Whether planes or automobiles are your preferred means of transportation, when exploring the world with young kids, car seats are a must for safety. Travel car seats are a bit different than your typical car seats that may remain stationary in the car. Because you’re going to be moving it around a lot, you really want to make sure you’re comfortable with installing it, transporting it, and securing your child in the seat.
Comparison Table of the Best Travel Car Seats
Below is a list of the best car seats for travel. Click on the name to read reviews and check prices.
What To Look For in a Lightweight Car Seat for Travel
When you’re in the market for a travel car seat, here are some things to consider:
A convertible car seat is one that can accommodate your newborn until they’re a toddler. Convertible car seats typically work for infants starting around three pounds and may be able to hold a child until they’re around 65 pounds. The advantage to purchasing a convertible car seat is that you’ll be able to save money in the long run because you won’t have to buy another one when they outgrow their infant car seat.
2. FAA Approval
If you plan to fly with your car seat at all, then FAA approval is a must. You’re not allowed to fly with a car seat that is not approved by the FAA. If the car seat is FAA-approved then you should see a sticker on the side of the car seat that reads, “This restraint is certified for use in motor vehicles and aircraft.”
Some car seats come with tons of features and others only have a few. Consider what’s going to work best for you and your family. Some of the most popular feature considerations include: five-point safety harness, safety rating, canopy shade, cup holders, and removable and washable pieces.
4. Size / Width of Seat
This will be a more important consideration if you’ll be flying with the car seat, but it may also be important when traveling in a car if there will be several little ones in the back seat. The width of airplane seats tend to vary between 16” to 22”. Keep in mind that just because a car seat is FAA-approved does not mean it will fit in an airplane seat. Typically car seats that have a width of around 17” or less fit in an airplane seat, but you can always call the airline to make sure.
Consider whether you need a car seat or a booster seat for your child when you travel. Car seats are created with what’s called a five-point harness. These harnesses make contact at five points – both shoulders, both hips, and the crotch. When the harness is properly tightened it does not allow the child to move out of position. Both infants and toddlers can use car seats.
On the other hand, booster seats are used when toddlers outgrow their car seats. The job of booster seats is to ensure the seat belt sits in the proper location on the child’s body to restrain them. There’s not necessarily a specific time to move a child to a booster seat, but just ensure they’re mature enough to not move around and out of position too much.
If you’re on the go a lot, weight is going to be very important. You don’t want to be weighed down by the car seat or struggling to carry it through the airport. A lightweight car seat typically weighs around ten pounds. That should be a manageable weight for carrying it through the airport, onto the plane, and to your hotel.
Best Travel Car Seat Reviews
Now that you know what to look for, it’s up to you to choose what will work best for you from the best car seats below.
Safety 1st Guide 65 Convertible Car Seat
Easily one of the best convertible car seats for travel, the Safety 1st Guide 65 is well-known for its size and safety. Three of these seats can fit side-by-side in the back of most vehicles which is perfect for parents with multiples or several young kiddos. Weighing around 15 pounds, in rear-facing mode the car seat can accommodate children between 5 – 40 pounds while it can accommodate children from 22 – 65 pounds when it’s forward-facing. Side impact protection is built into this car seat and the five-point harness can be adjusted from the front of the seat. Thoughtful additions include an adjustable headrest, a removable body pillow, and a removable cup holder. In terms of safety, this car seat meets or exceeds federal, ASTM, and JPMA safety standards. For the perfect peace of mind when you’re traveling, go with the Safety 1st Guide 65.
Evenflo Tribute LX Convertible Car Seat
The Evenflo Tribute LX Convertible Car Seat is one of the best car seats to travel with because Evenflo has thought of pretty much everything when it comes to great car seats. Weighing just over nine pounds, its size and the fact that it’s so lightweight make it popular among parents. The car seat can hold rear-facing infants weighing between five and 30 pounds who are between 19” and 37” and a forward-facing toddler weighing between 22 and 40 pounds who is between 28” and 40”. The seat even reclines when it’s rear-facing. To ensure you can use the car seat as long as possible, there are four shoulder harness positions and two crotch buckle positions. This car seat includes a removable head pillow and an easy-off, machine-washable pad. Meeting or exceeding all applicable federal safety standards, if you need a lightweight car seat, go with the Evenflo Tribute LX Convertible Car Seat.
Chicco Keyfit 30 Infant Car Seat
Chicco prides themselves on providing an infant car seat that’s super easy to install accurately and securely. Well-known as one of the best travel car seats, it’s designed for infants between four and 30 pounds who are up to 30”. The car base has a ReclineSure leveling foot and two RideRight bubble level-indicators to help ensure the seat is at the correct angle. The head and body support are removable along with the canopy shade. For convenience, there’s a one-pull tightener on the five-point harness, and for improved impact protection, the carrier shell is lined with EPS energy-absorbing foam. Weighing in at 17 pounds, the Chicco Keyfit 30 is sure to provide the support and protection you’re looking for in a car seat.
