property. The apps often show you where to go, but pay attention to airport signage as well.
Have you taken Uber or Lyft, either with or without kids? Share your tips too! (And if you are new to Uber or Lyft, sign up with these promo rides for free ride credit to get you started: Use Lyft code LESLIE620998 for up to $10 in free ride credit. Use Uber code leslieh84 for $3 credit off of each of your first two rides.)