In 2007, Graco revolutionized combination seats with the first higher weight harnessed car seat with a functioning belt-positioning booster mode, the Nautilus. While the Nautilus continues to be one of the best selling and most commonly recommended seats on the market, it continues to have one primary drawback. It is quite wide and bulky, and simply not compatible for many cars if two seats must be installed next to each other.
We were excited to see a new seat arrive that keeps some of the greatest features of the original Nautilus, improves on its quirks, addresses both of the concerns above, and rivals the Harmony Defender as the narrowest recommended combination seat on the market. Meet the Babies R Us exclusive Graco Tranzitions and now the Walmart exclusive Wayz!
CSFTL Quick Stats
- Forward Facing Harnessed Weight Capacity: 22-65 lbs
- Forward Facing Harnessed Height Capacity: 27″-49″
- Top Harnessed Height Capacity: 18.25″
- Buckle Depths: 6″ and 7.5″
- High Back Booster Weight Capacity: 30-100 lbs
- High Back Booster Height Capacity: 38-57″
- High Back Booster tallest belt guide position: 19.5″
- Backless Booster Weight Capacity: 40-100 lbs
- Backless Booster Height Capacity: 40″-57″
- Lower Anchor Weight Maximum: 45 lbs
- Expiration: 7 years from date of manufacture
- Seat Pan: 13″ in harnessed and high back mode, 15″ in backless mode
- Interior Hip width at narrowest portion: 11″
- Widest point at the back: 17″
- Widest point at the front: 19″ with optional cupholders, 17.5″ without
- Weight: 12.5 lbs fully assembled
Assembling the Seat
The Tranzitions is shipped with the optional cupholders facing inward. To use, spin them round and click them into their holders. You may use one, both, or neither. This flexibility improves the chances of an installation in a small space.
In a sudden stop or collision, car seats protect children from crash forces in different ways. Many seats currently on the market achieve energy management with a combination of methods, often including EPS or EPP foam lining the shell under the cover. Graco chose to use blow-molded plastic rather than EPS foam, presumably to reduce cost and keep the weight of the seat down.
Weighing in at just 12.5 lbs, and with a widest point of 17.5″, the Graco Tranzitions is highly suitable for traveling, particularly by airplane. While it’s never fun to hoist and haul a car seat through an airport, the streamlined design and minimal excess weight of the Tranzitions make it an excellent option for a travel seat.
Installation: Harnessed Mode
We found the installation compatible in the variety of vehicles we tried it in. We have heard the Tranzitions may be incompatible with vehicles where the shoulder belt is anchored abreast of or in front of the vehicle seat back, rather than beyond it, but we haven’t confirmed this ourselves.
Installation with Lower Anchors
Graco permits installing this seat with the lower anchors and top tether for children weighing under 45 lbs. Regardless of installation method, the top tether connector should always be engaged to a tether anchor connector in harnessed mode.
The lower anchor connectors are standard hook connectors. To install the Tranzitions using the lower anchors, attach the connectors to the vehicle’s anchors, then pull the webbing snug until there is less than 1″ movement at the belt path. Finally secure the tether connector to a dedicated tether anchor for the seating position.
Installation with Seat Belt
The Tranzitions can be installed using a seat belt with top tether anchor for a child between 22-65 lbs. The belt path is high and easily accessible, making threading the seat belt through the belt path fairly painless. If you’re ever scraped the back of your hand while threading a seat belt through a narrow belt path, this will be great news for you!!
Locking Clip Not Included
When the Tranzitions is installed with the seat belt and top tether, the car’s own locking mechanism will need to be engaged (read more about locking a seat belt for installing a car seat here). If you have a vehicle predating 1996, be aware that Graco no longer supplies locking clips with its products, including the Tranzitions. Call Graco and they’ll send you one if you do not have a locking clip already.
Lower Anchor Storage
Secure the lower anchor connector when not in use to the plastic loops attached to the edge of the fabric cover of the restraint.
The Tranzitions comes with strap covers and a padded insert with slots for use with either crotch buckle position. Graco has set no age or weight restriction on the use of these comfort items: these can be used at the discretion of the caregiver and the comfort of the occupant.
When installed in harnessed mode, at least 80% of the restraint should be on the vehicle seat. This may be an important feature in smaller vehicle seats, such as some trucks and the third rows of some SUVs.
Fit to Child
This model is 3 years, 7 months old. She weighs 31 lbs and is 38″ tall. The head rest is positioned at the third from the topmost. When she uses the padded insert, the buckle is most comfortable for her routed through the outermost slot, but the inner slot is entirely adequate without the insert, which is quite padded.
The harness should be positioned either at or directly above the shoulders. The head rest follows suit; if the harness is correctly positioned, by default, so is the head rest.
While the seat has no mechanical recline positions, the dreaded head slump while children were asleep that we saw often in the original Nautilus is resolved in this seat by having the head rest essentially flush with the body of the seat. This design allowed our model’s head to remain upright while sleeping!
6 Years Old
This model is 6 years old, weighs 41 lbs, and is 42 inches tall. The harness fits her well and she’s got plenty of room to grow in harnessed mode. This seat is also a nice option for her in booster mode, so she could get a lot of use out of this seat!
Switching from Harness to High Back Booster Mode
Because the Tranzitions is a no frills seat, there are no pockets or storage capsules for the accouterments associated with harnessed use. Detach the webbing from the splitter plate in the rear and pull the harness from the front of the seat. Then pull the adjuster strap taut to lock the splitter plate into place underneath the base of the seat. Dislodge the H-clips that anchor the harness straps from the bottom of the seat and pull the straps out from underneath. Turn and remove the buckle from the base. Store the harness, strap covers, chest clip, and buckle in a safe location for future use.
