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If you plan on doing a lot of traveling with your baby or toddler, it’s a good idea to invest in a car seat that you can take with you. When you fly, the safest place for your child to sit is in a Federal Aviation Administration-approved car seat. And when you reach the other end, it’s usually easier, cheaper, and safer to use your own car seat in a hired car or taxi than it is to rent one. Travel car seats should be light enough to carry through airport terminals without too much effort and compact enough to fit easily on airline seats or in foreign cars. Some are sturdy enough to double as your everyday car seat back home while others are meant to be used exclusively for travel. All of the following car seats are FAA-approved, so you can rest assured you're shopping the safest options out there.
Our Top Picks
Best Overall: Cosco Scenera Next Convertible Car Seat
The Cosco Scenera Next Convertible Car Seat receives excellent marks for lightness and simplicity. At less than $50, it’s also the cheapest car seat on our list — and a great choice for those who already have a regular car seat but need a second option for traveling. Safety features include side impact protection built into the headrest and a five-point harness that adjusts to accommodate your growing child with five height settings and three buckle locations. The car seat can be used rear-facing for kiddos five to 40 pounds and 19 to 40 inches tall, or front-facing for those 22 to 40 pounds or 29 to 43 inches tall. Basically, the car seat will last from infancy through toddlerhood.
Use the LATCH connectors or a seat belt to secure the car seat in any rental car or taxi. It’s also designed with air travel in mind. It’s FAA-approved and super lightweight at just seven pounds. Additionally, its 17.5-inch width makes it a good fit for most airline seats. Other highlights include a removable, machine-washable and dryer-safe car seat pad and a dishwasher-safe cup holder. Colors range from moon mist grey to ocean breeze.
Runner-Up, Best Overall: Evenflo Tribute LX Convertible Car Seat
At just over 9 pounds and 18.5 inches in width, the FAA-approved Evenflo Tribute LX Convertible Car Seat is compact enough to fit in most vehicles and airplane seats. The car seat offers side impact protection as well as a five-point harness to give you peace of mind. If you'd like additional features like a removable head pillow for maintaining proper infant head positioning, that's also an option, you'll just have to pay slightly more for the upgraded model.
Use the up-front harness adjustment system to get your child in and out of the seat quickly. Four different shoulder strap positions and two crotch buckle positions let you adjust the harness as they grow. This seat is designed to be used rear-facing or front-facing according to your child’s weight, height, and age. When rear-facing, the car seat reclines and is suitable for kids five to 40 pounds and 19 to 37 inches tall. When forward-facing, it’s rated for kids between 22 to 40 pounds and 28 to 40 inches tall. Color options include Abigail (pink) and Neptune (blue).
Most Innovative: Doona Infant Car Seat & Latch Base
Approved by the FAA and intended as a rear-facing option for newborns between four to 35 pounds, the Doona Infant Car Seat is loved by savvy parents for its unique design. It is the only car seat in the world with integrated wheels, allowing it to convert from a car seat to a stroller in seconds. This means you no longer have to struggle to connect your car seat and stroller base upon reaching your destination and you don’t have to waste trunk space on bulky travel systems. Of course, innovation costs money, and in this case, it'll run you around $500.
The car seat comes with a LATCH base and five-point harness. Your baby is also safeguarded by five-star frontal impact protection, anti-rebound and side impact protection, and an ergonomic, hypoallergenic/anti-bacterial infant insert that correctly aligns their head and neck. In its stroller form, the Doona combines an extending handle, swivel wheels, and a one-touch brake system to give you effortless control. Choose from nine colors including racing green, nitro black, and blush pink.
Most Compact: Combi Coccoro Convertible Car Seat
The Combi Coccoro Convertible Car Seat weighs 14.3 pounds, making it sturdy enough for everyday use yet light enough for travel. The ability to fulfill both functions also helps justify is higher price tag. Another reason to consider the Combi Coccoro? The seat is just 15.5 inches wide, making it ultra-compatible with smaller European rental cars and domestic airline seats. The car seat can accommodate children of 19 to 40 inches in height and can be used rear-facing for kids between three to 33 pounds, or forward-facing for kids between 20 and 40 pounds.
