Planning a Road Trip: The Complete Guide SEE FULL GUIDE prev next Car Bike Racks Getting Your Car Ready Preparing for the Weather 8 Helpful Apps for a Road Trip Common Mistakes to Avoid Taking a Road Trip With Kids Planning a Solo Road Trip How to Plan a Camping Road Trip Planning a Stargazing Road Trip 10 Helpful Budget Tips Calculating the Cost of Gas Budget for a 3-Day Road Trip Best Road Trip Route By Interest Mississippi River Road Trip Atlantic Coast Road Trip Southern US Road Trip Northern US Road Trip Pacific Coast Road Trip US Route 12 Northeastern US Routes Rocky Mountain Destinations Warm-Weather Road Trip The Longest Highway in the US Car Rental Companies Best Audio Books Must-Have Emergency Supplies Family Road Trip Toys and Games Car Seats Planning a Road Trip: The Complete Guide close Overview Inspiration Road Trips The 7 Best Travel Car Seats of 2023 By Jordi Lippe-McGraw Jordi Lippe-McGraw Instagram Boston University Jordi is a freelance contributor to TripSavvy. Her personal passions gravitate toward wellness and adventure, leading her to frequently plan trips that blend zen relaxation with urban and rugged exploration. TripSavvy's editorial guidelines Updated on 02/06/23 Share Pin Email We independently research, test, review, and recommend the best products—learn more about our process. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission. Asking your kids to help plan your next trip and traveling with them can be a lot of fun. You expose the little ones to new experiences and see the world through their eyes. But there are still everyday tasks to worry about while on the road, like feedings and naps. And, of course, the main concern is our youngsters' safety, including ensuring they have a good car seat. If you're flying and/or frequently switching cars, the thought of lugging around the car seat you have perfectly installed in your vehicle can seem daunting. Luckily, many companies make travel car seats lighter and easier to install on the go. These models also emphasize portability and legroom for your child to grow into. To find the best options on the market today, we looked closely at the installation process, weight ratings, and certification status. The Rundown Best Overall: Cosco Scenera Next Convertible Car Seat at Walmart Jump to Review Runner-Up, Best Overall: Evenflo Tribute LX Convertible Car Seat at Amazon Jump to Review Best Lightweight: Wayb Pico Travel Car Seat at Amazon Jump to Review Most Compact: Safety 1st Guide 65 Convertible Car Seat at Amazon Jump to Review Best for Bigger Kids: Graco My Ride 65 Convertible Car Seat at Samsclub.com Jump to Review Best Booster Combo: Cosco Finale DX 2-in-1 Booster Car Seat at Amazon Jump to Review Most Innovative: Maxi-Cosi Pria Max 3-in-1 Convertible Car Seat at Amazon Jump to Review Table of contents Expand Our Picks What to Look for in Travel Car Seats FAQ Why Trust TripSavvy Best Overall Cosco Scenera Next Harness Convertible Car Seat 4.9 Amazon View On Walmart View On Coscokids.com What We Like Easy to carry Budget-friendly Versatile What We Don't Like Sizing issues for older childen The Cosco Scenera Next Convertible Car Seat receives excellent marks for lightness and simplicity. This affordable car seat is 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. The car seat can be used rear-facing for kiddos 5 to 40 pounds and 19 to 40 inches tall or front-facing for those 22 to 40 pounds or 29 and 43 inches tall. 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 lightweight at just 7 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. Price at time of publication: $60 Dimensions: 17.63 x 15.75 x 30.25 inches | Weight Rating: Up to 40 pounds | Installation Type: Latch equipped Runner-Up, Best Overall Evenflo Tribute LX Convertible Car Seat Amazon View On Amazon What We Like Multiple shoulder harness positions Easy buckle release What We Don't Like Higher price point 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. In addition, the car seat offers side impact protection and 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 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 5 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). Price at time of publication: $80 Dimensions: 18.5 x 22 x 25.5 inches | Weight Rating: Up to 40 pounds | Installation Type: Latch system Best Lightweight Wayb Pico Travel Car Seat Nordstrom View On Amazon View On Nordstrom View On Curated.com What We Like Very compact Comes with a travel bag Sturdy What We Don't Like Expensive Only for toddlers and older Car seats are a hassle