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Are you trying to pick the best travel car seat for a 6 year old? Or maybe you feel like your 6 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 6 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 6 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 6 year old. In this article we’ll help you make that choice.
Read more: Bringing your booster seat on an airplane
What do we look for in the best portable car seat for a 6 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
On that last note, some of the options on this list are affordable enough that you might want to choose them even if they’ll only last you a year or two. Better to spend a few dollars to keep your kid boostered to a safe age than to let them ride around unsafely, even on vacation! Most kids need a booster seat until 10-12 years old to get a safe fit with an adult seatbelt.
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 6 Year Old
If you want to skip the details, here are my top picks for the best travel car seat for a 6 year old:
- Evenflo Maestro Sport – lightweight harnessed booster that works well in both modes
- Graco Tranzitions SnugLock – easy seatbelt install anywhere in the world, works for kids ages ~3-12
- Ride Safer Travel Vest – booster seat alternative perfect for lightweight travel with kids who aren’t mature enough for a booster (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)
- Graco Turbo GO – folding booster seat for mature kids who want a more “normal” booster seat feeling or who are too broad for the Bubblebum (full review here)
Portable Car Seat For A 6 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;
|Ride Safer Travel Vest||booster seat alternative;|
Take Along highback
|highback booster or backless booster;|
Take Along backless
|backless booster seat;|
|Bubblebum||backless booster seat;|
|Graco Turbo GO||backless booster seat;|
|Chicco GoFit Plus||backless booster seat;|
Best travel car seats for 6 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 6 year old is something of a crap shoot. You may feel ok with a booster for a 6 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 6 year old, so if you have one laying around you can stick with that! But 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 6 year old who meets the size requirements too. YMMV.
Does my 6 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 6 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
✘ 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. 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!
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 SureRide, 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.
We also used this seat 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 6 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 6 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 30-100lbs, 38-57″ (40lbs minimum for SnugLock)
-Backless booster size limit 40-100lbs, 40-57″
✔ Lasts from age 3 (as a harness) to ~age 12 (as a backless booster)
✔ Reasonable price for longevity
✔ Extremely narrow
✘ Can be tough to install in some cars
✘ Heavier than other options
✘ Back and base may separate when carrying
✘ 7 year expiration – will still fit many kids as a backless booster
If we were on the market for a travel car seat for a 6 year old who still needs to be harnessed, 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.
It has an option pillow for extra padding and even two cupholders, which can be rotated inward to save space and make this a great car seat for traveling with three kids. For added convenience, as your child grows taller you can use the Simply Safe feature to adjust harness height – in fact, the Tranzitions is the only no-rethread harness on this list since that’s usually a feature found on much heavier car seats.
New for summer 2020, Graco has released the Graco Tranzitions SnugLock 3-in-1. The biggest improvement is that it now includes the SnugLock lock-off system, which is perfect for installing in countries where seatbelts don’t lock (avoiding the dreaded locking clip). The newer version also has improved padding, air vents and a safety-focused 40 pound minimum for booster mode. Get more details here.
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.
Some parents have had trouble installing the original Tranzitions (or the Graco Wayz) in certain cars, but the new SnugLock version makes that a thing of the past. It also requires a top tether for installation, which you may not find in developing countries.
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!
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 forward-facing 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.
Read more: My in-depth Ride Safer travel vest review
Many families wonder what size to buy. That can be a little tricky and I think the current vest runs bigger than the size chart indicates. The size small should last most kids until 6 or even 7 (if they’re on the smaller side). If your child is bigger than average or older but still not ready to ride in a booster seat, you can opt for the Large or even XL size. In fact, the Ride Safer travel vest is one of the best travel car seat options for taller kids who aren’t booster-ready, as all of the very tall harnesses on the market weigh 20+ pounds.
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 6 year olds
Ok, so what if you feel like your 6 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 – here’s what you need to know about flying with a booster seat. 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. We own most of these and they’re great! 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.
You can also find even more travel booster seat options here.
hifold fit-and-fold Booster review
-Highback booster size limit 33-100lbs, 36-59″
-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 is 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 with backs (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. This is a solid travel booster seat for a 6 year old who is mature enough. For those of us with kids who are small for their ages but mature enough for a booster, the hifold is a fantastic option. My 8 year old has been happily riding in the hifold for months.
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, have a younger sibling to use this in the coming years, or will need a highback booster seat for longer then it’s definitely a worthwhile investment.
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The hifold is a great choice for a 6 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.
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. Our 6 year old nephew started traveling with this booster recently and it’s been working great for him.
