Best travel car seat options by age

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Hi! You’ve probably come here because you’re planning your family’s upcoming vacation and recently suffered that moment of dread when you realized that you have no love for the idea of slogging a 25 (or 30!) pound car seat all of creation.

The good news is that you have options for flying with a car seat. There are plenty of hacks for moving your big car seat around if that’s what you want to do. But if you want to take your travels to the next level, consider upgrading to a lightweight car seat for travel or even a swanky folding car seat. For new parents, there are some great lightweight infant car seats to consider as well. Check out our top picks for the best car seat to travel with at each stage, and keep reading to find out what to look for when you’re shopping for the best car seat for traveling.

On this page you’ll find our pick for the best car seat for travel at each age, but if that one doesn’t meet your needs you can click the link right below for reviews of even more options. What is the best car seat for traveling? Read on below and click through for age-based car seat reviews:

Best travel car seat for a 1 year old

Top pick: Combi Coccoro

Key stats:
-Weight 11lbs
-Shell height 22”
-Max harness height 15”
-Rear-facing size limits: 5-33lbs, up to 36”
-Forward-facing size limits: 20-40lbs

Pros:
✔ Compact
✔ Easy to install with LATCH or seatbelt
✔ Comfortable
✔ Closed belt path forward-facing

Cons:
✘ High price
✘ Low size limits
✘ Not approved for Canadians

Budget pick: Cosco Scenera Next DLX

Key stats:
-Weight 7lbs
-Shell height 24”
-Max harness height 13.5”
-Rear-facing size limits 5-40lbs, 19-40”
-Forward-facing size limits 22-40lbs, 29-43″

Pros:
✔ Compact
✔ Lightest convertible car seat
✔ Low price

Cons:
✘ Low size limits
✘ Hard to install in some cars
✘ Limited padding for patterned covers
✘ No extra protection in headwings
Requires top tether for forward-facing

More options: Best travel car seats for 1 year olds

Best travel car seat for a 2 year old

Top pick: Evenflo Sonus 65

Key stats:
-Weight 11lbs
-Shell height 25”
-Max harness height 18”
-Rear-facing size limits 5-40lbs, 19-40”
-Forward-facing size limits 22-65lbs, 28-50”

Pros:
✔ Generous size limits
✔ More comfort features than other travel car seats
✔ Nice enough to use as an everyday car seat
✔ Somewhat narrow convertible car seat

Cons:
✘ Heavier than Cosco Scenera Next and Cosco Apt 50
✘ More expensive than Cosco car seats
✘ Can be a tight squeeze front-to-back when rear-facing on some airlines with limited seat pitch
✘ 6 year expiration

More options: Best travel car seats for 2 year olds

Best travel car seat for a 3 year old

Top pick: Graco Tranzitions SnugLock

Key stats:
-Weight 12.5lbs
-Max harness height 18”
-Forward-facing size limits 22-65lbs, 27-49″
-Highback booster size limit 40-100lbs, 38-57″
-Backless booster size limit 40-100lbs, 40-57″

Pros:
✔ Fits from age 3 (as a harness) to ~age 12 (as a backless booster)
✔ Reasonable price for longevity
✔ Extremely narrow
✔ Easy seatbelt install with SnugLock

Cons:
✘ Original can be tough to install in some cars
✘ Heavier than other options
✘ Back and base may separate when carrying
✘ 7 year expiration

More options: Best travel car seats for 3 year olds

Best travel car seat for a 4 year old/

Best travel car seat for a 5 year old

Top travel pick: Ride Safer Travel Vest (full review)

Key stats:
-Weight 2lbs
-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″

Pros:
✔ 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

Cons:
✘ 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

Top travel + everyday pick: Graco Tranzitions SnugLock

Key stats:
-Weight 12.5lbs
-Max harness height 18”
-Forward-facing size limits 22-65lbs, 27-49″
-Highback booster size limit 40-100lbs, 38-57″
-Backless booster size limit 40-100lbs, 40-57″

Pros:
✔ Fits from age 3 (as a harness) to ~age 12 (as a backless booster)
✔ Reasonable price for longevity
✔ Extremely narrow
✔ Easy seatbelt install with SnugLock

Cons:
✘ Original can be tough to install in some cars
✘ Heavier than other options
✘ Back and base may separate when carrying
✘ 7 year expiration

More options: Best travel car seats for 4 year olds

More options: Best travel car seats for 5 year olds

Best travel car seat for a 6 year old/

Best high back booster seat for travel

Top pick: Hifold (full review)

Key stats:
-Weight 10lbs
-Highback booster size limit 33-100lbs, 36-59″
-Belt guide 14-20″

