If you are in the market for a portable car seat you can use when traveling, finding the best and appropriate seat will make a big difference when traveling with your infant or toddler. As a parent, you need to find the perfect mix of car seat affordability, portability, comfort, and most importantly, safety. An uncomfortable baby can make for a miserable flight or road trip. Aside from those factors, you need to make sure your car seat is approved by the FAA for travel, both road, and air travel.
This article has reviewed and a comparison of the best portable car seats for travel in 2021. Despite the current pandemic which limits travel, check out the following car seats you can consider when you are ready to make a purchase. All our picks in the table below have been approved by FAA.
Before we get started with reviews, check out the comparison table below:
Best Portable Car Seats for Travel – Comparison Table
|Name||Image||Rating on Amazon||Check price|
|Evenflo Tribute LX Convertible Car Seat||4.4/5||Check Price|
|Britax Allegiance Convertible Car Seat||4.6/5||Check Price|
|Diono Radian 3RX Convertible Car Seat||4.3/5||Check Price|
|Chicco Nextfit Zip Convertible Car Seat||4.8/5||Check Price|
|Cosco Comfy Convertible Car Seat||3.8/5||Check Price|
|Graco Size4Me 65 Convertible Car Seat||4.7/5||Check Price|
|Safety 1st Guide 65 Convertible Car Seat||4.4/5||Check Price|
|Evenflo Sonus Convertible Car Seat||4.3/5||Check Price|
|Britax Marathon ClickTight Convertible Car Seat||4.6/5||Check Price|
|Cosco Apt 50 Convertible Car Seat||4.4/5||Check Price|
How We Ranked Portable Car Seats for Travel in Our List
Weight limit: all baby car seats have the manufacturer’s recommended weight limit they can safely accommodate. Looking at the maximum weight we have highlighted for each car and you will be able to determine if it will be suitable for your child.
Ease of installation: a good car seat should be easy to install in the car or when you decide to travel with your baby by plane. Travelling with a baby is hectic enough, and no one wants additional stress with seat installation difficulties.
Ease of travelling: the car seats that are highly rated based on ease-of travel are those that are lightweight as opposed to the heavy and bulky ones.
10 Best Portable Car Seats for Travel
- #1. Evenflo Tribute Lx Convertible Car Seat
- #2. Britax Allegiance Convertible Car Seat
- #3. Diono Radian 3rx All In One Convertible Car Seat
- #4. Chicco Nextfit Zip Convertible Car Seat
- #5. Cosco Comfy Convertible Car Seat
- #6. Graco Size 4 Me 65 Convertible Car Seat
- #7. Safety 1st Guide 65 Convertible Car Seat
- #8. Evenflo Sonus Convertible Car Seat
- #9. Britax Marathon Click Tight Convertible Car Seat
- #10. Cosco Apt 50 Convertible Car Seat
Reviews of the Best Portable Car Seats for Travel 2021
The Evenflo Tribute LX is the overall best portable car seats for travel you can get if you plan to do more travelling with your 1-year-old(or more) baby. It can be used both rear-facing and forward-facing. It accommodates 5 to 40 pounds weight when facing the rear and toddlers weighing from 22 to 40 pounds facing forward.
For safety, it has four shoulder strap positions to provide a better fit to your growing baby and an upfront harness adjustment and buckle release that allow easy adjustments when securing or removing your baby from the seat. You will also be interested to know that the seat has been tested for side-impact and has exceeded federal safety standards.
For your baby’s additional comfort, it has a foam body liner, removable head pillow, and the harness and buckle are covered.
Not only is this seat lightweight, but also easy to use and very affordable. It has received a 5 star rating by 65% of 3,052 customers on Amazon.
- Lightweight, weighing just 9 pounds
- 5-point harness and four shoulder strap positions
- Foam body cushion and removable head pillow
- Slim design that fits easily in cars and airplanes
- Super lightweight making it convenient to move around
- Provides layered protection and comfort
- The seat is easy to install
- Some parents find the body cushioning to be a bit too thin
If you care for style, this Britax Allegiance has it and comes second on this 2021 list of light and portable car seats for travel. It has a sturdy built and accommodates rear-facing weight between 5 to 40 pounds and forward-facing weight from 20 to 65 pounds.
The seat has push-button connectors and built-in lock-offs that make installation a breeze. The harness has 10 adjusting positions with no-rethread and a headrest. Protection is the one area that this seat shines the most, featuring a steel frame, impact absorbing base, foam-lined shell for side impact protection as well as comfort.
