The 7 Best Travel Car Seats

The Graco SlimFit 3-in-1 Convertible Car Seat is versatile and easy to use

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Verywell Family / Danie Drankwalter

Car seats are not optional for babies and kids who are riding in vehicles, which makes this already difficult but essential purchase all the more daunting for families who like to travel a lot. If you’re frequently switching cars, boarding airplanes, or getting into taxis, you need a car seat that is lightweight, easy to install and uninstall, comfortable for your child, and somewhat compact.

Reviewed & Approved

The Graco SlimFit 3-in-1 Convertible Car Seat is our top pick because it's lightweight, easy to use, and versatile. The Evenflo Tribute 5 Convertible Car Seat is another great convertible option that's lightweight and easy to clean.

When shopping for a car seat, you'll want to decide if it's rear- or forward-facing. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, rear-facing seats are the safest for all kids under 2 years old and most kids under 4 years old. For forward-facing seats, they recommend following the car seat's weight and length limits. Other important features to look for include a LATCH system, a five-point harness system, ease of cleaning, and more. We researched a variety of options from trusted brands with these features in mind.

Here are some of the best travel car seats available now.

Best Overall: Graco SlimFit 3-in-1 Car Seat

4.9
Graco SlimFit 3-in-1 Convertible Car Seat

Amazon

Pros
  • Convertible

  • Base is attached for easy traveling

  • Slim frame

Cons
  • Straps can't be removed to clean

  • Heavy

Who else recommends it? BestReviews also picked the Graco SlimFit 3-in-1 Convertible Car Seat.

What do buyers say? 91% of 39,000+ Amazon reviewers rated this product 5 stars.

We like this Graco option because it will take your baby from infancy into toddlerhood. It converts from a rear-facing car seat to a forward-facing car seat to a high-back booster seat. It has a slimmer frame than other similar models, making it more versatile if you’re changing vehicles often.

The seat uses the LATCH system, which makes installation a breeze. It also has a five-point harness (with the option to tuck away behind the child's back for a booster seat) and an adjustable headrest to grow with your child. The rear-facing harness holds children weighing between 5 to 40 pounds, while the forward-facing harness holds children weighing between 22 and 65 pounds. When used as a booster seat, it can accommodate children weighing between 40 to 100 pounds. The seat itself measures ‎21.5 x 19.9 x 25.5 inches and weighs around 20 pounds. Reviewers note that it's easy to carry around, especially in airports. It is FAA certified as well.

Your child gets two cup holders with this seat, and they rotate away when not in use to create a slimmer profile for the chair. If there’s a spill you can easily clean it up because the seat cover is removable and machine washable.

Item Weight: 25 pounds | Weight Limits: 5-100 pounds | Height Limits: Up to 57 inches | Age Range: N/A | Convertible: Yes

Best Convertible: Evenflo Tribute 5 Convertible Car Seat

3.8
Evenflo Tribute 5 Convertible Car Seat

Courtesy of Amazon

Pros
  • Lightweight

  • Machine washable seat pads

Cons
  • Thin padding

  • Continuous loop harness causes twisting

Available in several colors, this car seat can be either rear or forward-facing and can safely transport newborn babies. It has a five-point harness with four shoulder strap positions to accommodate growing kids.

The seat is also very lightweight, making it great for transporting during travel. The cup holder is removable, the seat pads are machine washable, and the seat is designed with a slim frame so that you can safely install three of them across most backseats.

Item Weight: 9.29 pounds | Weight Limits: 5-40 pounds | Height Limits: 19 to 40 inches | Age Range: N/A | Convertible: Yes

Best for Toddlers: Diono Radian 3R 3-in-1 Convertible Car Seat

Diono Radian 3R 3-in-1 Convertible Car Seat

Amazon

Pros
  • Convertible

  • Slim, three across frame

  • Learning curve for installation

While this seat is safe for babies as small as 5 pounds, it’s also a great option for a toddler as it can be installed both rear-facing and forward-facing with a five-point harness. Once they've grown out of those positions, your kiddo can sit in the seat as a highback booster.

It has a slim design that doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles but is great for traveling in compact cars. The cover comes in several color options and is removable and machine washable.

Item Weight: 26 pounds | Weight Limits: 5-120 pounds | Height Limits: Up to 57 inches | Age Range: N/A | Convertible: Yes

Best Budget: Cosco Scenera Next Harness Convertible Car Seat

4.9
Cosco Scenera NEXT Harness Convertible Car Seat

Walmart

Pros
  • Lightweight

  • Aircraft certified

Cons
  • Low weight maximum

Super lightweight, this Cosco convertible car seat can accommodate your little one in a rear or forward-facing position. As your tot grows, you can adjust the straps using the five different height positions and three buckle locations. If you have a family vacay on your wishlist, this convertible car seat is the perfect companion as it is certified for use on an aircraft. The removable cover is available in several cute designs and can be tossed in the wash.

