The best travel car seats

The best travel car seats

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  • The perfect travel car seat can help your kid stay safe and comfortable on any trip, and finding one that’s light and compact makes your life so much easier too. 
  • To save weight and space, travel car seats don’t have all the bells and whistles of other seats, making it hard to choose which features are most important to you and which you can do without. 
  • Our top pick is the Safety 1st Guide 65 because it’s a convertible seat that is lightweight and compact yet still comfortable for your baby or toddler. 

I’m not one to buy extra things just to buy them, but I’m okay with spending some extra money on a safe car seat that makes my life easier. When my daughter was born, my husband and I didn’t stop traveling, and with Uber, flights, and rental cars, the need for a travel car seat quickly became apparent. They’re lighter, less cumbersome, and take up less room. 

Finding the right travel car seat is difficult, though. You need to find the perfect mix of affordability, portability, comfort, and safety. An uncomfortable kid can make for a miserable flight or road trip.  

If you’re planning on taking any flights, your car seat must be approved for use by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Otherwise, it will need to be checked, and your child will not be able to sit in it on the plane. Babies and kids don’t need to sit in car seats on planes, but it’s safer and more comfortable for your child. All of our picks are approved by the FAA, with the exception of our booster seat pick. No booster seats are reviewed by the FAA.

I take car seat safety very seriously; I’ve tested my fair share of car seats and have returned the ones that didn’t meet my standards. To bring you the best travel car seats, I combined my own experience testing seats with thorough research using top consumer product websites and authentic customer reviews.  

Here are the best travel car seats you can buy:

The best travel car seat overall

Amazon

Lightweight, compact, and comfortable for kids up to 65 pounds, the Safety 1st Guide 65 is the ideal travel car seat for road tripping across the country or hopping on a flight. 

If you’re already buying an extra car seat for travel, you probably want to buy one and be done for good. The Safety 1st Guide 65 is a convertible car seat that holds babies as small as 5 pounds when rear-facing, and while many other travel car seats are only manufactured for kids up to 40 pounds, the seat is safe for kids up to 65 pounds when forward-facing. 

The Safety 1st Guide 65 is ideal for travel because of its light weight and compact size. It weighs only 12 pounds while many traditional convertible car seats are double that weight. Measuring 20 inches wide, 23.5 inches high, and 18 inches deep, it fits well on airplane seats and can fit three across in most cars. The seat comes with a removable cup holder, which is a nice feature to help keep it compact. I’ve also found that it is much more cushioned and comfortable than many of the other travel car seat options. 

The seat can be installed with or without the LATCH system, and while this seat is small, light, comfortable, and convenient to use for travel, some reviewers dislike it because it is difficult to install tightly and securely in a car. Other reviewers say that they are able to get a very secure fit, so the fit is likely better in some cars than others. 

The Safety 1st Guide 65 is recommended as one of the top travel seats by CarseatBlog, based on research and tests conducted by Child Passenger Safety Technicians. Car Seats for the Littles, a nonprofit staffed by Child Passenger Safety Technicians, also praises this seat, calling it a "long loved convertible car seat that packs some desirable features into a low price tag."

Pros: Lightweight and compact, safe for kids up to 65 pounds, more cushioned and comfortable than many other travel car seat options

Cons: Difficult to securely install in some cars

The best budget-friendly travel car seat

Walmart

The Cosco Scenera NEXT is extremely light and compact, and the low price point makes it the perfect option to have as an extra car seat for travel. 

At 10.4 pounds, the Cosco Scenera NEXT is one of the lightest car seats out there, making it easy to carry through the airport, on and off shuttle buses, or anywhere else your travels take you. We also love this one because it’s extremely affordable.

The car seat can be used for children weighing 5 to 40 pounds, and it’s compact enough to fit on an airplane seat or three across in a car. The seat is 17.63 inches wide, 15.75 inches deep, and 30.25 inches high. This seat can be installed rear- or forward-facing and with or without the LATCH system.

While the Cosco Scenera NEXT is a safe option that is convenient for parents, it might not be the most comfortable seat for your child. It doesn’t provide much padding between your child and the plastic shell. 

It also has a machine-washable and dryer-safe cover, so you can easily clean it right up when you’re done traveling. A removable cup holder is perfect to keep drinks or snacks within reach of your child while traveling.

Wirecutter named it the best convertible car seat for travel of 2019, saying "it’s lightweight, small, inexpensive‚ and yet still safe." Car Seats for the Littles praises it for travel: "It’s lightweight, it fits under larger strollers, and it can be hung on the handle of a smaller stroller using the top tether strap."

Pros: Lightweight, fits in small cars and on airplane seats, machine-washable cover

Cons: Hard to install properly, some reviewers note that it seems flimsy and uncomfortable

The best booster travel car seat

Amazon

BubbleBum is an inflatable booster seat that weighs just over a pound and can be inflated in 20 seconds.

For safety reasons, kids should stay in a car seat with a five-point harness until they outgrow the weight and height recommendations of the seat, so boosters are only for older kids who have completely outgrown car seats. Because no booster seats are approved by the FAA, our top pick is easy to store on an airplane and quick and easy to install in a car.

Hands down, the best travel booster seat is BubbleBum, which is inflatable and made of memory foam. It weighs just over a pound and folds up very small, so you can easily store it in your carry-on, diaper bag, or purse. When ready to use, it can be blown up in 20 seconds and is 11 inches wide, 11 inches deep, and 4.5 inches high. It is suitable for children 4 to 11 years old, weighing 40 to 100 pounds, and up to 59 inches tall.

BubbleBum keeps kids safer in the event of a crash by positioning the seat belt on their legs rather than their stomach, and the memory foam helps kids’ bodies stay stable. BubbleBum does not have a high back or head stability, but the lack of these features is what makes it so compact and portable.

Experts widely agree that BubbleBum is the best travel booster. It’s rated as a top seat by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), Wirecutter, and BabyGearLab. "We like the simplicity of the BubbleBum and think it is tough to beat for children who do a lot of carpooling," BabyGearLab said. IIHS employs engineers to test booster seats and chose BubbleBum as a best bet because it properly positions the seat belt on kids in virtually any vehicle.

Pros: Lightweight, compact, easy to use, stabilizes child’s body and positions seatbelt in a safer position in the event of a crash

Cons: No high back or head support

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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October 17, 2019 at 06:30PM

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