The Best Travel Car Seats in 2022

Cosco's Scenera Next Harness Convertible Car Seat is our top pick.

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Travel + Leisure / Sabrina Jiang

Taking trips with children can be fun but also incredibly stressful; planning, packing, and lugging extra gear through airport terminals while also keeping an eye on your kids is physically and mentally overwhelming. That's why investing in a high-quality portable car seat is a must — one that is lightweight, compact, easy-to-install, and, of course, offers the highest level of protection for your little one.

We researched and analyzed the most travel-friendly car seats on the market right now and selected Cosco's Scenera Next Harness Convertible Car Seat as the best one. Not only is it FAA-approved (read: your child can use it on a plane) but, at only 10 pounds, it's one of the lightest, yet sturdiest, options as well.

Here's our breakdown of the best travel car seats:

Best Overall

Cosco Scenera Next Harness Convertible Car Seat

Cosco Scenera NEXT Harness Convertible Car Seat


Why We Love It: It's FAA-certified and can be used in rear- and forward-facing positions.

What to Consider: Its weight limit is 43 pounds.

At $60, this car seat is one of the most budget-friendly options on the market. But there's a lot more to it than the price. With an adjustable five-point harness and built-in side protection, the Cosco Scenera Next Harness Convertible Car Seat delivers all the bells and whistles of bulkier, heavier, and pricier car seats. Traveling with a lot of kids? You can fit three Cosco Sceneras in the backseat of most standard-sized vehicles. Its compact size and FAA-approved status make it the perfect choice when flying with your little one. And, last but not least, the removable cover (of which there are 12 print options) and dishwasher-safe cup make cleaning baby's messes a breeze.

Weight limit: 43 pounds | Product weight: 6.8 pounds | Orientation: Rear and forward

Best Overall, Runner-up

Graco 4Ever DLX 4-in-1 Car Seat

Graco 4Ever DLX 4 in 1 Car Seat


Why We Love It: It is four car seats in one and can fit children up to 120 pounds.

What to Consider: This is not the most budget-friendly option if you don't plan to need it for years.

This car seat is a multi-tasking wonder that adapts to your growing child. It gives you peace of mind as it easily switches from rear to forward-facing orientation as well as from a high-back booster to a backless booster style. Graco's best-selling car seat has a removable cover for easy clean-up and convenient harness storage while its adjustable headrest and harness system were made with comfort and safety in mind. And, speaking of comfort, your child will surely appreciate the six reclining positions, especially during long-haul trips. Lastly, the built-in belt lock-off and LATCH system are incredibly user-friendly. While this is not the most economical option at $330, if you are looking for a multifunctional travel seat that you can use for up to ten years, your investment will certainly pay off.

Weight limit: 120 pounds | Product weight: 23 pounds | Orientation: Rear, forward, and booster

Best With Stroller

Doona Infant Car Seat & Latch Base

Doona Infant Car Seat & Latch Base


Why We Love It: It transforms into a stroller in seconds and is FAA-approved

What to Consider: It only accommodates children up to 35 pounds.

However lightweight a travel car seat may be, you'll still need to carry it around with the rest of your luggage. If that's not an option for you, then invest in Doona's infant car seat, which switches from a cart seat to a stroller in seconds. Its base has built-in wheels that make layovers, shopping trips, and airport transfers much easier. The adjustable handle also acts as anti-rebound protection for your newborn when the car seat is installed, while the double walls help avoid damage to their head, neck, and spine in case of an accident. Plus, the removable seat cover and frame are easy to clean and keep the thick padding in top shape.

Weight limit: 35 pounds | Product weight: 16.5 pounds | Orientation: Rear

Best for Toddlers and Older Children

Evenflo Maestro Sport Harness Highback Booster Car Seat

Evenflo Maestro Sport Harness Highback Booster Car Seat


Why We Love It: It converts into a high-back booster seat.

What to Consider: It doesn't recline.

With two cup holders, this Evenflo car seat provides plenty of space for snacks and drinks, essential when traveling with children. Conveniently, the seat pad is both easy to remove and machine-washable so you don't have to uninstall the entire car seat in case of messes. It accommodates kids weighing as little as 22 pounds and features an adjustable harness for the best fit and maximum comfort. Then, when they are old enough to transition to a high-back booster and a belt, this car seat has you covered up to 110 pounds. Given its less-than-$100 price tag and compact size and weight, you truly are getting the best bang for your buck for years to come.

Weight limit: 22-110 pounds | Product weight: 9.6 pounds | Orientation: Forward

Best Convertible

Diono Radian 3R 3-in-1 Convertible Car Seat

Diono Radian 3R 3-in-1 Convertible Car Seat


Why We Love It: It has a compact frame that allows you to fit up to three car seats in the back seat of any mid-sized vehicle.

What to Consider: It weighs almost 26 pounds.

