What’s more important than protecting your little ones when you travel? There’s an easy answer to that question, absolutely nothing. That’s why it’s so important to find the right kind of car seat to meet all of your travel needs.
Finding the best travel car seat can be quite the project because there are so many different options and they can be pretty expensive. In this article, we’re going to look at some of the best travel car seats on the market and what things you should be looking for when making your choice.
If you’re looking for something that will be easy on your budget, you can find a good travel car seat that complies with federal regulations for under $50. There are prices for other travel car seats considered more luxury or premium that range all the way up to about $500. The price will depend on the features, materials, and the brand of the car seat.
What makes a car seat good for traveling?
What are the more advanced features that I should consider in a high-end car seat designed for traveling?
The Sonus is a convertible car seat that is meant to grow with your child and keep them safe and comfortable throughout the growing process. It’s great for travel because it offers a wider seating area but while still keeping the overall size of the car seat compact.
You could fit three of these in the back of a mid-size car and it wouldn’t be bulky to carry through an airport. It also only weighs about 13 lbs. This seat has been tested and passed the company’s Side Impact Test and Rollover Test. The price for the Sonus falls into the low end of the range.
This seat is great for all different seasons and climates. The built-in ventilation system helps to keep your child at a comfortable temperature no matter what kind of weather you’re in.
Also, the compact size and light weight of this car seat make it a great option for any kind of travel. The seat was tested at double the required impact level for a head-on crash test and passed with flying colors. This is a good, safe option for a travel car seat and at an affordable price.
One downfall for this seat is that some people seem to have a bit of trouble getting it snugly installed in their vehicles properly.
There are also some complaints that while this is a compact car seat, it takes up a lot of space front-to-back when it is in the rear facing direction. The front seats end up being pushed forward too far. The padding of the seat is quite good, but the cover material is a little bit rough.
Graco’s Contender 65 is a convertible travel car seat that accommodates children from 5 lbs. all the way through 65 lbs. The seat grows with your child and is super easy to install, either with a seatbelt or by using the LATCH connectors and a built-in level indicator that is very easy to read.
The seat has been Side Impact Tested and Safe Seat Engineered to meet or exceed all safety standards. Graco uses EPS, an energy absorbing foam, in the construction of this car seat which helps to manage impact energy should there be a collision. The price for this travel car seat is at the lower end of the range.
This car seat offers some luxuries but at a more budget-friendly price. There is plenty of padding to make your child’s ride very comfortable. You can adjust the headrest to 8 different positions depending on the height of your child.
There is a cup holder to keep your child’s drink handy. The seat is easy to install with a built-in LATCH system. Also, the seat is still fairly compact for easy transport.
The seat isn’t the lightest one on the market at 15.2 lbs. Also, there is no adjuster for the recline of the seat so if you can’t get it level, you have to resort to a rolled-up towel or some other option.
The LATCH system makes it easy to install the seat, but sometimes the latches can be hard to disengage when you want to remove the seat.
The Roundabout G4.1 is a convertible travel car seat that has safety features that work together as part of the SafeCell Impact Protection system to keep your child safe in any kind of travel situation.
There are three recline positions for added safety and comfort for your little one. The seat has a built-in latch system that makes an easy-to-hear click when it engages and can be easily disengaged with the touch of a button. The 5-point harness is equipped with a tangle-free feature that makes it easier and safer to use. The Roundabout G4.1 is priced at the low-mid end of the range for car seats.
The SafeCell Impact Protection system includes an impact absorbing base and tether, an impact stabilizing steel frame, and side impact protection.
You also get adjustable recline positions, latches that are easy to get on and off, foam padding to keep your child comfortable, and a tangle-free harness. The seat is quite compact and is very lightweight so it's perfect for travel.
The Diono Radian RXT is an all-in-one car seat that is built to last. This seat converts from a rear-facing car seat for your infant from 5 to 50 lbs. Then you can use it in front-facing capacity for up to 65 lbs.
And after that, it converts even further to a booster seat for children from 50 to 120 lbs. This car seat comes with features like a 12-point adjustable headrest, memory foam padding, and safety ratings that exceed most agency regulations. The price for this car seat is more of a mid-range price but for good reason.
The Radian RXT stands out as a semi-premium car seat that has some features made specifically for travel. The seat is aircraft use certified when it’s in harness mode.
It also folds down flat so it’s not so bulky and hard to carry like many other car seats that you lug through the airport. Also, the fact that this car seat is meant to be an all-in-one piece of equipment that follows your child through the entire time he or she will be sitting in a car seat makes it different than most convertible car seats.
The seat is hard to install, especially in the rear-facing position. There are complaints about there being too much wiggling once it’s installed.
The adjustable harness can be hard to move and there are reports that children are outgrowing the harness height before they are ready to move on to a booster seat with the seatbelt. While the seat does fold down for easier maneuverability through an airport, the seat is quite heavy at almost 30 lbs.
The Coccoro is a convertible car seat that is meant to fit even smaller vehicles. It’s compact and lightweight so you could fit three of these side-by-side in the back seat of most automobiles.
The seat is easy to install and remove with easy-release one-touch buttons on the LATCH connectors. The 5-point harness has a color indicator that lets you know whether your child is buckled securely or not. The price for the Coccoro is in the mid-range for travel car seats.
