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.
Lightweight, easy to install, long lasting: the Baby Trend Trooper is a narrow seat that also works in 3 across situations.
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.
Cosco Finale — This lightweight combination car seat is forward facing only. It has a 16.75 inch top harness slot and converts to a high back booster that can be a bit quirky. Weighing in at just 8 pounds, the Finale shines when it comes to travel.
Slightly Heavier Car Seats With More Ease-of-Use Features
Graco Contender/Admiral — The Contender (also known as the Admiral at some retailers) 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 Essentials Convertibles — the Emblem and Allegiance convertible car seats 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 TrioGrow LX — The TrioGrow LX is a solid choice for airplane use. At close to 20 pounds, it’s on the heavier side for a travel seat but it installs quite easily 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 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.
Britax Grow With You ClickTight — this is a very heavy seat for travel, but the Click Tight installation makes installing the seat fairly painless upon arrival. For your convenience, we took the older model of this seat, the Frontier, on a lengthy airplane trip and shared the experience.
Graco TurboBooster TakeAlong — this high backed booster seat folds down into a pretty compact package and converts to an even smaller backless booster seat that offers an consisent vehicle seat belt fit.
Travel carts are a handy way to get those car seats through busy airports. Here are a few of our favorites!
The Samsonite Compact Folding Luggage Cart is a lightweight, budget-friendly option that the CSFTL team has used to cart car seats across the country, both in boxes and out of boxes. Based on our experience, we have a couple of notes about this product: first, the strap isn’t quite long enough to stretch around a car seat box so we added a dog leash to ours. Any type of string would work, too. Secondly, the cart only stays folded if the attached bungee cords are stored in their designated storage spot so make sure that those two hooks are attached before folding the cart. It’s also available in Canada.
The Britax Travel Car Seat has a unique way to attach the car seat to the cart — it has a designated spot for the lower anchors to attach! This lightweight, solid cart is another good option for taking those car seats on the road. Canadian families can find this cart here.
Finally, the Munchkin Brica Smart Move Car Seat Travel Cart is another car seat specific cart that uses its own strap to attach the car seat to the cart.