Here Are the Best Travel Car Seats to Keep Your Little Ones Safe

These light and sturdy car seats will keep your kids comfortable

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Traveling with kids can be a lot of fun. You get to 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 the safety of our youngsters, and that includes 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 car can seem daunting. Luckily, many companies make travel car seats that are lighter and easier to install on the go.

Just be sure they meet the safety standards. "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."

We've researched for you to find some of the best. Here are the nine best travel car seats.

Best Overall: Cosco Scenera NEXT Convertible Car Seat

car seat

Cosco

What We Like
  • Lightweight

  • Affordable

  • 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 super 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.

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

Evenflo Tribute LX Convertible Car Seat

Amazon

What We Like
  • Multiple shoulder harness positions

  • Removable pillow

  • 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 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 quickly get your child in and out of the seat. 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 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).

Dimensions: ‎18.5 x 22 x 25.5 inches | Weight Rating: Up to 40 pounds | Installation Type: Latch system

Best Budget: Cosco Apt 50 Convertible Car Seat

Cosco Apt 50 Convertible Car Seat

Cosco

What We Like
  • Price

  • Easy to carry

  • Certified for aircrafts

What We Don't Like
  • Can be hard to install

When it comes to children's safety, you don't necessarily want the cheapest option. But luckily, the Cosco Apt 50 Convertible car seat is certified for use on aircraft, meets federal and ASTM safety regulations, and isn't expensive. What's more, is it's incredibly versatile too; it can hold kids from 5 pounds up to 50 pounds in forward and rear-facing modes. And the 5 point harness can be adjusted into six heights and three buckle locations for superior comfort as your little one grows. Plus, it's extremely light at just 8 pounds, making it a breeze to carry with you on a trip. As far as installation, some reviewers said it was a bit of a pain, while others said it could be installed in under 30 seconds. 

Dimensions: 26 x 20 x 24 inches | Weight Rating: Up to 50 pounds | Installation Type: Latch

Best Lightweight: WAYB Pico Travel Car Seat

WAYB Pico Travel Car Seat

Courtesy of Amazon

What We Like
  • Very compact

  • Comes with a travel bag

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

  • Only for toddlers and older

Car seats tend to be a hassle to travel with because they're bulky, heavy, and unwieldy. Luckily, this travel car seat by WAYB won't add a lot of 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 that weigh 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 into overhead bins and comes with a carrying bag that can slip onto your suitcase.

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

Safety 1st Guide 65 Convertible Car Seat

Safety 1st

What We Like
  • Large weight range

  • Adjustable headrest and harness

  • 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 a great 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 safe 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 quickly take the seat in and out of the car. Both the cushion and cup holder are removable for easy cleanup. It's available in multiple colors.

Dimensions: 27.25 x 18.5 x 20.25 inches | Weight Rating: Up to 65 pounds | Installation Type: Latch

Best for Bigger Kids: Graco My Ride 65 Convertible Car Seat

Graco My Ride 65 Convertible Car Seat

Graco

What We Like
  • Cup holders

  • Removable infant insert

What We Don't Like
  • Heavier

  • 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 to ride rear-facing up to 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. 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

Cosco Finale DX 2-in-1 Booster Car Seat

Courtesy of Walmart

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 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. 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. 

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

Maxi-Cosi Pria Max 3-in-1 Convertible Car Seat

Amazon

What We Like
  • Comfortable

  • Auto-magnetic chest clip

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. Reviewers have called this product the "Cadillac of car seats with so much versatility." Unfortunately, that also means it comes with a hefty price tag and heavier weight.

Dimensions: 25.25 x 24 x 19.88 pounds | Weight Rating: Up to 100 pounds | Installation Type: Latch or seatbelt

Best All Seasons: Evenflo Sonus Convertible Car Seat

Evenflo Sonus Convertible Car Seat

Evenflo

What We Like
  • Airflow ventilation system

  • Meets FAA Inversion requirements

  • Wider seating for child

What We Don't Like
  • Difficult to install

The Evenflo Sonus Convertible Car Seat can be used rear-facing or forward-facing; the first is recommended for tots 5 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 airflow vents that prevent your child from overheating, it's ideal even in warm-weather destinations. The seat measures 19 inches in width but is still compact enough to fit three across most mid-size vehicles. At 11.38 pounds, it's also conveniently light.

The seat is FAA-approved for aircraft travel when used with the five-point harness. 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.

Dimensions: 19 x 19 x 29 inches | Weight Rating: Up to 50 pounds | Installation Type: Seatbelt and latch 

Final Verdict

If you don't want to have multiple car seats in your life, the Maxi-Cosi Pria Max 3-in-1 Convertible Car Seat (view at Amazon) is your best bet, as it's ideal for everyday use and can hold kids up to 100 lbs. But it can be heavy. So, if you want something lightweight and compact, buy the WAYB Pico Travel Car Seat (view at Amazon) or the Evenflo Tribute LX Convertible Car Seat (view at Amazon).

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.

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