5 Best Travel Car Seats for Children: Safe and Hassle-Free Journeys

5 Best Travel Car Seats for Children: Safe and Hassle-Free Journeys

Traveling with your little ones requires a bit of extra planning. It also means that you will do some heavy-duty planning to ensure your toddler gets the support they typically get at home. As a parent, your primary focus will be on the safety of your little one throughout your journey. One way to calm the nerves is to find a high-quality travel car seat for your toddler.

Whether planning a road trip, flying to a new destination, or running errands around town, having the right car seat can make a world of difference. It’s worth noting that only FAA-certified portable car seats can be used for air travel.

So, our quest is to discover the finest lightweight travel car seats that can be easily transported and, ideally, one that snugly fits into the narrow confines of airplane seats. Here are the five best travel car seats;

Be sure to make it to #1 for our take on why the Doona Infant Car Seat & Latch Base is the best pick.

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5. Graco Contender Slim Convertible Car Seat

Product Dimensions: 21.5 x 20.1 x 24.75 inches

Item Weight: 15.9 Pounds

Weight limit: 65 Pounds

Price: $160

The Graco Contender Slim Convertible Car Seat offers two adaptable modes to accommodate your little one’s growth, transitioning seamlessly from a rear-facing harness (5-40 pounds) to a forward-facing harness (22-65 pounds). Its sleek design saves space in your vehicle’s rear seat.

This car seat is an excellent choice for travel, thanks to its lightweight construction, allowing for effortless transfers between cars. Also, it’s aircraft-certified, ensuring your child’s safety during flights.

The Contender grows with your child for added convenience through the innovative Simply Safe Adjust harness system, simplifying headrest and harness adjustments in one swift motion. Installing the car seat is a breeze with the included LATCH and a user-friendly level indicator.

Also, this car seat is equipped with practical features like a removable dishwasher-safe cup holder, a machine-washable seat pad, and two recline positions for ease of use.

Safety is paramount, and the Graco Contender is engineered to excel in this area. It is Graco ProtectPlus Engineered, providing enhanced protection in various crash scenarios, including frontal, side, rear, and rollover collisions. Your child’s well-being is at the forefront with this thoughtfully designed car seat.


  • Incredibly secure product
  • Easy to switch from rear to front-facing
  • It has a cup holder


  • Doesn’t recline
  • The harness can be tricky to use

Graco Contender $160

4. Safety 1st Jive 2-in-1 Convertible Car Seat

Product Dimensions: 29.75 x 18.13 x 16.25 inches

Item Weight: 14.25 Pounds

Weight limit: 65 Pounds

Price: $110

Parenting is a whirlwind of important decisions, but with the Jive 2 In 1, you have simplified at least one. This innovative car seat offers the versatility of two seats in one, ensuring your child’s safety and comfort.

Your little one can ride rear-facing comfortably up to 39 pounds, and as they grow into their ‘big kid’ years, the Jive 2 In 1 allows them to ride front-facing up to 65 pounds. This adaptability means you won’t have to constantly replace car seats as your child grows.

The Jive 2 In 1 isn’t just versatile; it’s also ideal for families with multiple youngsters. With its space-efficient design, it’s easy to fit three children in the back seat of most cars. Safety is paramount, and the Jive 2 In 1 addresses your concerns with built-in side-impact protection and a secure five-point harness.

The harness offers five height positions and three buckle locations, ensuring an optimal fit as your child grows. Comfort for your child and convenience for you are key features of the Jive 2 In 1. Removable insert pillows provide extra head and body support for your baby. These cushions are easily removed as they grow, allowing your older child to enjoy a comfortable ride.

Are you worried about spills and messes? No problem. The Jive 2 In 1 is designed with practicality in mind. The fabric is not only comfortable but also machine washable and dryer safe, making it a breeze to clean.

This car seat is a perfect travel companion for families on the go. It’s certified for use on an aircraft, and its compact design simplifies navigating through airport security checks.

With the Jive 2 In 1, you can feel confident that you have made an excellent choice for your child’s safety, comfort, and your peace of mind.


  • Very light and portable
  • It fits three across the backseat in most vehicles
  • Machine washable and dryer-safe


  • Offers less headrest and recline

Safety 1st $110

3. Evenflo Tribute 5 Convertible Car Seat

Product Dimensions: 18.5 x 22 x 25.5 inches

Item Weight: 9.3 Pounds

Weight limit: 40 Pounds

Price: $80

The Evenflo Tribute Convertible Car Seat offers an exceptional blend of safety, comfort, and convenience, making it the ultimate choice for parents seeking the best value in car seats. Despite its compact size, the Tribute is engineered to provide an excellent fit in your vehicle while ensuring robust side-impact protection for your child. This seat is a top-notch, extended-use option that won’t break the bank.

What sets it apart is its dedication to safety; it is designed and rigorously tested to meet and exceed structural integrity standards, with energy levels almost twice the requirements of the Federal crash test standard. With a weight of just 9.3 pounds, it’s incredibly portable and user-friendly.

The Evenflo Tribute™ Convertible Car Seat can be configured for both rear-facing and front-facing positions, offering versatility that grows with your child. Installation is a breeze, as it can be secured using LATCH connectors or a seatbelt, providing flexibility for various vehicles.

Also, this car seat is designed with your child’s comfort in mind. It features a removable head pillow for added support. It can be easily cleaned since the cover is machine washable, ensuring your child’s journey is not only safe but also comfortable and hassle-free.