Pros:
✔ Tons of size adjustments for great fit
✔ Folds down small
✔ Legal to use everywhere except Australia (in progress)
✔ Extremely narrow
✔ 7 year expiration

Cons:
✘ Expensive if you will only use for a few years
✘ No cup holders included
✘ Bigger than some of the other travel-specific car seats

More options: Best travel car seat for 6 year olds

More options: Best travel booster seat

Best backless booster seat for travel

Top pick: Bubblebum (full review)

Key stats:
-Weight 1 lbs (really!)
-Backless booster size limit 40-100lbs, age 4+

Pros:
✔ Lightest booster seat
✔ Extremely narrow
✔ Good seatbelt fit in lots of cars

Cons:
✘ Can slide around if kids are wiggly
✘ 4 year expiration

More options: Best portable car booster seat

Still researching? Pin this for later!

Collage of 5 best travel car seats: Doona infant car seat stroller, Wayb Pico, Ride Safer travel vest, Hifold folding booster seat, Bubblebum inflatable booster seat. Text in center: "Amazing travel car seats to lighten your load at every age"

What to look for in a portable car seat for travel

So what makes these car seats the most travel-worthy? We look at a few key criteria to determine the best car seats for travel.

Right stage for the age

The first, most basic requirement is that a car seat should be age-appropriate. I’m never going to recommend a booster car seat for a 2 year old just because it’s easier to travel with.

At a minimum, we’d suggest following the NHTSA guidelines. Kids should be in a rear-facing infant or convertible car seat until at least age 3, but ideally closer to 4 years old if possible. Beyond that, they should ride in a Ride Safer Travel Vest or a forward-facing harnessed car seat (aka the best combination car seat or even the new Wayb Pico) until they’re big enough and mature enough to sit properly in a booster seat for travel.

Lightweight car seat

The best travel car seat options (and car seat alternatives) range from 2 to 12 pounds. The high end may sound like a lot, but it’s still a lot more manageable than the 25lb convertible car seat most families use at home!

By the same token, on an extended trip or when where you might need lot of impromptu taxi rides you might be best served by a folding travel car seat – not just lightweight, but compact too.

Easy to use

You may think that ease of use isn’t that important for carseats that won’t see a ton of use, but we disagree. We’ve used plenty of different car seats both at home and on the go, and the ones that are hard to install or use are a disaster.

Remember, you’ll (probably) be in an unfamiliar place and installing that car seat in an unfamiliar car or taxi. It could even be after a 12 hour flight crossing more time zones than you or your cranky children can count. And you’ll have kids (those same cranky ones), spouses and taxi drivers waiting on you while you figure it out. Sounds lovely, eh?

Lasts for a few years

The final feature I look for in a travel car seat is a bit on the subjective side. Ideally, I don’t want my house to look like a car seat graveyard (this was a big problem when we lived in an apartment with two kids). So when shopping for a travel car seat, I’m hoping for one that we can use for a few years.

However, in our case, I can be a little flexible. Our kids are almost three years apart so when the older kid outgrows a car seat, usually it’s the right time for his sister to start using it. Even seats that generally don’t last one kid very long have given us five or six years of service.

If storage space isn’t a concern for you, then some of the inexpensive compact travel car seats that just last two or three years could work well. After all, some of those seats cost less than a family dinner out! Even if you just use them a handful of time, you’ve saved yourself money over renting them on vacation.

Which car seats are approved for air travel?

Almost every car seat made for the US market today is an FAA-approved approved car seat provided you use the harness. That means that booster seats are not FAA-approved and that “harnessed boosters” (also called “combination car seats”) can only be used with the harness installed.

Best travel car seat FAQs

What is the best travel car seat?

The best travel car seat depends on your child’s age and size. That’s what this whole article is about! Here are some of our top picks (scroll up for more detail):
Doona infant car seat stroller
Combi Coccoro
Cosco Scenera Next DLX
Graco Tranzitions SnugLock
Ride Safer travel vest for car + CARES harness for flight
hifold
Bubblebum
Graco Turbo GO

Do I need a travel car seat?

Almost any car seat can be used for travel, but a lightweight one will be easier to lug around.

Can you take a car seat on a flight?

Yes! The FAA encourages parents to bring a car seat or the CARES harness for children under 40 pounds. To be guaranteed the ability to use your car seat, you need to buy a ticket for your child; however, many airlines will let you use an empty seat if one is available.

What car seats can be used on airplanes?

Almost every car seat with a harness can be used on a plane. The exceptions are the Cybex Sirona S and Pipa Nuna Lite.

How do you bring a carseat to the airport?

There are many options. You can carry a lightweight car seat by hand or try one of these hacks for heavier car seats, including strollers, carts, backpacks and more.

Best car seats for travel

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