The Coccoro stands out with a couple of safety features that others in its class don’t have. The rear-facing tether connector strap is not something that many other car seats offer. Also, the color indicator to let you know if the harness is securely buckled is unique.
For travel purposes, this car seat is great because it’s so compact and very lightweight. The seat has deep side walls which have foam padding inside to divert the energy of an impact away from your child’s head, neck, and spine in the event of a crash.
This is a budget model convertible car seat that is suitable for children up to 50 lbs. The seat is easy to clean with a removable, machine-washable seat cover.
You can adjust the harness through 6 different positions and there are 3 buckle locations to give your child the best fit possible. Your child will have two convenient cup holders to use. And the seat is certified for aircraft use. The Cosco Apt 50 is priced at the low end of the range and is very budget-friendly.
Cosco’s Apt 50 car seat is a really good option for those parents who are trying to stick to a tight budget or who just want to save some money. This is a great option for air travel because it’s certified for use on an aircraft and only weighs 11 lbs.
If there’s a messy spill, the seat cover can be easily removed and thrown into the washing machine for simple cleaning.
Installation is proving to be tough, especially for the rear-facing position. Customers are reporting that there’s nothing to support the angle that it’s supposed to sit at.
Also, the straps are not long enough for some of the kids who meet the weight rating for the seat. Some people are questioning the safety of the seat based on the materials and say that the seat cover doesn’t stay on the seat very well.
Safety 1stcreated the Guide 65 convertible car seat to fit most small vehicles and also fit 3 across in the majority of cars. It’s rated for children from 5 to 65 lbs.
There are body pillows that are removable once you child gets bigger, which help he or she feel more comfortable and safer in their car seat. This seat is compact and lightweight at 15 lbs. The price for the Guide 65 is in the low range for travel car seats.
This car seat has a very low price but comes with a few features that you would typically find in more expensive models. The adjustable headrest is one of those features.
Also, the side-impact protection, which is the EPP foam contained within the construction of the seat, is a safety add-on. This seat would travel very well, as it is compact and very lightweight. There are removable pillows that give your child a more comfortable ride as well.
The biggest complaint about this car seat is the rear-facing installation. The reports are that it is tough to get it to fit correctly to the seat in your car.
Some customers have had to find a way to fill the gap between the seat and the car seat. Another issue is with getting the harness adjusted tightly enough to feel like the child is secure.
The Chicco KeyFit 30 basically works as a car seat system. There is an easy-to-install base that comes with a built-in level in the side and a spring-loaded leveling foot to help you get the base installed at the correct angle.
To tighten the harness, you simply pull on the SuperCinch Tightener strap once you’ve buckled your infant in. Getting the baby into and out of the car is simple every time. The base stays in the car and you just click the seat into the base and then remove the carrier with one hand when you get to your destination. The price for the KeyFit 30 is right in the middle of the range.
This car seat goes above and beyond in the simple and convenience categories. Once you’ve installed the base with the help of the installation features that are built-in, getting your child into and out of the car is as simple as it gets.
As this is an infant carrier seat, it has a handle so it’s easy to travel with. Tightening the harness is just as easy by pulling on the all-in-one strap. And the seat is the #1 rated infant car seat in America.
Uppababy’s Mesa car seat is also an infant carrier that clicks into an already installed base. The base is designed to be very easy to install. They have introduced the first ever SmartSecure 10-second accurate installation.
It includes a tightness indicator that lets you know when you have installed the base correctly. There are also self-retracting LATCH connectors. The fabric used in this car seat is washable and breathable to keep your little one healthy and at a comfortable temperature. This seat falls into the mid-high end of the price range.
This car seat makes installation very easy. The self-retracting LATCH connectors and the indicator light on the base almost do the entire installation for you.
These features make sure you install the base correctly every time. The breathable material keeps your baby from getting too hot when he or she sits in the car seat. The lightweight carrier makes this car seat a great option for traveling.
The price for this seat is on the high side. Also, there are some reports that it doesn’t fit infants that fit within the weight limits that it’s rated for.
Other complaints were about the plastic parts being easily cracked and pulling away from the fabric to where you could see the foam underneath.
The OnBoard Air is named such because of its Air Protect technology. It’s a safety feature technology that gives this car seat a higher level of side impact protection for your baby’s head.
The infant car seat comes with a base that is installed in the vehicle and remains there. The base has 5 different angles to choose from according to what your vehicle requires. This is a budget-friendly model with a price in the lower end of the range.
The OnBoard Air gives parents of infants a less expensive alternative to some of the higher-end versions of this type of travel car seat system.
The easy-to-install base makes it very convenient for parents to be able to remove the infant carrier from the car and put the baby into the vehicle quickly. This seat offers superior side impact protection through its Air Protect technology that keeps your baby’s head safe.
The biggest problem with this car seat is the quality of the material. There are reports of canopies falling apart and the fabric balling up and fraying on edges after only a short time.
One other issue is with removing the carrier from the base. It is a little too tough to get the base to release the carrier.
Car seats for children come in all kinds of shapes and sizes and have features that can make them great or not so great for traveling with.
Once you consider the type of travel you’ll be doing, the age and size of your child, and the level of comfort and convenience you want for your child and yourself, along with the amount of money you want to spend of course, you should be able to make the right decision for the best travel car seat for your needs.
We hope this guide has been a helpful starting place for your travel car seat shopping endeavors and that you can now find the perfect option for you and your little one to enjoy.