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Best Car Seats for Travel
March 1, 2024

Best Car Seats for Travel

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Best Car Seats for Travel

Ever try to lug a 20-pound car seat through an airport while thinking to yourself, “There has to be a better way?”

Traveling with babies and young children can be a great adventure, but it can also be a bit of a logistical nightmare. Where will they sleep? (A travel crib or a travel bed usually do the trick.) Can you fly with breastmilk? (Yes.) How do you keep a toddler entertained on a long flight? (Thoughts and prayers.)

Car seats can be especially confusing when you’re away from home. Most present a bit of a conundrum: you want your to keep your little one safe and secure, but you don’t want to throw out your back lugging a big, bulky car seat around with you wherever you go. The good news is there are plenty of travel-friendly car seat options on the market—you just need to know what features to look for.

Babylist’s Top Picks for the Best Travel Car Seats

Best infant car seats

Best convertible car seats

Best booster seats

Babylist’s Picks for the Best Car Seats for Travel

Infant Car Seats

Lightest Infant Car Seat for Travel

The UPPAbaby Aria hit the market in early 2024 and we couldn’t be more excited about it. The brand’s OG car seat, the Mesa, is a popular choice for expecting parents but is a few pounds heavier than many comparable seats. The Aria comes in much lighter, weighing just under six pounds without the canopy and inserts, making it the lightest infant seat currently on the market. This is great if you’re using the seat daily, but even better if you’re using it for travel.

The Aria is GREENGUARD Gold Certified and can be installed with or without its base, another travel plus. (It features something called a European belt path, a routing system that makes installing the seat without its base safer and more secure.) A no-rethread harness makes fit adjustments easy and there’s a load leg and an anti-rebound bar for safety and stability. We also love the XL canopy for shade and darkness and that you won’t need adapters if you’re connecting the seat directly to a Vista or Cruz stroller.

Additional Specs
Child Weight/Height Guidelines 4-30 lbs, up to 30”
Car Seat Carrier Weight 5.9 lbs (excluding canopy and infant insert)

Best Affordable Infant Car Seat for Travel

You don’t have to spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars on a travel-friendly infant car seat. Evenflo’s LiteMax costs a bit over $100 and weighs only eight pounds, making it affordable and travel-ready. You can install it without its base—it even has a European belt path. There’s a full-coverage canopy and an ergonomically designed handle for easier carrying.

If you don’t mind spending a bit more and are looking for some extra safety features, check out the LiteMax DLX, which features a load leg. (Just remember that the load led extends from the base, so if you’re using just the seat you won’t have that benefit.) And for another affordable infant car seat for travel, check out Graco’s SnugRide 35 Lite LX Infant Car Seat. It weighs just over seven pounds and can be installed without the base when you don’t feel like bringing it along.

Additional Specs
Child Weight/Height Guidelines 4-35 lbs; up to 32”
Car Seat Carrier Weight 8.17 lbs

Best Luxury Infant Car Seat for Travel

The Pipa Rx is a stellar combination of safety + convenience and works just as well as an everyday car seat as it does for travel. It’s pricey, but it’s also a sleek, modern seat with two key features that make it ideal for travel: weight and ease of installation. The Pipa weighs just over seven pounds, making it one of the lightest infant car seats on the market—a huge plus when you’re carrying it through the airport or taking it in and out of your car. And like other seats on our list, you can install it without the base using your vehicle’s seat belt and the European belt path.

It’s also packed with high-end features that you’d expect in a higher-priced seat. It’s GREENGUARD Gold Certified and doesn’t contain any added fire-retardant chemicals, and there’s an oversized canopy for shade. Safety-wise, it excels, featuring both a load leg and an anti-rebound panel (both extra safety features that help absorb impact and rebound in the event of a crash).

For another high-end, travel-friendly seat, check out the Clek Liingo. It’s a bit heavier, but it features LATCH anchors built right into the car seat itself, meaning you can skip the base and the seat belt and install it securely in seconds.

