Did you know that you can only use a portable car seat for travel on an airplane if it is has been FAA certified?
Now take into consideration that we need to find a lightweight car seat for travel so we can easily port it around and lastly that we also need to find a car seat that is slim enough to fit on the narrow airplane seats.
It is no easy feat to find to find the best car seat for flying purpose and that fits all of those criteria!
But we have managed to find 10 car seats that are fabulous portable car seats for travel, all of which have been approved by FAA.
Below you will find a list of FAA approved car seats for 2019.
We also share some food for thought about whether you actually need a car seat as well as ideas on how to make it easier to actually travel with the car seat.
Does My Child Need a Car Seat on an Airplane?
Ultimately the answer to this question comes down to safety and how important your baby or toddler’s safety is to you.
The American FAA does strongly recommended that you use an approved child restraint device when travelling with infants less than 2-years old.
Ultimately car seats are the safest and most comfortable way for infants to travel on a plane.
Plus a toddler travel car seat really comes in handy as your child know that they are expected to stay put in the seat.
But, in saying all of that, you are not legally required to use a car seat on the plane, so it does come down to your own decision.
Of course, you would also need to purchase an additional seat in order to use the car seat on as well, so keep that in mind.
A convertible car seat on airplane can be an easy option, allowing for use both rear and forward facing. We prefer a convertible travel car seat over an infant travel car seat.
You will also need to ensure that the car seat has FAA approval. Not every car seat can be used on the plane!
More information and the best infant car seat for travel below.
FAA Baby and Toddler Car Seat Regulations for Airplanes
In order to be allowed to use your car seat on the plane, it must be FAA approved. How do you find out if your car seat is FAA approved?
Have a look at the sticker on the side of the seat and see if it says “This restraint is certified for use in motor vehicles and aircraft.”
If you are located in Australia, the car seat must be approved to Australian Standards AS/NZS 1754. So make sure your seat has an AS/NZS 1754 approved safety label.
For a child less than 40 lbs. : Secure your child in an FAA approved car seat for the duration of the flight. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions. This would typically be in the rear-facing position.
For a child 22lbs – 44 lbs. : For babies and toddler at this age, you could either use an approved car seat or you could choose to secure them in the airplane seat in a CARES Child Safety Device.
The Cares restraint is the only FAA approved child airplane harness system that is allowed to be used during takeoff, landing as well as in flight.
More about this device below.
More than 40 pounds: Kids can use an airplane seat belt, however many parents typically keep their child in a car seat till around 4 years.
FAA-Approved Child Harness Device (CARES)
The CARES Child Safety Device is the only FAA approved harness restraint for children weighing between 22 and 44 lbs (kids 1-year and older).
The benefits of a CARES harness is of course that it is small and portable enough to carry in your carry-on bags.
The negatives are that your child will be required to sit up pretty straight on the airplane seats and the harness is really uncomfortable to sleep in.
So we do still prefer a toddler portable travel car seat as they are more comfy for kids.
SAPA GUIDE TO THE BEST TRAVEL CAR SEATS 2019
Things that you should look out for when purchasing a car seat for travel use.
1. Weight of Seat
The weight of the seat is important for your own sanity. We prefer a car seat that is around 10 lbs. (slightly over is still okay).
You will be required to lift the car seat in and out of the car, on to trolleys, port it around the airport as well as potentially have to lift it over peoples heads on the plane to carry it down the aisle. Stick to a lightweight car seat. Trust me!
2. Width of Seat
The width of the seat is another important consideration. Just because the seat has FAA approval does not mean that it will fit on the plane seat.
Plane seats can be anywhere from around 16″ to 22″. Most are around the 17 or 18″ mark.
You can check to see if your plane is list on the SeatGuru seat chart table to see what size your seat will be ahead of time.
We find that child care seats around 18″ or under fit on all airplane seats. Although you might have to lift the armrest on the 16″ seat planes.
Another important consideration with slim designs is so that the seat will fit through the security scanner.
If the seat won’t fit, the will need to hand inspect the seat and it would slow down the whole checking in process.
