There are car seats for everyday use, and then there are car seats for travel. Of course, it’s imperative to find the everyday hauler that keeps your kid will be comfy and safe in; it will become a feature of your life and will be cemented in your backseat as much by straps and clips as the eventual buildup of mortar of crumbs and unidentifiable stickiness. But there will come a day when you need to fly somewhere to visit family or friends, when you’ll need a lightweight car seat that you can bring with you on the airplane, then strap into a rental car when you get where you’re going. The 65-pound boulder permanently lodged in your backseat isn’t that.
READ MORE: The Fatherly Guide to Car Seats
The most important element in finding a good travel car seat that you can travel with is weight, or rather a lack thereof, since anything more than 20 pounds is going to be tough to lug through an airport. After that, you also want something that’s easy to install for when you get out of the airport and into a taxi or rental car. The five car seats on this list meet those two essential criteria, while earning recommendations from numerous travel bloggers and high ratings from Consumer Reports. Any of them can work as your day-to-day car seat, but are especially well-suited for families who like to ditch their car and travel by plane.
Safety 1st Guide 65
At just 14 lbs., the Safety 1st Guide 65 is easily transportable through airports, but it also works well as a daily hauler. It works as a rear-facing seat for kids from 5-40 lbs., then goes front facing for kids until they reach 65 lbs. It has a multi-position headrest to accommodate growing kids, and a hand-washable seat pad. It’s compact design also means it’s a good fit for economy cars, and also that it can be used in three-across seating just in case you’re living the joy of having three very small children at the same time.
The Combi Coccoro also features a compact size and boasts three-across seating capability. It’s safety features include thick side padding and a harness that gives a visual indicator once it is securely buckled, as well as a tether for added rear-facing security. Plus, the fabric is machine washable for day-to-day convenience. It seats children from 3-33 lbs. When rear-facing, and 20-40 lbs. front-facing.
Chicco Keyfit 30
This infant-only seat earns high marks for safety, lightweight portability and all-around ease of use, particularly when using it with the base — testing indicates that it can be trickier to secure with belts only and no base. It comes with a padded newborn insert, and the fabrics are machine washable. This will comfortably and conveniently carry newborns through infants, up to 30 lbs.
Cosco Scenera NEXT
What the Cosco Scenera NEXT lacks in frills, it makes up for with its low weight and price — the Scenera is both the lightest and the most affordable seat on this list. And ticks both of those boxes while offering good ratings for crash protection and ease of installation. The seat can carry children up to 40lbs. (22-40lbs for front-facing use).
Maxi-Cosi Mico AP
This rear-facing infant seat will carry kids from 5-22 lbs., which is the shortest weight/life span of the seats on this list. But the Mico AP is lightweight, simple to use, and earns good marks in crash protection ratings. The machine washable seat fabrics are designed to wick moisture away from the baby, and a headrest insert is designed to provide added comfort for little ones.