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Are you trying to pick the best travel car seat for a 5 year old? Or maybe you feel like your 5 year old is ready for a travel booster seat? You’ve come to the right place! If you’re shopping for a child of a different age, check out the best travel car seats for all ages to get to the right list.
If your family is anything like ours, at home the kids are riding around in harnessed boosters that might as well be kid-sized thrones. They’re amazing for safety and comfort.
But for air travel? Not so much. Many families don’t want to lug a 25 pound car seat through the airport, hoist it over an entire row to get it installed in a tiny airplane window seat, navigate back through another airport and then lift it into a taxi or rental car. A better choice if you can swing it is to pick up one of the many travel car seats for 5 year olds on the market today.
If your child is big enough and mature enough you can also start to consider some travel booster seats on the market. Nearly all of them are lighter than harnessed combination seats but not all 5 year olds are ready to make the jump – I know mine isn’t! Every family will need to decide what is the appropriate car seat for their 5 year old.
Read more: Bringing your booster seat on an airplane
What do we look for in the best portable car seat for a 5 year old? We have a few priorities:
-It has to be light, ideally not more than ~10lbs
-It has to be easy to use
-Ideally it should last at least 3-4 years
Of course every family has unique needs. If your child is extremely tall for her age or you think she would benefit from staying harnessed for a few more years, you might want to choose taller car seat even at the expense of a few extra pounds. If your travels involve a long flight and a long drive, look for comfort features like padding and cup holders to keep your youngest passengers happy.
Quick Picks: Best Travel Car Seat For A 5 Year Old
If you want to skip the details, here are my top picks for the best travel car seat for a 5 year old:
- Graco Tranzitions/Graco Wayz – works well for kids ages ~3-12 as a forward-facing harness, highback booster and then backless booster
- Evenflo Maestro Sport – best lightweight harnessed booster for lightweight kids (also available at Amazon)
- Ride Safer Travel Vest – booster seat alternative perfect for lightweight travel with preschoolers on up (full review here)
- hiflold – folding highback booster seat that fits in an overhead bin (full review here)
- Bubblebum – inflatable booster seat for mature kids who don’t sleep in the car (full review here)
October 2022 update: So many of you love hifold that it’s out of stock everywhere! There’s no ETA on a restock at this time. If your travel needs are pressing, check out the Peg Perego Viaggio Flex 120 (a bit heavier and folds a little bigger, but loaded with features that make it a great every day seat) or Ride Saver Travel Vest (full review + discount). For kids under ~45″ the Cosco Finale makes an affordable lightweight option while you wait for hifold.
Portable Car Seat For A 5 Year Old Comparison
|Travel car seat||Size|
|Evenflo Maestro Sport||forward-facing or high-back booster;|
Graco Tranzitions SnugLock
|forward-facing, high-back booster|
or backless booster;
|Cosco Finale DX||forward-facing or high-back booster;|
|Ride Safer Travel Vest||booster seat alternative;|
|Diono Monterey 5iST||highback booster;|
|Baby Trend Yumi||highback booster or backless booster;|
|highback booster or backless booster;|
|Peg Perego Viaggio|
|Bubblebum||backless booster seat;|
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Best travel car seats for 5 year olds
The NHTSA recommends that kids remain in a forward-facing harness as long as possible, and many safety advocates urge parents to keep their kids harnessed for several years beyond age 4.
The right type of car seat for a 5 year old is something of a crap shoot. You may feel ok with a booster for a 5 year old who is extremely mature, good at listening to directions and doesn’t usually fall asleep in the car. On the other hand, you may need to look for a 5 point harness booster seat for over 40lbs if you think your kid won’t be able to stay in a safe position 100% of the time.
In the reviews below, we mostly recommend travel combination car seats, which can be used forward-facing with a harness until your child is big enough and mature enough to use the seat as a high-back booster. That means they’ll last you for years – maybe even until the end of your car seat days.
Some lightweight convertible car seats might still work for your 5 year old, so if you have one laying around you can stick with that! Other than the one listed below, I wouldn’t recommend buying a new convertible car seat as you won’t get to use it for long.
At the bottom of this list you’ll also find a few booster seats that are appropriate for a mature 5 year old who meets the size requirements too. YMMV.
Does my 5 year old need a carseat to fly?