Additional Specs
Child Weight/Height Guidelines 4-32 lbs, up to 32”
Car Seat Carrier Weight 7.6 lbs

Best Infant Car Seat Stroller Hybrid for Travel

There’s nothing quite like the Doona. This one-of-a-kind hybrid stroller + car seat is a favorite of on-the-go parents and is a great item of baby gear to own if you’ll be traveling frequently with your little one during their first year or so.

The Doona transforms from an infant car seat into a stroller with the click of a button. When it’s time to get in the car, the stroller legs and wheels pull up and fold under the car seat. It’s a dream if you’re looking to cut down on the amount of gear you’re lugging around when you’re away from home and if you’re looking for a seat that’s easy to get in and out of ride shares or rental cars. (It’s a great seat for city dwellers too.)

Additional Specs
Child Weight/Height Guidelines 4-35 lbs; up to 32”
Car Seat Weight 14.3 lbs

Convertible Car Seats

Best Convertible Car Seat for Travel

Most convertible seats aren’t designed for travel. Weighing in at an average of about 20 pounds, convertibles don’t snap into strollers and are heavy, bulky and meant to be installed in your car and stay there. For parents who travel frequently or don’t own a car, getting around with a convertible seat poses quite the challenge.

The Next solves for this dilemma. It weighs about 10 pounds—light for any car seat but especially so for a convertible. It’s easy to sling over your shoulder while you’re walking through the airport or install in an airplane seat or a ride share. (It’s FAA-approved for plane travel.) It’s totally no-frills and can be a bit tricky to get a secure install, but it’s slim, safe and affordable and can be used both rear- and forward-facing.

Additional Specs
Child Weight/Height Guidelines Rear-facing: 5-40 lbs, 19-40”; forward-facing: 22-40 lbs, 29-43”
Seat Weight 10.4 lbs

A Longer Lasting Travel-Friendly Convertible Pick

The Sonus 65 is a travel-friendly convertible car seat and a good choice if you’re looking for a seat with a higher height and weight maximum than the Cosco Scenera Next. It weighs a bit more, but only by about a pound, and you’ll be able to use it until your little one reaches 65 pounds or 50 inches as opposed to the Next which maxes out at 40 pounds and 43 inches.

In addition to its extended use capabilities, the Sonos is an affordable seat with a few noteworthy features. It’s a fairly narrow seat, so it won’t take up much room across your back seat and can be used three across. There’s also a built-in ventilation system, a reinforced frame, five shoulder strap positions and two integrated cup holders for drinks and snacks.

Additional Specs
Child Weight/Height Guidelines Rear-facing: 5-40 lbs, 19-40”; forward-facing: 22-65 lbs, 28-50”
Car Seat Carrier Weight 11.28 lbs

Most Compact Convertible Car Seat for Travel

The WAYB Pico is like no other convertible car seat on the market. Designed specifically for families who travel or are frequently on the go, it’s one of the pricer options on our list but is a worthwhile investment if you’re looking for an innovative, safe and incredibly compact convertible car seat option.

The creators of the Pico were inspired to create a completely unique convertible-style seat after watching parents struggle trying to lug car seats through airports and in and out of taxis and ride shares. There’s no feature here that hasn’t been completely (and ingeniously) thought through. The Pico’s frame is made from lightweight, aerospace-grade aluminum; there’s a five-point harness and seat fabric made from a cool, breathable mesh; and the seat installs either via a seat belt or LATCH system. The Pico weighs just eight pounds and folds up for easy transport either by hand or in the brand’s carry bag.

One thing to keep in mind: the seat is forward-facing only, so if you’re looking for a rear-facing convertible for travel, this isn’t a good fit for you.