While this seat is on the heavy side, we rate it highly because of its safety features and durability. It is also relatively affordable.
- Excellent safety features; steel frame, impact absorbing base, reducing V-shaped tether.
- No-rethread harness with ten positions and headrest
- Latch connectors and inbuilt lock-offs for easy installation
- Three recline positions
- Foam padding and removable body pillow for smaller newborns
- Installing is a total breeze
- Very durable
- The seat is comfy for the baby
- Though it is FAA approved, it does not install in airplane seats.
- It is heavy to carry.
- Recline positions do not work well for infants.
The Diono Radian 3rx is the seat you want when travelling with family. It is sleek and slim to allow three seats across when facing the rear. It is also FAA approved for travel in an airplane.
The seat is perfected for safety and comfort, having been built with unyielding steel structure and cushy padding all over. It also has five shoulder harness and three buckle positions for securing your baby. It also utilizes the SuperLatch system for easy and accurate installation.
You will spend a good amount on this seat, but it will serve you through infancy to toddlerhood up to ten years. Rear-facing takes from 5 to 45 pounds and front-facing up to 65 pounds. As a booster seat, it accommodates children from 50 to 120 pounds.
The seat is quite heavy, pricey, but very sturdy, comfortable, and durable, so in the end, it gives you value for your money.
- Convertible to a booster seat
- Foldable seat for convenient travel
- Uses SuperLatch installation system
- It is easy to install
- Very durable material
- Designed to fit 3 seats across to take more passengers with you
- Safety and comfort is guaranteed
- Doubles as a booster seat when your baby grows older
- The seat is heavy to be carrying around.
Chicco car seats are known for their safety features, and this Nextfit Zip convertible has not been left behind. It’s built with steel reinforced frame with rigid shell and energy absorbing foam. Rear-facing, the seat safely accommodates 5 to 40 pounds and forward-facing, between 22 to 65 pounds.
The installation part is made easy with 9-position recline Sure leveling system, Super cinch Latch, and Lock Sure seat belt system. For easier transitioning to accommodate a growing baby, it has a no-rethread harness and 9- position headrest.
The Chicco seat is heavy hence not convenient for frequent travelling and is also expensive. However, it has received high ratings on Amazon and Consumer Report because of the sturdy built, excellent safety, and comfort.
- Easy pull no-rethread harness with 9 headrest positions
- Installation features: Sure leveling system, SuperCinch Latch tightened and Locked Sure seat belt tightening system
- Soft and comfy material
- Includes space-saving cup holder
- Dishwasher-safe material
- Super comfortable seat
- Safety is guaranteed
- The place is relatively easy to install
- It’s expensive
- It is heavy and not favorable for a lot of traveling.
This is the Cosco convertible seat to get if you want to spoil your baby in comfort while travelling; it has that extra high quality padding all over.
It can accommodate babies weighing 5 to 40 pounds when facing the rear and 22 to 50 when facing forward.
To attach the seat, you can easily use the latch belt or seat belt. It also has 5 adjustable harness height and 3 buckle locations to provide your child with the perfect fit.
The seat will provide comfort to your travelling child and safety as well with built-in side protection. The Cosco Comfy seat is also certified for use on aircraft.
The seat is affordable, lightweight, comfortable, and perfect for travel. We think it gives you value for money.
- Inbuilt side impact protection
- Extra padding for comfort
- It is latch equipped
- 5-point harness adjustable from the front seat
- Certified for air travel
- It’s lightweight
- Fabric is soft and comfy for baby
- It is easy to install and adjust
- Not expensive
- It takes a lot of room on the back seat
Graco are famed for their stylish and high performance car seats. Their Size 4 Me convertible seat is designed to safely accommodate infants as small as 4 pounds to 40 pounds when facing the rear and from 22 to 65 pounds when facing forward.
Installing and adjusting the seat is automatic with a no-rethread harness system and eight headrest positions. The seat has also been tested for side impact protection.
The baby’s comfort is provided with a removable head and body support, three recline, and two buckle positions.
Size 4 Me seat is relatively affordable and has great features for a car seat, comfortable but also bulky and heavy. But when we weigh the good versus the bad, it is a great purchase that will grow with your baby and give you value for money.
- In Right Latch system for seat attachment
- No-rethread harness adjustment system with 8 headrest positions
- Side impact tested
- Machine washable easy to remove cover.
- The material is of high quality and long lasting
- The seat is cushiony and comfortable of
- It provides the desired safety
- It is heavy.