to travel with because they're bulky, heavy, and unwieldy. Luckily, this travel car seat by WAYB won't add much extra weight to your suitcase. Weighing under 8 pounds, the FAA-approved Pico Travel Car Seat is easy to transport everywhere you go. It's front-facing and can hold kids between 22 to 55 pounds or measure 30 to 45 inches tall. It has an AeroWing aluminum frame that is durable yet lightweight, and the AstroKnit performance mesh lining will keep your kids comfortable throughout their journey. Best of all, this car seat folds into a small enough package to store in overhead bins and comes with a carrying bag that can slip onto your suitcase. Price at time of publication: $470 Dimensions: 14.96 x 11.02 x 20.08 inches | Weight Rating: Up to 50 pounds | Installation Type: Latch system or car/airplane seatbelt Most Compact Safety 1st Guide 65 Convertible Car Seat Amazon View On Amazon View On Walmart What We Like Large weight range Sleek design What We Don't Like Complaints about installation Safety 1st's Guide 65 Convertible Car Seat weighs 14 pounds; it's sturdy enough for everyday use yet light enough for travel. This car seat's frame is so compact that you could place three in the back of your car, making it an excellent option for larger families or smaller European rental cars. Plus, it can accommodate a wide range of weights, making it a budget-friendly pick that can last for years. It's for children that weigh between 5 and 40 pounds to use in a rear-facing position and children 22 to 65 pounds to use in a front-facing position. Side-impact protection and five harnesses that adjust in the center ensure your child stays secure throughout their ride and help deflect impact away from their head, neck, and spine in the event of an accident. Other safety features include three buckle locations and an adjustable headrest. This car seat also has a LATCH connector system, making it easy to take the seat in and out of the car quickly. Both the cushion and cup holder are removable for easy cleanup. It's available in multiple colors. Price at time of publication: $100 Dimensions: 27.25 x 18.5 x 20.25 inches | Weight Rating: Up to 65 pounds | Installation Type: Latch The 8 Best Kids’ Luggage Pieces for Easy and Fun Travel Best for Bigger Kids Graco My Ride 65 Convertible Car Seat Graco View On Samsclub.com What We Like Holds bottles or sippy cups Versatile What We Don't Like Takes up space Most of the car seats on this list are appropriate for children up to 40 pounds, but the Graco My Ride 65 Convertible Car Seat is rated for up to 65 pounds. It also allows children up to 50 pounds to ride rear-facing and has an extra-tall seat. This means the average child can ride rear-facing for two years or more, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. In addition, 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 designed with car travel in mind, it is FAA-approved and 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. Dimensions: 21.1 x 17.28 x 34.49 inches | Weight Rating: Up to 65 pounds | Installation Type: Latch Best Booster Combo Cosco Finale DX 2-in-1 Booster Car Seat Walmart View On Amazon View On Walmart View On Target What We Like Can fit three across Easy to clean Accommodates older children What We Don't Like Durability complaints 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 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. In addition, the FAA approves the Cosco Finale for aircraft use in its car seat capacity. It suits kids between 40 to 100 pounds and 43 to 52 inches in height as a booster seat. Its 17-inch width and 9-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 price tag. Price at time of publication: $70 Dimensions: 18.25 x 19 x 29.75 inches | Weight Rating: Up to 100 pounds | Installation Type: Latch or seatbelt Most Innovative Maxi-Cosi Pria Max 3-in-1 Convertible Car Seat Amazon View On Amazon View On Nordstrom View On Babylist.com What We Like Cozy Easy to buckle Easy to clean What We Don't Like Expensive Heavy If you don't want to invest in multiple car seats, the Pria Max 3-in-1 Convertible Car Seat is your best bet. It can handle children from birth to 10 years old, making it one of the most versatile options on the market. Plus, the high-end brand makes each stage supremely comfortable for your child and easy for adults to use. It has a spring-assist harness system, so the straps don't get tangled; a one-hand magnetic chest clip; a simple integrated headrest and harness system, so you don't have to rethread as your tot grows; and machine-washable