The Best Portable Car Seats and Booster Seats for Traveling With Kids

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Dad putting daughter in car seat
Photo: Getty Images

Traveling with an infant or a toddler is no easy feat. In addition to having a small human (or a couple of them) who you need to take care of, there is also all the extra luggage you'll have to tote around the airport — a travel crib, a diaper bag, and, of course, a car seat. And choosing a safe and travel-friendly car seat or booster seat for your little one can be challenging.

First of all, you need to keep in mind that if your child is old enough to sit on his or her own, you must purchase a seat that has been approved by Federal Aviation Administration. Then you have to make sure that the car seat will actually fit in the airplane seat — which is not guaranteed especially if you are traveling with a low-cost airline — and that installing it will not take, say, half an hour.

Even if you have a baby that can sit in your lap for the flight, you'll still likely need a portable car seat for the Uber ride to and from the airport or for your rental car during the trip.

So to make your life a little easier, we did the work for you and we found the best travel car seats that are compact and light enough to carry around but also don't compromise on safety features.

Chicco KeyFit 30 Infant Car Seat

Chicco car seat
Courtesy of Amazon

When you are traveling with a newborn, you have to be extra careful, because they really don't have any control over their bodies yet so carrying them in a safe car seat is a must. This one comes with a removable newborn positioner that supports their head and body. In addition, the carrier shell is lined with energy-absorbing foam for maximum security in case of an impact.

Rear-facing weight capacity: 4-30 pounds

To buy:, $200

Uppababy 2017/2018 Meas Infant Car Seat

Doona car seat
Courtesy of Amazon

Another great option for parents of a newborn is the Uppababy Mesa car seat. It weighs less than 10 pounds with the base, and can be easily installed on a plane seat. Thanks to a visual indicator that turns from red to green when the seat is properly installed, you don't have to guess and wonder anymore.

Rear-facing weight capacity: 4-35 pounds

To buy:, $300-$350

Doona Infant Car Seat and Stroller

Mesa car seat
Courtesy of Pottery Barn Kids

We love a functional, multipurpose item that helps us save space and time while we travel and when you are on the road with a baby, you really need those. That's why you're going to love this car seat — it is a stroller and a car seat all in one. But don't worry, that doesn't mean that it's not a safe option. Quite the opposite. It provides multilayer side impact protection, and has five harness positions, and an ergonomic infant insert. Oh, and last but not least, it's FAA-approved.

Rear-facing weight capacity: 4-35 pounds

To buy:, $499

Cosco Scenera Next Convertible Car Seat

Cosco car seat
Courtesy of Walmart

This FAA-approved car seat weighs only 10 pounds and at $38, it is one of the most affordable travel-friendly options on the market. It has five safety harness heights and three buckle locations that are easy to adjust from the front. There is also a removable cup holder that comes in handy for a sippy cup on the go.

Rear-facing weight capacity: 5-40 pounds

Forward-facing weight capacity: 22-40 pounds

To buy:, $38-$49

Evenflow Tribute LX Convertible Car Seat

Evenflo car seat
Courtesy of Amazon

With over 3,700 reviews on Amazon, and about 80 percent of them glowing, this convertible car seat seems to be a favorite for parents. It features four shoulder harness positions that provide a perfect fit for your child and, as your baby grows, you can use it both as a rear-facing and forward-facing seat. The compact size and weight (12 lbs.) make it perfect for travel. You can also take it with you on the plane as the seat is FAA-approved.

Rear-facing weight capacity: 5-40 pounds

Forward-facing weight capacity: 22-40 pounds

To buy:, $55

Disney Baby Apt 50 Convertible Car Seat

Disney car seat
Courtesy of Amazon

Car seats are really not something kids usually get excited about, but we have a feeling this one might change that. After all, who doesn't like Minnie Mouse? This seat is more than just cute looks, too. It features side impact protection, six harness heights, three buckle locations, and two integrated cup holders. And it all comes in a pretty seat that weighs only 11 pounds.