Probably not, as long as she’s at least 40 pounds and will abide by the seatbelt sign. The main reason to fly with it is that you need it at your destination and want to avoid checking a car seat on an airplane. For that reason alone, we still bring this car seat on flights with us if we’ll be doing a trip with lots of driving. If we won’t do as much driving (or will be flitting around on trains and buses too) we bring this instead and don’t use anything on the plane for our 5 year old.
Evenflo Maestro Sport review
-Max harness height 18.5”
-Forward-facing size limits 22-50lbs, 28-50”
-Highback booster size limits 40-110lbs, 44-57”
✔ Lasts from age 3 (as a harness) to ~age 8 (as a booster)
✔ Affordable price
✔ Easy to install
✘ Requires top tether, which may not be available in all countries
✘ Narrow set harness straps with no covers
✘ 6 year expiration
The Evenflo Maestro Sport harness-to-booster car seat is probably one of the best options for a travel car seat for kindergartners if you want one that will last a good few years and your child is on the lighter side. It offers nice height limits as a forward-facing harness and then plenty of room in high-back booster mode.
It’s hard to beat the all-around package of the Maestro Sport. It’s got enough padding to keep riders happy (unlike the previous version) and is light enough that we regularly carry it through the airport by the straps since we no longer bring a stroller. At only 9lbs, it’s truly a lightweight harness booster seat!
We’ve installed its cousin in an airplane seat many times while using it with the harness and it’s quick and easy. Our kids haven’t had issue with legroom, but we do remove their shoes and remind them not to (accidentally) kick their neighbor in front.
Note that Evenflo says kids should be at least 44″ tall to use it as a booster, which is about age 5.5 for an average boy. Our tiny kids haven’t hit that threshold until at least 6.5, so if your kids are small and you want to use a booster seat, this might not be the best choice for you.
The price is very affordable, especially considering that it’ll last you into elementary school if your child is on the slimmer side!
Beginning in mid-2021, all new Evenflo car seats will require the top tether. If you plan on international travel to the developing world where a top tether may be unavailable, you’ll have to evaluate whether or not you feel comfortable using the car seat against manufacturer instructions. The top tether is an important safety feature because it reduces forward head movement in a crash by 4-6″, but car seats are required to pass Federal crash tests without it no matter what.
The biggest downside for some families is that the shoulder straps are set fairly close to each other in 5-point harness mode. If Evenflo could make them even 1″ further apart, they’d have some very happy kids out there. The narrow setting is compounded by the lack of harness pads – which you are not allowed to add. Sometimes our kids have complained but usually they haven’t; when it bothers them, we try to just pull their shirt collars up to protect the sides of their necks. If your child has a broader build or is tall, he might do better with a different seat.
The 50 pound max harness weight of the Maestro Sport is also disappointing. Our older Evenflo SecureKid goes up to 65 pounds, as does the Evenflo Sonus 65, so I wish Evenflo had incorporated that extra reinforcement for the Maestro Sport. You can switch to booster mode at 50 pounds (the weight of an average 7 year old) and continue using the seat for several more years, but some kids who are higher on the weight curve won’t be mature enough for a booster seat when they hit 50lbs. Also a child who is very short and stocky may have an awkward gap when they’re over 50 pounds but under 44″ so they don’t qualify for either mode of the seat.
We used the similar SecureKid in booster mode for several years and it worked well. The seatbelt fit was good and it was easy to use. Just know that if you’re using it as a booster seat for your 5 year old, you won’t be able to bring it on board a plane with you. It’s not going to be the tallest booster seat around since the headrest on the Maestro Sport doesn’t adjust, but at least you can eek out a little more time by running the seatbelt over the headrest if your child gets a better fit that way and is still within the seat’s limits (including the tops of the ears still being within the headrest).
For average or smaller/thinner kids, we think the Evenflo Maestro Sport might be the best car seat for 5 year old kids whose families are on a budget but want a travel-worthy option. Since it converts between a forward-facing harness and a highback booster seat, many families can get at least three years of use out of it – not bad for a seat with a retail price under $100.