Safety 1st seat provides an excellent option for travelling since you can fit three seats side by side in the back seat of most cars. They can take from 5 to 40 pounds of weight facing the rear and up to 65 pounds facing the front.
For safety, the car seat has 5 point harness adjustable from the front, 5 harness heights and three buckle positions for a closer fit. The body is reinforced with absorbing foam, and also includes head support and body pillows.
We find the seat 15 pounds seat a bit heavy for travel but manageable, and the price is reasonable. However, from parents’ reports, it seems difficult to get the seat properly latched, which could pose a threat to your baby’s safety.
- 5 harness heights and 3 buckle positions for proper fit
- Adjustable head support and body pillows
- Uses the Latching system and 5-point harness for installation
- It is portable
- Can be used in most cars and fit three across
- It is difficult to install and adjust
- The fabric might make the baby hot and uncomfortable
We bring you another budget friendly seat from Evenflo that is also loaded with great features. Just like other seats we have reviewed, it can be used facing rear or front. Facing the rear, it accommodates between 5 to 40 pounds and facing the front between 22 to 50 pounds.
Unlike other seats, this seat has an airflow vent system that regulates the temperature of the seat so that your baby is comfortable while travelling regardless of the weather. It has also meet FAA requirements to be used in the airplane.
Other features include easy to access harness, 5 shoulder strap positions, and head pillow for support.
Evenflo Sonus is budget friendly, lightweight, and great for travel.
- Built-in airflow vent
- 5 point shoulder strap adjust positions
- Includes buckle pockets for more protection
- Includes dual cup holders
- Easy to install
- The fabric is not high quality but worth the price
- It is a tall seat and might which might take a lot of space if you have a small car.
The Britax marathon seat is the seat for you if you care about style and safety. The seat accommodates 5 to 40 pounds when facing the rear and 20 to 65 pounds when facing the front.
It has all the great features you would wish in a car seat: 7 recline positions, no-rethread harness, a layer of side impact protection, steel frame, and impact absorbing base. To accommodate your growing child, it has a 14 position harness, and 2 position buckle.
This seat is expensive and heavy. Despite that, parents love the safety that this seat provides; several parents are grateful that the seat kept their children safe when they were involved in accidents.
- Easy installation using the latch or seat belt
- 14 position harness and 2 positions buckle with no-rethread harness
- 7 recline positions
- Steel frame, side impact protection, and impact absorbing base
- Sturdy and high quality seat
- Superior safety feature
- Provides superior quality
- Easy to install
- It is expensive
- Very heavy to carry around
- It does not unlatch easily.
The Cosco convertible seat one of the cheapest on this list, about 60 dollars. It is also relatively light weighing 12 pounds, making it convenient for travel. The only drawback is the weight limits; rear-facing, it accommodates 5 to 40 pounds and forward-facing up to 50 pounds. Which means you can only use it for a limited time.
Leaving the weight limit aside, this seat will give your baby the perfect fit with six harness heights and three buckle positions for adjustments. It is also certified for use on an airplane. The car seat body is designed to provide side impact protection for your baby.
The Cosco seat is great for travel, safe, and comfortable for the price we can look past any other shortcomings.
- 5 point harness, with six heights and three buckles for adjusting
- It is airplane certified
- Machine washable material
- Includes two cup holders
- The seat is extremely affordable
- Easy to install and adjust
- Comfortable for the baby
- Certified to use on an airplane
- Offers value for money
- It does not have great features in comparison
- Shorter services duration due to the limited weight capacity
What To Look For When Purchasing A Car Seat For Travel Use:
Convertibility: buying the best convertible seat is wise; it serves your child from infancy to toddlerhood (approximately 5 to 65 pounds) and saving you money in the long run.
For air travel, you need to buy an infant or toddler car seat that is FAA approved. Check the sticker on the side of the seat. It should state: “This restraint is certified for use in motor vehicles and aircraft.”
Weight of the seat:
It’s important to consider the weight of the seat because you will be lifting it in and out of the car, between cars, on to trolleys, carrying it around the airport, which will also mean lifting the seat over people’s heads on the plane to carry it down the aisle. Considering these facts, a lightweight seat will be a life saver! A seat weighing about 10 pounds or thereabout should work out just fine.
Width of the seat:
It is also important to consider the width of the seat because even though a seat is FAA approved, it doesn’t mean it will fit on the plane seat.
Plane seats range from 16 to 22 inches, with most being 17 or 18 inches.
