In 2007, Graco revolutionized combination car 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 range: 22-65 pounds
- Forward Facing harnessed height range: 27-49 inches tall
- Top harnessed height: 18.25 inches
- Crotch buckle depths: 6 and 7.5 inches
- High back booster weight range, United States: 30-100 pounds
- High back booster weight range, Canada: 40-100 pounds
- High back booster height range, United States: 38-57 inches tall
- High back booster height range, Canada: 43-57 inches tall
- High back booster tallest belt guide position: 19.5 inches
- Backless booster weight range: 40-100 pounds
- Backless booster height range: 40-57 inches tall
- Lower Anchor weight maximum: 45 pounds
- Expiration: 7 years from date of manufacture
- Seat pan: 13 inches in harnessed and high back mode, 15 inches in backless mode
- Interior hip width at narrowest portion: 11 inches
- Widest point at the back: 17 inches
- Widest point at the front: 19 inches with optional cupholders, 17.5 inches without
- Weight: 13.5 pounds 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 pounds, 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. 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.
The belt path on this seat sits fairly high up and is a bit narrower than the belt paths on most other combination car seats. Not only that, the Tranzitions is fairly lightweight and has a slippery seat bottom. These things can combine to make a challenging installation in many vehicles whether the lower anchors or the vehicle seat belt is used to install the seat.
Installation with Lower Anchors
Graco permits installing this seat with the lower anchors and top tether for children who weigh less than 45 pounds. The top tether should always be attached to a tether anchor in harnessed mode.
The lower anchor connectors are standard j-hook connectors. To install the Tranzitions using the lower anchors, attach the connectors to the vehicle’s anchors, then move the cover out of the way to access the belt path, (it flips up and down to provide this access). Push down on the seat pan while pulling on the lower anchor webbing to remove all the slack from the webbing. Counterpressure is the key here, push the seat away from the webbing while pulling on the strap.
Installation with Seat Belt
The Tranzitions can be installed using a seat belt with top tether anchor for a child who weighs between 22-65 pounds. To install the Tranzitions using the vehicle seat belt, thread the seat belt through the belt path, then move the cover out of the way to access the belt path, (it flips up and down to provide this access). Push down on the seat pan while pulling on the shoulder portion of the vehicle seat belt to remove all the slack. Counterpressure is the key here, push the seat down into the vehicle seat while pulling on the shoulder portion of the seat belt. Once the slack is removed, hold onto the vehicle seat belt with one hand, keep the pressure on the Tranzitions, engage the seat belt’s retratctor to lock the seat belt, then feed it back into the retractor.
Locking Clip Not Included
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. In booster mode the entire base must be in contact with the vehicle seat.
Fit to Child
Three Years Old
This model is 3 years, 7 months old. She weighs 31 pounds and is 38 inches tall. The headrest is positioned at the third from the top. 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 headrest follows suit; if the harness is correctly positioned, by default, so is the headrest.
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 headrest essentially flush with the body of the seat. This design allowed our model’s head to remain upright while sleeping!
Five Years Old
This kiddo is 5 years old. He weighs 45 pounds and is 47 inches tall. He finds the Tranzitions comfortable and it’s helpful in getting three car seats across in his family’s vehicle. He’s got some room to grow yet so the Tranzitions will continue to help this family secure everyone for some time yet.
6 Years Old
This model is 6 years old, weighs 41 pounds, 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 pounds 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 pounds 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 pounds 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 pounds 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.
Other 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 There is a mesh pouch under the front cover of the seat (turn the seat over to pull it out). The manual slides right in to keep it safe.
- 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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