Graco Tranzitions review
-Max harness height 18”
-Forward-facing size limits 22-65lbs, 27-49″
-Highback booster size limit 40-100lbs, 43-57″, age 4+
-Backless booster size limit 40-100lbs, 43-57″, age 4+
✔ Fits from age 3 (as a harness) to ~age 12 (as a backless booster)
✔ Reasonable price for longevity
✔ Extremely narrow
✘ Original can be tough to install in some cars
✘ Heavier than other options
✘ Back and base may separate when carrying
✘ 7 year expiration
If we were on the market for a travel car seat for a 5 year old who still needs a 5 point harness car seat, the Graco Tranzitions 3-in-1 harness booster car seat would get some serious consideration. The price tag is extremely reasonable (and may be cheaper at Walmart) for what you get and it would be a great seat to use both at home at on the go. The best part? You’ll never have to buy another car seat again (unless you want to, that is).
Unlike the Evenflo Maestro, the Tranzitions harnesses to 65lbs (rather than only 50) has harness pads and a slightly wider distance between straps to keep your kid comfortable. It’s a better choice all around if your child is bigger than average and a solid choice for any family shopping for a 5 point booster seat for over 40 lbs.
The Graco Tranzitions also makes a good booster seat for a small 5 year old who is mature. The 38″ minimum is a big help for parents of peanuts like ours! It even includes premium features like an adjustable headrest and no-rethread harness.
So what are the tradeoffs? Nothing is perfect. You’ll have to carry around a few extra pounds for all those features, though you won’t notice a difference if you use a cart like this one or strap it to your suitcase.
Lastly, the base and the back can click apart from each other too easily when you’re carrying it around – this problem afflicts just about every booster seat that can become backless (including the one we use at home) and it’s such a nuisance!
Cosco Finale DX review
-Max harness height 17”
-Forward-facing size limits 30-65lbs, 32-49”
-Highback booster size limits 40-100lbs, 43-52”
✔ Lasts from age 3 (as a harness) to ~age 7 (as a booster)
✔ Extremely low price
✔ very narrow
✔ 10 year expiration
✘ Requires top tether, which may not be available in all countries
✘ potential seatbelt retraction issues in booster mode (can be avoided by not using guide, which is not required)
✘ LATCH not allowed in booster mode
✘ Sparse padding on the seat
The Cosco Finale DX is an extremely popular choice among the travel car seats for 5 year olds. It starts off as a 5-point harness car seat for a 5 year old and can later transition to a high back booster seat.
I’ll start with the pros, because there are two really big reasons why traveling families love (and I really mean love) their Cosco Finales. First, you absolutely can’t beat the weight. At 8 pounds, it’s the lightest car seat in its class! You can push it in a stroller, carry it in your hands or even strap it to your suitcase without breaking a sweat. Thanks to my fellow CPST Kelly who shared this photo of her kiddo riding in the Cosco Finale on a plane (you can see her younger one in the Cosco Scenera Next on a plane in the background too!).
Second, it’s really hard to beat that price tag. There’s actually an even cheaper version at Walmart but the padding is basically non-existent. Not only is it the lightest combination car seat, but it’s the cheapest one too! All car seats meet the same minimum safety standards regardless of price, so you can feel confident putting your child in the Finale.
New for 2020, there’s a slightly fancier version of the same seat sold as the Safety 1st Grand. It includes a more padded cover and two cup holders instead of one. The specs and shell are identical to the original Cosco Finale.
Third, it’s an extremely narrow 5 point car seat. If you need to fit 3-across and your on a tight budget, this is one of the best car seats for 5 year olds to consider.
So what are the cons? For starters, it’s not a seat that’s going to last particularly long. The 17″ maximum harness height is the shortest on this list – even shorter than the convertible car seat at the top! There are plenty of kids who will outgrow the harness mode at age 6, even if they aren’t mature enough yet for the booster mode.
The biggest downside for international travelers is that the Cosco Finale requires using the top tether in harness mode. Not all countries have top tethers in all cars (or any cars), so the Finale may not be the best choice for international travel.
The booster mode itself can be problematic too. Though the seat belt guide isn’t required, it can cause problems with the seatbelt retracting in some cars. I also don’t like that you can’t use the LATCH system to keep the seat in place in booster mode. Plus the booster mode will only give you another year or two since it’s so short and doesn’t adjust. If you buy the Cosco Finale at age 5, you might get three years out of it for an average size kid. But at such a low price, that may be ok with (or perhaps you have another kid in the family who will use it later).
And while some kids love the seat and find it comfortable enough, my kids are extremely picky about their padding… and not shy about it either. We’ve had to replace more than one seat (including a Cosco) because they just don’t find them plush enough for long drives.