Cosco Scenera NEXT Convertible Car Seat
Another one of the best car seats for traveling is the Cosco Scenera NEXT Convertible Car Seat. Its size is a plus for families who like to travel because most cars allow three of them to fit in the back seat. Ideal for infants and among the best travel car seats for toddlers, it can safely protect infants between five and 40 pounds (rear-facing) and toddlers from 22 – 40 pounds (front-facing). Wanting to ensure your child stays comfortable and protected as they grow, the harness features five heights and three buckle locations. The five-point harness can easily be adjusted from the front of the seat and there’s built-in side impact protection. It’s among the FAA-approved car seats and thankfully it doesn’t take up too much space in an airplane. Whether you’re driving or flying to your next destination, this is an ideal portable car seat for traveling.
Combi Compact Coccoro Convertible Car Seat
Traveling is easier with the Combi Compact Coccoro Convertible Car Seat. An airplane-approved car seat, it’s easy to install in smaller cars and tighter spaces at only 15.5” wide. When the car seat is rear-facing it can accommodate an infant between three and 33 pounds, and when facing forward it can accommodate a toddler between 20 and 40 pounds. The minimum height for children is 19” while the maximum is 40”. There are four different harness heights and there’s a color indicator to let you know the harness is securely buckled. The easy-off cover, harness pads, and infant insert are all machine washable to help keep the car seat looking good. If you’re looking for the best car seat for airplane travel, don’t overlook the Combi Compact Coccoro Convertible Car Seat.
Graco Contender 65 Convertible Car Seat
Designed to protect your baby until they reach 65 pounds or 49”, Graco has created one of the best toddler car seats for traveling. It can also protect your infant between between five and 40 pounds, so it’s a great convertible car seat option. This car seat is designed with a one-hand, eight-position adjustable headrest to ensure the car seat is always the right fit for your child. The LATCH-equipped car seat means you can install it with your vehicle’s seat belt or with the built-in LATCH system. Included is also a cup holder and a removable head and body support. Along with being engineered to meet and exceed safety standards, the Graco Contender 65 Convertible Car Seat features energy absorbing foam for effective impact energy management. With all the features it offers, you can’t go wrong with this car seat.
Cosco Apt 50 Convertible Car Seat
The Cosco Apt 50 Convertible Car Seat is one of the best car seats for travel because it grows with your child. The car seat is ready as soon as your baby is five pounds (19” height minimum) and it can stay with them until they become a 50-pound toddler (43” height maximum). The 11-pound car seat offers side impact protection, six harness heights, and three buckle locations. It’s LATCH-equipped and comes with a machine washable seat pad for easy cleanup. The aircraft-approved model is among the lightest car seats available and the dual cup holders make it easy to travel with and keep your baby occupied. Make your next trip a breeze with the Cosco Apt 50 Convertible Car Seat.
Graco Extend2Fit Convertible Car Seat
With extensive adjustable features, your child’s comfort and safety are the priorities. The four-position extension panel enables your child to have 5” of additional legroom when the car seat is rear-facing, and that’s only the beginning. There’s also a six-position recline as well as a headrest that adjusts to ten different positions. The car seat is designed for rear-facing infants between five and 40 pounds and front-facing toddlers from 22 – 65 pounds. The height maximum is 49”. The seat pad is plush and machine washable, making for a clean and comfortable ride. The car seat weighs just under 24 pounds and has met or surpassed the necessary safety standards. Purchasing the Graco Extend2Fit Convertible Car Seat guarantees your child stays as comfortable and safe as possible.
mifold Grab-and-Go Car Booster Seat
One of the best travel booster seats, the mifold Grab-and-Go Car Booster Seat is unique because it’s more than ten times smaller than a regular booster seat, but it’s just as safe as it’s met and exceeded safety standards. This booster seat stands out because while most booster seats lift up a child so they’re in the position of an adult, this booster seat does the opposite and holds the seat belt down. While it’s great for everyday use, it’s especially practical when a traditional booster seat isn’t practical or available, like during a taxi ride or when you’re taking a bus tour of your new favorite city. Weighing just under two pounds and measuring around 10” x 4.5” x 2”, it can fit inside of nearly all luggage sets and even inside of something as small as your travel briefcase. It’s designed for children four and older who are between 40 and 100 pounds and 40” – 57”. Thanks to its size and weight, it’s definitely among the best travel car booster seats.
BubbleBum Backless Inflatable Booster Car Seat
Nobody should be surprised to see this on the list of the best car booster seats for travel. The BubbleBum Backless Inflatable Booster Car Seat is a safe, inflatable, and super portable seat that’s perfect for everything from vacations to car pools. It actually contains more memory foam than air, and the foam technology creates stability and structural integrity in the case of an accident because it reduces the displacement of air. The car seat was created for kids aged 4 – 11 who are between 40 and 100 pounds. It inflates within 20 seconds and once deflated it can easily fit into everything from your duffel bag to your travel bag. And yes, it does meet and exceed the necessary safety standards. The seat weighs just over one pound and measures 11.8” x 5.9” x 3.9”. Whether you’re only heading to Vegas for the weekend or you’re vacationing overseas to explore the best of Thailand, the BubbleBum Backless Inflatable Booster Car Seat will be a welcomed companion.
Both you and your child will love your new travel car seat. Any of the above car and booster seats will ensure your child can see the world in safety and comfort.