This Diono car seat will save you some serious space without sacrificing the comfort or safety of your toddler. The rear- and front-facing car seat is built from reinforced steel and high-density plastic (hence, its weight), dressed in foam and a machine-washable cover. It has an FAA-approved foldable design and can fit in the overhead bin of a plane if not needed during the flight.

But the best feature of this car seat is its functionality. With an extended rear-facing capacity of up to 50 pounds and an overall weight limit of 120 pounds, it adapts to your child's needs to keep them secure as they grow.

Weight limit: 5-120 pounds | Product weight: 25.9 pounds | Orientation: Rear and forward

Best for Airplane Travel

Chicco KeyFit Infant Car Seat

Chicco KeyFit Infant Car Seat


Why We Love It: It gives a baby more legroom and a bigger headrest. 

What to Consider: Its weight limit is 22 pounds.

While airlines allow infants to travel on an adult’s lap, the safest place for your baby is in their car seat. And, while infant car seats are usually bulkier and heavier, this one is a clear exception at only 9.6 pounds (without the base). The LATCH tightener, bubble levels, adjustable recline angles, and belt lock-off system all guarantee a secure setup, while the five-point harness is easy to adjust for a comfortable fit. The seat comes with a removable head and body support pad for newborns, while the frame is lined with foam for extra cushioning. Lastly, not only is it FAA-approved, thanks to the elongated base, your little one will have plenty of legroom during flights.

Weight limit: 4-22 pounds | Product weight: 9.6 pounds (without the base) and 16 pounds (with the base) | Orientation: Rear

Best for Road Trips

Safety 1st Grow and Go All-in-One Convertible Car Seat

Safety 1st Grow and Go All-in-One Convertible Car Seat


Why We Love It: It has harness holders that make it easy to get your child in and out of the seat.

What to Consider: The frame is not slim enough to install three car seats on the backseat of a vehicle.

Any parent who has spent several hours in a car with a child knows that, aside from being safe, a car seat should also be extremely comfortable and offer space for drinks and snacks. And this one by Safety 1st checks all the boxes.

The reclining modes offer even more comfort to your child during road trips, while the harness and headrest are easy to adjust to deliver the best fit. The double cupholders are dishwasher-safe and fit most standard-sized sippy cups. And, since messes are part of taking a family road trip, the seat pad can easily be taken off and machine washed (without uninstalling the entire set-up). But the best feature of this travel car seat is that it can fit children up to 100 pounds and transforms into a booster seat, so you are basically investing in a car seat that will be with your kid for most of their childhood.

Weight limit: 5-100 pounds | Product weight: 18.25 pounds | Orientation: Rear, forward, and booster

Best Booster Seat

Cosco Finale DX 2-in-1 Booster Car Seat

Cosco Finale DX 2-in-1 Booster Car Seat


Why We Love It: Its sturdy frame is lightweight and can be used in forward-facing and booster modes.

What to Consider: It doesn't have extra padding.

Children are ready to switch to a booster seat when they have outgrown the weight limitations of their forward-facing car seat. This Cosco booster car seat doubles as both — it has a harness to secure kids 30-65 pounds and belt-positioning for children weighing 40-100 pounds. With three harness levels, it adapts easily to your child's height providing maximum comfort, too. It is easy to install and FAA-approved (with an excellent rating for use in booster mode), so you can take it with you on a road trip or a plane. At 11.5 pounds, it is also one of the lightest travel car seat models on the market. It's a wonderful option for growing families as you can fit three in the backseat of most cars. Another convenience is that the removable cup holder can be installed on either side of the seat. And, finally, maintaining it is a breeze thanks to the machine-washable seat cover.

Weight limit: 40-100 pounds | Product weight: 11.5 pounds | Orientation: Forward and booster

Best Backless Booster

BubbleBum Inflatable Booster Car Seat

BubbleBum Inflatable Booster Car Seat


Why We Love It: It is foldable and fits in a backpack.

What to Consider: It doesn't give your child any side or back protection.

This booster seat is the definition of portable, weighing in at only one pound. You can carry it folded in your backpack or purse until it's time to use it so, Uber rides with kids just got a lot easier! The seat will expand once you open the air valve, saving you valuable time and space on the road. The BubbleBum travel car seat comes with belt clips to secure the lap belt, while the additional height puts the shoulder belt across your child's chest. The booster seat can be used for children weighing between 40 and 100 pounds.

Weight limit: 40-100 pounds | Product weight: 1 pound | Orientation: Booster

Best Lightweight

Wayb Pico Travel Car Seat

WAYB Pico Travel Car Seat


Why We Love It: It is foldable and easy to carry, plus fits in the overhead compartment. 

What to Consider: It doesn't provide much padding or cushioning.

If the weight and bulkiness of regular car seats are a major concern and you are in the market for something you can carry in a bag and install quickly, this Pico travel seat is ideal for your family. Built from lightweight aluminum, it only weighs eight pounds and folds into a compact 12 x 15 x 19 inches that can be easily stowed in its included travel bag or your current carry-all.  It is perfect for toddlers within the 22-50 pound range and provides them with an adjustable five-point harness and a headrest. The frame is covered in breathable wool/polyester fabric that will help keep your child cool and comfy for the duration of your trip. This car seat is both FAA and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration-approved as well.