3. FAA Approval
As mentioned above, you will need to ensure that you purchase a FAA approved infant car seats or FAA approved toddler car seats.
You can do this by checking the sticker on the side for this saying: “This restraint is certified for use in motor vehicles and aircraft.”
When you are shopping for the best car seat for travel, make sure to get the best convertible car seat for travel option there is. Buying a convertible car seat means that you will save money in the long run.
Convertible travel car seats can accommodate your child from infant to toddler with ease, from approximately 5 lbs. to 65 lbs. comfortably.
Most of our seats on our list are convertible airline approved car seats.
With that in mind, please make sure to check out the convertibility features carefully and choose the travel car seat that suits you best.
Tips for using a Car Seat on an Airplane
1. Booking Seats
Important to note that you will need to use the car seat in a seat that won’t block anyone’s exit, so for example a window seat.
You will only get away with using your car seat in the bulkhead seats if your car seat is really narrow. Bulkhead seats have fixed armrests, thus reducing the amount of width available for a car seat.
You won’t be allowed to use the seat in exit rows or where it could block anyone’s exit path.
2. Rear-Facing Car Seats
Another consideration is that if you use a rear-facing seat, the person in front of the seat might not be able to recline at all. So consider booking one parent to the right of your baby and one in front.
3. Notify the Airline of your Intent to use a Car Seat
Do take the time to make a call to the airline in advance to notify them that you intend to travel with car seat.
As extra precaution we also recommend that you request to have this noted to your booking and also ask for written confirmation of approval that you can bring out and take with you on the plane.
4. Infant Capsule Seats with a Base
Another tip that might be useful is that the base of the capsule style infant travel car seats are NOT FAA approved and you would need to check-in your base or pop it in the overhead compartment (if it fits). You can only use the seat part on the plane itself.
5. Booster Seats and Plane Travel
According to regulations, booster seats are not permitted on-board.
Some airlines might let you use the booster seat for flying, but it will need to be stored for take-off and landing, but realistically speaking they can tell you that you are not allowed to use it at all as there are NO FAA approved booster seats. Sorry!
If you use a combination car seat/booster car seat, you can use the car seat with the internal harness, but the booster seat is not acceptable because there is no shoulder belt to use with the seat.
6. Getting Around the Airport with your Seat
Making your way through the airport with a child, luggage, and a car seat can be a challenge.
Fortunately there are ways to make your life easier and easier means better! Last thing you want on the airport is an added struggle.
You could choose to invest in either a car seat trolley or choose to carry it around on your back with a car seat backpack.
Top 10 Best Travel Car Seat Reviews
Below you will find the list of the best FAA approved car seats and best FAA approved convertible car seats. We will have a close look at the top air travel car seats.
I will outline the features, the pros and cons of each in detailed travel car seat reviews, which should help you choose the best travel car seat 2019 has on offer for you.
1. Safety 1st Guide 65 Convertible Car Seat Review
This is our best selling travel baby car seat because you can use it straight from birth all way through to 65 lb. It is cheap enough to take on a trip without worrying if it got dirty or banged up a bit.
It is lightweight (14 lb) and slim (18″), but still offers some cushioning for the little babies.
Tip: There is also a removable cup-holder on side, which will save more space and make it more compact.
This car seat is certified for aircraft use in both the rear- and forward-facing positions.
The Safety 1st car seat might not be the lightest car seat on our list (the Cosco Scenera NEXTis), but it is still light enough at 14 lbs to carry with ease and offers more cushioning in comparison to the NEXT car seat.
It is important that you little one is comfortable which is why we prefer this car seat.
Convertible Car Seat
The seat is convertible and has a weight range of 5lb to 40lb when using rear-facing and a weight limit of 22lb to 65lb for forward-facing position.
Whilst you can use this seat from 5 lb, we prefer the Graco SnugRide SnugLock 35 LX for infants. The straps are a bit hard to adjust and the padding slips around a bit.
Keep in mind this is a basic car seat (which is great as you won’t mind if it gets knocked about on a trip), but a newborn baby, I prefer to spend more and get more protection for their necks.
