Families who are on the go often ask us which car seat is the best for airplane travel. Just like seats used exclusively in the car at home, the best travel seat is the one caregivers can install and use properly every time. Important features for travel seats can be a little different than stay-at-home car seats so we’ve compiled a few key things to keep in mind:
- Your comfort level with installing the seat
- How heavy a seat you’re able to carry through the airport
- How many comfort features your child needs
- Open vs. closed belt path. For forward facing installations, an open belt path can place the airplane seat belt’s buckle directly behind the child’s back. The only two options on this list with a closed belt path are the Graco Contender and Combi Coccoro.
- Other factors specific to your situation
We’ve taken these factors into account and put together a few suggestions for travel seats. They’re listed in order of retail price, lowest to highest. This list is mainly convertible car seats — we’ve found that many caregivers prefer to travel with this type of seat but combination and multimode car seats can be great options too! For more information about safe air travel with children check out our articles here and here.
Lightweight Car Seats
Cosco Scenera NEXT — This seat is lightweight and inexpensive. It’s an excellent option for travel for younger rear-facing kiddos.
Cosco Apt 50 – Another lightweight, inexpensive option. The built-in cupholders can be a plus on a plane.
Safety 1st Guide 65 — Lightweight, slightly more expensive than the Apt and Scenera NEXT, but has a larger forward facing capacity so it will fit your travel needs for a few more years. Check out our installation guide before you travel.
Evenflo SureRide — Lightweight, easy to install, long lasting: the SureRide is a popular travel seat. However, it has a tall shell and may not fit rear facing on many aircraft.
Combi Coccoro — Narrow, lightweight, and small front to back, the Coccoro fits well on airplane seats. The rounded shape of the base can make for a tricky install in a vehicle, so we suggest practicing the install before leaving home. If you’re installing forward facing you will want a seat belt extender (available from the flight attendants, or you can purchase one of your own to bring on board with you so you don’t need to worry about them saying no). Otherwise the buckle may end up in the closed belt path and you’re not able to open it at your destination.
Slightly Heavier Car Seats With More Ease-of-Use Features
Graco Contender — The Contender is an all-time favorite travel seat at CSFTL. It’s fairly lightweight, though heavier than the Scenera NEXT or SureRide. It boasts a no rethread harness, a straightforward seat belt installation, and the Holy Grail of airplane installation — a closed forward facing belt path that keeps the airplane seat belt’s buckle away from the child’s back. Remember to ask for a seat belt extender, or buy one for yourself if you travel often.
Britax G4 Convertibles — G4 convertible car sets are heavier than the Scenera NEXT, SureRide, or Contender, but they install easily both on the airplane and upon arrival. However, the open belt path can sometimes place the airplane’s buckle right behind the child’s back when installed forward facing. Many kiddos find this uncomfortable.
Graco Milestone — The Milestone is a solid choice for airplane use. At close to 20 lbs, it’s on the heavier side for a travel seat but it installs without too much fuss in all modes upon arrival. It’s a nice option for older children who need a high back booster at their destination — install it in harnessed mode on the plane, then quickly convert it to booster mode upon arrival! The open belt path can sometimes place the airplane’s buckle right behind the child’s back when installed forward facing. Many kiddos find this uncomfortable.
Heavy, Fully-Featured Car Seats
Diono Radian — this low-profile car seat fits down the aisle of most airplanes and sits low enough that the child can use the tray table when installed forward facing. Rear facing can be a challenge, since many airplane seats are too cramped for a rear facing Radian to fit and the belt path requires the use of a seat belt extender on an airplane. Installing the Radian can be a challenge so practice with this seat before you fly!
Heavy, Fully-Featured Seats That Are Fairly Easy To Install in Vehicles
Chicco Nextfit — this is a very heavy seat for travel, but the small front to back space and seat belt lockoffs make it extremely easy to install at your destination.