One of the biggest challenges of traveling with a small child is dealing with a car seat. You can bring one for an entire trip, but then you might wind up dropped off at some hiking trail with a car seat in tow. You can bring it to use just for some of your trip, but it feels like a bit of a waste lugging it around just for a few key trips. Or you can abandon it altogether, planning to hire drivers who have car seats.
For our recent trip to Santo Domingo, we opted for the third option. We relied on our hotel, Casas Del XVI, to arrange transportation with a car seat for four trips in the city (to/from airport, to/from Los Tres Ojos). To get to JFK we took public transportation. But getting back from JFK, landing around 5:30PM with a napless baby, we felt public transportation was a bad idea. Enter Kidmoto.
Here’s an excerpt from the Kidmoto “About Us” page:
Kidmoto solves problems for parents seeking airport car transportation. Major car services do not provide pre-harnessed and pre-installed car seats for child passengers, leaving children vulnerable to injuries, in case of an accident. Kidmoto offers a safe alternative.
Kidmoto is a mobile app connecting families with young children seeking taxis to New York City licensed & insured livery drivers. These drivers provide pre-harnessed and pre-installed convertible car seats for infants, toddlers, small and large children. This service is not offered by any of the major providers in the NYC marketplace.Kidmoto Website
Basically, Kidmoto is a booking service for people who need a car with a car seat. While this excerpt specifically refers to New York City, the service has expanded greatly beyond there.
Alternatives to Kidmoto
Before we get to the specifics of our experience with Kidmoto, I want to clarify alternative options. I’ll focus just on this JFK to home trip, but these could apply to other trips, too.
Uber Car Seat. The most obvious alternative is probably Uber Car Seat. When booking an Uber in New York and other select cities, you often have the chance to select a “Car Seat” option. We’ve used Uber Cat Seat successfully a number of times, mostly at Walt Disney World.
Unfortunately, we’ve had worse and worse luck with Uber Car Seat recently. Oftentimes the app will show the option, but when you click to book it just sits there trying to find a driver. I understand the app must have some sort of error rate in projecting pickup times and availability, but it shouldn’t be projecting 10 minutes and then not even able to find a driver within 10 minutes.
If we were arriving earlier in the day, I’d maybe have rolled the dice here. But we needed to get home ASAP.
The other issue is price. While Uber and Uber Car Seat are generally going to be cheaper than a pre-booked service, I saw prices surge over $120 while doing some research. This still isn’t as much as we wound up paying (read on), but it was close enough to make my decision a little easier.
Taxi. In many jurisdictions, including New York, you aren’t legally required to use a car seat in a taxi. With any viable alternative, this isn’t an option we’d take advantage of.
Public Transportation. Again, this mostly came down to time. Our commute to/from JFK takes about 90 minutes, realistically. While we’re big fans of public transportation generally, Zoe would have lost control about 15 minutes into the trip, only to get home an hour after bed time, still deprived of dinner.
Similar Services. There are several other services through which you can book a car with a car seat. Many private car services have the option to add a car seat, even if it isn’t their specialty. I don’t like to go this route because simply overlooking “car seat” in the booking could cause huge problems.
There are also a few other services that specialize in rides with car seats. The biggest name I came across besides Kidmoto was Ride In Bliss. Most of my decision came down to price.
Kidmoto refers to itself as “an app” on occasion, but this isn’t really the core of the service. They recommend booking at least 24 hours in advance. So while you could use their app to make your booking, this isn’t an on-demand service like Uber or Lyft. I just used the website.
One feature that absolutely shocked me was the “Free Estimate” feature. You wouldn’t believe in this day and age that a website would actually provide you a free quote without requiring your email or any identifying information, but Kidmoto is a unicorn in this regard. Complete the information in the “Free Estimate” box and you’ll get a quote:
The price of $179.99 was the estimate for a sedan with one car seat. The estimate for an SUV was $245.82. I opted for the sedan.
The Kidmoto price includes a 15% tip for the driver, which is another feature that distinguishes it from, say, Uber Car Seat. The $120 Uber Car Seat fare I showed earlier would be $138 with a 15% tip. In reality, to keep up my Uber rating when someone is transporting us with Zoe, I’m probably tipping at least $20 cash, probably more.
You’ll have to register with Kidmoto as part of making a booking, so just go ahead and use their “Sign Up” tab first. The actual booking details are what you’d expect—where, when, how many passengers, how many bags, how many car seats, what size car seat.