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 hand, 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. You can attach it to the outside of your carry-on and then put it at your child’s feet.
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.
Alternatively, this could be the best booster seat for a 6 year old who mostly uses it at home with the back and then takes only the backless portion for travel. Using just the backless portion also makes it a wonderful booster seat for carpooling since it’s so easy for kids to set up on their own.
Bubblebum booster seat review
Here’s a great portable booster seat for a 6 year old in this roundup 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 starting when our son turned 6.
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. It’s also extremely affordable, even for something you’ll only use every now and then.
If you’re a family with a mature 6 year old who doesn’t usually 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 just yet. 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!
The Bubblebum also has a relatively small seating area and your child’s bottom needs to be within the silver edge. If your 6 year old has wider hips, you might want to scroll down to the next option, the Graco Turbo GO (full review here).
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.
Graco Turbo GO folding booster seat review
Do you like the idea of a more “traditional” booster seat but want a more compact form for travel? Or do you worry that your child will outgrow the width of the Bubblebum too quickly? The new Graco Turbo GO backless booster seat might be your best travel car booster seat option! We recently got this for our older child and there’s plenty to like.
When it’s all set up, the Graco Turbo GO looks just like a regular backless booster seat with nice big belt guides that are easy for kids to use on their own. Ready to hit the road? The back part of the booster seat folds underneath to make it a more compact package. It can take a little “oompf” to open up, but overall it’s fast and easy. When folded it’s a good bit bigger than a Bubblebum, but it offers the advantage of being a more stable seating surface (and a wider one for big kids).
Note that the minimum height for this folding booster car seat is 43″ – many kids won’t reach that until almost 6 years old. Our son didn’t get there until almost 7 years old, so parents of shorter kids may need to look elsewhere.
At 3 pounds, the Graco Turbo GO booster seat is one of the lightest booster seats available. It’s also extremely affordable (and may be even cheaper at Walmart)! If your child is ready for a backless booster and you don’t mind the extra size or weight compared to the Bubblebum or if your child has outgrown the small seat of the Bubblebum, this just might be the best booster seat for travel.
Chicco GoFit Plus review
-Backless booster size limit 4yo/40lbs/38″ to 110lbs/57″
✔ Great padding
✔ LATCH to secure it when unoccupied
✔ Nice, removable/foldable cupholders
✔ Long arm rests
✔ 8 year expiration
✘ The 57″ height limit means tall kids might need another booster down the line
✘ Seat isn’t wide enough for kids at the top of the growth chart
We own the Chicco GoFit and love it! The padding is nice and squishy, the arm rests and cup holders are great and the price is very reasonable. It’s not terribly wide and the cupholders fold in to help it play nicely with other car seats. Installing the booster seat with LATCH is just as easy as with all of our other Chicco car seats.
This is a great booster seat for kids who are one the smaller end of the growth chart. If you have taller or broader kids, the seat may not be wide enough to hold them until the end of their booster days. There’s also a 57″ standing height limit, which may not work for the tallest kids.
This is the booster seat we use at home and the one we take for our older child when we know we’re going to be doing a lot of driving at our destination. It’s extremely comfortable and has a great carry handle integrated into the back of the seat (it’s where the back would attach if you’d bought it as part of the KidFit highback booster seat, which we also have and like). On some planes my son has put the GoFit at his feet, while on other flights he’s put it in the overhead bin.
If you want to save a little money and a little weight, the original Chicco GoFit weighs about a half pound less than the Chicco GoFit Plus – the only differences are the lower anchors and fancier armrest fabric on the Plus.
Best car seat for 6 year old FAQs
Most 6 year olds are big enough and mature enough to ride in a high back booster seat or even a backless booster seat. If your 6 year old can’t sit still in the car or still likes to sleep in the car, it’s better to choose a 5-point harness.
For 6 year olds who still need a harnessed booster seat, the Chicco MyFit (save $50 when you buy direct) and the Britax Grow With You ClickTight both offer long-lasting harnesses. You might just need to strategize about how to travel with them!
Most 6 year olds meet the height and weight requirements to ride in a 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.
Most 6 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.
The best car seat for your 6 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 6 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 options to consider that will last your child for many years:
–Britax Grow With You ClickTight
If your 6 year old is ready for a booster seat, check out these great options to find the right one for your family!
A 6 year old absolutely needs a car seat or a booster seat to ride safely and legally in the car. Seat belts are designed to restrain adult bodies, and most kids don’t get a safe seat belt fit until 10-12 years old.
What’s your favorite travel car seat for a 6 year old? Tell us in the comments below!