On a recent family vacation we made the decision to get a car seat from the rental company instead of lugging our giant car seat with us. Most companies will charge you $10-$15 per day to use the car seat, and they usually have infant or toddler (rear or forward facing) available.
I don't consider myself a germaphobe, but there are lots of unsavory things that children do in carseats. I'm 100% positive they don't do a great job cleaning carseats - I've been in too many rental cars to know the level of attention to detail the cleaning crews have (or don't have, as is most often the case). Thinking of the babe eating a dropped snack from the carseat, passing out and smushing his cute cheeks into the seat, his sensitive chunky thighs rubbing against the seat... just gave me the heebie jeebies!
So... I came up with a solution - a seat cover! I'm sure they sell them, but it took 20 minutes to make and cost less than $15!
STEP 1: Find a fabric you like that will be comfortable and breathable for the babe. I found an athletic blend that was airy and soft in a teal color.
I purchased 2.5 yards and laid it over the seat to see where to cut. Be sure to tuck the fabric down into the seat - don't just lay it over. Also, take into account that you'll use about 10 inches on either side for the hem.
STEP 2: While the fabric was draped, I used chalk to mark where the hooks in my carseat were. The rental may be slightly different, but these settings fit the babe, and a 5-point harness is standard.
When I laid my fabric out I realized my chalk lines weren't centered, so I made the black marks to use instead.
STEP 3: I sewed a basic hem in a giant circle around the parameter being careful to not close the corners. This is going to be used for a drawstring to fit the cover better. Give yourself a few inches or threading the drawstring will be torture!
STEP 4: I selected a beefy zig-zag stitch and went around the buckle hole (I stitched first, and then used scissors to cut a slit for the buckle to fit)
STEP 5: I then sewed a giant 'I' around the upper belt and lower belt connections. If the shape doesn't make sense to you yet, just wait...
The 'I' pattern after a quick pass with scissors:
STEP 6: I purchased some chord and a toggle at the store and threaded it through the hem:
Voila! A test fit on my own carseat looked great. Notice how the middle of the "I" is so the belts will come through? If you made 4 individual holes you couldn't access the chest buckle. The two sides will just lay on the seat behind the babe.
Here is the carseat cover in action on our rental seat. Notice it is MUCH smaller than our own car seat, but the drawstring keeps it tight around the edges and hides the extra fabric.
As much as I love the cover, I like to stick to my carseat manufacturer recommendation to not use ANY after-market products with our daily seat. They can reduce effectiveness and may void warranties.