Fit to Child: High Back Booster Mode
In high back booster mode, the seat positions the belt much like the Graco workhorse, the Turbobooster. We’ve found the much-loved Turbobooster to fit smaller children well — the Tranzitions also offers the same great fit for our smaller, booster-ready Littles. (Not sure if your bigger Little is ready to transition into a seat belt positioning booster? Check out our article here!)
6 Years Old
This model is 6 years old. She weighs 41 lbs and is 42 inches tall. In high back booster mode, the Graco Tranzitions offers her a solid belt fit. The shoulder belt lays across the midpoint of her shoulder and the lap portion of the belt is across her hips. She’s on the small side for a booster rider; we’re pleased to see that the Tranzitions fits her well.
8 Years Old
This model is 8 years old, 4’3″, 65 lbs and at the top of the height range for the Tranzitions in booster mode. He declared it comfortable, though his legs were a little long for the thigh support provided.
You can see the head rest is in the uppermost position. Despite the stated height maximum of 57″, he will outgrow the back before reaching 4’9″. This is typical with many lower cost dedicated high back boosters as well.
Graco permits, but does not require, the use of either the lower anchor connectors, or the tether connector, or both, while in booster mode. If you choose not to use the anchors, be sure to buckle the seat in while unoccupied to prevent it becoming a projectile in the event of an accident.
When in booster mode, Graco permits no overhang at all on the vehicle seat.
Switching from High Back Booster Mode to Backless Booster Mode
To convert the Tranzitions to backless mode, hold the base and push back steadily on the back of the seat until you hear a click and it collapses backward. Then, lift the back off the bottom of the seat without much fussing about.
The seat comes with a shoulder belt positioning guide that may be attached for use in backless mode. However, if you use the high back booster until it is outgrown, it is unlikely that the guide would be required to achieve appropriate fit to child in backless mode.
Fit to Child in Backless Mode
Here we see our model from earlier. He remains 8 years old, is 4’3″, and weighs 65 lbs This time he’s displaying the belt fit of the Tranzitions in backless booster mode. The biggest difference in fit is the thigh support — because the back of the seat has been removed, his back is against the vehicle’s seat back. This pushes him back in the Tranzitions into a position where his thighs are more supported than they were in high back mode.
Minimum Age and Weight Considerations
While we commend Graco for eliminating the 1 year minimum for use on this combination seat, we will continue to recommend that this seat and all forward facing car seats need to be labeled with a two year minimum for use.
The 22 lbs and 27″ minimum weight and height (potentially the size of a 6 month old) for the Tranzitions is well below recommendations by the AAP, CDC, and NHTSA. However, combined with a two year minimum for use, it would work well, allowing the shorter or lighter two year olds to use the seat should their parents choose.
Similarly, Graco’s booster mode minimum ages of 3 years for high back mode and 4 years for backless mode are below the AAP, CDC, and NHTSA recommendations. Ideally, 3 year olds will ride in rear facing restraints, but 3 year olds should only travel in the Tranzitions in harnessed mode. High back boosters are ideal for children who are at least age 5, according to the CDC (NHTSA recommends using a harness until it’s outgrown, or age eight). While studies have not shown a difference in a frontal crash between high back and backless boosters, we would recommend continuing to use a high back booster until outgrown. It offers the child support while sleeping, adjusts the shoulder belt to a comfortable level on a smaller child, and offers shell around the child to teach them to hold still as they transition from a harnessed seat to a backless booster. Luckily, the Tranzitions does all three modes quite well, and will last children several years in each mode.
New Wayz to Enjoy This Seat!
We were pleasantly surprised to see a new version of this seat pop up! The Tranzitions is available as the Graco Wayz at Walmart for just under $100. The Wayz comes in a black fabric with red accents. There are some small cosmetic differences, but functionally it’s exactly the same seat. We applaud Graco for producing a more cost-effective trim level of this seat.
Important Information: Where to Find
Expiration Date The expiration is 7 years from date of manufacture. The date of manufacture is found on a label on the bottom of the seat. The 7 year restriction is imprinted in the plastic directly below the label.
FAA Approval This seat is approved for airplane use in harnessed mode only. Belt positioning boosters cannot be used on board an aircraft. This information is located on a sticker on the bottom of the seat.
Manual Storage The manual should be stored in a safe place, with the harness and accessories when appropriate. There is no on-seat storage area for the manual.
- Narrow enough to work in many 3 across situations
- Easy to install
- Easy to convert between harness and booster mode
- Can use LATCH in booster mode
- High, narrow belt path can make installation a challenge in some vehicles
- No dedicated storage location for manual or harness (when seat is in booster mode)
In summation, Graco took the best parts of the Nautilus and created a seat that is a clear competitor in the field of lightweight, narrow, and long lasting combination seats. We’re pleased to see this narrow, lightweight model arrive on the market and we continue to implore our friends at Graco to include a 2 year minimum age for use on this, and all, forward facing car seats.
While Graco provided this seat to Car Seats for the Littles, Inc. they did not compensate us in any way for our thoughts, and all opinions, as always, are our very own.
If you think the Tranzitions could be right for your little, Graco has generously partnered with us to give away one model to one lucky reader. Follow instructions below to enter to win.
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