Rear-facing weight capacity: 5-40 pounds

Forward-facing weight capacity: 22-50 pounds

To buy:, $60

Safety 1st Guide 65 Convertible Car Seat

Safety 1st car seat
Courtesy of Amazon

One Amazon reviewer called this seat "kinder to parents' backs" and praised it for how easy it makes air travel with kids. And who can really argue with that? The compact Guide 65 is also a perfect fit for smaller cars, which can save you money if you're trying to decide between renting a smaller type of vehicle or a bigger one. And since it can be installed in both rear- and forward-facing positions, you can use it until your little one outgrows it (and that will take years).

Rear-facing weight capacity: 5-40 pounds

Forward-facing weight capacity: 22-65 pounds

To buy:, $90

Graco Contender 65 Convertible Car Seat

Graco car seat
Courtesy of Target

You really can't go wrong with this FAA-approved car seat. It is designed to fit children up to 65 pounds or 49 inches, and the seat itself weighs 16 pounds. Its safety features include a harness system, which automatically adjusts the harness and headrest heights, and an energy absorbing foam layer. It is LATCH-equipped so you can either install it with your seat belt or the latch base.

Rear-facing weight capacity: 5-40 pounds

Forward-facing weight capacity: 22-65 pounds

To buy:, $140

Britax Marathon ClickTight Convertible Car Seat

Britax car seat
Courtesy of Amazon

While the Britax is a bit heavier (19.5 lbs), the incredibly easy installation and safety features (ten harness positions!) still make it a terrific choice for travel. It can be used both as a rear- and forward-facing seat and it is FAA-approved so your child can sit in it during a flight.

Rear-facing weight capacity: 5-40 pounds

Forward-facing weight capacity: 20-65 pounds

To buy:, $160

Diono Radian RXT All-in-one Convertible Car Seat

Diono Radian car seat
Courtesy of Amazon

When it comes to safety and functionality, this car seat is unbeatable. It will protect your child until they're tall enough to use a normal seat belt so that makes it a money-saver as well. It's fairly narrow which is perfect for air travel (your child's seat neighbors will thank you). While the seat is heavier because of its steel frame, it folds flat to a more compact size.

Rear-facing weight capacity: 4-45 pounds

Front-facing weight capacity: 20-65 pounds

Booster mode: 50-120 pounds

To buy:, $310

Mifold Grab-and-go Car Booster Seat

Mifold car seat
Courtesy of Amazon

While you can't use this booster seat on a flight (the FAA doesn't certify bolster seats), it will come in handy for the taxi ride to and from the airport. It's super compact and weighs only a pound and a half so it won't take up much space in your carry-on.

Weight capacity: 40-100 pounds

To buy:, $31

BubbleBum Inflatable Backless Booster Car Seat

Bubblebum car seat
Courtesy of Amazon

This inflatable booster seat really won't add much to your baggage — it's foldable and weighs only 1.2 pounds. But it packs the same safety features of a bulkier booster seat. In fact, it meets and exceeds the safety requirements both in the U.S. and EU so if you're planning a family road trip this summer, this is the seat that will keep your child safe.

Weight capacity: 40-100 pounds

To buy:, $30

Hiccapop Uberboost Inflatable Booster Car Seat

Hiccapop booster seat
Courtesy of Amazon

This Amazon best-seller has won over parents thanks to its inflatable (and compact) design and impeccable quality. It meets all federal standards and your kids will love it because it's extra cushioned for maximum comfort.

Weight capacity: 40-100 pounds

To buy:, $28

Cosco Topside Backless Booster Car Seat

Cosco booster seat
Courtesy of Amazon

This seat is so compact you can fit three in the backseat of a mid-sized car. And we have a feeling your child will appreciate the plush padding and comfy armrests.

Weight capacity: 40-100 pounds

To buy:, $18

Child Airplane Travel Harness

Kids fly safe harness
Courtesy of Amazon

This is the only FAA-approved harness-type restraint for children weighing between 22 and 44 pounds, and it is specifically designed for air travel. If you don't feel like toting a car seat with you, this harness system will turn a regular aircraft seat into a child-friendly one.

Weight capacity: 22-44 pounds

To buy:, $74

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