All that said, the Cosco Finale DX might be the right choice for your family if you’re on a tight budget or you need an extremely narrow car seat to fit 3-across in a tiny European rental car.
Ride Safer Travel Vest review
-Size small: minimum age 3, fits best for 30+ lbs and 35-47″
-Size large: minimum age 4, fits best for 50+ lbs and 45-57″
✔ Rolls up to the size of a 2L soda bottle
✔ Perfect for taxi rides
✔ Lowers seat belt to provide an appropriate fit for young children
✔ Keeps kids properly seated better than a traditional booster seat – even when sleeping
✔ Easy to fit 3-across since it’s only as wide as the child
✔ 10 year expiration
✘ No side impact protection like a highback booster seat
✘ Takes practice to get belt fit right
✘ NOT permitted for use on planes
✘ Fits most kids better when they’re close to 3.5-4
Several years ago the kind folks at Safe Ride 4 Kids sent us a Ride Safer Delight travel vest to review, and it hasn’t left our travel kit since. The Ride Safer travel vest (“Delight” has been dropped with the latest Ride Safer travel vest Gen 5 release) is completely different than the travel car seats above.
You could say that the Ride Safer travel vest is sort of in between a booster seat and a traditional five point harness car seat. It relies on the car’s seat belt to handle most of the restraint, but also has an optional-but-pease-use-it-always top tether that minimizes head movement in an accident and keeps your child in the correct position even if they fall asleep (or drop a toy). While we won’t put our youngest child in a booster seat yet since she’s a car sleeper – especially when jet-lagged – we’re comfortable with her riding in the Ride Safer vest.
So comfortable, in fact, that we brought our Ride Safer vest on our year-long trip around the world! It’s seen action on six continents and served us well the whole time. Once we practiced a few times, we got very fast at putting her in the vest and getting her secured in the car. The biggest change from the Ride Safer Delight to the Gen 5 is an easier buckle in the front, so that should help many parents.
The Ride Safer Gen 5 is perfect for an average size 5 year old – our daughter still uses it often at age 5.5. The size small should last most kids until 6 or even 7. Because there’s no side impact protection, it’s a good idea to put your Ride Safer in the middle seat if it has a top tether available.
For families going on extended journeys like ours who just can’t take a traditional car seat or those heading somewhere like NYC or Paris, where they’ll mostly rely on public transportation but need an occasional taxi ride, the Ride Safer travel vest is a fantastic option. For a more typical trip that involves flying and then renting a car for a week or two, we sometimes opt to bring our other travel car seat.
While we generally think of the Ride Safer as a travel car seat alternative, we also use it at home often. I keep it in my trunk at all times so that we can fit 3-across in our car for those unexpected carpools or for when Grandma comes for a visit! Since the vest is as narrow as the child in it, there’s no trouble fitting it between two big car seats in our compact SUV.
Best travel booster seats for 5 year olds
Ok, so what if you feel like your 5 year old is mature enough (and big enough) for a booster seat? There are a few great choices to consider for the next stage.
When you’re shopping for a portable booster seat, it’s important to remember that booster seats are not FAA-approved. From a safety perspective, that’s fine: your child will be over 40lbs, so the airplane seatbelt will secure her properly. But what should you do with her booster seat so it’s not lost or damaged?
Take it on board! There are a few ways to manage this. One option is to buy a folding booster seat from the list below. Some of these look absolutely amazing and we’re excited to try them! They fold up small enough to fit in the overhead bin of a plane so that you’re never separated from them.
The other option is to separate the bottom of the booster seat from the back and put the back in a suitcase. It’s ok to check the back that way because it’ll be protected by the suitcase and padded by clothing. You’d then carry the backless part of the booster on-board with you and put it in the overhead bin or under the seat in front of your kid. The only risk is if your luggage is lost or delayed, but at least in a pinch you could use the backless portion of the booster on its own.
hifold fit-and-fold Booster review
-Highback booster size limit 4yo, 40-100lbs, 40-59″
-Belt guide 14-20″
✔ Tons of size adjustments for great fit
✔ Folds down small
✔ Legal to use everywhere except Australia (in progress)
✔ Extremely narrow
✔ 7 year expiration
✘ Expensive if you will only use for a few years
✘ No cup holders included
✘ Bigger than some of the other travel-specific car seats
Sometimes I can get just a little too enthusiastic about innovative car seats. In this case, I’m pumped. While I’ve never been totally sold on the belt fit of the mifold backless booster, the company’s new hifold Fit-and-Fold highback booster seat looks amazing for city-dwellers and travelers alike. No joke.
