The Best FAA-Approved Car Seats for Travel

A look at the best FAA-approved car seats for travel.

What Are the Best FAA-Approved Car Seats for Travel?

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.

Are you purchasing a car seat with the knowledge that you’ll be doing a fair amount of travel? Or maybe you’re deciding to make the investment in a second car seat specifically for travel?

Here are your best travel car seat choices based on weight, “lug-a-bility,” and affordability…

The Best FAA-Approved Car Seats for Travel:

Cosco Mighty Fit 65

The Cosco Scenera 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. Let us mourn the Scenera but updated equivalent is the Mighty Fit 65. It is a bit more expensive and two pounds heavier. You can rear face to 40lbs and it’s good for forward-facing kids up to 65lbs. Although, depending on how big your kids are, they may grow out of it height-wise a little sooner.

The Costo Mighty Fit 65‘s  limit for height rear-facing is 40″, and 49″ for forward-facing children. My son outgrew the Scenera when he was three, but he lives at the top of the percentile charts. The Mighty Fit 65‘s limits are considerably higher.

Safety 1st Jive 2-in-1

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 Jive 2-in1‘s rear-facing limits are 36″ for height and 40lbs for weight, and forward facing your child can remain harnessed until 52″ and 65lbs. Plus it comes in some super cute Disney styles 🙂

Graco Admiral 65/Contender 65

The Graco Admiral 65 and Graco Contender 65 are not exactly the same convertible car seats. But they are very similar. The Admiral is few pounds heavier and a little bit more expensive than the Contender, but both are lightweight and affordable choices for an FAA-approved car seat for travel. Both have a built-in cup holder that’s super handy, and both have harnesses and headrests that adjust with a handle without needing to re-thread the straps.

Both seats are good for rear-facing from 5-40lbs and forward-facing from 22-65lbs.

Britax Emblem Convertible Car Seat

At just under 20lbs, this is the heaviest car seat recommended here. But, for a Britax, that’s pretty light. It retails for around $250 USD. The Britax Emblem 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)… It’s good for rear-facing for 5-40 lbs, or until there is only 1″ of shell above child’s head, and forward-facing 20-65 lbs, and a height of 49″ or less. And Britax has their own line of travel accessories, including a padded car seat travel bag, and a car seat travel cart.

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. They must be removed from baby during take-off and landing (but ideally not used at all).

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51 Responses to The Best FAA-Approved Car Seats for Travel

  1. Allison at #

    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. Great information! I love the CARES!

  3. 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.

    • Jillian at #

      Cosco not Costco. I have made that mistake before. It’s a different company.

  4. Jill at #

    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 #

      Hi Jill! You can see that the FAA approves the CARES harness here on the FAA’s page:

      • Kathy Palmer at #

        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 #

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

  5. Mali at #

    Thoughts on the Diono Radian RXT for flying?

  6. mama maezaki at #

    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 #

    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 #

    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 #

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

  9. Rosal at #

    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 #

      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 #

        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 #

    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 #

    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.


    • Corinne at #

      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.

      • Michelle R Button at #

        Do you have to pay for a car seat as a carry on?

        • Corinne at #

          Usually not — when you’re flying with a baby they typically allow you to bring your seat on board to install so long as you’ve purchased a seat for baby. If not, if it fits in normal carry on that can work or else gate check it.

  12. Maria at #

    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 #

      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 #

    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 #

      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. 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 #


    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 #

      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 #


        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 #

          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 #

    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 #

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

  17. Richard at #

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

  18. Shimu at #

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

  19. L at #

    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 #

      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 #

    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?

    • Corinne at #

      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.

  22. Jerry at #

    Hello, this is such a nice and informative blog. It will help me with choosing a car seat for my baby. Thanks for sharing.

  23. Anna at #

    Hi, I was just wondering why no one has mentioned using a Peg Perego 4/35 Primo Viaggio infant car seat on board an airplane, as it has a visible approved aircraft sticker on the back of it and meets European standards. As well as being the safest car seat in Canada.

    • Corinne at #

      Hi Anna! We loved the Primo Viaggio but the reason I didn’t include it is because it is pretty heavy and expensive compared to other seats. I may do another post specifically on infant carrier seats, so thanks for the idea!

  24. Amber at #

    I will be traveling wit my 2 children for the first time this March and have a few questions.
    My 2 year old is 30 lbs and about 30 or so inches and I was leaning towards the CARES infant harness restraint.
    My 5 years old is 42lbs and about 46″, do you think he still needs something or would I be okay with having him just sit in the airline seat?
    Thank you so much!

    • Corinne at #

      Hi Amber,
      Your 5yo will be just fine in the airline seat. Depending on your trip, you may want to consider a booster for getting around once you’re there.

  25. Hello. Traveling with my 3 yr old. He’s 43” y’all and 42lbs. I currently have him in a click tight britax but want to purchase a harness booster for air travel and then transition him in my car. Which harness booster do you recommend?
    Also, am I allowed to insist he’s in a booster on flight? I’m not comfortable flying without. I purchased a seat for him and even upgraded to larger seats with more leg room in hopes he can travel in the booster.
    Other than the evenflo chase which I read horrible reviews for, are there any other seats you’d recommend? Thanks!

    • Corinne at #

      Hi Michelle,
      You can’t use booster seats on flights. They must be harnessed car seats. You can try the CARES harness but you will still need a car seat/booster at your destination and then the RideSafer travel vest at your destination. Or you can purchase a lighter weight car seat. There are decent reviews for the Evenflo Maestro or Graco Tranzitions. Good luck!

  26. Rudi at #

    Just got off the phone with British Airways. They informed me regardless of the seat used, infants and toddlers must be in the parents lap during take-off and landing. In between they can be in whatever seat you like, FAA approved or not doesn’t matter as its parents’ responsibility. Is this what other people have experienced? We have a maxi cosi pebble plus for our 5month old, and were wondering about lightweight options for our 17th month old. We are renting a car so will need a seat rather than a plain harness

    • Corinne at #

      Hi Rudi! That must be an airline-specific policy for British Airways. I don’t think that has been the experience of anyone I’ve spoken with when using a car seat on a plane but I guess you have to take their word for it. We loved the Cosco Scenera NEXT for travel with older babies. Very lightweight and very affordable.

  27. Amber at #

    So I will be traveling in March with a 6 month old a two year old and 9 year old. The flight is only 4 hours but I want to know what would be a good car seat for my 6 month old I am not too stressed about the other two kids because they are both tall for their age and will have a seat to their self. I will be flying Frontier and I know that most of their planes are small. What would be a good option for me.

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