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What’s the best portable car seat for a 1 year old? (2023 reviews)

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This article about the best travel car seat for a 1 year old is written by certified Child Passenger Safety Technician Melissa Conn and may contain affiliate links.

If you’re looking for the best travel car seat for a 1 year old, 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.

With a 1 year old at home, you’re probably transitioning out of the infant car seat (with those handy dandy bases that let you move it from one car to another) and ready to buy convertible car seats. If you’re a two-car family, it’s worth considering buying one big, cushy toddler car seat for your car your child rides in most of the time and then a smaller, travel-worthy car seat to use in the second car.

Quick Picks: Best Travel Car Seat For 1 Year Old

If you want to skip the details, here are my top picks for the best travel car seat for a 1 year old:

Check out these full-featured, comfortable convertible car seats to use for long drives and at home

How to Choose the Best Travel Car Seat for a 1 Year Old

Why should you consider buying one lightweight car seat for travel? Most families don’t want to lug their 25 pound best car seat for a toddler 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 1 year olds on the market today. As a bonus, many of them are less expensive than their heavier counterparts.

What do we look for in the best portable car seat for a 1 year old? In my experience, there are a few important priorities:

-It has to be light, ideally not more than ~10lbs

-It has to be easy to use

-Ideally it should last at least a few years

Of course every family has unique needs in choosing their one year old car seat. If your child is extremely tall for her age, 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.

Want to know all my best secrets? Click here to learn how to travel with your car seat like a pro!

Portable Car Seat For A 1 Year Old Comparison

Travel car seatSize
Cosco Scenera
Next DLX
7 lbs
Cosco Onlook
8 lbs
Baby Trend
medium size,
10 lbs
Cosco Mighty
Fit 65
medium size,
11 lbs
Sonus 65
medium size,
11 lbs

(You can also see how the three Cosco car seats compare to each other)

Still researching? Pin this for later!

Collage of 4 best travel car seat for 1 year old: blue Cosco Scenera Next DLX, gray Cosco Mighty Fit 65, blue Evenflo Sonus 65, purple Combi Coccoro. Text in center: "5 perfect travel car seats for your 1 year old"

Best travel car seats for 1 year olds

The NHTSA recommends that children remain rear-facing until around 3, and many safety advocates urge parents to keep their kids rear-facing until closer to 4. Some of the travel convertible car seats on this list will keep every kid rear-facing until at least 4 years old, while some are perfect for right now but won’t rear-face a tall kid all the way until 4.

If your 1 year old still fits into your infant car seat, it may be easiest to take that when you travel. The handle makes it easy to carry around and you can also clip it into a stroller to push around. Just make sure to bring a locking clip, as you’ll have to install it with a seatbelt if you leave the base at home (as we’d recommend you do). Some newer infant car seats like this one can even last all the way until 2 years old!

Read more: 5 Car Seat Tips for New Parents That I Wish Everyone Knew

Once your child has outgrown the infant seat (or if you just don’t want to travel with it), it’s time to move on to one of the options below. Read these reviews to find the best portable car seat for travel with your 1 year old:

Cosco Scenera Next DLX review

Key stats:
-Weight 7lbs
-Shell height 23”
-Max harness height 13.5”
-Rear-facing size limits 5-40lbs, 19-40”
-Forward-facing size limits 22-40lbs, 29-43″

✔ Compact
✔ Lightest convertible car seat
✔ Low price

✘ 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

The most popular convertible car seat for travel is the Cosco Scenera Next DLX. What makes it so insanely popular? It’s as easy on the scale as it is on the wallet! The Cosco Scenera Next is the lightest convertible car seat and the cheapest convertible car seat as well, making it an ideal toddler travel car seat.

Just how light is it? It would be no problem to carry on your back in a car seat backpack like this one, and some parents even use these hooks to hang it from the back of the stroller as they walk through the airport. 

It’s good to know that the top harness slots are just 13.5” high, so some kids will outgrow the Scenera Next forward-facing even while they still have another year or two rear-facing. Remember, when your kid is forward-facing the straps need to come from above their shoulders. For rear facing, short shell means that very few kids will get to 40″ with the required 1″ above their heads. This isn’t an issue when choosing a car seat for a 1 year old, but just something to keep in mind as you consider the seat’s longevity.

Our petite kids were able to rear-face in the Scenera Next until almost 4yo. However, it wasn’t necessarily a comfortable seat at that age. The crotch strap that comes with the seat is extremely short – like, newborn short. They will send you a longer one for free if you provide the serial number, so make sure you reach out to them the minute your seat arrives if you have a trip coming up. 

Cosco Scenera Next is pretty much outgrown for this short 4yo

It’s an excellent portable car seat for a 1 year old for city trips because many parents are able to attach it to various lightweight travel strollers thanks to its compact shell and light weight. The Mountain Buggy Nano has a car seat strap built in, making the Scenera + Nano a very popular combination.