If you’re booking an airport pickup, Kidmoto uses your flight information to make sure the driver doesn’t wind up waiting an inordinate amount of time (which can result in extra fees).
I submitted my booking request after 11PM on a Sunday and immediately received what looked to be mostly a standard email, but for one impressive detail.
The email noted that pickup at JFK Terminal 5 (we were flying JetBlue, the primary airline at Terminal 5) is just a few feet from customs. It’s better, the email said, to skip having the driver meet you in the airport with a sign. That costs $10, but doesn’t make much sense here because the walk to the parking lot is so much longer.
Happy to take some good advice, I replied to the email saying I’d save the $10 and get picked up outside. Four minutes later, still late on a Sunday night, a customer service representative responded that they’d adjusted my request.
Getting Paired With a Kidmoto Driver
About 48 hours before my scheduled ride, I received an email and text from Kidmoto confirming my ride had been booked. The confirmation email included my driver’s name, vehicle, and license plate, along with the usual pertinent information for the booking (where, when). The text additionally included his phone number. We were upgraded to an SUV at no cost.
The estimate for the trip came to $178.81, only slightly different from the $179.99 the website had estimated. The difference was scattered in various small amounts across fees / taxes.
Keep in mind at this point the estimate is still just an estimate. I’d guess the biggest factor is the potential for a waiting charge. The first 60 minutes of this pickup (airport, international flight) were free. Delays beyond that would have incurred a 75-cent-per-minute fee.
Pickup and Travel Experience
Our flight managed to land roughly on time, and upon taking my phone off airport mode I received two texts from Kidmoto. The first said my driver was on the way. The second said my driver had arrived.
The actual pickup at the airport was the only moment of this entire experience that came with any friction. Having been impressed at booking with Kidmoto’s knowledge of JFK Terminal 5, I think they could probably standardize their pickup communication.
I sent two messages to my driver. The first said we landed and asked for instructions. The second told him we were through customs. Both times the reply was just “okay.”
To be clear, my hope and expectation was that the driver was busy navigating traffic to get to pickup from wherever he was waiting. I assumed he’d text me when he was closer about which pickup area to meet at. And that’s exactly what happened. He asked, I told, and a minute later Emily spotted him.
I don’t fault the driver for being a bit over-efficient in his communication, but I think there should be a more or less standardized procedure / script so that riders aren’t left with 10 minutes of “okay is my driver coming? where is he? where do I need to be? am I in the right spot?” For locals and frequent travelers this might not be stressful, but for some people it definitely can be.
In any case, right about 10 minutes after we’d cleared customs, we we loaded into the car. The car seat was already setup and we were easily able to pop Zoe into it. I didn’t note the actual model of car seat, but it had a profile similar to this one.
The drive itself was entirely pleasant. The car was in great shape and the driver drove with appropriate caution (our weekend abroad came with more…adventurous…driving).
Billing and Receipt
On Saturday when my ride was confirmed, I received an email from Kidmoto with the aforementioned estimate of $178.81. At that point, Kidmoto put a $228.81 hold on my credit card (presumably an extra $50 for possible extra waiting fees).
It actually wasn’t until a week later that I received a final receipt and charge for the $178.81 amount. The receipt had a detailed cost breakdown, including the distance and duration of the trip. The trip coded as Travel on my Chase Sapphire Reserve, meaning it would have been eligible for that card’s travel credit if I hadn’t already used it.
Conclusions About Kidmoto
For the record, I did check Uber Car Seat pricing while we waited for our driver. It was $60.90 with an estimated wait of 11 minutes. We’ll never know if that 11-minute wait was real, though (on balance, I believe it was probably close enough). It definitely raises the question of whether we thought Kidmoto was “worth it” or not, so let’s close with that.
Overall, Kidmoto impressed us a lot. The attentive, detailed customer service was particularly important to me. As alluded to above, when you’re booking a car with a car seat you really have no backup option (unless you luck into an Uber Car Seat, where available).
Most car services (and customers) could probably get away with dragging their feet because you can always find an Uber Black driver no problem. In the case of a car seat pickup, knowing that someone is receiving and processing your requests is incredibly important. I was really happy with how attentive Kidmoto was.
I also felt the service delivered good value for the price. The trip was incredibly comfortable (granted, we were in a complimentary SUV upgrade) and convenient for a price not much higher than Uber surge pricing.
In the end, actions speak louder than words. We’re already planning on using Kidmoto the next time we need a JFK pickup with a car seat. Overall we were very happy with the service, and we can’t wait to have another seamless trip home.