Read more: My in-depth hifold review
What’s so cool about the hifold folding booster seat? While the weight is nothing to write home about at 10lbs, it folds down into an ultra-compact package – 13.5″ square and 10″ high. That means it’s easy to carry around in a backpack, throw it in your trunk or even stow it in the overhead bin of most airplanes. Of the folding booster seats (would you believe that there are a few choices now for folding highback boosters?) it’s the lightest and folds the smallest.
The hifold is extremely adjustable to offer the optimal fit to booster riders of all sizes. There are three widths for the seat, three widths for the body, three widths for the head and nine height positions! It will fit new booster riders extremely well and grow with your child to the end of their boostering days when they’re big enough to fit correctly in an adult seat belt. For those of us with kids who are small for their ages but mature enough for a booster, the hifold is a fantastic option.
Ok so why wouldn’t everyone run out and buy a hifold? Unfortunately all that innovation doesn’t come cheap. Don’t get me wrong, I think the price is completely reasonable for what you get; however, the seat is something of a one-trick pony. There’s no harness for kids who aren’t mature enough to stay in position all the time, and it doesn’t convert to a backless booster seat when your child is ready to ride that way. So optimal window for most families will be around two years (let’s say 5-7, or perhaps 4.5-6.5 for families who feel comfortable transitioning to the “next stage” early). If you travel a lot or have a younger sibling to use this in the coming years, it’s definitely a worthwhile investment.
The hifold is a great choice for a 5 year old who is mature enough to ride in a highback booster seat but would still benefit from some extra support when sleeping. It’s also a great choice if you’re visiting a place like the EU, Australia or Costa Rica, where recent laws have pushed for younger booster riders to stay in a highback booster and increased the age for backless boosters to much older stages. In fact, it’s even approved everywhere in the world except Australia – and that’s in the works.
Diono Monterey 5ist review
-Highback booster size limit 40lbs/38″ to 120lbs/63″; max belt guide 21″
✔ Folds for compact storage
✔ Easy for kids to buckle
✔ Side impact tested
✔ Rigid LATCH for quick installation
✔ Very roomy, width adjusts to fit even the biggest kids
✔ Highest weight and height limits of any booster
✔ 8 year expiration
✘ Heavier than other folding booster seats
✘ Too wide for 3-across as kids get taller
If you’re looking for the best booster seat for a 5 year old who will just be traveling to Grandma’s house now and then, put the new Diono Monterey 5iST on your consideration list. It’s not the lightest car seat for a 5 year old on this list, but it has a ton to offer.
First off, the Monterey 5iST adjusts tall enough and wide enough to last nearly every kid to the end of their boostering days (it’s officially rated to 63″ and 120lbs). Since it’s good for 8 years, if you buy it now you may not need to buy your child another car seat or booster seat ever again.
When you do plan to take that occasional flight, the 5iST folds to about the size of a carry-on suitcase so that you can probably fit it in the overhead bin (YMMV depending on the airline and aircraft). Alternatively, you can just leave it at Grandma’s and she won’t even notice it in the closet since it folds so compactly.
The Monterey 5iST has plenty of great features: side impact protection, rigid LATCH, unbeatable ease-of-use and more. Subjectively, it also feels extremely sturdy. This is a wonderful everyday booster seat.
My kids absolutely love the booster we received from Diono. You can read more in my in-depth Diono Monterey 5iST review, but my 10 year old is so enamored that he’s chosen to ride in it full-time. That’s high praise from an image-conscious tween!
Babytrend YUMI Folding Booster Seat review
-Highback booster size limit 30-100lbs, 38-57″
-Backless booster size limit 40-100lbs
✔ Highback mode lasts until kids are ready for a backless booster
✔ Converts to backless booster
✔ Bargain price
✔ Cupholders and cushy padding for long drives
✔ 9 year expiration
✘ Folded size is as large as a carry-on suitcase
If you’re shopping for a bargain travel booster seat, here it is. The Baby Trend Yumi folding booster seat has been around for a long time under different names and was a pioneer in this type of product. But is it still worth buying?