The Cosco Scenera Next fills an important niche as an affordable seat that travels fairly well and keeps kids rear-facing until at least 2yo. Why don’t I love it? We found it very challenging to get a truly tight installation (especially on leather seats) and the patterned version of the seat that we got has absolutely no padding. Babies may not notice or complain but our preschooler was clear that it wasn’t the seat for him!

There’s now a DLX version that comes in solid colors but has more padding, so if you opt for the Cosco Scenera Next be sure to pick up that one even though it costs a few dollars more. Even better, Cosco now offers the Cosco Scenera Deluxe convertible car seat. They’ve basically taken the Cosco Scenera DLX and added a head pillow, lower back pad and strap covers – plus an extra $10 on the price tag. These are good changes that will appeal to many parents who don’t like the idea of their precious cargo riding in such an unpadded seat. I’m sure that my kid who complained about his original (non-DLX) Cosco Scenera Next would have been pleased!

Another version available for 2023 is the Maxi-Cosi Romi. It uses the Cosco Scenera Next shell but adds Maxi-Cosi’s flame retardant free PureCosi cover in addition to a head pillow and harness covers. Be sure to grab the monthly coupon (three letter month and 20, like APR20 for April) to save 20%. That puts the price tag around $100 for this version, plus you’ll accumulate valuable rewards towards future purchases.

Despite its short shell, the Scenera may still need to be installed more upright than technically allowed on many planes. That’s ok with older infants and toddlers, but not for very young babies without head and neck control. We always found it easier to travel with an infant car seat as long as the kids fit.

If you’re traveling internationally, make sure you bring a locking clip. Cars in many other countries may not have locking seatbelts like the ones in the US; they lock in an emergency, but you can’t manually lock them by pulling all the way out. You should be able to use LATCH in cars where available, but if the seating position you want to use doesn’t have LATCH or it’s an older car without LATCH then you will need a locking clip. Grab a locking clip here – it’s cheap and doesn’t take up any space!

As with all of Cosco’s seats, they now require use of the top tether when forward facing in the car. It’s great for safety, but you may not find one when you’re traveling outside of the US, Canada, EU, Australia and New Zealand (or if you’re in an older car in one of those places). If you come across that situation, you’ll have to make a judgement call on whether or not to install your car seat against the manufacturer’s directions.

Cosco Onlook review/Safety 1st Getaway review

Key stats:
-Weight 8lbs
-Shell height 24”
-Max harness height 16”
-Rear-facing size limits 5-40lbs, 19-40”
-Forward-facing size limits 22-40lbs, 29-43” (the 43” limit may not be realistic depending on how long your child’s torso is)

✔ Low price
✔ Compact front-to-back when installed more upright

✘ Same size limits as Scenera but more expensive
✘ Extremely wide near the head
✘ Hard to install in some cars
✘ Limited padding for patterned covers
✘ No extra protection in headwings
Requires top tether for forward-facing

Around the same time that Cosco ditched the old Scenera model in favor of the Cosco Scenera Next and Cosco Scenera Next DLX, they also refreshed the slightly larger Cosco Apt in favor of the Cosco Apt 50 convertible car seat. In mid-2022, they dropped the Apt 50’s weight limit back down to 40lbs and slapped two new names on it: the Cosco Onlook and the Safety 1st Getaway.

I’ll be totally honest: I don’t quite understand why Dorel is making both of those seats and the Cosco Mighty Fit 65 (which has been around for years as the Safety 1st Guide 65 – more info below) especially with the lower weight limit of the new Onlook. There’s a lot of overlap between the three Cosco convertible car seat options, so if you’re considering one of them it’s worth considering the others as well to make sure you’re choosing the one that best suits your needs.

The Cosco Onlook is much the same as its younger sibling, the Cosco Scenera Next. It’s one of the lightest weight convertible car seat options, well-priced and gets the job done with minimal frills. The shell height is similar to the Scenera Next so it won’t buy you any extra time rear-facing, but thanks to the higher harness height, skinny kids kids can comfortably forward face in the Cosco Onlook until at least 4 years old. It’s a solid choice if you want a convertible car seat for travel that allows for extended rear facing but you don’t have a big budget.

One of the biggest drawbacks of the Onlook over the Scenera Next is that it’s extremely wide near the top – several inches wider! It’s not your best choice if you’re trying to fit three-across in a tiny European rental car. It also needs to be very reclined for kids under 22lbs, so might be a tight squeeze if you’re trying to rear-face on a plane with a baby. And if you’re flying overseas, be sure to bring a locking clip just in case.

