Best FAA-Approved Car Seats

travel car seat, faa-approved car seatsWe 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:

travel car seat, faa-approved car seats

Cosco Scenera

Cosco Scenera

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.

 

travel car seats, faa-approved car seat

Safety 1st Guide 65

Safety 1st Guide 65

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.

 

travel car seats, faa-approved car seats

Combi Coccoro

Combi Coccoro

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.

 

travel car seat, travel car seats, faa-approved car seat

Britax Roundabout G4.1

Britax Roundabout G4.1 Convertible Car Seat

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.

 

CARES Harness, faa-approved car seats, travel car seats

CARES Harness

CARES Harness

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).

See also:

 

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37 Responses to Best FAA-Approved Car Seats

  1. Allison at 21:44 #

    Pinning! My family is out of the car seat phase, but I’m sure not all my followers are, so I want to share these tips.

  2. Colleen Lanin at 15:34 #

    Great information! I love the CARES!

  3. Jody Robbins at 13:30 #

    Had no idea. Really useful information. Thank you! Slightly surprised something from Costco made the list, but if it’s easy to install as you say, it sounds like a winner.

  4. Jill at 07:26 #

    I have been researching cares it does not say it’s FAA approved. Where did you get that information ? I really want one but don’t want to invest in it to be told I can’t use it on an airplane.

    • Corinne at 10:10 #

      Hi Jill! You can see that the FAA approves the CARES harness here on the FAA’s page: http://www.faa.gov/passengers/fly_children/

      • Kathy Palmer at 19:43 #

        FAA does approve the CARES but the passenger in the seat behind you might not! The upper strap goes around the back of the seat and the passenger behind you will have issues with their tray table. They can tell the flight crew to have it removed and it will be removed. Personal experience and also know of others that have had same experience after I did. Wish I knew before I spent the money for something I didn’t even get to use.

        • Corinne at 15:49 #

          That is the first I’ve heard of that happening, Kathy. I’m so sorry to hear it.

  5. Mali at 14:31 #

    Thoughts on the Diono Radian RXT for flying?

  6. mama maezaki at 14:29 #

    Is there a car seat that is FAA approved that has a stroller snap in function? Or are the FAA approved seats only a car seat?

  7. Corinne at 23:52 #

    The infant bucket seats are mostly all FAA-approved and they generally snap into a stroller frame. But I have yet to learn of a convertible car seat that does that.

  8. Kristin at 04:07 #

    I just flew with a coccoro and a radian. They both hooked nicely into my Joovy Caboose. The coccoro on the front with the car seat adapter and the radian faced forward on the platform seat and I strapped it on to the handle. Baby rode in the coccoro and toddler on my back. Luggage sat on the radian. Both seats installed wonderfully on frontier. Only trouble was getting an attendant to help carry the radian onboard…. They quickly helped getting off because they wanted to leave….

    • Corinne at 12:46 #

      Awesome–thank you, Kristin! So glad it worked out!

  9. Rosal at 16:49 #

    Would you please be able to help me? My family and I are traveling with our 2 year old toddler on an international 13 hour flight and have purchased a ticket for her. Upon asking the airline if there were any restrictions in regards to a toddler convertible car seat, they stated that the measurements for the car seat must be 40cm by 40 cm in order to fit the airline seat. After extensive researching I have not been able to find an FAA approved convertible car seat with those dimensions. I am really afraid of traveling on such a long flight of over 6000 miles without my tiny 2 year old being strapped in a car seat. can you please help recommending one per the airlines guidelines? Airline is Turkish Airlines if that’s of any help. Thanks in advance

    • Corinne at 10:20 #

      Hi Rosal! The Combi Coccoro is the narrowest FAA-approved convertible car seat available. It’s pretty expensive and the lower height/weight limits means kids will outgrow it pretty fast, but if your two-year-old is pretty teeny you may be ok. Failing that, have you considered a CARES harness? If you’ll have a car seat where you’re going, or if you’re cool gate-checking your car seat, you won’t have to worry about installing the seat and your toddler will be safer than just with the seat belt. Good luck!

      • Aneta at 22:30 #

        DIONO RXT is narrower, only 15” 🙂 Yes it is heavy but due to its steel frame, which makes it probably the safest one… Also it folds flat (none of other seats do that) and you can carry it like a backpack.

  10. J Holmes at 12:05 #

    I can highly recommend the Britax Marathon Convertible G4.1 – perhaps not initially obvious to most due to its weight and carrying it through the airport for example isnt easy along with everything else but the seat is confortable and secure. If you dont mind checking your seat, this is the best in my opinion 🙂

  11. Rebecca at 22:59 #

    Hi I’m a mom of two girls. And this will be our first time flying with kids. I’ve heard that strollers are free. What about two car seats that I personally own? Would I need to gate check them? Or since my oldest is 2.5 years would she need to ride in the car seat? I’m so confused and nervous.

    Thanks,
    Rebecca

    • Corinne at 23:31 #

      Hi Rebecca! Your 2.5yr old can certainly ride in her car seat on the plane, and she may prefer it. Your baby might as well, but you would have to purchase him or her a seat. Depending on the airline, they will likely allow you to gate check the strollers and the car seats. I recommend using a padded carry-on bag to protect the car seats. Try not to stress! You will do great.

