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Traveling with a baby means a lot of planning! One of the big headaches of flying with a baby or toddler, especially for the first time, is whether to take along your infant car seat or booster seat.
There are two parts to this decision – whether you want to bring a car seat on the airplane and whether you want a travel car seat for once you arrive for use in cars, taxis etc. The same goes for booster seats. There is also the potential issues with dealing with extra luggage when traveling with a car seat.
As the kids get older this becomes less of an issue, as your choice of booster seat options increase giving you access to many of the most compact booster seats for kids.
This can be a big decision, especially if your child is under 2 and you also have the extra expense of purchasing a seat for them if they are to use a car seat in an airplane. However, it is worth keeping in mind that the American FAA does recommend the use of a car seat for airplane travel. This being said, you are free to take any seat you like on an airplane, so long as its a seat that is approved for air travel.
Therefore, you will need to decide how you would like to use your airplane car seat. A convertible car seat on airplane can be an easy option, allowing for use both rear and forward facing. This means that the seat can be used by newborns when facing the rear, creating a safe enclosure, and as your child grows can be swapped around to be forward facing. Certainly one of the more challenging aspect of using a car seat for travel on airplane is installing it, with restricted space and only one belt.
Using forward facing car seats on an airplane is usually the easiest option as with most rear facing seats, a seat belt extender is required. These should be available from the flight attendant. Arm rests can be tricky so try and get a seat narrow enough that you can lower the armrests for takeoff and landing. This can be annoying as airplane seats vary in width, but most seats should not be more than 18” wide. Any bigger than this and the seat is probably too bulky anyway.
The first consideration when using a booster seat on an airplane is following the airlines requirements as no matter how good the booster seat is, if the airline does not approve it, then you wont be able to use it.
Unfortunately an airplane booster seat provides inadequate support for aviation travel and is therefore not a suitable option for flying. The FAA does not allow booster seats to be used during take off, landing or taxiing. Some airlines do allow you to use a booster seat for airplane travel once in the air, but this differs with airlines and you will need to check with your own airline in regards to this. Although this can be appropriate for longer flights, for most parents it is a less than ideal option.
Another option that will save you from carrying either a car seat or booster seat for the airplane is a CARES Child Safety Device, which is the only harness that is approved for aviation travel by the FAA. A Cares Airplane Safety Harness is suitable if your child is between 22-40 pounds and under 40 inches tall. Installation is very simple and will require you to lower the tray table behind your child’s seat, place the strap over the seat and tighten the straps. Thankfully this does not prevent the person behind from having access to their tray table.
If your child is bigger than 40lb then you can feel secure placing them in the seat without a CARES device.
Once you have arrived at your destination, you are going to need to travel on some form of transportation and this is when your car seat and/or booster seat can be extra handy.
If you are hiring a car, it may be essential to use a car seat or booster seat depending on your child’s age and size. Unfortunately there is not a one size fits all answer here, and it is definitely worth checking with the country or state in question to what is required legally.
Car hire companies will generally hire car seats as well, but these can be very overpriced. If you are traveling for more than a few days, often it is cheaper to buy a new car seat than hire one! You also do not know the history of a car seat when hiring one and it may have been involved in accidents.
This can make bringing your own seat very attractive when hiring a car.
If you are taking taxis or local transportation, then you usually have a choice about whether to use a car seat or not. Generally, it is perfectly legal to hold your child, although of course this isn’t as safe. In some places it is possible to hire taxis which have car seats although this is rare and I wouldn’t rely on it. In some buses you can install your own car seats.
Do research beforehand the laws of your particular destination. Some do not allow taxi travel without a car seat and may not supply their own. This means you will not be able to take a taxi without your own car seat. In Switzerland, for example, a car seat is required until 12 years of age or 150cm and you will need these for taxis as well. They can be supplied but often this involves a high charge for the taxi to go and collect one and come back and may not work at all if you have more than two kids.
If you want to use a car seat as much as possible, then it is worth bringing your own. However, it is also worth keeping in mind that in some countries, it is not even normal for taxis to have seat belts, so even if you bring your own car seat, you may not be able to install it.
|Name||Image||Weight (lbs)||Convertible?||Price||Our Rating (/5)|
|Safety 1st Guide 65 Convertible Car Seat||14||Yes||$||4.0|
|Diono Radian RXT Convertible Car Seat||24||Yes||$$$||4.5|
|Cosco – Scenera Convertible Car Seat||11.4||Yes||$||4.0|
|Graco ComfortSport Convertible Car Seat||13||Yes||$$||4.0|
|Lilly Gold The Sit 'n' Stroll||15.6||Yes||$$$$||4.0|
You may find that your existing car seat is perfect for travel – it’s easy to install, relatively lightweight and is approved for use on airplanes. However, you may find that it is easier for you to travel with a car seat that you have bought specifically for the job – one that is as easy as possible to navigate around airports and hotels and to install.
You also need to ensure that if you are traveling internationally, that your car seat is approved for use at your destination. The seats below should be fine for use in North America and Europe (but check before purchasing). Australia is more difficult as they have more stringent laws and the majority of the time, a seat purchased elsewhere will not be permitted in Australia due to the fact that they also need to be installed at an anchor point at the top or behind the seat.