The Safety 1st Guide 65 Car Seat is one of the best cheap baby car seats for travel. It is lightweight and slim enough to fit on airplane seats.
It has a wide weight limit so that you can use the seat for many years. The seat is definitely one of the best car seat for traveling on an airplane and the best car seat for airplane 2019 option.
This is my pick for the best cheap car seat for travel and the best convertible car seat for air travel.
2. Evenflo Tribute LX Convertible Travel Car Seat Review
The Evenflo Tribute LX is a favorite because it is such an incredibly lightweight infant car seat.
The Evenflo Tribute LX is the second lightest car seat on our list. It compact and weights only 9 lbs. which is pretty incredible!
The seat has been designed to fit on plane seats. It measures 18.5″ so you might have to have the arm rest up on smaller seat planes. I would also suggest you check the width of the bulkhead seats as they tend to be slightly more narrow than normal seats.
Convertible Car Seat
This carseat is convertible which means that it is suitable for newborns up to a weight of 40 lbs.
The Evenflo Car Seat is a great car seat for travel. It is compact and lightweight and at a width of 18.5″ it will fit on most seats with the arms rests down.
The seat will fit through the baggage security scanners. A great car seat with high safety ratings!
3. Cosco Scenera NEXT Convertible Car Seat Review
The Cosco Scenera NEXT is our pick for the best lightweight car seat for travel. It is of course a FAA certified car seat. It has the perfect combination of being cheap, light-weight, narrow, and easy to install on the plane.
It has high safety ratings and it a bit taller in comparison to other cheap car seats, which means that the seat will last that bit longer before your little one hits the height limit.
It is FAA-Approved and can be used in both rear- and forward-facing positions on the plane.
This inexpensive car seat weights only 8 lbs (it is the lightest car seat on our list!) which means that you can easily carry it with you through the airport.
The Scenera has a slim width of 17.5″ which means that it will fit through the security scanners and it will also fit on most airplane seats with the arm rest down.
The Scenera is a travel convertible car seat, which means that you can use this car seat in the rear-facing position for babies up to 35 lbs. and forward facing for little ones up to 40lbs.
It is important to note that when you have this seat installed on the plane in the rear-facing position, the seat in front of the car seat won’t be able to recline much.
For this reason we recommend that you enquire with the airline to find out what the width is of the bulkhead seats. We do find that this seat will fit on the bulkhead seats on most planes (but not all).
Booking a bulkhead seat would fix the problem of not allowing the passenger in front to recline (otherwise we might suggest that one parents sits next to the baby and one in front).
Because of the incredibly cheap price tag on this seat, you can’t expect quality. The material is more flimsy and tends to pop off the seat more easily.
The seat is also more challenging to install, especially the first few plane installations.
It is also important to note that the seat will only work with babies and not older kids as your weight limit is set at 40 lbs. Which is why we prefer the Guide 65 as it will last you up until 65 lbs.
The Cosco Scenera NEXT is a very popular travel car seat, because not only is it really cheap, but it also has high safety ratings. The car seat is convertible and will last your bubs up until 40 lbs.
It is lightweight and slim enough to fit on most seats (with the arm rest down).
4. Evenflo Sonus Convertible Car Seat Review
The Evenflo Sonus is ideal for use as a travel seat on the airplane. It is a FAA approved child restraint seat, it is lightweight (only 11 lbs.) and has a perfect width of around 18″.
The Sonus is a lovely light 11 lbs. It’s the perfect seat to cart through an airport, you might even get away with carrying it if you have to.
The seat is 18″ in width which means that it should fit on all plane seats.
The seat can be used in rear-facing position from 5 – 40 lbs. and in the forward-facing position from 22 – 50 lbs. You can find out how to install this seat in rear- and forward-facing positions on the plane in the manual here.
The Evenflo Sonus is a great car seat for air travel. It is pretty cheap, lightweight, slim enough to fit on seats but yet stylish enough to use in your car at home as well.