Additional Specs
Child Weight/Height Guidelines 22-50 lbs; ages 2+ years, 30-45”
Seat Weight 8 lbs

Booster Seats

Best Booster Seat for Travel

Booster seats use a vehicle’s seat belt as a restraint and were developed to help elevate children in a car’s seat, making adult seat belts fit better on smaller bodies. You’ll have to wait quite a while until you transition your little one from a convertible car seat into a booster; most experts recommend waiting to make the leap until your child maxes out their forward-facing car seat, meets the height and weight requirements of the booster and is mature enough to sit properly upright (no leaning, twisting, moving around etc.).

There are two types of boosters: high-back and backless. Graco’s TurboBooster falls into the first category, with a high back and a seat belt guide to thread your vehicle’s shoulder belt for a proper fit. Due to their height, no high-backs are particularly great for travel, but this one is one of the best you’ll find in terms of price (affordable) and weight (just over eight pounds). It’s also easy to install and fits a wide variety of children well, and transitions to a backless booster for years of use.

Child Weight/Height Guidelines High-back booster mode: 40-100 lbs, 43-57”; backless booster mode: 40-100 lbs, 43-57”
Car Seat Carrier Weight 8.4 lbs

Best Backless Booster Seat for Travel

Most experts recommend using a high-back booster for as long as possible, but once you’re ready to make the switch to a backless model, your life is going to get a whole lot easier (and a lot lighter!). Cosco’s Rise is a no-frills seat that’s affordable, lightweight and compact, making it ideal to toss into a bag or even a tote for travel. The wide base and high armrests make it easy for your child to buckle in themselves and there’s a shoulder belt positioning clip to ensure you’ll get the proper fit.

Child Weight/Height Guidelines 40-100 lbs; 43-57”
Car Seat Carrier Weight 11.28 lbs

How We Chose Our Best Car Seats for Travel

  • We analyzed results from Babylist’s Best Baby Products survey, which polled 6,000 Babylist users and asked them to share the baby products they love the most and why.
  • We utilized insight from the Babylist editorial team, including Gear Editor Jen LaBracio, an expert in the baby space for over six years and a mom of two who has written hundreds of baby gear guides and personally researched and tested hundreds of baby products, including many travel car seats.
  • We reviewed customer reviews from hundreds of real Babylist parents.

What Is a Travel Car Seat?

There’s no specific category or true definition for a “travel” car seat; instead, what defines a travel-friendly car seat is more about its features. Things like a light weight, compact design and ease of portability are all factors to consider when you’re shopping for this type of seat.

Do You Need a Travel Car Seat?

Determining if it’s worthwhile to invest in a car seat just for travel depends on your family’s lifestyle. If you’re a family who tends to stay close to home or use your own car when you’re traveling, you can likely skip a travel-friendly seat. But if you’re planning on hitting the road (or the skies) frequently with your little one in tow, then purchasing a car seat specifically for travel can make your life on the go a whole lot easier.

Also keep in mind that you don’t have to use a travel-friendly car seat just for travel. A compact, lightweight car seat is a great choice if you’re an urban family that doesn’t own a car, for example, if you need a seat for a grandparent or other caregiver or if plan to switch your seat frequently between cars.

Features to Look for in a Travel Car Seat

There are some specific features to keep in mind when you’re shopping for a car seat that’s well-suited for travel.

  • Weight. This is a biggie. Lugging around a heavy car seat isn’t a fun way to spend any part of your vacation. Choose the lightest seat you can within your budget—your lower back can thank us later.
  • Design. A slim, compact seat is easier to transport than a big, bulky one. Keep this in mind when choosing what type of seat you’ll purchase for traveling.
  • Ease of installation. Does spending 40 minutes trying to install a car seat in your rental car sound like fun? Make sure the car seat you choose for travel can be installed quickly and easily in the widest range of car makes and models.
  • FAA-approved. This one’s important if you plan on doing a lot of travel via plane. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that kids ride in child safety seats on airplanes—but you’ll need to make sure your seat is approved for airplane use. Look for a label on the seat that reads “certified for use in motor vehicles and aircraft” to be sure. This includes infant seats, convertibles, forward-facing seats and some harnessed boosters.
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