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Whether you are flying home for the holidays or planning on taking a family road trip next weekend, we know that traveling with a baby on board comes isn't a walk in the park. Luckily, between our babies getting restless and an awful lot of baby equipment to carry around, travel car seats take the edge off by helping us move the baby around hassle-free. So, here are the best travel car seats to turn each trip into a blast for the whole family.
How Do I Know a Car Seat is Safe for Travel?
According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), moving around with a kid on your lap isn't the smartest choice in the world. Between unexpected turbulence in airplanes and suddenly hitting the car breaks, our hands aren't strong enough to holding our children tight in case of an emergency.
Instead, FAA suggests we opt for government-approved child safety restraint systems (CRS) or devices. A CRS is a child safety seat which features a hardback. Due to its shielding nature, this type of seats fit in both airplanes and vehicles.
To check whether a CRS is government-approved, look for the following words printed on it. "This restraint is certified for use in motor vehicles and aircraft". Otherwise, they will ask you to check CRS as baggage.
Why Should I Opt for Lightweight Car Seats?
Before we go any further, it's best you know that ALL infant seats are ideal for long trips, be it air or road trip. Now, if your child has outgrown the infant car seats, don't fret just yet! Convertible car seats can also do the trick as long as FAA approves them.
But, to avoid inconvenience, you'd best opt for lightweight convertible seats which are portable. This way you don't have to carry around heavy baby equipment along with your luggage. Plus, lightweight seats are easy to install and operate.
Traveling Tips and Hacks Every Parent Should Know
Making sure your little one is always safely secured in a car or airplane while traveling is one of the greatest challenges a new parent has to deal with. So, learn what it takes to tackle any issue before it even arises.
Never Opt for Rental Gear
This tip mainly applies for air-traveling families. Even though renting travel car seats seems like an easy and hassle-free solution, things can turn from great to ugly in a few moments. First off, most rental car seats I've run across are not only filthy, but they also miss essential parts.
Another issue with rental travel seats is that may not be the right size for your baby. So, even if you are not moving often enough, buying your own equipment is worth the money. After all, it's your child's safety we're talking about!
How to Get it Through the Airport
Getting a car seat through the airport is another challenge most parents struggle with. So, if you are a frequent traveler, you'd better purchase a travel car seat which is easy to balance in a stroller or strapped to a suitcase.
You can even choose a travel car seat with long straps and wear them over your shoulders like a backpack. These stress-free traveling hacks allow you to move more and provide extra convenience to you and your baby.
Let's Talk Alternatives
Sure, you can stick to your traditional car seat, but remember that's not the safest way to travel with your child. For hopping in and out of taxis, buses, and trains with your baby in hand, you can't go wrong with travel car seats which feature multiple easy-to-use elements.
Which Type of Car Seats Fit in Airplane Seats the Best?
If you don't know this by now, airplane seats are getting narrower while car seats don't. So, inevitably, large car seats can't fit in airplane seats. That's why it's always best to choose specially designed travel seats which are more compact.
A good way to check whether your model fits in an airplane seat is to measure it. As long as it is below 19 inches, it should fit.
Should I Use the Seat in Rear-Facing or Forward-Facing Position?
Both. If FAA has approved the travel car seat you bought for rear-facing while driving in a car, then it is perfectly safe to use rear-facing in an airplane as well. However, parents are most commonly asked to place the seats in forward-facing position. Otherwise, the seats block the recline of the person in the front.
But, when we're talking about infant seats, you need to stand firm as some of them don't accommodate forward-facing mode. Be as polite as possible and convince them to let this one slide for the sake of your child's safety.
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In the next lines, we'll go through some of the best travel car seats by reviewing their portability, efficiency, and safety.
1. Cosco Apt 50
Equipped with side impact protection, this travel seat is perfectly safe for your baby as it absorbs external forces and turbulence.
- You can use it in both rear and forward-facing position. In fact, this travel seat holds rear-facing infants from 5 to 40 pounds and forward-facing toddlers from 22 to 50 pounds.
- Cosco Apt 50 also features a washable seat pad to clean your baby's mess quickly.
- The harness system of this travel seat locks in six different heights and has three buckle locations. So, this model adjusts to your child's height and size.
- The lightweight and compact shell structure doesn't weigh you down along with the rest of your luggage.
- It's checked and approved by FAA for use on aircraft making it an ideal choice for frequent air travelers.
- Its price is affordable.
- However, the seat can be wide and may make the installation in aircraft seats difficult.