5. Cosco Finale DX 2-in-1 Car Seat Review
Looking for a travel car seat for 3 and 4 year old kids? This is a fabulous seat with extra room for growing kids.
The Cosco Finale DX is super lightweight (11.5 lb) and lovely and slim (18″). It is such a great car seat that I would even recommend it for the car at home as well.
The seat is a 2-in-1 design which means that you can use it as a booster seat once your child is over 4 year’s of age. Important to note though that you can not use the booster seat option on the plane as the plane doesn’t have a shoulder seat belt to secure it down.
The car seat is lovely and light at 11.5 lbs, which is the ideal weight for a car seat for aircraft use.
The baby travel car seat is lovely and slim and at 18″ it should fit comfortably on most airplane seats.
You can also remove the cup holder to save on some space as well.
Because this seat is designed for older kids, you can only use it in the forward-facing position and it doesn’t recline. It is suitable for toddlers and kids older than 2 with a weight range of 30 – 65 lbs. It is roomy and lovely and tall for kids with height up to 49″.
(Booster seat for car use is for kids older than 4 years, weighing 40 – 100 lbs and a height up to 52″).
The Cosco Finale DX Car Seat is a brilliant buy for older kids. The seat is cheap as chips, lightweight and lovely and slim. It is a great option as a portable car seat for 3 and 4 year old’s, as the seat is nice and roomy.
It is also a fabulous car seat for home-use. You can fit 3 of these car seats in most cars, which is brilliant! We love this car seat and I’m sure you will love it too.
6. Cosco Apt 50 Convertible Car Seat Review
Another Cosco Car Seat FAA approved option for travel. I will come straight out and say that I would recommend you invest in the Scenera NEXT instead of this one, but many parents prefer this seat due to the fact that it is more comfy and cushioned.
Looking for a light car seat for travel? This is it! This car seat and lovey and light! At 9 lbs. it is one of the lightest car seats on our list.
The main concern I have with this baby travel car seat is that it is a touch wide at 22″. As most seats on the planes are around 18″ (some even smaller), you need to be aware that you will need to have the arm rest up in order to make this seat fit.
Convertible Car Seat
The seat is converting and is great for babies up to 40 lbs. in the rear-facing position and for kids up to 50 lbs. in the forward-facing position.
Whilst this seat has been certified for airplane use, I would recommend that you call up the airline and ask them about the width of their seats before you drag this wide 22″ car seat along.
It is a comfy seat and it is really lightweight. Gotta love the price tag, but I much prefer the smaller and more compact Cosco Scenera NEXT portable car seat for airplane travel instead.
7. Combi Compact Coccoro Convertible Car Seat Review
The Combi Coccoro is a great portable car seat FAA approved and with a good safety ranking. It is lightweight (12 lbs.) and really slim (15″). It is slightly more expensive than many of the other car seats on our list, but it is slightly more cushioned and comfy.
The Coccoro is a lovely lightweight car seat, weighing in at only 14 lbs. It is slightly heavier than other car seats such as the Cosco car seat, so we do recommend you invest in a car seat carrier. The Cosco car seat is compatible with the Baby Trend Snap N Goand the Go-Go Babyz Travelmate.
The Coccoro happens to be the slimmest seat that we have on our list. It is only 15″ wide which means that you will be able to use this seat on any plane and even in the bulkhead seats.
Convertible Car Seat
It is a convertible car seat which means that you can use it in rear-facing to forward-facing positions. It has a a rear-facing weight limit of 33 lbs. and a forward-facing weight limit of 40 lbs.
What we love is that you can use this FAA car seat in the rear-facing position and because it is so small the seat in front of it should still be able to recline.
The car seat is a bit more pricey in comparison to the cheap infant car seats such as Cosco, Evenflo and Safety 1st.
It also has a lower height (23″) in comparison to Safety 1st, which means that your little one might grow out of it before they hit the weight requirements.
As with many other car seats on the list, it can be tricky to install on the planes.
The Combi Compact Corroro is a hot seller amongst travellers due to its super slim design. This car seat will fit on any seat on any plane. It is lightweight and easy to carry around.