Weight limit: 22-50 pounds | Product weight: 8 pounds | Orientation: Forward

Best Compact

Graco SlimFit 3-in-1 Car Seat

Graco SlimFit 3-in-1 Convertible Car Seat


Why We Love It: The innovative design saves space for backseat passengers.

What to Consider: At 25 pounds, it is not the lightest option on the market.

Car seats are bulky, which can be an issue if you're traveling with a large group and need the extra space. Graco has come up with a clever solution to this problem by designing its SlimFit car seat with rotatable cupholders. The result is 10 percent more space for you while your child has plenty of room to get comfortable. And, speaking of comfort, the four-position recline will surely add extra points in this category.

Another great feature of this car seat is its versatility. It switches between rear-facing, forward-facing, and a booster, and can accommodate children in the range of 5-100 pounds and up to 57 inches tall.  

Weight limit: 5-100 pounds | Product weight: 25 pounds | Orientation: Rear and forward

Tips for Buying a Travel Car Seat

Look for portability

Most car seats are bulky and heavy due to their features, design, and materials, but there are exceptions. "The most travel-friendly car seat will be an infant car seat because they can be installed without the base, making Ubers and taxis easy while traveling and on the go," said Josh Dilts, product manager and child passenger safety technician at Chicco. And, if your child has outgrown their infant phase, opting for a foldable, forward-facing car seat or a backless booster will save you even more space. "If necessary, be on the lookout for easy-to-use car seat travel bags so you can easily bring your car seat along for the trip," added Dilts.

Consider ease of installation

"The best car seat to choose is the one that will fit your child, fit your vehicle, and be easy to install every time," said Dilts. You shouldn't be wasting too much time installing it before an Uber ride or during boarding, but you also don't want to compromise your child's safety. Make sure to bring one that is FAA-certified and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration-approved if you rent a car. Also, don't forget to verify if your car seat is compatible with the type of vehicle you are installing it in, and check if there are any country-specific requirements or rules if you're traveling abroad. Note: Car seats are usually installed with the help of anchors and a tether or a seat belt, but never both.

Remember your child's weight and height

There are three types of car seats — rear-facing, forward-facing, and booster — and the one you choose depends mainly on your little one’s size. Every car seat has weight and height limits you should refer to before purchasing. Ensure your child is well within those parameters to keep them secure and comfortable until they can safely use the car’s seat belt.

"All-in-one car seats are excellent for the value in being able to offer many years of growth for you and your family. Make sure you find a car seat that will offer excellent height allowance to correctly fit your child as they grow but also offer recline adjustability and proper seat depth to provide comfort for your child to sit in and stay properly positioned for long car rides," suggested Dilts.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • How do I travel with a car seat?

    If you would like to bring your car seat when flying, make sure it is FAA-approved (and there should be a sticker confirming this). The only style you can't use on a plane is a booster seat because it requires a lap-shoulder seat belt. If you don't plan on installing your car seat on the aircraft and don't want to check it in with your luggage, make sure it can fit in the overhead bins. Manufacturers usually include this information for travel-friendly car seats, and you can contact the airline to confirm.

    Many infant car seats can be attached to a stroller, which is great when you're traveling, especially for longer layovers. But don't forget that you will be asked to leave the stroller behind once you arrive at the gate and not get it back until after you land. If your little one is old enough to walk, you can purchase a travel car seat belt that will attach it to your wheeled carry-on suitcase so you don't have to lug it by hand. And it's always a good idea to buy a protective bag for your car seat to keep it clean.

  • When do I use rear-facing as opposed to forward-facing?

    Newborns and infants should be carried in rear-facing car seats. They are designed to reduce the impact in case of a crash and protect the head and spine of your little one.

    "Rear-facing-only infant car seats are best for newborns and infants because it is easy to install the stand-alone base to the vehicle, and then you can easily carry and click the car seat carrier in and out of the base and into a stroller to help with transporting your child to each destination," said Dilts. He explained that your child's head should rest no higher than an inch from the top of the seat shell. Also, know that most babies outgrow rear-facing car seats within the first 12 months (but check with the car seat's weight and height limits before you switch them to a forward-facing one).

  • Can I install my car seat on the plane?

    The short answer is yes. In fact, you probably should because both the FAA and the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) recommend children travel in a car seat. Both rear-facing and forward-facing car seats can be installed using the airplane seat's belt and without the base. You can always practice at home before a flight to save time onboard the aircraft. If you need to use a belt extension to install a forward-facing car seat, you can ask the flight attendant for one.

Why Trust Travel + Leisure

For this article, Dobrina Zhekova spoke to a child passenger safety technician and researched the safest and most comfortable travel car seats for kids of all ages.

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