The search for a car seat for my 3 year to ride in her grandparents car was proving frustrating. After rejecting a number of car seats for various reasons I finally decided that that Fisher Price Safe Voyage Deluxe Convertible Car Seat was the closest I was going to find to perfect.
Recommend this product?
The Fisher Price Safe Voyage Car Seat is a convertible car seat, manufactured by Britax and similar to their Marathon model. This seat is rear facing for children 5-33 lbs and forward facing for children 20-55 lbs and at least 1 year of age. The seat has a two position recline, 5-point harness with 4 height adjustments, LATCH connectors and a removable cover that can be hand washed. It is FAA certified for use on planes.
Why the Fisher Price Voyage?
Ever try to fit three car seat across a back seat in a sedan? It isnt easy. Once we settled on a seat for my son, and a booster for my oldest I needed to find a reasonably priced seat for my 37 lb 39 3 year old. I had planned on a Safety 1st Apex 65 but it simply did fit in my mothers car. I was shocked to discover that my sons Britax Marathon did. However $260 was way over budget but $150 for essentially the same car seat was going to have to be doable.
It had been two weeks of car seat nightmares, trying out various seat combinations before finally finding three that were reasonably priced and would fit in my mothers car. Of all of the seats that we bought, I must say that I think this is the best of the lot, and perhaps the best seat I have ever used!
There is no doubt that it is a tight fit in the back of my mothers car, but I was able to get a nice tight outboard installation using the lap/shoulder belt and tether. The seat doesnt move and I can close the door without hitting the car seat. That was all I asked!
We recently took an 18 hour car trip. Although my daughter seems comfortable in her Safety 1st Apex for our trip I decided to borrow the Fisher Price Voyage because of its greater incline by design. The seat installed easily with our automatic locking lap belt and tether in our Chevy Venture. I definitely had to fuss with it more than the Apex (which just seems made perfectly for our vehicle) but I was able to get a satisfactory installation.
I did not play with a LATCH installation, but I can tell you that I dont like this style of LATCH connectors. You need to press on a tab and hook the connectors over the anchors buried under the car seat. Until my mother buys a new car this seat wont be in a LATCH position anyway so I will work with them then. However, based on my personal experience with this style of LATCH clip on other seats if you are going to move this seat around a lot I think a seat belt installation is easier. One nice addition to this seat, you can pull back the cover when installing the seat rear facing, making it a little less of a struggle.
The seat has two recline position, one for rear facing and one forward facing. Rear facing, I doubt that the recline angle is steep enough to get the proper 45 degree angle, but a pool noodle or towel would take care of that. The base of the seat actually has a rounded cutout designed just for that purpose. There is no variable angle indicator, simply a red line on the shell of the seat that is horizontal when the seat is installed correctly. The recline mechanism is different. Instead of pulling on a handle and rotating the seat on its base there is a bar that slides along a U-shaped. One end of the U is for rear facing and the other end is for forward facing.
Securing the Child
Like many car seats, you need to rethread the harness straps to change the height. It is a pain, but not terrible since you dont do this very often. You do however have to remove the seat from the car to do this.
The harness tightness is adjustable from the front base of the seat. Pull the lever and pull on the straps at the shoulders to lengthen the harness or pull on the loose end at the lever to tighten. Easy enough to do, although the opening in the cover is rather small for adult fingers and covered by a flap. However this does keep it is well out of the way of curious hands but it is still accessible when the seat is installed rear facing.
The chest harness is plastic and easy to close and easy enough for my mother to open. My daughter is frustrated that she cannot open it herself yet, unlike the chest clip on her Apex. Whether this is good or bad depends on your child. My daughter is old enough to understand that she cannot touch any button on her car seat until I show her the keys (meaning the car is turned off). I like that she can help get herself out of her regular seat; but if you have a little Houdini on your hands a more difficult to unlock slip may be a bonus.
When inserting the crotch buckles, each one buckles independently. So once you get one fastened it is staying fastened no matter how much you child struggles against it. There is only one position for the crotch strap designed to fit a 5 lb newborn and a 55 lb preschooler yeah, Ive never figured out that logic either!
The straps are mostly non-twisty. They are not as thick as he virtually untwist able as our Marathon straps, they are more along the line of the occasionally twisty straps of the Britax Regent. Britax obviously knows how to make straps that dont twist, why they dont put them on all of their car seats is beyond me!