If you don’t mind the slightly higher price tag, then this might just be the best travel convertible car seat for you. This ranks as one of the best travel convertible car seat 2019 options, after all.
8. Evenflo Stratos 65 Convertible Car Seat Review
The Evenflo Statos 65 is another great FAA approved car seat for plane travel. This car seat is slightly heavier and a tiny bit wider in comparison to the Evenflo Sonus up above. But it is still lighweight enough and slim enough to be considered as one of the top travel car seats for planes.
The Evenflo car seat is a lovely and lightweight car seat, weighing in at only 13 lbs.
The width of the car seat is 18.5″, which means that the seat should fit comfortably on all plane seats, although you might have to lift the arm rests on the very narrow 16.5″ seats.
Convertible Car Seat
The Stratos Convertible Car Seat helps protect rear facing infants from 5-40 lbs., and forward facing toddlers from 22-65 lbs.
The Stratos 65 is a great convertible travel car seat. It is suitable for babies and toddlers from 5 to 65 lbs. and offers 6 harness positions for a better fit. The seat is lightweight and slim.
We also love that the seat features a revolutionary air flow ventilation system that provides a temperature-regulated, which means that your little one will be comfortable no matter what the season or temperature is of your destination.
9. Graco Size4Me 65 Convertible Car Seat Review
The Graco Size4Me is a great and lovely cushioned seat for travel. The Graco car seat is FAA approved and whilst many people assume you can’t travel with it due to its widest width being 22″, you can actually still fit it on most plane seats with the arm rests down due to the narrow base and the way it is shaped.
The car seat is heavier than many other car seats on our list. It weighs 19 lbs. so do ensure you have a car seat trolley or car seat backpack to port it around the airport.
Whilst the seat measures at 22″ at the widest point, it does have a narrow base. Which means that the seat should fit beautifully (with the arm rests down) on the larger plane seats, but you will most likely have to fly with the arm rest up on the slimmer seats.
This car seat is great for 4-40 lbs babies in rear-facing position and 20-65 lbs. in forward-facing position. Which makes it a great travel toddler car seat.
Be aware that it is on the heavier side, so don’t try to carry it around the airport.
Due the width, you might also have to lift it up over the seats when you walk down the aisle in the plane (although friends have reported that it does fit down the aisle of some planes).
The Graco Size4Me 65 is a great portable toddler car seat to take along on trips. It fits beautifully on seats due to its narrow base and shape.
It is also really easy to install and adjust. Important to note that it is slightly on the heavier side, but if you prefer a seat that is cushioned and super cosy for your baby, then we do recommend the Graco Car Seat.
10. Graco SnugRide SnugLock 35 LX Review
If you have a little baby, the best way to travel is with a capsule. Little babies sleep a lot and the last thing we want to do is to disturb their sleep by having to wake them up when we need to transport the seat.
Capsules are fabulous because you can leave your baby sleeping and simply grab the handle to carry baby through the airport.
Another fabulous things about this specific capsule is that it has the silent shade canopy which will help to block off the harsh plane lighting.
The capsule is suitable for infants from 4 – 35 lbs.
We also highly recommend that you can get the stroller frame that accompanies this capsule.
This travel system is ultra-lightweight at 16 lbs and is the perfect travel accessory for the capsule.
It also folds up great which is fabulous as it won’t take up loads of room in your boot when you have to fit other luggage as well.
Grab the Graco SnugRider 3 Elite Car Seat Carrier here.
The capsule is lovely and lightweight at 10 lb. Important to note that you cannot use the base of the capsule on the plane (this is across the board with all capsules, not just this brand). So best to pop the base in the overhead locker.
This capsule measures at 15.5 inches in width, which means that it definitely fit on all airplane seats.
Infant Travel Car Capsule
The Graco SnugRide is great for newborns babies up until 35 lbs. It is a capsule style infant travel car seat which means that you can easily cary it around with the adjustable carry handle.
We absolutely love this baby capsule with the combination of the Graco stroller frame. Both pieces are affordable, lightweight and small in size, which makes it perfect for vacations with your baby.