We can all agree that the safest place for a baby on a plane is in their own seat, in their own FAA-approved car seat. We can also all agree that lugging a bulky, heavy car seat through an airport is about the last thing anyone wants to do. Whether you’re purchasing a car seat with the knowledge that you’ll be doing a fair amount of traveling, or you’re deciding to make the investment in a second car seat specifically for travel, here are your best choices based on weight, “lug-a-bility,” and affordability.
Best FAA-Approved Car Seats for Travel:
This was our travel car seat of choice, due to its light weight (just over 10lbs), low price (around $50 in the US–more in Canada, natch), and ease of installation. You can rear face to 35lbs and it’s good for forward-facing kids up to 40lbs, although depending on how big your kids are, they may grow out of it height-wise a little sooner. The Cosco Scenera‘s limit for height rear-facing is 36″, and 43″ for forward-facing children. Bub outgrew it when he was three, but he lives at the top of the percentile charts.
This car seat is a little heavier at 14 pounds, and a little more expensive at around $100, but its height and weight limits are much higher than the Scenera’s (and most other car seats, for that matter), so you just might get a bit more use out of it. The Safety 1st Guide 65‘s rear-facing limits are 36″ for height and 40lbs for weight, and forward facing your child can remain harnessed until 52″ and 65lbs.
At over $200 USD, the Combi Coccoro is the priciest FAA-approved car seat here on the list, but it is the only convertible car seat that snaps into a stroller (the BabyTrend Snap’n’Go or Mountain Buggy’s Nano), it’s around 15lbs, easy to install, and in spite of its low profile, babies can rear-face from 3-33 lbs, or up to 36″ tall, and forward-face from 20-40 lbs., or up to 40″ tall. Its unique design allows the Combi Coccoro to be installed in very tiny cars, so that means you should have no trouble rear facing in some of those super-tight airline seat pitches.
At just over 20lbs, this is the heaviest car seat recommended here. but for a Britax that’s pretty light. It retails for under $150 USD. The Britax Roundabout G4.1 fits most traditional airline seats, though rear-facing might be a bit of a struggle. You could very likely use this seat until it expires (seven years) since it is good for rear-facing for 5-40 lbs, or until there is only 1″ of shell above child’s head, and forward-facing 20-55 lbs, 46″ or less. And Britax has their own line of travel accessories, including a padded car seat travel bag, and a travel cart.
I’m not trying to trick you. This is not technically a car seat. But the CARES Harness is the only FAA-approved car seat alternative that’s available on the market and is a great option if you won’t need a car seat at your destination. This is really for older toddlers and preschoolers, since it’s designed for children one year and older weighing 22 – 44 pounds and up to 40″ tall. Please note that other baby travel vests and seat belt extenders are not approved by the FAA, and must be removed from baby during take-off and landing (but ideally not used at all).
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