This car seat sits very high on the seat, even higher than our Marathon. This was nice for my daughter sitting in the center of the van; she was easily able to still see out the window. One difference is she has to climb in forward facing, which she doesnt seem to like. She is used to standing on tip toes and sliding her butt up into the seat.
The covers are not exceptionally soft and plush, more of a durable nylon type fabric. The nylon fabric does make wiping up messes easy but for bigger messes the cover can be removed and hand washed. Still the covers are very well padded and there is additional padding underneath the cover between the plastic shell or the EPS foam. The seat seems comfortable and there is no doubt that of our three children, Buttercup slept the best on our long road trip.
There is an additional head rest pillow and harness strap covers. While the harness system threads through the pillow, it is too soft and unstructured to stay against the back of the seat. It crumpled up under my daughters head and back so I ended up removing it. It was far more trouble than it was worth. Im not a fan of strap covers on any seat, I always take them off and my children are none the wiser.
The Fisher Price Voyage and the Britax Marathon A Comparison
Britax is now manufacturing several of their seats for Fisher Price at a substantial price reduction. This convertible car seat is the basic Marathon shell with a few differences; in my experience with both seats the differences are largely positive.
The most significant difference between the Marathon and the Voyage is the upper weight limit; 65 lbs for the Marathon and 55 lbs for the Voyage. In practical terms, this doesnt mean much. Most children outgrow the harness height on a forward facing seat before the weight limit. My oldest outgrew the Marathon for height at less than 45 lbs, well below either weight limit. If I had to guess I would say that even my more averaged size 3 year old will outgrow the height before the lower weight limit. A higher 65 lb weight limit sounds nice, but 55 lbs is more in keeping with the actual size and design of the seat.
Those annoying, rash causing rubber pads on the harness are gone! Britax likes to make parents think that their patented HUGS system was designed to make seats safer. In fact, they were put on seats in response to a recall for one of the first seats Britax sold in the US. I do not know, but I wouldnt be surprised if the lack of HUGS pads and the lower 55 lb limit are not a coincidence.
The Marathon has built-in locking clips while the Voyage uses a more typical loose metal locking clip. Since most cars have automatic locking seat belts few people actually need to use any locking clip for a seat belt installation. The Marathons built in clips are prone to break and pop open on their own; I wouldnt trust my childs life to them! Yes, the metal clips are tougher to use, but in the long run they are probably safer if you have a vehicle that needs them.
If someone were to make me pick my absolute least favorite feature of our Britax car seats it would have to be the crotch buckle system. You get one buckle to slide into the locking mechanism, your child arches his or her back or struggles even a little and the buckle slips out again. This is also frustrating for children, like my 5 year old, who have the dexterity to buckle themselves in. She gets one side in, moves to find the other buckle and the first one pops out. I much prefer the Voyages independent locking system. Once the buckle is locked in place it does not come out until you press the release button. The buckle also has one of the firmest feels of any car seat I have ever used, there is no doubt that the buckle is locked.
It seems odd to me that Britax would redesign the recline mechanism of the car seat, but they did. The Marathon has a lever you pull and the seat rotates on the base. At first the sliding base system seemed cheap. However, since both seat only have two positions one for rear facing and one for forward facing this isnt a feature you change very often. And the engineer in me says that the less mechanical something is i.e springs, handles and locks the less likely it is to break. I cant say that I have ever had an issue with the recline mechanism of any car seat I have ever owned, but there is always a first time. The sliding base system is sufficient and actually much easier to use.
The Marathon can be tethered when rear facing and the Voyage cannot. I personally would never anchor a car seat to anything that wasnt designed for that purpose. Since I am only going to tether the seat when it is forward facing, that is good enough for me. The tether release is also much easier to work. Instead of trying to push on a button you simply rotate the buckle back and the straps lengthens. While I have other seats that are supposed to work like that, this is the Fisher Price Voyage is the only one that I have actually gotten to work as easily as claimed.
Should You Buy a Fisher Price Voyage?
I think you should, but who am I to tell you how to spend your money. If you have an extra $110 you want to spend to get the Britax name emblazoned on your car seat, or one of their cool covers go for it. If you believe the Britax makes safer car seats than anyone else the Voyage is a good way to get that and have $110 for something else. While I still think $150 is too much for a car seat, this is the best car seat I have ever used. I wish I could justify getting rid of our Marathon and replacing it with a Fisher Price Voyage. For me Britax eliminated the worst features of the Marathon and what remains is a solid, safe, easy to use almost affordable car seat.
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Amount Paid (US$): 150