As with all Cosco carseat options, they now require use of the top tether. It’s great for safety, but you may not find one when you’re traveling outside of the US, Canada, EU, Australia and New Zealand (or if you’re in an older car in one of those places). If you come across that situation, you’ll have to make a judgement call on whether or not to install your car seat against the manufacturer’s directions.

Get a closer look at the differences between the Cosco travel car seats here.

Baby Trend Trooper review

Key stats:
-Weight 10lbs
-Shell height 24”
-Max harness height 16.5”
-Rear-facing size limits 4-40lbs
-Forward-facing size limits 23-65lbs, up to 50”

✔ First from preemie to elementary school
✔ Extremely narrow convertible car seat
✔ Built in cup holder
✔ Very clear labeling on car seat and inserts

✘ Very steep recline under 22lbs
✘ Doesn’t last as long as the Evenflo Sureride
Requires top tether for forward-facing

Baby Trend has a newer offering in the compact car seat space and she’s got a lot to offer for traveling parents! The Baby Trend Trooper convertible car seat (be sure to check prices here too) ticks many boxes for traveling families.

What’s so great? For starters, it’s very lightweight at just 10 lbs and extremely narrow. It’s even a hair narrower than the Cosco Scenera Next. But unlike the Scenera, the Baby Trend Trooper will fit most kids until until around age 6. The price tag is higher, but you’ll get about double the use from it! The Trooper also has a few different padding configurations available (some with weight limits, some totally optional) including a body pillow, a head pillow and harness pads.

I don’t really recommend the Baby Trend Trooper for families traveling with a child under 23lbs. The car seat will fit your baby well, but the steep recline required will take up a ton of space. It’s much more compact once your child reaches 23 lbs (around 18 months on average).

The Trooper won’t last quite as long as the Evenflo Sonus 65 (below) for forward-facing, but the more compact shape could make that trade off worth it for many families. This is the best travel carseat for families who need to fit 3-across on a budget, with the added benefit that they’ll only have to learn the rules for a single seat.

It may seem like a small detail, but I appreciate Baby Trend’s attention to labeling and instructions on this seat. In a world where the vast majority of car seats are misused, clear labels make such a difference. Baby Trend tells you the weight limit for the insert right there on it. The special harness routing for newborns is labeled on the seat. The harness has stripes to let you know it’s laying flat with no twists. There’s a big picture of an airplane on the side of the seat to show flight attendants, rather than searching for obscure red lettering.

The manual itself is useful. Truly! There’s a page with clear cleaning instructions for each part. There’s another page that lays out the rules for various padding that comes with the seat. There’s a quick safety checklist for parents to review. The manual is full of easy-to-digest information to help parents use their car seat correctly. Be sure to read it for the seat’s many adjustments. There’s even a QR code to scan that gives direct access to installation videos.

Safety 1st Guide 65/Cosco Mighty Fit 65 review

Key stats:
-Weight 11lbs
-Shell height 24”
-Max harness height 17”
-Rear-facing size limits 5-40lbs, 19-40”
-Forward-facing size limits 22-65lbs, 29-49”

✔ First from infancy to elementary school
✔ Somewhat narrow convertible car seat

✘ Tall shell won’t fit well rear-facing in compact cars and economy airplane seats
✘ Doesn’t last as long as the Evenflo Sureride
✘ Won’t fit newborns well
Requires top tether for forward-facing

Aaaaand we have yet another Cosco travel car seat! This one has been around for a long time but has gained in popularity thanks to fresh branding. Dorel has now added its well-respected Safety 1st Guide 65 to the popular Cosco car seat lineup as a longer-lasting convertible car seat option, renaming it the Cosco Mighty Fit 65 DLX. As with other Cosco car seats, you may find the best price at Walmart. I’ve had an opportunity to work with the DLX version specifically, and it offers nice padding for kid comfort.

The Guide 65 has proven its worth as a travel car seat for many years and continues to work well for many families as the Cosco Mighty Fit 65 DLX. It’ll last rear-facing kids until a safe age for forward-facing, and then for a few years beyond until they’re ready for our favorite travel booster seats. It’s tall enough, but not the tallest seat around. But since you’re shopping for a portable car seat for travel with a 1 year old, this one should have plenty of longevity for your family.

One of the biggest downsides of the Cosco Mighty Fit 65 is that the steep recline needed for kids under 22lbs is tough to achieve without using a pool noodle or rolled towel – which is not the kind of gear we prefer to travel with. The harness fit for newborns and young infants isn’t great, so I’d wait on this one until your child passes 22lbs. It’s also one of the heavier options on this list, but without some of the nicer features of the newer Evenflo Sonus 65 below.

The other issue worth considering for international travel is that the Mighty Fit 65 requires you to use the top tether when installing forward-facing. The top tether’s job is to decrease head movement – and that’s a good thing. But in some countries in Asia, Africa, Central and South America and even Eastern Europe you won’t find a top tether is many cars. At that point you’d have to make a judgement call about how to install the seat when you can’t follow the manufacturer’s rules.