Do not underestimate just how much easier it will be to travel with a car seat that only weighs 13 or 14 pounds compared to one (or two!) that is over 20 pounds. You will be happy you bought one for travel and a spare car seat at home can come in handy too. If you want to look at purchasing a new one, here are some of the best car seats for travel. All of the car seats below are FAA approved, which saves you one bit of hassle!
The snug fit of the car seat means that it should fit comfortably into most airplane seats. The seat has a headrest and side impact protection so it is not only comfortable for longer trips but safe and protective, important for any car seat. There is also a cupholder on side, which is only really suitable for older children, but is removable so you can use it when it is suitable. This saves even more space making it that bit more compact.
This seat is not an expensive option and, with such a wide weight limit, can be used by you for a long time. The seat is definitely one of the best car seat for traveling on an airplane.
The seat does fold for easier carrying and so there has been effort made to make the car seat as suitable as possible for travel. You also have the option of purchasing carrying straps which are sold separately.
This strong car seat has a huge weight allowance as it holds a child 5lb to 45lb when rear facing and 20lb to 80lb when forward facing. This alone shows you the strength of the seat. Once your child grows big enough, the seat can be converted for use as a booster seat for a child that is 50-120lb!
The seat is well cushioned with memory foam for longer trips to make it very comfortable. However, as with other memory foam seats this one can get hot.
The seat is quite expensive but if you keep in mind it is a long term option (with weight from 5-120lb), this can be justified.
The seat does however take up quite a bit of space when it is positioned rear facing, so may not be ideal when flying as it will prevent the person in front from reclining their seat and in some cases it may not even fit. However, the seats works great when positioned forward facing.
The seat makes a statement with its plush animal print cover. It is also very lightweight at around 11lb so it is easy to carry with you.
As the seat is so affordable, it is a great option if you need a reliable seat for now. However, longer term there are probably more suitable options, as this seat has a lower weight range than others.
The Graco ComfortSport car seat is great for use on airplanes and the user guide does a good job in setting out all the information you need for using it on flights. As with other rear facing car seat on airplane, it can be tricky but some parents have reported success.
The best car seat for travel is lightweight, and this seat only weights around 13lb so it is not too difficult to carry, and includes a cup holder and removable head support, which is great for infants. The 5 point harness is also adjustable.
This functionality makes it possibly the best car seat for airplane travel, as you can get around the terminal and plane without checking in a stroller.
The wheels and handles collapse into the bottom of the the seat for use as a car seat and this is also a good option for when you reach your destination.
To be blunt, it is neither the best stroller or car seat on the market, but the fact that is combines the two makes it so handy and this could be the carseat/stroller you use exclusively for travel.
As a stroller, it is quite short so taller parents may want to see if this is suitable for them. Also the seat sits low to the ground, and may be unsuitable for some surfaces. However, this is still a good fix to the problem many travelers with children face when trying to decide whether to take a stroller or a car seat.
If you are looking for something to use at home too, there are some more convertible car seats here.
If your child is at least 4 years old and 40 pounds, then you may want to consider buying a travel car booster seat. However, keep in mind that your child is safest in an infant car seat for as long as possible so try to avoid upgrading them until they no longer fit the size requirements of a regular baby car seat.
|Name||Image||Weight (lbs)||Weight Range (lbs)||Height Range (“)||Price||Our Rating (/5)|
|BubbleBum Inflatable Car Booster Seat||1||40-100||40-54||$||4.2|
|Trunki/Safety 1st Boostapak Belt-Positioning Booster Car Seat||3.8||40-80||43-52||$$||4.5|
|Baby Trend Yumi Folding Booster Car Seat||9||30-100||21-32||$$$||3.8|
It can be used for children over 1 year old and from 22lb to 44lb, and a height not exceeding 40 inches.
A downside of this harness is that it lacks a strap between the legs, and so if your child is small the main concern for parents is the tendency for them to slip and slide down the seat, in which case a car seat may be more suitable.
For frequent flying this is a good option, and does save lugging a car seat around the cabin, as even the best carseat for travel can be an annoyance.
The BubbleBum Inflatable Car Booster Seat is a great option for older kids that need just that extra bit of height and support.
There are so many great things about an inflatable option, such as that it can be deflated and fit easily into your purse or backpack. The booster seat also weighs only a pound and is only 13 inches wide, which can be hard to find! This will ensure that it fits easily in nearly any taxi, bus or car.
The seat is firm once it is inflated and there are a cool range of designs. The BubbleBum Inflatable car seat supports ages 4 to 11 and up to 100lb which gives your child a lot of room to grow. Read our full review here.
The next booster seat in our list is the Safety 1st Boostapak Belt Positing Booster car seat. This booster seat has been designed to be great for kids as it allows them to use it as a backpack and even has room for luggage, meaning they can store some essential toys for their cabin baggage or travels, giving them their independence.
Weighing only 3 lb, its very lightweight and seats older kids 30-80lb and 43”-52” tall. When opened up, it has a padded backing area so is comfortable for longer trips, and adjustable arm rests.
This seat is one of the best travel booster seats you will find. It is also a steal at such a low price for a carry on bag and booster seat, and will keep both kids and adults happy. We are particularly fans of this option as it is made by Trunki who are great at combining functionality and fun in children’s products – they also produce fabulous kids’ ride on suitcases.
Read our full review here.
Hopefully this guide has helped you determine what the best car seat or booster is for your travel! You may also want to check out our guide to the top travel strollers.
What is your favorite car or booster seat for travel?
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