Which car seats are the best travel car seats for airplanes? When you fly frequently with kids, you want to find a car seat that is easy to install, uninstall, use safely, and is easier to carry though airports. Which are the best car seats for flying with infants, toddlers, and preschoolers?
I’m an advocate for car seat safety. Children should be in their correctly installed car seats, buckled properly by an adult every time, and rear facing until they outgrow the limits of their seats. These safety measures certainly extend to air travel. So far, my children have ridden in their car seats on each flight we’ve taken, even though they are past the toddler age. I strongly encourage all parents to follow proper use guidelines to the best of their ability.
One does wonder which is the best travel car seats? Which is the best car seat for airplane travel? Is it hard flying with a car seat? Can I use a car seat on the plane? Can I use a travel booster seat on the airplane?
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The Best Travel Car Seats
As always, the best car seat for plane travel are the seats the adults will be able to install correctly and use correctly every time.
All US carriers should allow the use of FAA approved car seats on airplanes. Check the rules of the airline you’re flying. I’ve never been hassled by an airline employee during any of our flights (United). All attendants have been helpful and accommodating.
Do I need to have a car seat for plane travel?
No. However, it is best practice to buy a seat for your child under 2 and use the infant seat on the airplane. Additionally, checking your baby’s seat on the plane can damage it. You will have no idea if your seat is safe to use after checking it and I strongly recommend that you don’t check it all. If you do feel the need to gate check it, use the original box and padding and then another box with padding around it! There are still no guarantees (check with the manufacturer for additional information).
For older children who are ready for booster seats, be aware that booster seats cannot be used, because they require a shoulder belt. According the FAA website, children 40 pounds and under should be in a child restraint device.
Best Airplane Carseats for Infants and One year olds
We used the Chicco Keyfit for our kids as infants and it was easy to use. This is the newer version.
If you’re planning on a lot of travel, it also has a stroller travel system available for purchase (and yes, you can gate check strollers and car seat carts without a safety compromise).
The Graco Snugride
The lightest car seat available for flying is the Graco Snugride Click Connect 35 (weight is 7.5 lbs without the base). It is also a budget friendly option. According to their current manual, it is certified for use in motor vehicles and aircraft.
Best car seats for flying with a 2-4 year old
This is the seat I bought for my son last year and have traipsed with through several airports. It weights a whopping 24.9 lbs. Yes, it’s completely worth it. Britax carseats are my favorite brand and are really easy to use. In fact, I always prefer to install this seat when we are flying and let my husband installs our other seat (which is an older Britax which isn’t available anymore, this is the updated version).
Okay, so that’s a great car seat, but it’s heavy. If you want a budget friendly and lightweight seat, the Evenflo Tribute LX Convertible car seat weighs in at 12 lbs. Caveat: I have not used this seat before, but I can certainly appreciate a seat that doesn’t feel like you are carrying an anvil around.
Want an even lighter seat? This version of the seat weighs only 9.1 lbs.
When Your Child reaches 40 lbs and is 5 years old or older
The FAA website says children over 40 lbs can safely use the lap belts on airplanes. While they are still much safer in 5 point harness seats both in an airplane and in a car, there is one option available that I am comfortable recommending.
The Ride Safer Travel Safety vest (also called the Ride Safer Delight)
The Ride Safer Travel Safety Vest is a cool, portable car seat for older kids who still need a car seat. There’s a small learning curve and it’s easy once you figure it out. It functions like a booster seat, so while it can be used for younger children, it’s much better for children well over 4 years old. Size small can be used from 30 lbs to 60 lbs and the large is for 50 lbs-80 lbs.
My younger child is over 4.5 years old, over 40 lbs, and doesn’t slump in her car seat. I am comfortable having her (and my 5.5 year old son) use this on our travels. The travel safety vest a lightweight option (the large weighs all of 2.4 lbs) and can easily go in your carry on luggage. You cannot use it on the airplane.
Need a size large Rider Safer Travel Vest? Order here! I just purchased my second one for our next trip.
One tip for getting through the airport with a car seat
A car seat cart can be a lifesaver for traipsing through an airport. The great thing about using a cart is that you can buckle your child into their seat and wheel them between gates, too. I wouldn’t run through an airport using this, though.
Before Flying with a Carseat
Before buying your car seat for air travel, check that it has “This restraint is certified for use in motor vehicles and aircraft.”
Practice taking it out and installing in your vehicle (and other vehicles, if you have the option). This will also help with quick installation in the aircraft.
Check the rules of the airline with whom you’ll be flying, preferably before booking your tickets.
Be aware that airlines outside the United States have different rules. You will have to check each airline separately. It may be necessary to bring copies of documentation regarding use of car seats inflight from the airline.
Best travel car booster seat
Though I like the rider safer travel safety vest as a booster seat for travel via airplane and ease of dragging through an airport, for road trips, I still prefer to use regular car seats. Most children aren’t mature enough for booster seats as early as parents start using them, so please consider keeping your children in a 5 point harness a little longer. My almost 6 year old still uses the Britax G1.1 Frontier Clicktight Combination Harness-2-Booster Car Seat (as seen above, you can purchase here) as a 5 point harness. It can be used that way up to 90 lbs, as long as the child’s shoulders fit correctly in the harness. It can continue to be used as a belt-positioning booster seat up to 120 lbs.
Go Forth and travel
To recap, the best and safest car seat for travel for children of any age is always the seat that you are able to install and use correctly every time. An adult should always make sure the child is buckled correctly. As always, go forth, travel, and take the kids and babies!
What car seat is your favorite for travel? Do you use different seats for different purposes?