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Best Car Seats for Travelling in 2019

Whether you're flying or going on a long road trip, packing a car seat for travel can be a pain. You want your little one to be completely safe everywhere that you go, so here are our most recommended car seats.

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.

How much should I expect to spend on a car seat?

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?

  • Weight. You need to think about the weight of a travel car seat. If your travel plans include flying, and therefore you're spending a long period of time in and out of airports, you’ll want to consider how heavy the car seat that you're lugging around will be.
  • Compact size. The size of a car seat can make it awkward to carry. But you still need to have the right kind of travel car seat for your child’s needs and for your vehicle. Consider how bulky the travel car seat is before deciding to purchase.
  • Comfort. While the safety of your child is of the utmost importance, comfort should be a consideration as well, especially if you are going to be traveling long distances and he or she will have to be in the seat for an extended amount of time. A more comfortable travel car seat will make for a better travel experience.
  • Security (what system is best to secure a child in the seat). Many newer vehicles will have anchors built into the lower part of the seat where the back cushion meets the bottom cushion. If your vehicle does not, then you will use the seat belt to secure the car seat. Refer to your vehicle’s manual for how to lock the seat belt once you’ve secured the car seat or car seat base with it. Also, with forward facing car seats, there is an additional tether at the top of the travel car seat. When applicable, attach the tether to the top of the seat for added security. Always refer to the travel car seats instructions on how to install properly in your vehicle.
Refer to your vehicle’s manual for how to lock the seat belt once you’ve secured the car seat or car seat base with it.

What are the more advanced features that I should consider in a high-end car seat designed for traveling?

  • Wheels/travel system. There are car seats that have been designed specifically for travel, so they will be equipped with wheels and an extendable handle or they will have a cart with wheels that can be used along with the seat. They will often come with a travel bag to protect the car seat from damage during the trip as well.
  • Head wings. Head wings are parts on the car seat that extend forward on either side of the child’s head for added protection should there be an accident during travel. They are usually padded and can serve as added comfort as well when a child falls asleep with his or her head propped against the head wing.
  • Recline adjustment. Higher-end car seats usually have a few different adjustable recline positions to choose from. There are guidelines that help you to adjust the recline to the correct position for the appropriate age and size of the child using the car seat.

1) Evenflo Sonus

Key features
  • Convertible to accommodate kids from 5 lbs. to 50 lbs
  • Built-in ventilation system
  • Adjustable restraints that meet FAA Inversion requirements for airplane use
  • Removable machine-washable pads

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.

Image Source: Amazon

How does this item compare to other car seats?

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.

What's not so good about it?

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.

  • Very affordable
  • Compact and lightweight
  • Meets and exceeds safety standards
  • Ventilated for child’s comfort
  • Hard to install properly
  • Takes lots of space front-to-back
  • Material is rough and scratchy

2) Graco Contender 65 available for $150 on Amazon

Key features
  • Convertible car seat rated for children 5 lbs. to 65 lbs.
  • Adjustable headrest up to 8 positions
  • Built-in LATCH system for easy install
  • EPS foam to absorb impact energy

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.

Image Source: Amazon

How does this item compare to other car seats?

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.

What's not so good about it?

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.

  • Affordable
  • Easy install
  • Impact absorbing EPS foam
  • Compact
  • No recline adjuster
  • Latches tough to disengage
  • Heavy

3) Britax Roundabout G4.1

Key features
  • SafeCell Impact Protection system
  • Easy-On/Easy-Off LATCH Connectors
  • Convertible car seat rated for 5 lbs. to 55 lbs.
  • 5-point tangle-free harness

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.

Image Source: Amazon

How does this item compare to other 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.

What's not so good about it?

There aren’t a lot of complaints about this seat overall. There are some people saying they have a bit of trouble getting the harness tight enough for them to feel the child is fully secured in the seat. 

The other biggest complaint is there are no cup holders.

  • Impact safety system
  • Lots of padding for comfort
  • Good price
  • Easy install and removal
  • Harness too loose
  • No cup holders
  • Little awkward in rear facing position

4) Diono RadianRXT available for $259 on Amazon

Key features
  • All-in-one car seat rated for 5 lbs. to 120 lbs.
  • Easy install SuperLATCH system
  • Folds flat for easy travel
  • Rubber no-slip bottom

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.

