Best Car Seats for Travel of 2020
Best Car Seats for Travel
August 20, 2020

Best Car Seats for Travel

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. Most car seats present a particularly tricky problem—you want your little one to be safe and secure when you’re away from home, but you don’t want to throw out your back lugging a big, bulky car seat around with you wherever you go. A travel-friendly option can help.

What Is a Travel Car Seat?

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

Do You Need a Travel Car Seat?

Knowing 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 then no, you may not need 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 travel-friendly seat can make your life 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 you’re shopping for a seat that’s going to be frequently switched between cars.

What Should You Look for in a Travel Car Seat?

Keep these features 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 a lot 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 to you? Us either. 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.

Babylist Picks for Best Car Seats for Travel

Infant Car Seats

Sleek, Modern and Lightweight

Nuna is one of the most popular and trusted car seat brands around, so it’s no surprise that their infant seat checks the boxes for a great travel seat.

This sleek, modern seat boasts two key features that make it ideal for getting out and about with your baby: weight and ease of installation. At just under eight pounds, the Pipa is one of the lightest seats on the market, so you’ll be able to carry it through an airport or in and out of your car with ease. It’s also super simple to install without the base thanks to the European belt path—another big win when you’re using the seat away from home and don’t feel like lugging the base along.

Other features to love include a fold-down stability leg (also called a load leg) for added safety, an XL Dream Drape canopy and high-end, flame-resistant fabrics.

Additional Specs
Child Weight/Height Guidelines 4-32 lbs;up to 32”
Car Seat Carrier Weight 7.9 lbs

Ultra Affordable

At about half the price of the Pipa and only about a pound heavier, Evenflo’s LiteMax is an affordable seat that’s easy for travel. Travel-friendly features include a European belt path, a no-rethread harness for easy adjustments on the go and of course the seat’s ultra-light weight of 8.7 pounds.

The LiteMax also features a stability leg, a feature not often found in car seats at this price point. It has the lowest weight limit of any of the car seats on our list—three pounds—and works until your little one hits 35 pounds.

Additional Specs
Child Weight/Height Guidelines 3-35 lbs; up to 32”
Car Seat Carrier Weight 8.7 lbs

Car Seat + Stroller Hybrid

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

Low Price, Low Weight

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 5-40 lbs; up to 43”
Seat Weight 10.4 lbs

Slim and Streamlined

The less bulk the better when you’re shopping for a travel-friendly convertible seat. This streamlined option from Combi features a compact design that’s easy to carry, easy to install and is FAA-approved for air travel.

The Coccoro weighs in at just over 14 pounds—not quite as light as the Scenera, but still quite light when compared to other convertible seats. Its compact design means it will fit in most cars, even those with smaller back seats, as well as in an airplane seat. The seat features side-impact protection and a layer of energy-absorbing foam for added protection in the event of a crash. The insert is machine washable and features a no-rethread harness for easy adjustments.

Additional Specs
Child Weight/Height Guidelines 3-40 lbs; up to 40”
Seat Weight 14.3 lbs

Foldable and Unique

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 a travel bag/backpack.

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

Safe and Affordable

The Tribute, a convertible car seat from Evenflo, makes our best travel-friendly seats list due to is light weight, portability and price point. It’s a fairly basic seat but one that’s worth a look if you’re in the market for a travel car seat that won’t break the bank.

The Tribute weighs just over nine pounds so it’s easy to carry and transport. Installation is fast and straightforward, and the seat can be used both rear-facing and forward-facing as your little one grows. There’s solid side impact protection, four shoulder strap positions and an easily accessible harness adjustment and buckle release.

Additional Specs
Child Weight/Height Guidelines 4-40 lbs; up to 40”
Seat Weight 9.2 lbs

Booster Seats

Under $20

Bigger kids need car seats too. The good news is that there are lots of small, compact options that can keep your growing child safe—and the Turbo Go is one of them.

Price and portability is the name of the game with this booster seat. At under $20, the Turbo Go is affordable without sacrificing safety or quality. It’s also ultra-portable. The seat folds compactly so it’s easy to carry with you wherever you’re headed. The seat pad is machine washable and features a steel-reinforced belt guide and a shoulder belt positioner for just the right fit.

Additional Specs
Child Weight/Height Guidelines 40-100 lbs
Seat Weight 4 lbs

Great for On the Go

A booster with a back and a five-point harness offers a bit more safety and security than backless options and is a good choice for a child who hasn’t quite mastered sitting upright (and sitting still!) in a car for long periods of time. The Immi Go is the perfect solution. It works well for travel or for ride shares—you may recognize it if you’ve ever ridden in an Uber Family before.

This harness-style forward-facing seat weighs only 10 pounds and folds down to easily fit in its included travel bag. You’ll need a LATCH system in your car to install it best (it will work with just a seat belt, but it’s tricky and we don’t recommend it), and the installation process is quick and easy. It’s not FAA-approved, so you won’t be able to use it on a plane, but it is small enough to fit in the overhead compartment if you plan on using it in a car when you arrive at your destination.

Additional Specs
Child Weight/Height Guidelines 22-55 lbs; ages 2+ years, 31-52”
Seat Weight 10 lbs

Innovative Inflatable

Looking for the ultimate in portability? The BubbleBum is an inflatable booster seat that solves for the hassle and inconvenience of traveling with a big, bulky seat. When it’s not in use, it deflates almost completely flat, making it easy to pack in a suitcase or even toss in a tote or diaper bag. It inflates with just a few breaths and takes about 30 seconds to set up in your back seat.

The BubbleBum features a webbing harness and nylon seat belt guides and comes in a range of fun colors and patterns.

Additional Specs
Child Weight/Height Guidelines 40-100 lbs; 4-11 years old
Seat Weight 1.2 lbs

Super Compact

If you’re really looking to save space when you travel, look no further. The innovative mifold is the world’s most compact backless booster and makes an excellent travel seat option.

Similar to the BubbleBum, the mifold takes up virtually zero space when compared to most booster seats on the market. Instead of inflating, however, the mifold works like its name implies—it folds in on itself into an ultra-compact, ultra-portable seat that’s 10 times smaller than the average car seat. It works by adjusting the seat belt by pulling it down to better fit your child.

The mifold is ideal for travel as well as for carpooling, ride shares, car rentals or rides with grandparents or other caregivers.

Additional Specs
Child Weight/Height Guidelines 40-100 lbs; ages 4+ years, 40-57”
Seat Weight 1.7 lbs
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