fabric. Keep in mind it comes with a hefty price tag and heavier weight. Price at time of publication: $320 Dimensions: 25.25 x 24 x 19.88 pounds | Weight Rating: Up to 100 pounds | Installation Type: Latch or seatbelt What to Look for in Travel Car Seats Installation All models on our list use LATCH systems, and some can also be installed using the vehicle's seat belt, but never use both anchoring methods together. LATCH, also known as Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children, is an alternative system to securing the car seat to the vehicle without using the seat belt. Both the vehicle and the car seat must have LATCH parts to install the seat properly, but most car seats and vehicles manufactured after 2002 must have LATCH systems. The car seat will have straps that come from the bottom and a top tether at the top. These attach to the lower anchors in the car, found in the space between the rear back seat and seat cushion, and to the top anchor, which could be near the rear window or on the car ceiling. When in doubt, check the vehicle manual and seat instructions. Weight Rating Like their everyday counterparts, travel car seats will include maximum weight ratings that tell up to what weight a child may safely use a car seat. Additionally, choosing to install the car seat front- or rear-facing is based on the weight and height of the child. Most models can transition from rear- to front-facing as your tot grows, or even from front-facing to a booster seat like the Cosco Finale DX. Consider the kid's age, weight, height, and the manufacturer's notes to choose a travel seat that will give you the longest practical use. Certification Status Most importantly, the car seat you buy should meet all safety standards. If you're flying, look for an FAA-approved or similarly aircraft-approved seat. "All legal car seats must meet the same crash test criteria, aka safety standards, and be properly labeled," said Amie Durocher, a CPS Tech at SafeRide4Kids.com. "If you are worried about counterfeit car seats, check the label. Certified seats in the U.S. are required to have very specific language on the labels. Beware if it doesn't mention federal motor vehicle safety standards or FMVSS213 or if it lacks a model name or number or manufactured date." Frequently Asked Questions Can I travel with a car seat on a plane? Yes, you can travel with a car seat on the plane—and it's actually recommended. "We recommend that parents purchase a seat even for children under two who could be 'lap babies' and use the FAA-approved child restraint on the airplane," said Durocher. "This makes it safer for the child—and the parent—in case of an incident during take-off or landing and in case of turbulence during the flight." How do I travel with a car seat and a stroller? The hardest part of traveling with a car seat is figuring out the logistics through the airport. “Infant car seats that click onto a compatible stroller are easy, but travelers might need a car seat cart, luggage strap, or bungee cords to lug a convertible car seat through the airport,” said Michelle Pratt, founder and owner of Safe in the Seat. “Some people prefer to check their stroller with luggage and use a car seat cart to get their child and seat through the airport easily. Others babywear or let their toddler walk and load up their stroller with all their gear, then gate check the stroller planeside.” Do car seats face the rear or the front? “Rear-facing is the safest way for kids to ride in the car, but it’s not always possible on planes due to the tighter space,” added Pratt. “If the car seat fits rear-facing on the plane, that’s best. But kids who rear-face in the car can forward-face on the plane if they are at least 1 year old and meet their car seat’s forward-facing requirements. Then they seamlessly go back to rear-facing in the car at the destination.” Why Trust TripSavvy Author Jordi Lippe-McGraw has researched and written about travel and lifestyle products for nearly a decade. She is also the mom of a 3-year-old. When making this list, she researched dozens of products, looking at key specs like dimensions and weight rating and the number of positive and negative reviews. The Best Reef-Safe Sunscreens of 2023, Tested and Reviewed Article Sources TripSavvy uses only high-quality, trusted sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial policy to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. "Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) Restraint System." 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