Car seats that are 18 inches and below fit in all planes easily as opposed to those that are wider.
Also, slimmer seats will fit through the airport security scanner making the whole checking process faster.
Steel reinforcement frames:
The safest car seats are those that have steel reinforced frames; they are sturdy and designed to absorb impact in case of being involved in a car wreck.
Minimal rethread harness:
Generally, car seats with no-rethread harness are favored over those that need rethreading because you do not need to dismantle the car to adjust the straps every time, especially if you will be switching kids with different heights in the same seat. Adjusting is faster and helpful in a hectic travel situation.
Car seats have different adjustability mechanisms in terms of adjusting the harness heights and buckle positions depending on the size of the child. Either rethread or no-rethread. Rethreading involves dismantling the seat and rethread the straps from one slot to the next. While with no-rethread, shoulder straps are connected to the headrest, which moves up and down along with the straps in one motion.
The buckle adjusting mechanism is also different depending on the car seat. Some require you to take out the strap from the slot and move it into a new one; others have a sliding mechanism or a push button to adjust the buckle.
It terms of cost, it’s always best to consider if you are getting what your money is worth. If you can afford, get the car seat with the best features that will keep your child safe and comfortable.
Best Travel Car Seat Sorted By Age
Below is an FAA child seat chart sorted by age, which we think might be helpful to you. It shows recommended seats for infants and babies from 0 years to 4 years and older.
|Age Group||Brand Name||Features||Price|
|0-1 yrs.||Graco SnugRide SnugLock 35 LX||Suitable for babies 4-35 pounds Seat weighs 10 pounds Width 15.5 inches Includes 5 point harness Includes head and body insert Has an adjustable handle||Check Price|
|1-4plus yrs.||Safety 1st Guide 65 Convertible Car Seat||Suitable for babies 5-65 pounds Weighs 14 pounds and a width of 14 inches||Check Price|
|2-4 yrs.||Wayb Pico Car Seat||Facing forward only Suitable for babies 25-50 pounds Weighs 8 pounds with a width of 14.5 inches Foldable design||$240.00|
|3-4plus yrs.||Care Travel Harness||Compact and lightest ( 1 pound) Though it can be used by babies from 1 yr. old, it is suitable for babies weighing from 22- 44 pounds.||$59.99|
Does My Child Need A Car seat On An Airplane
There is no hard rule about it, except that every parent should seek to provide the ultimate safety for their child.
It is not a crime if a parent does not use a car seat while their child is travelling on a plane.
That said, car seats provide superior safety and comfort, especially for tiny babies and infants than an airplane seat.
The American FAA strongly recommends anyone travelling with infants less than 2 years old to use an approved child restraining device.
Also, keep in mind that using a car seat on a plane also means you have to pay for the extra plane seat you will be using the car seat on too.
Regardless of the car seat you decide to use for travelling, make sure it has FAA approval.
Tips For Using A Car Seat On An Airplane
Notify the Airline you intend on travelling with: make a call in advance and notify them you plan to travel with a car seat. Ask them to note it to your booking and provide you with written confirmation of approval, just for extra precaution.
Booking the seats: when booking the seat, put in mind that you will not be allowed to use seats in the exit rows, or any place where it could block anyone from exiting.
Rear-facing car seat: if you are using a rear-facing seat, it might prevent the person seated in front from reclining. Therefore, have one parent take the seat in front and the other one next to the baby.
Infant capsule seat with a base: put in mind that you can only use the seat part on the plane seat and that FAA has not approved any base of the capsule-style in an infant car seat for use on airplane. So, you need to store it in the overhead compartment it fits.
Booster seats: the FAA does not allow booster seats to be used on planes because they do not have a shoulder belt. If you intend to use a combination car seat/booster car seat, use the car seat with the internal harness but don’t use it as a booster seat.
Moving with your seat around the airport: maneuvering your way through the airport with a child, luggage, and a car seat can be a struggle. You can make it easier by carrying the car seat as a backpack (some car seats have that option) or invest in a car seat trolley.
I am Ashley Davis, a mom of three kids and the editor here at MotherhoodHQ (formerly 10BabyGear). I have been a parent since 2011 and have been doing full-time consulting as a baby sleep expert since 2019. When I am not researching or testing the next baby gear hitting the market, you’ll find me teaching my toddlers a trick or two – especially over the last few months with the lockdown. I hope you’ll find my guides and reviews helpful as you make your next purchase decision. If you have any questions, you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.