- Straps are not steady enough, may twist sometimes and hurt against your baby's skin.
2. Britax Marathon G4
Britax Roundabout is a state-of-the-art travel car seat which can turn very road and airplane trip into a breeze for both you and your little one. Its multiple features not only provide safety to your child, but they also turn into a cozy "resting point" for your baby's exhausted body.
- This travel seat model a premium LATCH system which firmly anchors the seat to the airplane or vehicle seat. Plus, the LATCH connectors make the installation super easy.
- It also comes with a tangle-free 5-point harness system which along the side impact protection technology provide maximum security.
- Britax Marathon G4 is also stuffed with foam which shields your baby from turbulence or crash forces.
- The seat's shell also features a turbulence absorbing headrest which keeps your child's neck stabilized.
- The harness system of this model is adjustable and grows with your child. With the EasyAdjust technology, this travel seat offers ten different positions to fit your baby's size.
- The only drawback of this seat is that the plane buckles may rest behind the child's back making it feel uncomfortable.
When Evenflo announced the release of the Tribute LX model, which is practically a travel car seat every parent needs to own, is upon us, I simply had to get my hands on one. Why? Check for yourself down below.
- From infants to preschoolers, this travel car seat does a great job no matter your baby's size.
- IIt only costs around 50$. So, it's quite a bargain.
- It's also safe to use as it meets all recommended Federal Safety Standards.
- It provides side impact protection and energy-absorbing foam at the same time.
- In rear-facing position, it can keep a child up to 40 pounds perfectly safe.
- In front-facing position, it holds babies up to 65 pounds.
- It comes with an adjustable harness system to match the growing needs of your child.
- The fabrics are machine washable sparing you the worries of ruining the seat with stains.
- It may be a bit heavy to carry around.
4. Graco Contender
From birth to childhood, Graco Contender can be a trustworthy partner-in-crime during long road trips or flights. Let's take a look under the hood!
- It's budget-friendly.
- Unlike most travel seats, it features one set of LATCH connectors which switch between forward-facing and rear-facing modes instead of separate connectors. That means less work for you!
- It has a no-rethread harness, while there are two crotch buckle positions to accommodate your baby's size.
- Graco Contender also comes with eight head rest positions for further comfort.
- It weighs 16 pounds, which is significantly less than most feature-filled Graco car seats.
- This travel seat comes with low harness strap height options along with a lower starting weight limit. So, it is an ideal candidate for traveling with newborn babies.
- It has a 5-point harness system and guarantees maximum security and comfort.
- It has a 7-year lifespan. So, you can keep your little one in the same seat for the years and trips to come.
- This travel seat doesn’t feature padded covers on the harness straps which may make your baby feel uncomfortable.
5. Evenflo Maestro
This car seat is one of Evenflo’s latest attempts to make safe transportation of children affordable for parents, no matter the income. Budget aside, let's see why Evenflo Maestro is one of the best travel car seat option.
- It weighs just 11 pounds. So, it is easy to use while on the go.
- It also helps lighten the load that it’s well under 100$.
- This travel seat features LATCH anchors which keep it from turning into a projectile during a crash or major turbulence.
- The installation is quite simple, especially if you use it as a forward-facing harnessed seat.
- This car seat has two configurations modes. It serves as a forward-facing seat and as a booster.
- As a forward-facing seat, it holds a child that weighs 22 to 50 pounds.
- It comes with a strap storage which is a handy storage spot for the top tether. This way you avoid getting tangled with the belts while placing the baby in the seat.
- However, you can't adjust the shoulder belt according to your kid's size as it is stuck at 19''. That means that there is a good chance that when your baby outgrows the 19'' belt limit, you will no longer be able to use this seat.
Checkout also Recaro Infant Car Seat review also for alternative.
If you’re looking for a travel seat to keep your child safely harnessed during a long trip, but you are on a budget, then the Evenflo Maestro is hard to beat. Even though all of the travel car seats above offer a wide variety of safety and convenience features, it's tough to beat the combination of low price and key usage elements on this one.
The Evenflo Maestro is also quite easier to install than the rest of the items on this list thanks to its narrow width of 19 inches. This attribute makes it the optimal choice for parents who travel by airplane way too often. You can easily get it from the airport, and it's light to carry (only 11 pounds!).
Remember, though, that unlike other travel car seats, this one comes with an expiration date. That occurs because the maximum length of the shoulder belt is at 19 inches. But, up until that point, the Evenflo Maestro is not only safe to use but also very convenient for the whole family.