It’s also worth knowing that you can only use LATCH to install the Mighty Fit 65 until 40 pounds. After that, you’ll have to install with a seatbelt – both options are just as safe, but for travel overseas I recommend bringing a locking clip and knowing how to use it in case you encounter a car with seatbelts that don’t lock.

Evenflo Sonus 65 review

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”

✔ 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

Requires top tether, which may not be available in all countries
✘ 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

The Evenflo Sonus 65 is a replacement for Evenflo’s older introductory-level lightweight car seat, the Evenflo Tribute LX (which won’t seem to die). We’ve had several well-loved Evenflo car seats over the years so we’re glad to see they’re offering a great option for younger travelers now!

The Evenflo Sonus 65 is a great choice for a lightweight car seat for travel thanks to its more generous size limits combined with light weight. Most kids will make it to their fourth birthday rear-facing in this traveling car seat. This is one of the best travel convertible car seat options to come on the market in the last few years.

It offers reasonable padding for kid comfort (unlike some other bargain models) and gives kids built-in cup holders to boot so many families use this as an everyday lightweight toddler car seat. The Sonus 65 not only has a higher forward-facing weight limit (65 pounds vs 50 pounds) than the regular Sonus, but it also adds a recline wedge to get the correct angle without needing a pool noodle or rolled towel.

The Evenflo Sonus has 18″ top harness slots, so it will last kids for many years. If you buy it as a 1 years old car seat, it represents great value for years of use!

The Evenflo Sonus 65 is an FAA-approved car seat (just like pretty much every American car seat out there) and can be installed either rear-facing or forward-facing on a plane. It even has a two-position recline wedge to help you get the correct angle in both planes and cars. This is one of the best travel car seats for toddlers in 2023.

Thanks to fellow CPST Rebekka for this photo of the Evenflo Sonus on a plane

If you mostly fly on airlines with limited seat pitch (the space between the seats) it may be a tight fit to install the Sonus 65 rear facing. If your child is old enough and big enough, you can consider forward facing for your flight and then rear facing again in the car. Even better, it’s low-profile enough that your child will be able to use the tray table on many airlines!

Those beefy, extra-protective headwings make the top of the seat somewhat wide, so it may be tough to position the Sonus 3-across next to another car seat facing the same direction.

PSA: I’ve read that the seat comes with the LATCH strap set up to install forward-facing. If you want to install rear-facing, be sure to switch it. Read the manual and do it before your trip because it can be tricky!

Best car seat for 1 year old FAQs

What car seat should a 1 year old be in?

A 1 year old should be rear-facing, usually in a convertible car seat. Some will still fit in their infant car seats but be sure to check your child’s stats against all of the seat’s fit requirements.

Can a 1 year old face forward in a car seat?

Some convertible car seats require kids to rear face until 2 years old, while others permit forward facing beginning at 1 year old. However, the safest choice is to keep your 1 year old rear facing until they reach the rear facing limits of their convertible car seat.

Which car seat is best for toddlers?

The best car seat for your toddler is the one that fits their bodies, fits your car, fits your family budget and that you can use correctly 100% of the time. Toddlers ride in convertible or all-in-one car seats. In addition to the travel-friendly car seats in this list, here are some fantastic car seat for one year old options to consider that will last your child for many years:
Britax Marathon
Britax One4Life
Chicco Nextfit (save $30 when you buy direct)
Chicco Fit4 (save $30 when you buy direct)
Graco SlimFit3 LX
Nuna Rava

There’s no official “best car seats for 1 year old kids” list; they all pass the same testing and will keep your child safe if used properly.

What’s your favorite travel car seat for a 1 year old? Tell us in the comments below!

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3 thoughts on “What’s the best portable car seat for a 1 year old? (2023 reviews)”

  1. Excellent post! It provides valuable information about travel car seats. Thanks for your valuable information. Please carry on writing.

  2. You provided a link to a universal caddy to use with the Combi Cocorro. However, the Amazon listing and the manufacturer’s website don’t list the Combi Cocorro as compatible.

    • Thanks for your comment! The universal caddy doesn’t have any mechanism for the car seat to “click” in place. The seat rests in the outer frame and there’s a fabric strap that goes through the belt path to secure it in place. Since the Coccoro’s shell is shaped very similarly to an infant car seat, it should work just fine in there and many parents have reported success with this pair. Baby Trend probably doesn’t list it because the Coccoro is a really uncommon seat and their primary target is infant car seats rather than convertible car seats. Since Amazon offers free returns, you can always try it and send it back if it doesn’t meet your needs. The Coccoro is actually deeply discounted for Prime Day right now – check here!

      Hope this helps 🙂



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