Using Uber with kids may seem daunting but it doesn’t have to be. In my last trip I was using Uber with kids. Here is my story and my best tips.
Why am I relying on Uber to get me around? Here’s my story: Two and half years ago, my family packed up and started a multi-day journey from Maine to San Diego. We expected to be gone for five months, and we were driving because there was no way I was going to be stuck with a two and three-year-old without a car all day long for five months, especially with all of my usual support systems gone, as well. (On a brief trip earlier, I had relied on a rental car to make naps happen–not happening in a hotel room with a noisy older brother!) Our road trip was going well we were making good time; we were in Indiana when my husband got the call that his work assignment had been canceled. Ack! So back we went. If we had flown, we would still have been home when his orders changed. Needless to say, this made driving out seem a lot less practical.
Using Uber With Kids
This year, with our stroller and napping days behind us, I looked at our planned four-month trip and said, “Oh yeah. We’ll be good. We’ll use public transportation and Uber.” I eagerly called on the intrepid traveler I used to be, and indeed, it was with a sense of adventure that I stood on the curb awaiting my first Uber ride.
I love that you tell the Uber app where you are and where you are going and pay right through your phone. This makes the actual ride so much less stressful. The app will tell you how many minutes to expect for your ride to show up. The best part–though it felt like approaching doom as I nervously tracked my first ride–is the little car that you can watch travel towards you on the map. The app also has pictures of your driver and the kind of car they drive, which is very helpful as you scan the horizon for them anxiously. If there is only one of you, you can choose the carpool option which apparently costs less. I chose it both times and didn’t actually have to carpool, but still got the low price. The app isn’t perfect–it’s pretty intuitive, but I was a little afraid I might accidentally order a car I wasn’t ready for. I have not been able to find out if there is a way to cancel a car through the app. I also wish there was a way on the app to book a round trip. If there is, it isn’t obvious. The app notifies you when your car is arriving, and the driver is to wait for two minutes. So far, I haven’t missed a ride!
When I told my husband I was quite nervous about my first ride, he advised me to look up a video on how to use Uber. I said that I doubted there was a video outlining what exactly to say to the driver, which was my main concern. Happily, this was not as uncomfortable as I feared it might be. Though the drivers varied in professionalism–one offered me complimentary gum and water, one didn’t have her driver’s license along, etc–they were all very friendly and put me at ease.
One little thing that had me quite nervous–ok, go ahead and laugh–was whether I should sit in the back seat or front seat. Most of my taxi riding experience was in a country where sitting in the front seat was common, at least if the back seat was full, and I never traveled with less than a pack! So I was confused and distressed in Chicago when, in a cab with several friends, I slid into the front seat and the driver looked at me with more fear than I ever though 5 foot little me could inspire. He clearly thought I meant him harm. I think I even sat on top of something that he had in that seat. It was awkward. Since Uber drivers are not regular taxi drivers, though, just people with cars, I wasn’t sure what to do. I asked the first one where I should sit and she said either place, so I sat in front. However, I sit in the back with the kids when they are with me.
Special Considerations for Parents
Even if you are just taking Uber from your home and don’t have to take car seats on the plane, without a car to leave them in, you won’t want to have bulky seats to carry around on your errand/outing. I really wanted the mifold belt positioner to bring out with me because it is so small, but it wasn’t available in time. Instead, I went with the Bubble Bum, a very trim inflatable booster that packs down small enough to get two and then some into my backpack. You wouldn’t want these for your regular, full-time seat, but it beats having no seat in a taxi!
Here are some great suggestions for travel car seats. Click the image for more details.
One fluke I discovered is that while on my end I could tell the app exactly where I was going–say, the grocery store or Ikea–my driver only had the address. When you’re aiming for a giant strip mall or neighborhood, this isn’t really enough. Since she was following her GPS, she took a few unnecessary turns that she could have avoided with more information. The app will give you the opportunity to message the driver; I didn’t know why you would on that first ride, but now I message to tell them exactly where I am waiting (which door of a crowded grocery store, for example) and also the name of my destination.
I found myself waiting for 15-20 minutes outside a grocery store and while it wasn’t too shady, there were a few possible derelicts hanging out with me that put me on guard. I was alone that time, but it made me aware that when out with the kids, I would want to have scouted the area out first to ascertain it’s safety and whether there was a place to wait inside.
And on that note, when I did travel with the kids, I found they wanted to tell the driver their names and any scrap of personal information possible. They did ask my permission, but it’s a situation you might want to prep for ahead of time.
So far, my experience with Uber has been great! What other tips would you add?