Last Updated: May 5, 2023 @ 1:17 pm.

Road trip? Flying vacation? You want to keep your child safe when you travel, but how? We tried out several different travel car seat solutions before deciding on these top picks. Here are the best travel car seats: lightweight convertible seats for infants and toddlers and folding booster seats for older kiddos.

FYI: We are Baby Bargains, the #1 online resource for honest and independent reviews of car seats since 1994. In our best-selling book, we've rated and reviewed car seats for millions of readers. Baby Bargain is 100% reader supported—we appreciate you reading this article!

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Best For Kids Age 3+

No lugging around bulky seats
This safety-tested harness is a game-changer—we liked how easy it is to use. And three different sizes are a plus.

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Best Travel Car Seat For 3+: Ride Safer Travel Vest with Zipped Backpack

The Rider Safer Travel Vest by Safe Travel Systems by Safe Traffic System is our top pick for an easy to use and portable solution for kids aged 3 and up. This is also an excellent solution for carpools.

No bulky seats, no complex belt-paths—the vest positions the vehicle shoulder and lap belts to correctly fit a child 30 to 110 pounds (our recommendation is ages five and up, which we will explain shortly).

The travel vest comes in three sizes: small and large and extra large. Each has slightly different weight limits.

So you might be wondering—is this thing safe? The answer is yes: the vest is tested to the same standards as regular car seats and has passed. The maker (Safe Travel System) has a 15-year track record in this category and must crash test all its products to the same federal car seat standard (FMVSS213) that all car seats must meet.

What We Liked

• Much easier than lugging car seat through airport.

• Easy to use (once you get beyond the learning cuve).

• Good for carpools as well.

What Needs Work

• Learning curve. Teaching a child how to thread the seat belt through the Travel Vest can be a challenge—that’s why this solution is probably best for kiddos age five and up. Also: younger kids may not sit properly in the Travel Vest (slumping over, etc) and that could compromise its safety. 

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Best For Infants

Easy to carry through airport
Great for plane trips, this lightweight and affordable car seat even has cup holders. Machine washable pad. Installation takes a bit of practice, however.

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Best Travel Seat For Infants/Toddlers: Cosco Onlook 2-in-1 Convertible Car Seat

When it comes to travel car seats and infants and toddlers, we’d go for a lightweight seat that is easy to use and affordable. The key issue is weight: if you are lugging this seat through an airport or wrestling it into a rental car, you don’t want a 30 lb. behemoth (yes, some car seats weight that much!). Here’s more on why the Costco Onlook is a best bet for travel car seats for infants and toddlers:

What We Liked

• FAA certified for use on an airplane.

• 12 lbs. total weight. That’s much lighter than other travel car seats.

• Rear-facing to 40 lbs. It is safest for infants and toddlers to ride rear-facing as long as you can—and this seat’s 40 lb. rear-facing limit allows extended rear-facing use.

• Forward facing to 40 lbs. And this seat has six harness height positions—that means it can grow with your child. Other affordable seats we tested had just four or five harness positions.

• Affordable. 

• Two recline positions. 

• Lowest harness slot (5″) is great for smaller babies.

• Cup holders!

• Machine washable and dryable seat pad.

What Needs Work

• Not much padding. We thought this car seat had adequate padding for most trips, but it isn’t as cushy as other seats.

• Cup holders add to seat width—which makes it harder to fit into tight spots (some narrow airline seats, compact rental cars, etc).

• Installation has a learning curve. We’d definitely take this car seat out of the box and install it at home before you hit the road. That’s because it can be a bit complex to install: example, for the youngest kids, you may need to shorten the harness (the instructions to this are clear, but it takes a bit of time).

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Best For Airplanes

Easy on the wallet
This affordable car seat is great for plane trips—easy to install, machine washable pad and lightweight.

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Best Travel Seat for Airplanes: Evenflo Tribute LX Convertible Car Seat

When it comes to airline travel, you want a lightweight seat that is easy to install. And affordable! After testing several options, we think Evenfo’s Tribute LX car seat is an excellent choice for airline travel. Here’s why:

What We Liked

• Weight is just 9.2 lbs. That’s fantastic. You don’t want to be hauling a car seat that weighs 20 or 30 lbs through an airport.

• Extended rear-facing use to 35 lbs. The seat also works forward-facing to 40 lbs.

• FAA certified for airplane use.

• Machine washable pad. 

• Narrow profile means it can fit in tight spaces—like narrow airline seats.

• Folding cup holder.

• Affordable.

What’s Needs Work

• Padding is rather skimpy. We though it was adequate for most trips, but we realize other car seats are more cushy.

• No recline feature.

• May not fit newborns well, given the lowest harness height position and crotch strap length.

• Can be hard to release the front latch.

Why Trust Us

We’ve been rating and reviewing baby gear, including high chairs, since 1994. We do hands-on testing—we buy the products with our own money and evaluate with an eye toward safety, ease of use and affordability.

Here’s another key point: we don’t take money from the brands we review. No free samples, no sponsors, no “partnerships.” Baby Bargains is your independent and unbiased source for expert baby gear reviews.

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