The highback booster size limits are a little lower than the hifold above, but when your child is ready you can remove the back to use it as a backless booster that goes all the way to 100 lbs (theoretically – in practice, it would probably be too narrow for a 100lb tween to be comfortable). Combined with the rock-bottom price tag, the Baby Trend Yumi 2-in-1 folding booster seat is an incredible value. (Note: The previous version of this seat did not convert to a backless booster and is even cheaper.)
A big plus of the Baby Trend Yumi is that it’s a booster seat designed for everyday use. It’s got cupholders and plenty of cushy padding. That makes it a great choice if you plan to fly somewhere and then take the kids on a long family road trip. Other folding booster seats like the hifold might not win kids’ hearts on a six hour drive, which of course means less peace for us parents.
The big downside of the Yumi is the fold. Whereas the hifold collapses into thirds to make an ultra-compact package, the Yumi’s fold just isn’t as small. While you might be able to fit the hifold under the seat in front of you, the Baby Trend Yumi definitely has to go in the overhead bin – and possibly sideways, depending on the size of the plane. With overcrowded bins the days there’s something to be said for a tiny package that won’t attract the attention of the flight crew!
Still for families on a budget or those with long drives ahead, the Baby Trend Yumi is worth a look.
Graco TurboBooster TakeAlong Highback Booster Seat review
-Weight 11lbs (highback), 5lbs (backless)
-Highback booster size limit 40-100lbs, 43-57″
-Backless booster size limit 40-100lbs, 43-57″
✔ Highback mode lasts until kids are ready for a backless booster
✔ Converts to backless booster
✔ Extremely narrow
✔ Bargain price
✔ 10 year expiration
✘ Won’t work for kids on the bottom of the growth chart
✘ Too long when folded to carry on
Graco has long been synonymous with booster seats, and they’ve recently added an option for a sort-of-folding booster seat that could work well for lots of families. It’s not the most portable, but it gets the job done and could work as a booster seat for home as well as for travel.
The Graco TurboBooster TakeAlong booster seat comes either as a highback booster seat or as a backless booster seat; either way, the bottom part is the same. Unlike other folding booster seats, to collapse this one for travel you detach the back and then hook it onto the base of the seat. In this configuration, it’s probably too big to carry on for most airlines since you’re still dealing with the full height of the seatback.
On the other hands, the Graco TurboBooster TakeAlong backless booster seat collapses in half when you pick it up by the handle in the middle of the seat. Pretty nifty! It even comes with a carry bag so that it’s easy to transport.
In either mode, this should offer a good fit for kids who weight at least 40lbs and are mature enough to ride in a booster seat. It’s nicely narrow with the cupholders flipped in too.
Is this an amazing choice for travel? That depends on what you need it for. It’s not the lightest travel booster seat in this list, nor the most compact when folded. But many families will find it useful if they’re planning a flight followed by a long drive since it has a more traditional booster seat feel.
Peg Perego Viaggio Flex 120 Booster Seat review
-Highback booster size limit 40-120lbs, up to 63″
✔ Steel reinforced frame
✔ Rigid LATCH
✔ Tons of size adjustments for a great fit
✔ Reclines for sleep
✔ Extremely narrow
✔ 10 year expiration
✘ Really expensive
✘ No arm rests
✘ Folded size is as big as a carry-on suitcase
If you don’t have an enormous budget to spend on a travel booster seat for your 5 year old, just look away now.
If you’re still reading, don’t say I didn’t warn you. The Peg Perego Viaggio Flex 120 has some great feature, but the price tag makes me feel queasy. It’s hard to fathom spending that much on luxury high back booster seat that doesn’t have any other modes available. However, some of the premium features make it a solid choice.
First off, it’ll last forever… or at least as long as you want it to. The upper size limit is a whopping 120 lbs and 63″, which is the size of a petite adult. Most riders that size will fit in a seatbelt just fine without a booster seat so you may not ever need a backless booster. The other piece of lasting forever is that Peg Perego gives a whopping 10 years until expiration of this seat. If you have a second child (or third or fourth!) they’ll be able to get a few years out of this seat as well.
Second, it’s loaded with reassuring safety features. The Viaggio Flex 120 has rigid LATCH connectors to easily install the booster seat and keep it from moving around. The back of the seat is also steel reinforced for additional safety.
