If you’re a family on the go, having a lightweight car seat that you can easily switch between planes, trains and automobiles is a must for your next vacation. Instead of bringing your main car seat with you on this adventure — one that is most likely big and bulky and a pain to install — there are many travel car seats that are more compact and won’t break your back lugging them through an airport.
Fortunately, there’s a travel car seat that will fit every stage of life. And, most importantly, these car seats are still very comfortable, safe for your little ones and many are approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which means you can take them on an aircraft with you.
So, before you jet off on your next trip, here’s a list of car seats that will make your packing and travel experience significantly lighter.
Infant car seats for travel
If you’re traveling with an infant, the bucket car seat that you may use for your car and also snaps into your stroller will probably work for your next trip. But you’ll still want to make sure that the car seat is FAA-approved in order to take it on the plane. Here are some options.
$550 at Amazon
Unfortunately, though, the car seat is expensive and the lifespan is quite short. Since this baby item doesn’t turn into a convertible car seat, it’s more geared toward 1-year-olds or younger — maxing out when your child hits 32 inches tall or 35 pounds.
But with the car seat and stroller combo only weighing 16 pounds in total, this is as easy as it gets when it comes to traveling with your baby.
$224.99 at Amazon
Convertible car seats for travel
As your child moves on from the infant bucket car seat, a convertible car seat is necessary to keep your child safe in a car. Some convertible car seats are forward-facing only, while others can be used in both directions. You’ll want to follow the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) guidelines as to whether or not your child can sit forward-facing yet, as that might play into which car seat works best for your child while traveling.
And even though your child can sit upright in an airplane seat on their own, you might find that bringing a convertible car seat onto the airplane — for those up to 2 or 3 years old — will keep your child from moving all over the plane and allow them to nap easier. But before you bring your car seat on the airplane, you’ll want to make sure the seat is FAA-approved. For our list, we’ve only included FAA-approved convertible car seats.
$59.98 at Walmart
The one downside is that the car seat can only hold a child up to 40 pounds, which is slightly lower than some other convertible car seats on this list.
$69.99 at Amazon
As a five-point harness car seat, the Cosco Finale is suited for children between 30 and 65 pounds and 32 and 49 inches tall. You can also use the LATCH system up until your child is 50 pounds. For a high-back booster, the weight limit for the child is between 40 and 100 pounds and the height is for those between 43 and 52 inches tall, though the high-back booster is not FAA-approved without the internal harness.
$119.99 $99.99 at Amazon
$79.99 at Amazon
$119.99 at Target
The car seat offers air flow vents, two cup holders, harness covers and a machine-washable seat pad.
$78.88 at Walmart
There’s also an adjustable headrest, LATCH connector system and a removable cushion.
$72.50 at Amazon
Although a great option for air travel, the harness can’t be used as a car seat alternative in the car. If you need a car at your final destination, you’ll still have to pack a car seat or rent one.
Compact car seats for travel
If you’re no longer taking a car seat on the plane with you, but you’re instead looking for the most compact car seat for packing purposes, there are many options — whether it’s a five-point harness or just a simple booster.
Many of these car seats can be folded up, meaning you can store them in your luggage or even throw some of them in your backpack. They are compact, lightweight and slim to fit in all rental cars. Keep in mind that the FAA prohibits booster seats during ground movement, takeoff and landing, though they are not prohibited during the cruise. However, individual airlines may have their own policies that prohibit booster seats. For that reason, booster seats may be reserved for car usage when used in tandem with a three-point adult seat belt.
$32.99 $29.99 at Amazon
The BubbleBum can be used for children between 40 and 100 pounds. It’s not FAA-approved, but could make sense in a rental car when used with a three-point adult seat belt.
$36.92 $34.92 at Amazon
This booster seat is for children between 40 and 110 pounds — the highest weight limit of any travel car seats on the list. It is not FAA-approved and must be used in tandem with a three-point adult seat belt in the car.
$470 at Amazon
The seat can be installed via a seat belt or LATCH system, but only offers a forward-facing design. This car seat is for children 2 years or older, weighing between 22 and 50 pounds.
Although as one of the more expensive car seats on the list, it’s truly a great investment for those traveling often, as it’s also FAA-approved.
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