Wondering if ride sharing services like Uber and Lyft are a good option for your family? Want to know what to expect and how to get started?
We have used both Uber and Lyft several times in Washington D.C., Fort Lauderdale and Los Angeles. We are headed to Orlando this week and expect to use Uber and Lyft most of the time because it is the most convenient and affordable option from our rental home.
These ride sharing services are available in most metro areas in the U.S and beyond. They are usually less expensive than a rental car or taxi and more convenient than public transportation, especially when we have all our luggage.
We use the mobile apps to check the fare, and can often get a ride within 5-10 minutes – especially from busy places like airports and hotels. Uber and Lyft have brought competition into the ground transportation market, which keeps prices down.
Here are my tips for successfully using Uber or Lyft with kids.
Download both apps
Download both the Uber and Lyft apps on your mobile phone. Both services are available in most big cities, and often, one will be a little less expensive than the other. You can quickly check prices for your trip on both and then choose the option you like better.
Look for coupons
Uber and Lyft both offer coupon codes for new riders. Search “Uber” “Lyft” or “taxi” on Groupon. It pays to use both so that you can save twice. Click the button to check coupon codes near you on Groupon.
It takes a few minutes to get your account set up before your first ride. I recommend doing this before you leave home. You'll input basic personal and payment information. Credit, debit and PayPal are accepted.
When you need a ride, open the app and punch in the name or address of the place you want to go. You'll get a list of different car options and prices, with approximate arrival times. Select the ride you want, and you'll receive the name of your driver and a description of the car. The driver will call you when he/she arrives, or sooner, to ensure a smooth pick up.
I tried Uber for the first time without my family at the Fort Lauderdale airport. I was amazed when my driver arrived within three minutes and the short ride to my hotel cost just a few dollars. Many airports now have waiting zones for Uber and Lyft and drivers wait nearby for fare opportunities.
When you arrive at your destination, you just collect your bags and thank your driver. You do not need cash or credit card handy because the app completes the transaction with the payment information you input earlier. Tips are not expected with Uber or Lyft.
What size car do you need?
Uber and Lyft both offer larger cars for up to 6 passengers and many families will need to upgrade to Uber XL or Lyft Plus. Sometimes my family of four fits just fine in a basic Lyft or UberX, but when we have all our luggage we get a Lyft Plus or Uber XL. UberXL or Lyft Plus is usually an SUV, which ensures that we all will fit.
Luxury vehicles with top rated drivers are available for an extra charge with both Uber and Lyft. Both services also offer ride sharing so you can share the car and split your fare with another rider, but that's probably not a good option for most families.
Now or later?
Both Uber and Lyft offer the option to schedule a ride in the future. This makes sense when you know you need to leave at an exact time and cannot afford to wait. It may also be helpful when you are outside the city and may not have many drivers nearby.
Here's an example where it probably would have helped to schedule a ride. We called an Uber to meet us at our hotel in National Harbor, Maryland – about 10 miles from downtown Washington D.C. Two days earlier, we used Lyft to reach National Harbor from D.C. with no problem. We wanted to go back to D.C., but we requested the ride at rush hour, and the 10 minute estimate turned into 20, then 40 with no response when we tried to contact the driver. We finally cancelled the Uber and took a black car from the hotel curb. The price was actually competitive, but we would have saved the tip and the long wait.
What about car seats?
You can only count on car seats for Uber or Lyft in a handful of cities right now, and even then it's a bit risky. You can't expect the car seat being rear facing and you can't expect to get more than one car seat. Furthermore, you won't know the history of the car seat and you need to ensure that it is installed correctly.
The car seat service may spread to more cities but parents will continue to be responsible for resolving the other problems. Bring your own car seat if you want the safest ride for your child. For infants, it's a good idea to bring your own rear-facing car seat. You can use it on the airplane or check it for free.
My friend Leslie at Trips with Tykes tried Uber's car seat service in Orlando, Florida. Read her review and tips HERE.
When to get another ride
Uber and Lyft are not always the best option. You can often find hotels with free shuttles to/from airports and popular destinations like theme parks. Public transportation is nearly always less expensive, but is not always the best option with luggage, at all hours, or when you get farther away from city center.
Taxis can be more convenient, and compared with UberXL, there may not be much difference in price. Check the apps first, then ask if your taxi driver can offer a competitive price.
Last spring break, we needed a ride from Miami to the Fort Lauderdale cruise port. We walked out of our hotel and were ready to request an Uber, but found a yellow taxi van ready to go. The taxi rate was higher than Uber, but the driver countered with a competitive rate. We climbed in the van and headed for the cruise port.
Ready to ride?
Click the buttons below to visit the Uber and Lyft websites. You can see what options are available at your destination, link to the app and see my favorite feature, the fare estimator.