Tru-Safe side impact protection involves deep side walls and a layer of energy-absorbing foam that deflects impact away from your child’s head, neck, and spine in the event of an accident. Other safety features include a tether connector strap and a five-point harness with a color indicator that ensures it’s buckled correctly. Use the front harness adjuster and four harness height settings to alter the fit, and the premium push-button LATCH connectors to get the seat in and out of the car quickly. Color choices include key lime, grape, and licorice.
Best for Bigger Kids: Graco My Ride 65 Convertible Car Seat
Most of the car seats on this list are appropriate for children of up to 40 pounds, but the Graco My Ride 65 Convertible Car Seat is rated for up to 65 pounds. It also allows children to ride rear-facing up until 40 pounds and has an extra-tall seat. This means that the average child will be able to ride rear-facing for two years or more as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. The seat offers side impact protection and has been crash-tested to meet or exceed all U.S. safety standards. It also has an adjustable five-point harness and is LATCH equipped.
Use the removable infant insert or toddler headrest to guarantee your child’s comfort on long road trips. Two integrated cup holders keep juice bottles within easy reach and help to prevent spills. Although this seat is really designed with car travel in mind, it is FAA-approved and is lighter than most regular car seats at 14.7 pounds. If you're flying economy class, consider calling ahead to check that the restraint is compatible with the airline seat. Colors include go green, Sully (turquoise), and Sylvia (pink).
Best Booster Combo: Cosco Finale DX 2-in-1 Booster Car Seat
If you’re shopping for a child aged 12 months or older, the Cosco Finale DX 2-in-1 Booster Car Seat will last from toddlerhood until well after they start school. It has a 10-year lifespan and can be used as a forward-facing car seat or as a high-back booster seat. As a car seat, it’s appropriate for kids between 30 to 65 pounds and 32 to 49 inches in height. The five-point harness has three different height settings and the LATCH connectors can be used until your child reaches 50 pounds. The FAA approves the Cosco Finale for aircraft use in its car seat capacity.
As a booster seat, it suits kids between 40 to 100 pounds and 43 to 52 inches in height. Either way, its 17-inch width and nine-pound weight make it ideal for quick transfers between rental cars, taxis, and family cars back home. Other useful features include a removable cup holder and a machine washable cover in colors that range from dusk (grey) to sweet berry (pale pink). Lastly, thrifty families will appreciate this seat’s affordable sub-$75 price tag.
Best for Infants: Graco SnugRide 30 LX Click Connect Infant Car Seat
For smaller babies, the Graco SnugRide 30 LX Click Connect Infant Car Seat meets or exceeds all U.S. safety standards. It is exclusively used in the rear-facing position and is suitable for infants four to 30 pounds and up to 30 inches in height. The seat’s Click Connect technology allows for one-step attachment to any Graco Click Connect stroller, saving you from having to buy a separate travel stroller. Instead, you can wheel the car seat right up to the plane door where the stroller part will be checked by a flight attendant.
The seat also attaches to the included Click Connect base which is LATCH equipped and has three different reclining positions. However, the base isn’t mandatory. If you want to travel light you can leave it at home and still secure the seat safely in your hired car using the seatbelt. It weighs 11 pounds with the base, seven pounds without it, and has a width of 17.5 inches. Other key features include a five-point, front-adjust harness, a removable newborn head support, and a rotating sun canopy.
Best All Seasons: Evenflo Sonus Convertible Car Seat
The Evenflo Sonus Convertible Car Seat can be used rear-facing or forward-facing; the first is recommended for tots five to 40 pounds or 19 to 40 inches in height, while the latter is recommended for those 22 to 50 pounds or 18 to 50 inches in height. Thanks to strategic air-flow vents that prevent your child from overheating, it's ideal for warm-weather destinations. The seat measures 19 inches in width but is still compact enough to fit three across in most mid-size vehicles. At 11.38 pounds, it’s also conveniently light.
When used with the five-point harness the seat is FAA-approved for aircraft travel. The harness has five shoulder strap positions and an up-front adjuster that allows you to ensure a snug fit with minimum fuss. For your child’s safety, the seat has also been side impact and rollover tested and is capable of withstanding energy levels two times the federal crash test standard. There are six colors to choose from including lava red, boomerang blue, and Indigo.
Our writers spent 5 hours researching the most popular travel car seats on the market. Before making their final recommendations, they considered 15 different car seats overall, screened options from 6 different brands and manufacturers, and read over 50 user reviews (both positive and negative). All of this research adds up to recommendations you can trust.