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The Best Travel Car Seats for Kids

This is big-kid seating that offers the highest safety and portability for young commuters.

It behooves every parent to know about the best travel car seats. Why? Because once your kid hits the weight limit on their front-facing, harness-equipped car seat, it’s time to get a travel booster seat. But don’t just take our word for it. The American Academy of Pediatrics says that kids who outgrow their car seats “should use a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle’s lap and shoulder seat belt fits properly,” which usually happens between the ages of 8 and 12, or when kids reach 4 feet, 9 inches in height. You want a portable car seat that’s lightweight yet safe, and easy to move from vehicle to vehicle since that’s sort of the point.

Parents often mistake heft and size for protection, which is based on a faulty premise. A heavy seat isn’t necessarily safer, and there are plenty of lighter seats that keep kids safe. Our favorite booster seats are nice and portable — lightweight and easy to disassemble, deflate, and/or fold down — making them attractive choices for parents with kids on the go. Some of them convert from high-backed seats suitable for smaller kids to backless seats as your kid gets bigger. And all of these booster seats meet the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 213.

Our picks also scored at least three stars on the NHTSA’s five-star ease-of-use ratings, a measure of how easy it is to read the instructions, install correctly, understand labels, and secure a child into the seat.

The Best High-Back Booster Seats

Narrow enough that you can fit 3 of these across most back seats, this booster is also one of the most lightweight ones you can buy. It weighs only 8 pounds, installs using the LATCH system, is made of aerospace-grade aluminum, and folds up for easy storage. It's suitable for kids 22-50 pounds and 30-45 inches tall. NHTSA ease of use rating: 5.

If you're a parent who worries about forgetting a sleeping kid in the car, behold this car seat. It has an alert system that lets you know if your child is in the vehicle, or if they've unbuckled themselves. It converts from rear facing to forward facing to booster seat mode, and tops out at 120 pounds' worth of kid. At 26 pounds, it's a beast, yes, but at least you'll feel better knowing it's got your back. NHTSA ease of use rating: 4.

At 15 pounds, this booster seat hits the perfect sweet spot. The fabric zips off to be washed, which is great because kids are filthy animals. And like a recliner, this seat has a cushioned leg rest for extra comfort. The backrest is removable. It's meant for kids 40-100 pounds in high-back mode and 40-110 pounds in backless mode. NHTSA ease of use rating: Not available.

This belt-positioning high-back booster seat easily coverts to a backless booster; it fits kids 40-120 pounds. It has built-in arm rests, a mesh fabric that improves ventilation, and three layers of side impact protection. There's also an adjustable headrest for total comfort. It weighs 12 pounds. NHTSA ease of use rating: 5.

This seat works both as a high-back booster for kids clocking in at 30-100 pounds and converts to a backless booster that fits kids weighing 40-110 pounds. It has combined head and shoulder side-impact protection with 10 positions, so it's adjustable for growing children. There's double-foam padding for head support and two foldable cup holders. It weighs just over 10 pounds. And it has a force-multiplying LATCH tightener that lets parents get a tight and secure fit without pulling a muscle. NHTSA ease of using rating: 4.

Nuna makes some of our favorite baby products, because they're innovative while also being eminently practical. This booster seat goes from high-back to backless; the fabric cover is removable and washable. It can be used from 50 to 120 pounds. There's an adjustable headrest and shoulder system and a nine-position adjustable headrest. And it's made without any flame retardant chemicals. It weighs 15 pounds. NHTSA ease of use rating: 4.

Not only is this booster seat insanely comfortable, but it's built with a rigid LATCH system that locks the booster seat into place. When used with a high back, it's suitable for kids weighing 33-100 pounds. In backless mode, it's suitable for kids 40-100 pounds. It has deep side wings, energy-absorbing foam layers, and a nice recline feature. It weighs 20 pounds, so this one is definitely on the heavier side. Also worth noting: It's made without brominated and chlorinated flame retardants. NHTSA ease of using rating: 4.

This beast of a seat has easy-to-remove layers, which you peel back as your kid gets bigger. You scan the QR code on the seat to help guide you as you switch modes as your child grows. It has nine recline positions and a 10-position headrest, and is slim enough that you can fit three of these across the back seat. In rear-facing mode, it fits babies 4–40 pounds; forward-facing mode works for kids 26–55 pounds; and the booster is designed for kids 40–100 pounds. It weighs 25 pounds, so you'll get a workout when you move this one from car to car. NHTSA ease of use rating: Not available.

This belt-positioning booster seat has deep aluminum reinforced sides that provide three layers of enhanced side impact protection for your kid's head, shoulders, and torso. The side panels are breathable, and the seat is expandable in height and width so it grows with your child. It converts into a backless booster seat, with a wide contoured seat base and two retractable cup holders. It can be used from 40-120 pounds. NHTSA ease of use rating: three stars.

This high back-only booster seat is fully adjustable and fits kids weighing 40-100 pounds. The beauty of this booster seat is that it can be adjusted in four separate areas: The seat, body, head width, and height. Meaning, ultimate comfort for your growing kiddo. It folds down, can be easily toted around with a carry strap, and it weighs 10 pounds. Plus, it's narrow enough that you can fit three in a standard backseat. It does not yet have an NHTSA ease of use rating.

The Best Backless Booster Seats

This backless booster fits kids from 40–120 pounds. It installs using LATCH connectors, and in terms of amenities, has 2 swivel cup holders for drinks and snacks. It weighs a piddly 6.6 pounds so it's one of the most portable boosters you can buy. NHTSA ease of use rating: 3.

This made-in-Italy backless seat has armrests, a detachable cupholder, and microfiber fabric that's breathable and moisture-absorbing. You can only use this in backless mode, and it fits kids weighing 40-120 pounds. Which means you'll get years' of use out of this thing. For cars with anchors, this booster connects with the integrated LATCH system. For those without, the latches retract and stay out of the way. There are two layers of padding for comfort and shock absorption. NHTSA ease of using rating: 4.

The super lightweight booster seat brings the seatbelt down to your kid's level instead of boosting them up to meet it. It's a backless booster seat for kids 40-100 pounds. Besides its clever design, the primary perk of this booster is its portability. It weighs less than two pounds and its backless design folds down to a size that can fit in a kid's backpack. It's made of an aircraft-grade aluminum and Dupont Delrin 100ST, a tough plastic polymer. NHTSA ease of using rating: 4.

This backless booster from the venerable brand has integrated seat belt guides that help you make sure it's properly secured to the back seat. It fits kids 40-100 pounds and weighs less than 6 pounds, so we're talking highly portable here. The pad is removable and machine washable, so it's easy to clean in the even of a spill. To fold the TurboBooster, simply grasp the handle on the center of the seat and lift. The sides will collapse around a center hinge, and you can slide the seat into the included carry bag. NHTSA ease of using rating: 3.

At just five pounds, this is another ultra-portable seat. It's got padding for extra comfort, and two cup holders because kids get thirsty. The weight limit is 40–110 pounds. The built-in carry handle is a nice add. NHTSA ease of use rating: 4.

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