Third, kids generally like it. It’s padded, it has folding cupholders on each side and the lack of armrests (though a downside for long drives) means it’s easier for booster-age kids to buckles themselves.
So what’s wrong with this portable booster seat for 5 year olds, other than perhaps the price? It comes down to the portability aspect. The steel reinforcement and rigid LATCH add an extra 5-6 pounds compared to competitors, making you less likely to sling this one over your shoulder and use it out on the town. Likewise, it’s not all that small when folded – about 2′ long! You’ll be lucky to fit it in the overhead bin, but taking it when you walk around a city means you’ll need a really big backpack to carry it.
The best use for the Peg Perego Viaggio Flex booster seat is probably when you’re flying to head on a road trip and won’t be moving it in and out of cars all the time.
Bubblebum booster seat review
The final portable booster seat for a 5 year old in this roundup is one with which we’re extremely familiar: the Bubblebum inflatable booster seat. We traveled full-time with this booster seat for the better part of two years.
The Bubblebum is pretty amazing. It weighs about one pound and deflates/rolls to the size of a soda bottle. Setting it up takes just a few seconds, and there’s even a shoulder belt guide to give a great fit for kids of different sizes in all different vehicles.
If you’re a family with an extremely mature 5 year old who doesn’t sleep in the car the Bubblebum gives you the paragon of portability. It’s the perfect option for taking around on days in a city when you think you might hop in a taxi to get home at night or if you’re taking lots of planes and trains for an extended trip.
The Bubblebum is so light that it may shift if your kid is very wiggly. But if your kid is very wiggly, they may not be ready for a backless booster seat at age 5. In that case, I’d go with the RideSafer travel vest for an ultra-portable option. We also had an issue with one of our Bubblebums deflating after we left it inflated in a hot car for a month (oops!); we reached out to customer service and they sent us a whole new one for just the $7 shipping charge!
We started using this booster seat at 6 years old, and we think that’s about right. But it’s approved for 4 years old/40lbs and there are plenty of 5 year olds who can use it successfully, especially if your drives are short. This is a judgement call for each family and also depends on the specifics of your travels.
You can also read my in-depth review of the Bubblebum.
Best car seat for 5 year old FAQs
Ideally a 5 year old should be in a forward facing 5-point harness car seat. That can either be a convertible car seat (rear facing/forward facing), a combination car seat (forward facing/booster seat) or an all-in-one car seat (rear facing/forward facing/booster seat).
Most 5 year olds meet the height and weight requirements to ride in a car booster seat. However, their developmental level is just as important. Your child needs to be able to sit correctly in a booster seat 100% of the time, even when sleeping. Can a 5 year old sit in a booster seat? The law says ‘yes’ pretty much everywhere in America, but in most cases it isn’t ideal.
Some 5 year olds meet the height and weight requirements to ride in a backless booster seat. If your child is developmentally ready for that step, a highback booster can still be a better choice because it provides support for sleeping and the sides are an important reminder to stay seated in the proper position. In the real world, appropriate backless booster age often begins at 6-8 years old depending on the child.
The best car seat for your 5 year old is the one that fits their bodies, fits your car, fits your family budget and that you can use correctly 100% of the time. Many 5 year olds ride in combination (also called “harnessed booster”) car seats. In addition to the travel-friendly car seats in this list, here are some fantastic 5 year old car seat options to consider that will last your child for many years:
–Britax Grow With You ClickTight
–Chicco MyFit (save $30 when you by direct)
–Evenflo Evolve (check Evenflo’s website for discounts)
–Graco Nautilus SnugLock
The best booster seat for your 5 year old is the one that fits their bodies, fits your car, fits your family budget and that you can use correctly 100% of the time. If you feel that your child is mature enough to sit properly in a booster seat 100% of the time, a high back booster seat is the perfect place to start. The supportive sides will remind your child to sit properly. Be sure to check your car manual and the booster seat manuals for head rest rules – some car require head rests to be removed, but some booster seats require headrests behind them.
In addition to the travel-friendly car seats in this list, here are some fantastic 5 year old booster seat options to consider that will last your child for many years:
–Diono Monterey 4DXT (requires headrest)
You can also read about the most comfortable boosters for long drives (or for around town!).
What’s your favorite travel car seat for a 5 year old? Tell us in the comments below!