  • It is lightweight
  • It is compact and sturdy
  • Easy to clean


  • You might find it hard to get past Airport personnel because its FAA approval sticker isn’t easy to find

Evenflo $80

2. Cosco Mighty Fit 65 DX Convertible Car Seat

Product Dimensions: 26.5 x 21.5 x 24 inches

Item Weight: 12.76 Pounds

Weight limit: 65 Pounds

Price: $68

Discover the Cosco MightyFit™ 65 DX Convertible Car Seat, meticulously crafted with your family’s real-life needs in mind. This versatile car seat provides uncompromising safety for your child, accommodating them from 5 to 65 pounds.

It offers secure rear-facing capabilities, comfortably protecting your infant up to 40 pounds. As they grow, the car seat smoothly transitions into forward-facing mode, safeguarding them up to 65 pounds. The MightyFit 65 DX strikes the perfect balance, neither too large nor too small. In rear-facing mode, it optimizes space, providing parents with more legroom in the front seats.

Safety is paramount, and the MightyFit 65 DX prioritizes this with integrated Side Impact Protection and a 5-point harness that adjusts effortlessly from the front of the seat. The harness offers five height positions and three buckle locations, ensuring a tailored, secure fit for your growing child.

Comfort and convenience are equally vital; this car seat excels in both areas. Kids will revel in the plush padding and deluxe materials that deliver a comfortable ride. For parents, the convenience is unmatched; the seat’s fabric is machine washable and dryer safe, simplifying the cleaning process when inevitable messes occur.

The MightyFit 65 DX is an excellent choice for families on the move. It is certified for use on airplanes, providing your child with a familiar and secure seat during flights. Its compact design makes it hassle-free to navigate through airport security checks.


  • Certified for use on airplanes
  • The cover is machine washable


  • The harness is narrow

Cosco $68

1. Doona Infant Car Seat & Latch Base

Product Dimensions: 17.28 x 25.98 x 23.58 inches

Item Weight: 16.5 Pounds

Weight limit: 35 Pounds

Price: $550

Doona Infant Car Seat was curated to offer parents a secure and practical mobility solution for their little one within and beyond the confines of a vehicle. It is the world’s pioneering infant car seat, seamlessly integrating mobility into its design. Each Doona seat comes complete with one Infant Car Seat and one Latch Base, with the option to acquire additional bases separately.

What sets Doona apart from traditional car seats is its innovative design, allowing the handle to be positioned against the car seat’s back, offering exceptional anti-rebound protection to the baby. In the unfortunate event of a collision, the anti-rebound handle acts as a shock absorber, reducing the risk of Doona rotating rapidly towards the back of the seat and minimizing rebound-related injuries.

Common injuries associated with car seats and strollers often result from misuse and improper installation. To help combat this issue, Doona’s design and engineering teams developed multiple fail-safe mechanisms to ensure the seat is used safely. These serve to prevent unintentional folding of the Doona, sudden extension of the handle while in carry mode, and rotation of the extended handle while the Doona is in “on-the-go” mode.

Doona further enhances safety with its unique double wall structure, which enables the folding of its wheels into the seat’s body. This construction comprises two layers of robust, impact-absorbing plastic and additional layers of EPS foam and textiles. This layered design significantly bolsters side-impact protection, offering enhanced safety to the baby in the event of an accident.


  • The car seat turns into a stroller
  • Easy to use and set up
  • Compact


  • It is heavy for a car seat
  • Not a convertible car seat

Doona $550

How to find a reliable travel car seat

While not everyone necessarily requires a dedicated travel car seat, most airlines allow free gate-checking or baggage-checking your car seat. But transporting your regular car seat, often heavy and bulky, can be pretty cumbersome when moving in and out of cars or navigating the airport.

A more compact, lightweight alternative might be a sensible choice, particularly if you frequently utilize air travel or ride-sharing services like taxis. To curate our list, we analyzed parent reviews to understand how these seats fare during travel and their durability over time. Here are some factors to consider when picking out a travel car seat;


While your typical car seat might have FAA approval for in-flight use, that doesn’t automatically qualify it as the best option for your travels. The reason? It could be quite heavy. If you are a frequent flyer, we recommend investing in a more lightweight car seat designed for travel.

Opting for a lighter, cost-effective car seat will spare you the inconvenience and potential strain of lugging around a heavy car seat. Choosing a travel car seat weighing less than 20 pounds can significantly simplify transporting it through airports.


Whichever car seat you choose must adhere to the rigorous Federal safety standards. These standards include crash-resistant restraints, flame-retardant fabric, and easy-release buckles. You can typically find this safety information on the product’s packaging. However, if you intend to utilize the car seat as an in-flight seating option on an airplane, it must also hold a separate certification.

Be certain that it bears the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) approval and is clearly labeled as such. Some airline personnel may inspect the certification stickers on the seat to confirm FAA compliance.

Ease of Installation

Considering that you’ll probably need to set up and disassemble a car seat at least once during your journey, this process must be as seamless as possible. Car seats can typically be installed in two ways, with the majority employing the LATCH system, an acronym for “Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children.”

This method involves securing small buckles near the car seat’s base into corresponding receptors within the crease between the seat and backrest. Alternatively, some car seats utilize a seatbelt system, which may become necessary when dealing with older rental vehicles.

When planning family adventures, selecting the best travel car seat for your little one is crucial. Safety, compatibility, ease of installation, comfort, and age and weight limits are all factors to consider. Take the time to research and evaluate different options to find the travel car seat that best suits your family’s needs. Investing in a high-quality car seat will ensure your child’s safety and provide peace of mind during your travels.

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