Item Weight: 10.40 pounds | Weight Limits: 5-40 pounds | Height Limits: 19 to 43 inches | Age Range: N/A | Convertible: Yes

Best with Stroller: Doona Infant Car Seat & Latch Base

4.2
Doona Infant Car Seat & Latch Base

Amazon

Pros
  • All-in-one design

  • Quick installation

Cons
  • Not ideal for tall parents

  • Seat isn't convertible

For easy travel with an infant, this is about as simple and compact as it gets. This infant car seat easily snaps in and out of a car seat base and can also convert into a stroller. When it’s set up as a stroller, the infant seat carrying handle extends out to make it easy to push and the car seat base can be quickly installed and removed using the LATCH attachment. This travel car seat is especially great for families who are frequently in and out of taxis. 

Item Weight: 16 pound seat/stroller, 17 pound base | Weight Limits: 4-35 pounds | Height Limits: Up to 32 inches | Age Range: Infant | Convertible: No

Best Forward Facing: Wayb Pico Travel Car Seat

WAYB Pico Travel Car Seat

Amazon

Pros
  • Under 10 pounds

  • Folds down for overhead storage

  • Not suitable for kids under 2 years old

  • Can be difficult to install

It’s hard to believe a car seat could be so small and easy to use, but this one weighs under 10 pounds and uses the LATCH system for quick and simple installation and removal. Kids as young as 2 years old (and minimum of 22 pounds) can use the forward-facing seat which features a five-point harness and has a slim design suitable for air travel or three-across car travel.

When it’s not in use, this seat folds down for easy carrying and can fit into most airplanes’ overhead compartments. 

Item Weight: 9.7 pounds | Weight Limits: 22-50 pounds | Height Limits: 30 to 45 inches | Age Range: 2 years | Convertible: No

Best Highback Booster: Evenflo Chase Plus Booster

Evenflo Chase Plus Booster

Courtesy of Amazon

Pros
  • Plane-friendly

  • Adjustable buckles

Cons
  • Not suitable for kids under 2 years old

  • Headrest is not adjustable

This lightweight seat can be used as a front-facing car seat with a five-point harness or a highback booster seat. When it’s being used as a booster, it features a seatbelt guide to ensure your child is safely buckled in. With an easy-to-install LATCH system, the seat features two adjustable buckles that secure between your child's legs to allow them to sit comfortably as they grow.

Your kiddo will have a place to store their snacks and sippy cups with the two handy integrated cup holders. For the adventurous family, this car seat is FAA Inversion compliant so you can bring it with you on a plane.

Item Weight: 11 pounds | Weight Limits: 22-110 pounds | Height Limits: 28 to 57 inches | Age Range: Booster 4 years+ | Convertible: Yes

Final Verdict

There are a lot of factors to consider when choosing the best travel car seat for your family, but in general, we think the Graco SlimFit 3-in-1 Car Seat (view at Amazon) is the best because of its convertibility, ease of use, and size.

What to Look for When Buying a Travel Car Seat

Safety

Safety is always the most important thing to look for when purchasing a car seat. Make sure you’re familiar with the American Academy of Pediatrics’ car seat guidelines to ensure you’re getting a seat that meets all safety requirements. 

Size and Weight

Since you will be using this car seat while traveling, be mindful of size to ensure it will easily fit into a variety of car seats and that it’s not too heavy to carry through an airport or city if necessary. If you have plans on taking the car seat on a flight, check with your airline before you make a purchase to ensure you're choosing one that is compliant with their guidelines. While most car seat brands are designed to comply with the Federal Aviation Administration, it is important that you double-check with your specific airline.

Ease of Installation & Removal

Travel for your family could mean hopping on a plane or jumping in and out of taxis. Depending on your travel needs, you'll want to prioritize finding a seat that installs and removes easily. To avoid the frustration of having to go through a complicated installation process over and over again, you can opt for a seat that doesn't need a base and utilizes a LATCH system.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How do I travel with a car seat?

    If you’re traveling by plane, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children under 40 pounds sit in their own seat with an FAA-approved car seat. If your child is over 40 pounds, most airlines will allow you to check your child’s car seat as luggage free of charge. If you’re going on a road trip, install the seat into your car as you would any other time.

    Stop frequently to let your kids stretch their legs and get some energy out, make sure you have plenty of snacks and entertainment, and ensure the car seat is comfortable enough for your child to stay in their seat when the car is moving.  

  • How long can a baby travel in a car seat?

    Most car seat manufacturers, health care professionals, and safety experts advise babies spend no longer than two hours in their car seat at a time (known as the two-hour rule) because the curve of those seats can create problems with a baby’s developing spine. Additionally, while the American Academy of Pediatrics notes that the safest place for a baby in a vehicle is in a car seat, they don’t recommend babies sleep in them for extended periods of time. The exception to this rule is if you are on a long flight, which in this case the safest place for your baby is buckled up in their car seat.

Why Trust Verywell Family?

Ashley Ziegler is a full-time parenting writer, mom to a 1 and a 4-year-old, and she has personal experience in researching and using infant carriers, rear-facing, and forward-facing car seats. Key considerations she focused on when selecting these products include personal experience, safety features, longevity, and user reviews.

6 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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