Image Source: Amazon

How does this item compare to other car seats?

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. 

What's not so good about it?

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. 

  • All-in-one seat
  • Fold down feature
  • Aircraft certified
  • Adjustable harness and head rest
  • Somewhat pricey
  • Heavy
  • Adjustments not so easy

5) Combi Compact Coccoro available for $219 on Amazon

Key features
  • Convertible car seat rated for 3 lbs. to 40 lbs.
  • Tru-Safe Side Impact Protection
  • Compact size and lightweight
  • Rear-facing tether connector strap
  • Color indicator for secure buckling on harness

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.

Image Source: Amazon

How does this item compare to other 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.

What's not so good about it?

The installation for the seat is causing some buyers a bit of trouble. There are reports that the instructions are hard to follow. 

There are some complaints about the straps being quite short too. Parents are stating that their children are outgrowing the straps before they should be.

  • Compact and lightweight
  • Added safety features
  • Deep side walls
  • Quality cover materials
  • Somewhat expensive
  • Short harness straps
  • Hard to install

6) Cosco Apt 50 available for $54 on Amazon

Key features
  • Convertible car seat rated for 5 lbs. to 50 lbs.
  • Removable, machine-washable seat cover
  • Latch equipped
  • Very lightweight

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.

Image Source: Amazon

How does this item compare to other car seats?

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. 

What's not so good about it?

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.

  • Priced very low
  • Super lightweight
  • Easy to clean
  • Straps too short
  • Questionable quality
  • Difficult to install

7) Safety 1st Guide 65 available for $99 on Amazon

Key features
  • Convertible car seat rated for 5 lbs. to 65 lbs.
  • 5 harness heights and 3 buckle locations
  • Compact size and lightweight
  • Adjustable head support
  • Side-impact protection

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.

Image Source: Amazon

How does this item compare to other 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. 

What's not so good about it?

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. 

  • Inexpensive
  • Adjustable harness and headrest
  • Pillows for comfort
  • Impact safety features
  • Hard to install correctly
  • Harness doesn’t feel tight enough sometimes
  • Very basic

8) Chicco KeyFit 30

Key features
  • ReclineSure leveling foot and RideRight bubble level-indicators for proper and easy installation
  • SuperCinch LATCH tightener strap
  • 5-point harness one-pull tightener strap
  • #1-rated infant car seat in America
  • Compatible with Chicco strollers

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.

Image Source: Amazon

How does this item compare to other car seats?

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.

What's not so good about it?

The button to release the car seat from the base can be a little bit too hard to push for some people. It’s supposed to release with one hand, but the button may be too tight. 

Also, this car seat takes up a bit more space than some other compact models. Other than that, it is just a bit pricey.

  • Super easy to install
  • Easy in and easy out for infant
  • Lightweight
  • #1 rated
  • One-handed adjustments
  • A little big
  • One-handed release button too hard to push
  • Canopy falls back sometimes
  • Pricey

9) Uppababy Mesa available for $299 on Amazon

Key features
  • SmartSecure installation system
  • Adjustable headrest and protection from side impact
  • Washable, breathable high-quality fabric
  • Compatible with travel system stroller
  • Lightweight infant carrier

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.

Image Source: Amazon

How does this item compare to other car seats?

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.

What's not so good about it?

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.

  • Easy and fast installation
  • Washable, breathable fabric
  • Lightweight carrier
  • Side impact protection
  • Expensive
  • Plastic breaking sometimes
  • Exposed foam

10) Safety 1st OnBoard Air 35 available for $125 on Amazon

Key features
  • Air Protect side impact technology
  • LATCH compatibility installation
  • Machine washable seat pad
  • Ergonomic handle design

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.

Image Source: Amazon

How does this item compare to other car seats?

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.

What's not so good about it?

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.

  • Good price
  • Side impact protection
  • Easy to install
  • Poor material quality
  • Hard to release from base
  • Infant insert a little small

In conclusion...

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.