  12. Maria at 22:01 #

    Hello Corinne, thank you for this information, it is very useful.
    I usually fly from Canada to Argentina overnight…. yes, it is a very long flight and first class is way out of my league. The longest flight is about 10 hours. I am looking for a car seat that is also comfortable to sleep in for so many hours…
    Also, do you know if at some point I can take my 2 year old daughter off the carseat and lay her down on the airplane seat to give her some comfort? Will the airline take the car seat away for me???
    Any tips for such long flight are very welcome!
    Thank you

    • Corinne at 11:19 #

      Hi Maria! That is quite the flight! I’m not certain if one car seat is more comfortable than another for sleeping. But if you bring it on-board, you will have to use it for her because there is nowhere to store them on-board. With that said, a 2-year-old is not required to be in a car seat in an airplane seat, so another option may be the CARES Harness that will keep her safely buckled minus the car seat. Installing a seat rear-facing usually offers the best recline for sleep, so if she’s still within the rear-facing limit of the seat, that could be a way to keep her the most comfortable. Good luck!

  13. Shirley Shirey at 09:38 #

    Hi Corinne, I was wondering if there’s a list of approved car seat companies somewhere on the internet? I have the Graco Forever car seat and would like to know if that is airline approved. Understanding the restraints are very much similar to the buckle on his car seat, the restrains will still be new to my son therefore I am almost certain my 2 year old son would be terrified by it.

    • Corinne at 16:01 #

      Hi Shirley! If your car seat is FAA approved, it will have a round sticker on it that says so. The Graco 4Ever is approved for airline use in harness mode by the FAA. Keep in mind this is a larger, heavier seat that will be a bit awkward to travel with!

  14. Tyler Car at 11:21 #

    I just wonder these are convertible car seats? Your tips and guides are cool. Thanks for your reviews about these great car seats for babies.

  15. Randy S at 15:52 #

    Hi,

    If purchasing a seat in Canada is there any way to ensure it has the right FAA approvals without actually seeing the seat. Web sites that ship in Canada or are .ca sites only list the CMVSS 213 standard and nothing else from what I have been able to find. Is there any store or site that you know routinely sells seats that have the FAA stickers on them?

    • Corinne at 14:20 #

      Hi Randy! The sticker should say “Approved for Airplane Use.” It’s usually round and is on all seats purchased in Canada and the US. If you discover that your seat does not have the sticker, you can contact the manufacturer and they should be able to mail it to you. Good luck!

      • Randy S at 13:22 #

        Hi,

        Yes our seat does have the round sticker for CMVSS 213 which is the Canadian standard. But airlines outside of Canada do not recognize this standard and seem to default to FAA rules as they are the dominant agency in flying. Your idea of phoning the manufacturer was great. But I just got off the phone with Graco and they will not send out stickers.

        It appears to me that the only way to get an FAA approved seat is to go to the US and buy one. It is a real catch 22.

        With so many people flying internationally we cannot be the only ones concerned with this problem. I airlines are also not flexible as I have also talked with them.

        Having your seat rejected is a big gamble when you are looking at 14 hours of flying time.

        • Corinne at 13:09 #

          Wow–thanks for following up. Short of buying a car seat in the U.S. perhaps traveling with your seat’s user manual might help. But you’re right, it would be awful to board and have your seat refused.

  16. Kalai at 08:55 #

    Hiya.. I’m planned my air trip with my 8 months old girl..booked seat for her ..what kind of car seat should I buy.. Plz any suggestion ..really in need

    • Corinne at 23:14 #

      Hi Kalai! Will this be your 2nd car seat used mostly for travel?

  17. Richard at 11:34 #

    Nice and informative article. This article helps me. Keep doing this.

  18. Shimu at 11:39 #

    You really provided great information to us. This is really helpful. Thanks for sharing.

  19. L at 18:57 #

    Are any of the Recaro seats approved? I’m pretty sure I have the Performance Sport version, but I’m not sure. I am dreading my 12-hr 1-layover flight back home, especially with a car seat. Seeing my mom after 2 years and trying to surprise her.

    • Corinne at 17:19 #

      Can you check to see if it has a sticker and/or if you still have the manual?

  20. Very informative post. It helped me a lot for choosing a car seat for my baby. Thanks for sharing.

  21. Doug at 17:07 #

    Hi! We recently ordered and received a Combi Coccoro, which you mention is FAA approved for use on aircraft. However, I do not see the “FAA Approved” sticker anywhere on it.
    This is particularly important. On a recent trip with our daughter, we brought along our UppaBaby Mesa car seat and were not allowed to bring it aboard, until we could show the flight attendant this sticker on the bottom of it.
    Can you let me know where to find this important sticker?
    Thanks!!!

    • Corinne at 12:19 #

      Hi Doug!
      The sticker should be located underneath, on the inside leg of the seat. It should be a square white label with black and red writing that reads “Approved for vehicle and aircraft use.” Please get in touch with Combi asap if it isn’t there.

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