To all my readers and friends up north: I’m sorry that, for the most part, you’ve been neglected in my writings. While there are many similarities between American and Canadian car seats (some are identical except for the labels), in general the selection of travel car seats for Canadians is more limited – both in the models that are for sale as well as the size restrictions for models available in both countries.
As in every country, the best car seat in Canada is the one that fits your child, fits your vehicle and can be used properly every time. Unfortunately (as I’m sure you know) many Canada car seats that are identical to their US counterparts are much more expensive across the border. If you live in Canada, it’s important that you buy the Canadian version.
Best infant car seat in Canada for travel
The Evenflo LiteMax Sport is a great budget-friendly infant car seat in Canada and the US – it’s the same in both locations. It can accommodate babies 3-35lbs (yes, it’s the only car seat that fits a 3lb baby) and 17-32″. It has tons of optional adjustments to get an ideal fit on even the tiny preemies, while on the other end the tall shell will allow many families to use the Evenflo LiteMax well past baby’s 1st birthday.
The Evenflo LiteMax weighs around 8lbs and is compatible with many Evenflo strollers, but unfortunately there are no adapters to pair it with other brands. Some parents may be disappointed that there’s no infant body insert included, but even without one it does an excellent job fitting tiny bodies; parents also have the option of using tightly rolled receiving blankets from the shoulders down past the body to offer more support.
If you’re looking for luxury in a lightweight car seat in Canada, look no further than the Nuna Pipa (also available here). It has the same upper limits as the Litemax – 32″ or 35lbs. It also weighs 8lbs but adds tons of premium features like rigid LATCH (UAS), side impact protection, Nuna’s signature “Dream Drape” and more.
It’s worth noting that the lightest infant car seat in Canada is the Nuna Pipa Lite. However, that seat only allows babies to ride up to 22lbs and it can’t be installed without the (extremely heavy) base. So it may be a nice choice for those staying close to home, but if you’re planning to travel with your infant you can skip the Nuna Pipa Lite.
Best convertible car seat in Canada for travel
Cosco Scenera Next
One of the best travel car seats in Canada for toddlers is the Cosco Scenera Next, just as in the US. It’s almost as compact as an infant car seat and only weighs around 7lbs, making it extremely easy to take wherever you want to go!
The stated limits of the Scenera are 5-40lbs or 19-40″ AND at least 1″ of shell above the child’s head for rear facing. Practically, it’s the last stipulation that gets most kids first. Kids often outgrow the Cosco Scenera Next rear facing around 37-38”, but some kids with long torsos may outgrow it as early as 34” while some super leggy kids may get close to 40”.
The Scenera’s forward facing limit is 40lbs or 43” or harness no longer at/above the child’s shoulders. However, the top harness slots are so low (like an infant car seat) that it’s typically outgrown forward facing at the same time that it’s outgrown rear facing or even before.
Despite being leggy, my own kid completely outgrew the Cosco Scenera Next at 38”. He no longer had 1” above his head to rear face and his shoulders were above the top harness slots – we realized once we arrived overseas.
One of the reasons the Cosco Scenera is so frequently recommended for as an American travel car seat is that the US version is cheap – it originally sold for just $40 USD in some stores, though the current price is $60 USD.
Despite its limitations, it’s a compelling value at that price for such a lightweight seat. Even accounting for currency conversion, my friends up north will pay 50% more for this seat. You’ll have to judge its relative value for your situation based on your child’s age and size, whether or not you’ll have future children to use it and myriad other factors.
One nice Canada convertible car seat option is the Evenflo Sonus. Babies can ride in this seat starting at 5lbs and 19″ and it generally fits infants well above those minimums. It has the same 40”/40lbs rear facing limit as the Scenera, but the tall shell means kids can actually use it to that full limit.
Once forward facing, it accommodates kids to 50lbs/50” as long as their ears are within the shell and the (generous) harness is at/above their shoulders. Many kids can ride in the Sonus until they’re ready for a booster seat at 5+ years old, 40+lbs and mature enough to sit properly for the whole ride.
The biggest downside of the Evenflo Sonus is that it takes up a lot more space rear facing than the Cosco Scenera. There’s only one recline allowed (which you’ll need to achieve without a recline foot, but this video can help) and it has a fairly tall shell, so it’s not ideal for families planning to rent a compact car and put the car seat by the window.
Evenflo Titan 65
The Evenflo Titan 65 (also called the Evenflo Sureride) has a neat trick up its sleeve: it’s one of the longest-lasting car seats for tall kids in Canada and the US despite the very reasonable price tag. Just like the Sonus, it fits infants well and can rear face to 40lbs or 40″.
Unlike the Sonus, choosing the Evenflo Titan 65 allows you to use the forward facing harness mode all the way to 65lbs or 54″. Where the Sonus has top harness slot of 18″, the Titan goes to 19″. It’s a seriously long-lasting car seat. Realistically, most kids run out of harness length around 6 years old but that’s plenty of time to get to booster readiness.
As with Sonus, the Titan 65 is a space hog when rear facing. Keep that in mind as you’re choosing your rental car if you opt for either of those car seats!
Best booster seat in Canada for travel
Once your child is at least 2 years old and has outgrown her convertible car seat, a combination car seat or “harnessed booster”. The best option for a budget-friendly harnessed booster seat in Canada is the Evenflo Maestro Sport. The Maestro actually has the same harness limits as the Evenflo Sonus above: 50lbs or 50″.
Unlike the Sonus though, the Maestro gives you some time as a highback booster as well. It’s not the most amazing or long-lasting booster, but you can probably get an extra year out of it. The other benefit versus buying an Evenflo convertible car seat is that the Maestro is about two pounds lighter and overall more streamlined and compact.
