These are the Best Travel Car Seats for Flying with Kids

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. My children always rode in their car seats on airplanes until they were ages 4 and 5 AND met the FFA guidelines for safe lap belt use.  I strongly encourage all parents to follow proper use guidelines to the best of their ability.


Which are the Best Travel Car Seats?

Are you wondering which are 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?

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.

Rules may different on flights outside of the US, so check the rules of the airline with which you’ll be flying.

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Best Travel Car seats Comparison Chart 2018

NameImageTypePriceBest For
Chicco Keyfit Infant Car Seat and BaseInfant seat with base
- For babies 4-30 lbs
-My personal favorite, but it's a little heavier than some seats
-For babies 4-30 lbs
Graco SnugRide Click Connect 35Infant seat with base
-Lightweight
-For babies 4-35 lbs
Britax G1.1 Frontier ClicktightCombination seat
-Very easy to install
-Heavy
-Best for kids who are too tall to rearface, as it's front face only
Evenflo Tribute LX Convertible Car SeatConvertible seat-Lightweight
-Less padding than some carseats
-Budget friendly
Safe Traffic System Ride Safer Travel Vest-Travel vest (considered a booster seat)-The most lightweight option currently available
-Better for children at least 4 years old (though it can be used for three year olds who meet the other requirements)
-Cannot be used on airplanes
Two car seats sit on the ground in a hotel room. Are these the best travel car seats? Read on!

Yes, we took these in and out of four airplanes and at least one car per day while house hunting in Mexico with our kids last year.

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

Chicco Keyfit

We used the Chicco Keyfit for our kids as infants and it was easy to use. This is the newer version.

Pros: It’s approved by the FAA for flying, easy to install. Additionally, it’s recommended for premature babies

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).

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 2 -3 year olds (and up)

This is 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. This seat is so lightweight, I’d definitely consider it for airplane travel if I’m ever traveling with toddlers again.

Want an even lighter seat? This version of the seat weighs only 9.1 lbs.

Best Car Seats for Flying with a 4 Year Old (and Up)

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). Since it cannot rear face, it is better for children who are too tall to rear face.

 

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.

What’s the Best Car Seat for an Airplane & Travel?

Look for one that is lightweight and that you will be able to use correctly every time. When in doubt, opt for the one you will always be using correctly. Your child’s safety depends on it!

Getting Through the Airport with a Car Seat

A car seat cart can be a lifesaver for getting 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.

Is it Hard Flying with a Car Seat?

While it feels difficult to fly with a car seat, especially while traipsing through the airport with one or more car seats, bags, and your kids, it’s actually pretty easy. Practicing installing and uninstalling ahead of time helps a lot. Bringing  car seat cart also helps a lot. The peace of mind of using car seats on the airplane and in the rental cars at destinations is worth every minute of travel!

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 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. Car seats can be used on flights in the USA with any FAA approved car seat. 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?

 

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