Confession: I really miss the Evenflo SecureKid! We traveled with ours for its entire 6 year lifespan and it was wonderful. Sadly it’s no longer available in the US, but it’s a great option in Canada for a harnessed booster seat. While the price tag is higher than the Maestro, it has several notable improvements.
You can think of the SecureKid is the “older sibling” to the Maestro. Instead of a 50lb harness limit, the SecureKid gives you a 65lb limit. And while the Maestro has a fixed headrest (along with a single height for the booster seat shoulder belt guide) the headrest and belt guide of the SecureKid are adjustable to add to the seat’s longevity. Booster seat fit is very dependent on your child’s build, but many kids can use the Evenflo SecureKid from age 2-3 all the way to age 8. In the photo above my daughter was turning 5 and still had lots of growing room!
Canada’s Evenflo SecureKid comes with their patented “Easy Click” installation system for UAS installations (allowed until 50lbs). Instead of compressing the seat down with one hand while pulling the UAS strap with the other, you can just turn the crank to ratchet it tighter with ease. For extra comfort, it includes a lumbar pillow (which my daughter still asks for even though the SecureKid expired and went to a recycling center).
The extra reinforcement required to get the SecureKid to 65lbs and add the headrest adjustment mechanism do add some weight. While the Evenflo Maestro weighs around 9lbs, the Evenflo SecureKid is a much denser 14lbs.
A newer forward facing car seat in Canada (and the US) is the Graco Tranzitions. It’s sort of a slimmed-down version of the Graco Nautilus. The upper size limits for harness mode are similar to the Evenflo SecureKid: 65lbs or 49″, with similar top harness slots. The weight is nearly identical as well.
The biggest difference lies in the Tranzitions’ additional mode: once it’s outgrown as a highback booster seat, you can remove the back and use it as a backless booster seat. It may not be the last booster seat your child needs, but it’ll be darn close with a 57″ height limit.
The downside of the Tranzitions is that in some cars it can be tough to install, especially once you have to switch to the seatbelt at 45lbs. When you’re traveling there’s no way to know if you’re going to get a car in which it’s easy to install the Tranzitions or one that will involve blood, sweat and tears.
Once your child is at least 5 years old, 40lbs and able to sit properly during the whole car ride, you’re ready to graduate to one of my favorite booster seat: the hifold folding booster seat. This is a highback booster seat for Canada, America, Europe and just about everywhere else! The only approval it lacks is Australia. Find out more in my hifold review.
The awesome thing about hifold is that it folds to the size of a bowling ball bag and stows easily in the overhead bin. You can either carry it around with the attached shoulder strap (it’s a very reasonable 10lbs) or plop it on top of your carry-on suitcase to wheel it through the airport. It’s an awesome choice for kids who still sleep in the car – or may on vacation when faced with long days and time changes.
Thanks to the many adjustments – height, back width, seat width and even head width – hifold will last many kids from 5 until 8-10 years old. Many kids will still need an inexpensive backless booster seat once they outgrow hifold, but it’ll almost get them across the finish line.
There’s a little bit of a learning curve in figuring out folding, unfolding and set up. You can buy a handy storage backpack if you plan to use hifold for public transportation but if you’ll only be taking trains, taxis/Ubers/Lyfts and public transportation on an upcoming trip then a lightweight backless booster seat (below) might be easier and cheaper.
If your child is at least 5 years old, 40lbs and mature enough to sit properly in a booster seat you can consider the new Harmony Dash. This is ideal for older kids (6+) who aren’t likely to fall asleep during a ride, and will fit many kids to around 10-12 years old before it starts to feel too narrow through their hips. It tops out at 57″ or 100lbs – the size of an average 11 year old, which is a typical age when the vehicle seatbelt starts fitting correctly.
The big selling points are that it’s an extremely lightweight booster seat at just 2lbs while also being easy to use in basically any vehicle. Plop it on the seat and buckle the seatbelt with the lap belt and buckle-side of the shoulder belt under the arm rests. That’s it!
As with just about any similar seat, it’s easy to take this backless booster seat on a plane. Usually you can tuck it on the floor in front of your child and then stick her backpack on it, or if need be put it in the overhead bin.
Perhaps the one of the most compelling arguments for the Harmony Dash is the price point, as it’s one of the cheapest booster seats in Canada at just $24.99.
One of the best known travel booster seats is mifold (and its newer sibling, mifold comfort), the innovative folding booster seat. It’s also the lightest booster seat in Canada. But be sure to read on to find out if it’s the best option for your child.
Mifold weighs about 1.5lbs and folds in half to fit in any backpack or carry on – you’ll always have it when you need it. To set it up, you unfold it and then adjust the width of the belt guides so that they’re just a little wider than your child. Be sure the shoulder belt guide is about 1″ over the shoulder.
The biggest downside of mifold, which you can read about in my in-depth mifold review, is that the fit isn’t ideal until kids are close to not needing a booster. But the belt guides are narrow enough that virtually no child will be able to use it all the way to the stated 100lb/57″ limit.
In the photo above my son was 49″/65lbs but the lap belt was several inches too low – the top of the lap belt should be closer to the hips or the tops of the thighs. The fit on younger child was terrible even though she was well within mifold’s stated range. The shallow seat may also encourage shorter booster riders (like mine) to slouch unsafely out of position.
It’s also worth noting that the original mifold is much more compact when folded but totally unpadded, while the mifold comfort has decent padding but is bulkier when folded. Neither is ideal for long drives, but if you need a booster for your average size 9-11 year old to use in taxis it could be the perfect fit.
I hope this roundup has helped you pin down the best car seat for Canada that will meet your family’s travel needs! Don’t miss these helpful tips before your next adventure: