Car seats are one of the most critical pieces of gear parents with young kids need, but they're also one of the most overwhelming items to buy. We've cut through the myriad options to find the best ones for kids of all ages. In choosing the top picks for the best car seats and boosters, we considered both expert tests and reviews as well as parents' actual experiences. Our top pick is the Chicco KeyFit 30, which is reasonably priced, easy to install, and fits babies up to 30 pounds.
All car seats sold in the US have to meet the same federal safety standards, but that's where the similarities end. Some are better than others for taller kids, some are more comfortable for long-haul trips, and some are much easier to install. It's crucial to have the right car seat because a poorly installed seat can compromise your child's safety. Add all that to the fact that many car seats are expensive, and choosing the right one can feel impossible. Few baby and kid products are subject to as much scrutiny as car seats, so we had plenty of expert tests and reviews to look at while making our picks. Of course, it's also important to consider real-world use from parents who aren't lab testers or child passenger safety technicians. That includes my own experiences — I've been through six car seats and counting between two children. All of that feedback led to our picks: an ultra-easy-to-install infant seat, a similarly easy-to-use convertible for older toddlers and preschoolers, a harness-to-booster that can keep kids safe before they're completely ready for a booster, and a versatile booster that might be the last car seat your child needs. We also chose alternative car seats in each category that are less expensive for parents on a strict budget. Here are the best car seats:
Best infant car seat: Chicco KeyFit 30 Best budget infant car seat: Graco SnugRide Click Connect 30 Best lightweight infant car seat: Nuna PIPA Lite LX Best convertible car seat: Chicco NextFit Zip Best budget convertible car seat: Evenflo Triumph LX Best harness-to-booster seat: Britax Frontier ClickTight Best budget harness-to-booster seat: Evenflo Maestro Best booster seat: Graco Affix Booster Seat Best budget booster seat: Harmony Youth Booster
Prices and links are current as of 2/19/20. We are currently testing new products, so we'll update this guide soon.SEE ALSO: The best diaper bags you can buy The best infant car seat
The Chicco KeyFit 30 is a breeze for nervous new parents to install, it's easy to use, and fits even the tiniest babies well. Got a tiny baby? A chunker? Either way, no worries: The Chicco KeyFit 30 accommodates babies from four to 30 pounds. A plush, full-body newborn insert is included with the seat to fit smaller babies and is recommended for use up to 11 pounds. The height limit is 30 inches or whenever your baby's head is an inch from the top of the seat's shell. The secret sauce of the KeyFit is extreme ease of use. This is not a car seat you'll have to do battle with during installation, and I can vouch for that, as it installed quickly and simply for both my sons. As CarseatBlog notes, the instructions are very clear whether you're installing the seat using LATCH connectors or a seat belt (choose one or the other — never both). The base is easy to adjust to change the seat angle, and there is a built-in bubble level to tell you when you've got it just right. I also loved being able to leave the handle in any locked position, up or down, while driving. Some car seats stipulate that you put the handle down, which is just one more thing for an overloaded parent's brain to remember. I never had to fuss with the smooth-to-adjust harness, and the seat cover is extremely easy to wipe down. It can even be detached and thrown in the washer after that inevitable diaper blowout. One long-standing criticism of the KeyFit that the Baby Gear Lab mentions is that it has a skimpy sun canopy compared with other infant seats. That's true, but it's also easy to rectify the issue by draping a very thin muslin blanket over the handle in bright sunlight. The KeyFit also isn't the lightest car seat at 9.6 pounds, though it is a pretty average, weight-wise, for infant car seats these days. An easy-to-use stroller frame like the Chicco Keyfit Caddy can be an arm-saver if you want to stroll for a while. Pros: Very easy to install, fits all sizes of babies well, machine-washable cover, padding is plush, harness is easy to adjust, reasonably priced compared with other high-end car seats Cons: Smaller canopy, heavier than some other infant seats The best budget infant car seat
The Graco SnugRide Click Connect 30 is affordable, lightweight, and has ample padding and a large canopy to ensure your baby's comfort. Like the Chicco KeyFit 30, the Graco SnugRide Click Connect 30 can accommodate babies from four to 30 pounds and up to 30 inches long. It comes with a newborn head support to keep a small baby's head stable, but not full-body support like the one that comes with the KeyFit. Because of that, CarseatBlog notes that you may need to add rolled washcloths outside the harness to stabilize a very small baby in the seat. This Connect 30's biggest strong point: Unlike the KeyFit, it's very lightweight at only seven pounds (without base), so you won't break your back hauling it from the house to the car. It's also compatible with Graco's large Click Connect line of strollers and many non-Graco strollers, owing to its popularity. The cover is machine-washable, and it has a large sun canopy that offers more coverage than the KeyFit, too. On the flip side, its downfall is a lack of ease of use. It's not a hard seat to install, but it's definitely not as easy to manage as the KeyFit. It has harder-to-use hook-style LATCH rather than push-button connectors. There is no level indicator to tell you when you have the seat at the proper installation angle, so you'll have to eyeball a single line on a seat label instead. However, reviewers say adjusting the harness during day-to-day use is smooth and easy, and this seat also allows the handle to be left in any locked position while driving. Pros: Inexpensive, very lightweight, compatible with many strollers, large canopy, machine-washable cover, easy-to-adjust harness Cons: Not as easy to install, skimpy infant insert The best lightweight infant car seat
The Nuna PIPA Lite LX infant car seat can accommodate babies weighing up to 32 pounds, yet it weighs just 5.7 pounds itself. Try picking up a ten-pound weight and carrying it around for a few minutes — you'll probably find the task no big deal. Now swap out that weight for a car seat that you have to lean over at an awkward angle to keep level, and then add a couple-dozen pounds of kid and then see how you do. Ten pounds is a pretty average weight for infant car seats and having used one weighing that much with my son, I can tell you that what seems like a tolerable weight at first becomes quite a load as your kid grows. And for the record, I'm a 6'2" man who weighs 180 pounds, and yes, I still found our old heavy car seat a burden. For our newborn daughter, my wife and I switched to the Nuna PIPA Lite LX infant car seat. We did so partly because it's compatible with our Nuna DEMI Grow stroller, but mostly because the PIPA Lite isn't joking around with its name. This infant car seat weighs less than 6 pounds, and that's with inserts. Even when our kid passed her two-month mark, I can still lift the thing in and out of a car with one arm extended and with a 45-pound preschooler in my other arm to boot. The safety stats of the Nuna PIPA Lite LX are stellar. Also, it has a good sun shield, it pops into and out of the base or onto the stroller with ease, and it has an adjustable handle. The light weight is the true selling point here, but there's one more godsend to highlight: On either side of the seat is a little slot into which you can tuck the buckles while settling or retrieving your kid, thus keeping the straps and hardware out of your way. If that seems like a pointless flourish, then you have not spent much time dealing with babies in car seats. CarseatBlog calls the Pipa Lite LX an "outstanding rear-facing-only seat" in terms of safety and ease of use, and called it "so light you can literally carry it with one finger." — Steven John Pros: Amazingly lightweight, quick installation, easy to get baby in and out of seat Cons: Very expensive for category The best convertible car seat
The Chicco NextFit Zip convertible is one of the easiest-to-install convertibles, and its high height and weight limits mean you can keep your toddler safely rear-facing for a longer time than with other seats. If you're thinking about skipping the convenience of an infant seat with a base and going straight to a convertible, the Chicco NextFit Zip has you covered. It can be used for babies and young children from five to 40 pounds rear-facing, and 22 to 65 pounds forward-facing. It also includes a newborn insert for infants from five to 11 pounds. There is a 49-inch height limit. Still, this seat can keep kids rear-facing for a while, and many kids will also be able to stay in it forward-facing until they're ready for a booster, notes CarseatBlog. Like the Chicco KeyFit 30, the NextFit is almost mind-bogglingly easy to install. It features a "SuperCinch" LATCH system that is simple to tighten, eliminating that annoying side-to-side seat wiggle that means your installation needs work. The NextFit also has nine recline positions that make getting the proper installation angle a sure thing in any vehicle. You can double-check that you've got it right using the convenient bubble level. The Chicco NextFit Zip has a zippered seat cover that can be removed in a flash. Finally, the harness height can be adjusted from the front of the seat, which is a great feature. It means you won't have to uninstall the seat to tinker with it when your kid grows a foot overnight. What's not to love about the NextFit? Like many premium convertibles, it's quite heavy at 25 pounds. While you won't be walking around with it like an infant seat, that's still worth considering if you know you'll want to move the seat from car to car. It's definitely too heavy for convenient travel — dragging this seat through the airport will leave you hating life. The seat is bulky, with side-impact protection panels that come up too far, making it more difficult to get a growing child in and out. As Car Seats for the Littles notes, the harness can be hard to tighten on smaller babies. Note: Our original recommendation, the Chicco NextFit, has been discontinued. We have switched our recommendation to the Chicco NextFit Zip, which has a zippered seat cover and it now has a lower price. Pros: High height and weight limits, also good for young infants, good side-impact protection, very easy to install, machine-washable cover, harness height can be adjusted from front of seat Cons: Expensive, heavy, bulky, harness can sometimes be hard to tighten The best budget convertible car seat
The Evenflo Triumph LX is very affordable, but it has many features you'd normally find on a much pricier car seat. Budget-friendly convertible car seats keep kids just as safe as pricier ones, but they often skimp on comfort and convenience. The Evenflo Triumph LX requires no such compromise, offering a lot of the features of seats twice its price. Let's get one of the biggest downfalls out of the way early: The Evenflo Triumph LX is not going to last as long as other convertibles when it's rear-facing. While you can use it from 5 to 40 pounds rear-facing and 22 to 65 pounds forward-facing — just like the Chicco NextFit Zip — it has a rear-facing height limit of 37 inches. That means this seat likely won't get a taller kid rear-facing much past the age of two, so keep that in mind if you don't want to turn your child around that early. That said, there's a lot to like about the Triumph LX. It uses thick, gel-infused padding, uncommon among less expensive seats. CarseatBlog loves the convenient buckle pockets, which mean you don't have to dig around under your child's back and rump for the straps when it's time to buckle up. The reviewer also says the cover is easy to remove, and machine-washable to boot. Testers with Car Seats for the Littles say installation is simple despite the older, hook-style LATCH. Its reviewers also love the Infinite Slide harness feature that means the straps can be adjusted up or down without moving the seat. Experts give this seat great marks for crash protection, too. There are potential pitfalls, of course. Baby Bargains notes that the Triumph is wide, so look elsewhere if you're short on space. There are also no strap covers, and the knobs used to adjust strap tension get mixed reviews — some say they're stiff and can be hard to turn when the seat is rear-facing. Pros: Good fit for small babies, easy to install, harness height can be adjusted from the front of the seat, thick padding, buckle-keeper pockets, machine-washable cover Cons: Low rear-facing height limit, wide, no strap covers, knobs that adjust harness tension can be hard to use The best harness-to-booster seat
With the Britax Frontier ClickTight, you can keep your child in a five-point harness for as long as you want, then convert the seat to a belt-positioning booster when your child is ready. Big kids often move to booster seats before they're mature enough to use a seat belt properly. The Britax Frontier ClickTight has an impressively long lifespan, which is why I chose it for my taller-than-average kids after they were out of their convertibles. In harness mode, it can be used for children from 25 to 90 pounds (yes, 90) and 30 to 58 inches tall. Switch it to a booster, and it's good from 40 to 120 pounds and 45 to 62 inches. It also has souped-up side-impact protection. In other words, this is the seat you want to buy if you hope to keep a bigger kid as safe as possible for as long as possible. Another boon with the Frontier: It's super easy to install, thanks to the Britax ClickTight system. You open a hidden panel in the seatback, thread the seat belt over the armrests and through the panel, close it, and voila — rock-solid install, no profanity necessary. For a demonstration, check out this video. It really is that simple. Of course, the Frontier can also be installed using LATCH, but ClickTight actually makes a seat-belt installation easier. More ease-of-use goodness: The fabric is easy to wipe, there are two integrated cup holders, and you can adjust the harness height from the front of the seat without uninstalling it. That's such a nice feature during those inevitable growth spurts. It's also an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety "best bet" in booster mode, and it has gotten very good marks for crash protection in separate expert tests. The Frontier isn't without its downsides. Obviously, the high price is one. Next is weight: At 25 pounds, it's a tank. The seat cover is not machine-washable, either, and although that's not quite as crucial at this age, it's still something to think about if you have a kid who gets carsick or constantly leaves crushed Goldfish crackers in their wake. Pros: Very high height and weight limits, good side-impact protection, very easy to install, harness height can be adjusted from the front of the seat, dual cup holders, converts from harnessed seat to booster Cons: Expensive, heavy, seat cover is hand-wash only The best budget harness-to-booster seat
The Evenflo Maestro is lighter and slimmer than many bulky harness-to-booster seats. No, the Evenflo Maestro can't keep your kid harnessed to 90 pounds like the Britax Frontier ClickTight, but it will still keep most kids harnessed until age five or six, when parents often opt to switch to a belt-positioning booster seat anyway. It can be used in harness mode from 22 to 50 pounds and 28 to 50 inches tall. When switched to booster mode, it can be used from 40 to 110 pounds and 43 to 57 inches. Other than its low price, its low weight is one of the Maestro's best features, because it weighs just 12.7 pounds, making it only half the weight of the Frontier. This seat is a candidate for parents who need a seat that's light enough to travel with or one they can frequently switch between cars. As CarseatBlog points out, it's also a fairly narrow seat that may work for families who have to squeeze three car seats into one row. There are dual cup holders – always a plus – and the seat cover is machine-washable. Like the Frontier, it also earns "best bet" certification from the IIHS for properly positioning kids in booster mode, and receives other experts' nod for crash protection as a harnessed seat, too. Though buyers might expect a cheaper seat like the Maestro to be a pain to install, reviewers say that's not the case. Instead, one of the seat's main limitations is comfort. The headrest can't be adjusted, for instance, and cover-free straps can rub a child's neck. The shell of this seat is not that tall, and once the tops of a child's ears are higher than the top of the seat, they're too big to use it – even if they are shorter than the stated 57-inch limit. That means they may yet need another booster after this one. Despite the downsides, it's still a great car seat for those who need a harness to booster setup. Pros: Very inexpensive, lightweight, narrow, machine-washable cover, excellent marks for crash protection, converts from harnessed seat to booster Cons: Lower height and weight limits, child may outgrow booster quickly, headrest can't adjust as child grows, straps aren't comfortable for some kids The best booster seat
The Graco Affix gives you options, including a high-back version that converts to a backless booster and a backless version that's easy to use and install. Congratulations: Your kid is old enough for a booster seat. No more fussing with harnesses — just the regular old seat belt, which your child can learn to buckle on their own. The Graco Affix can keep your big kid safe from 30 to 100 pounds and 38 to 57 inches in high-back mode, or 40 to 100 pounds and 40 to 57 inches in backless mode. Graco says the seat is suitable for kids as young as three, but take note — experts at Car Seats for the Littles recommend children stay in a harnessed seat until age five at an absolute minimum. One of the nicest features of the Affix is the LATCH connectors that secure it to the vehicle's seat. That means the booster won't slide around if you're driving without your child belted into the seat. Even better, the connectors can be tightened with one hand from the front of the booster. The Affix also has a cup holder and a nifty slide-in storage compartment ideal for stashing small toys or snacks. Car Seats for the Littles says the belt guide is wide and easy to use, and belt fit is good on a range of kids. It's also an IIHS "best bet" seat. The headrest is fully adjustable, and the seat is lightweight — even with the back on, it's shy of 11 pounds. Finally, the seat cushion is machine-washable. Given their simplicity, there usually aren't as many complaints about boosters. The Affix garners only minor criticism. It's not the narrowest booster you can buy, so it might not work for some families who are short on space. And the belt guide doesn't always keep the shoulder belt in place, making it hard for their kids to buckle up independently. Pros: Available as high-back or backless seat, high-back converts to backless seat, LATCH keeps seat stable when not in use, good belt fit for most children, headrest can adjust as child grows, lightweight, machine-washable cover Cons: Wider than some boosters, seat belt sometimes slips out of belt guide The best budget booster seat
The Harmony Youth Booster is just what you need for an older kid who still needs a boost, but who also needs something easy to take along while carpooling to school or soccer practice. Once your child is officially in big-kid territory, with gangly limbs, real friends, and after-school sports, it's hard to resist the allure of an easy-to-carry, easy-on-the-wallet backless booster like the Harmony Youth Booster. The Harmony can be used for kids from 30 to 100 pounds and 34 to 57 inches tall, though it's worth repeating that experts say kids younger than five typically aren't ready for boosters. It also weighs only 2.5 pounds — yes, you read that right — so it's a great option for an on-the-go family. The Harmony isn't just light, it's also relatively narrow, experts with Car Seats for the Littles say. That's helpful for packed carpooling situations or families who may need to squeeze their big kid in alongside younger siblings in bulkier car seats. It's also an IIHS "best bet" for belt fit and gets good expert marks for crash protection. The seat belt is simple to route under the Harmony's low armrests, and a seatbelt positioning clip is included for situations where the seat belt doesn't fit well enough on its own. Keep in mind that the Harmony Youth booster is quite basic, so you won't be getting any extras. There are no cup holders, or LATCH connectors to keep the seat in place when it's unoccupied. Padding is somewhat thin, so it might not be the most comfortable seat for a long trip. Pros: Inexpensive, lightweight, narrow, good belt fit for most children Cons: No LATCH, no cup holder, thin padding Check out our other great baby gear guides
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I trust this Britax convertible car seat to protect my daughter — it has multiple layers of padding and an impact-absorbing base
Convertible car seats can save parents money since they can be used from when your child...Convertible car seats can save parents money since they can be used from when your child is born until toddlerhood. The Britax Boulevard ClickTight (324.99 on Amazon) is a comfortable and safe option for my daughter and it's the only car seat she likes using. It fits in our small car and SUV, although it does crowd the front seats in the small car. I've returned other car seats I wasn't satisfied with. The Britax Boulevard ClickTight has multiple layers of impact protection, thick and comfortable padding, and a harness that's easy to tighten and loosen. Choosing a proper car seat for your child is nerve-wracking. It's more than financial investment; as a parent, you want to make sure you're choosing a safe and comfortable car seat for your child, as well as one that can grow with then as they mature into toddlerhood. Even after doing research into car seats, I ended up sending back the first infant seat I bought for my daughter, Ellie. It wasn't supportive enough for a newborn baby, and I didn't feel like she was safe when I was driving around. My husband and I ended up loving one of Britax's infant seats, which we used until Ellie was about six months old. I knew I trusted Britax and wanted to use one of its convertible seats as she got older. We've been happily using the Britax Boulevard ClickTight ($324.99) since Ellie was six months old. She's around 16 months now and still loves being in the seat. The construction feels safe and sturdy and the thick padding is comfortable. She's still sitting in the rear-facing position because of her age, so I don't have experience with the forward-facing position. We recently tested out another brand and Ellie cried almost every time I put her in the seat. When we went back to the Britax Boulevard, she was happy as a clam. Before buying any car seat (even this one), check to see if it's part of a safety recall; I bought our Britax Boulevard in 2017 but 2014 and 2015 models were recalled Britax issued a voluntary recall of its ClickTight seats in 2015 for seats manufactured in 2014 and 2015, so anything beyond that should be safe. The problem with the affected seats was that the harness adjuster button would stay pushed down after you adjusted the harness, which meant that the harness wouldn't stay tightened. After I buckle Ellie into her seat, I always pull back on the straps just to test them, so I would know immediately if this were an issue with our seat. If you have concerns or questions about choosing a car seat, you can learn more from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or find your local Child Passenger Safety Technician. The Boulevard ClickTight has lots of padding, an impact-absorbing base, adjustable harness, and more 18.5" W x 23.5" H x 23" D 2 layers of side impact protection Click tight installation Impact-absorbing base Integrated steel frame Click & safe snug harness (clicks when the straps sense tension to help get a secure fit) Auto-level safe recline indicators Multiple recline positions Quick-adjust harness doesn't require re-threading Compared to other seats we've tried, Ellie is comfortable and secure in the Boulevard ClickTight. The seat comes in a few colors, but I just went with plain black. Some color options use really breathable fabric — perfect if you live in a hot climate or your child tends to get hot and sweaty in their seat. As a convertible seat, it's safe for children 5 to 65 pounds and up to 49 inches. Buckling and unbuckling Ellie is very easy; to tighten, just pull a strap at the bottom of the harness, and to release, just push a button and pull the harness down. When I tried seats that didn't have a pull-tight harness, it was hard for me to get the straps tight enough to secure Ellie. When Ellie is in the Boulevard ClickTight, I never worry that I didn't secure her properly. The straps have thick padding with full coverage where they meet your child's neck. I never worry about them accidentally rubbing against Ellie's neck when I'm tightening them, which was a problem I had with one of the seats I tried and didn't like. It's also easy to adjust the height of the shoulder straps as your child grows, you don't have to uninstall the seat or re-thread the straps. You simply push down a lever at the top of the car seat and pull the headrest up or down until the straps are at or just below your child's shoulders. Installing the car seat is simple; we put ours in the middle seat of our cars so we can pass things to my daughter easily The seat installs painlessly and can be done in just a few minutes. Just thread your car's seat belt through two loops in the car seat and secure the seat belt. With the ClickTight installation, you'll know the seat is placed securely when you hear (you guessed it) a click. Again, this is a built-in feature that helps me breathe a sigh of relief knowing Ellie is securely fastened. We like to install Ellie's seat in the middle of our cars because it's easy for someone in the front to pass something back to her, and passengers in the back can sit on either side of her. The seat fits well in our Chevy Equinox (a small crossover SUV) and it doesn't crowd the front seats. In our smaller 2012 Chevy Cruze (a compact car) though, the front seats have to be pushed up pretty far for the seat to safely fit in the back. It's doable, but not the most comfortable ride. I do wish it were possible to adjust the seat's reclining position once it's installed. Ellie likes to sit upright, but I like her to be more reclined when she falls asleep in the car so her head doesn't slump down. Unfortunately, in the rear-facing position, you can only change the angle of the seat when you're installing it, so if she falls asleep while it's very upright, she's stuck that way. Britax also offers a similar model called the Boulevard ClickTight ARB (anti-rebound bar). It's the same seat with an additional bar that attaches to the front of the seat to help stabilize children in the rear-facing position in the event of a frontal collision. Additionally, you can purchase the ARB separately and add it to the base Boulevard model if you decide to add it on later. I'm impressed with the quality and safety features of the Boulevard ClickTight, and my daughter is always comfortable sitting in it too The Britax Boulevard ClickTight is a great convertible car seat that parents and children will be satisfied using. It's sturdy and has lots of safety features that will appease parents, and plenty of comfortable padding and two different seating positions to keep children comfortable and happy. Toddlers can be a tough crowd to please, but mine is thoroughly impressed with this seat. Choosing the right car seat for your child is not an easy decision and I strongly encourage you to do thorough research and even try out a few seats like I did. With the Boulevard, I never worry that Ellie isn't strapped in tight enough or that she's uncomfortable. In under than a minute, I can have her happily and securely fastened in her seat, ready to start a road trip or just drive five minutes to the grocery store. Join the conversation about this story »
The perfect travel car seat can help your kid stay safe and comfortable on any trip,...The perfect travel car seat can help your kid stay safe and comfortable on any trip, and finding one that's light and compact makes your life so much easier too. To save weight and space, travel car seats don't have all the bells and whistles of other seats, making it hard to choose which features are most important to you and which you can do without. Our top pick is the Safety 1st Guide 65 because it's a convertible seat that is lightweight and compact yet still comfortable for your baby or toddler. I'm not one to buy extra things just to buy them, but I'm okay with spending some extra money on a safe car seat that makes my life easier. When my daughter was born, my husband and I didn't stop traveling, and with Uber, flights, and rental cars, the need for a travel car seat quickly became apparent. They're lighter, less cumbersome, and take up less room. Finding the right travel car seat is difficult, though. You need to find the perfect mix of affordability, portability, comfort, and safety. An uncomfortable kid can make for a miserable flight or road trip. If you're planning on taking any flights, your car seat must be approved for use by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Otherwise, it will need to be checked, and your child will not be able to sit in it on the plane. Babies and kids don't need to sit in car seats on planes, but it's safer and more comfortable for your child. All of our picks are approved by the FAA, with the exception of our booster seat pick. No booster seats are reviewed by the FAA. I take car seat safety very seriously; I've tested my fair share of car seats and have returned the ones that didn't meet my standards. To bring you the best travel car seats, I combined my own experience testing seats with thorough research using top consumer product websites and authentic customer reviews. Here are the best travel car seats you can buy: Best travel car seat overall: Safety 1st Guide 65 Best booster travel car seat: BubbleBum Best infant travel car seat: Doona Infant Car Seat Best travel car seat for air travel: Evenflo Tribute LX The best travel car seat overall Lightweight, compact, and comfortable for kids up to 65 pounds, the Safety 1st Guide 65 is the ideal travel car seat for road tripping across the country or hopping on a flight. If you're already buying an extra car seat for travel, you probably want to buy one and be done for good. The Safety 1st Guide 65 is a convertible car seat that holds babies as small as 5 pounds when rear-facing, and while many other travel car seats are only manufactured for kids up to 40 pounds, the seat is safe for kids up to 65 pounds when forward-facing. The Safety 1st Guide 65 is ideal for travel because of its light weight and compact size. It weighs only 12 pounds while many traditional convertible car seats are double that weight. Measuring 20 inches wide, 23.5 inches high, and 18 inches deep, it fits well on airplane seats and can fit three across in most cars. The seat comes with a removable cup holder, which is a nice feature to help keep it compact. I've also found that it is much more cushioned and comfortable than many of the other travel car seat options. The seat can be installed with or without the LATCH system, and while this seat is small, light, comfortable, and convenient to use for travel, some reviewers dislike it because it is difficult to install tightly and securely in a car. Other reviewers say that they are able to get a very secure fit, so the fit is likely better in some cars than others. The Safety 1st Guide 65 is recommended as one of the top travel seats by CarseatBlog, based on research and tests conducted by Child Passenger Safety Technicians. Car Seats for the Littles, a nonprofit staffed by Child Passenger Safety Technicians, also praises this seat, calling it a "long loved convertible car seat that packs some desirable features into a low price tag." Pros: Lightweight and compact, safe for kids up to 65 pounds, more cushioned and comfortable than many other travel car seat options Cons: Difficult to securely install in some cars The best budget-friendly travel car seat The Cosco Scenera NEXT is extremely light and compact, and the low price point makes it the perfect option to have as an extra car seat for travel. At 10.4 pounds, the Cosco Scenera NEXT is one of the lightest car seats out there, making it easy to carry through the airport, on and off shuttle buses, or anywhere else your travels take you. We also love this one because it's extremely affordable. The car seat can be used for children weighing 5 to 40 pounds, and it's compact enough to fit on an airplane seat or three across in a car. The seat is 17.63 inches wide, 15.75 inches deep, and 30.25 inches high. This seat can be installed rear- or forward-facing and with or without the LATCH system. While the Cosco Scenera NEXT is a safe option that is convenient for parents, it might not be the most comfortable seat for your child. It doesn't provide much padding between your child and the plastic shell. It also has a machine-washable and dryer-safe cover, so you can easily clean it right up when you're done traveling. A removable cup holder is perfect to keep drinks or snacks within reach of your child while traveling. Wirecutter named it the best convertible car seat for travel of 2019, saying "it's lightweight, small, inexpensive‚ and yet still safe." Car Seats for the Littles praises it for travel: "It's lightweight, it fits under larger strollers, and it can be hung on the handle of a smaller stroller using the top tether strap." Pros: Lightweight, fits in small cars and on airplane seats, machine-washable cover Cons: Hard to install properly, some reviewers note that it seems flimsy and uncomfortable The best booster travel car seat BubbleBum is an inflatable booster seat that weighs just over a pound and can be inflated in 20 seconds. For safety reasons, kids should stay in a car seat with a five-point harness until they outgrow the weight and height recommendations of the seat, so boosters are only for older kids who have completely outgrown car seats. Because no booster seats are approved by the FAA, our top pick is easy to store on an airplane and quick and easy to install in a car. Hands down, the best travel booster seat is BubbleBum, which is inflatable and made of memory foam. It weighs just over a pound and folds up very small, so you can easily store it in your carry-on, diaper bag, or purse. When ready to use, it can be blown up in 20 seconds and is 11 inches wide, 11 inches deep, and 4.5 inches high. It is suitable for children 4 to 11 years old, weighing 40 to 100 pounds, and up to 59 inches tall. BubbleBum keeps kids safer in the event of a crash by positioning the seat belt on their legs rather than their stomach, and the memory foam helps kids' bodies stay stable. BubbleBum does not have a high back or head stability, but the lack of these features is what makes it so compact and portable. Experts widely agree that BubbleBum is the best travel booster. It's rated as a top seat by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), Wirecutter, and BabyGearLab. "We like the simplicity of the BubbleBum and think it is tough to beat for children who do a lot of carpooling," BabyGearLab said. IIHS employs engineers to test booster seats and chose BubbleBum as a best bet because it properly positions the seat belt on kids in virtually any vehicle. Pros: Lightweight, compact, easy to use, stabilizes child's body and positions seatbelt in a safer position in the event of a crash Cons: No high back or head support The best infant travel car seat You won't need to pack or check a stroller with the Doona Infant Car Seat that converts directly to a stroller and is safe for babies 4 to 35 pounds. We'll come right out and say it — this thing is pricey. But if you can afford it and are looking for something that makes life traveling with a baby a million times easier, the Doona Infant Car Seat will be well worth the investment. Designed with wheels attached, this car seat converts to a stroller literally in seconds with the click of a button. If you find yourself traveling with an infant, this will save yourself room and hassle by not having to pack or check a stroller. Although the LATCH base makes it easier to transfer the seat in and out of a car, the seat can be safely installed without the base as well. The Doona car seat measures 23.6 inches wide, 17.3 inches deep, and 26 inches high when folded, and unfolded, it measures 39 inches wide, 17.3 inches deep, and 32.3 inches high. The seat weighs 16.5 pounds, making it heavier than your typical infant car seat, but the majority of the time, you'll be pushing the stroller rather than carrying the seat. The Doona is safe for babies 4 to 35 pounds, and it comes with an infant insert to help stabilize and bring comfort to even the smallest baby, and many users report using it well beyond their child's first birthday. Because it is an infant seat, it can only be installed rear-facing. Wirecutter named the Doona one of the top travel car seats, citing its convenience and ease of use. Car Seats for the Littles gave the Doona a positive review, saying it's pretty easy to install (a must for traveling) and has many comfort features to please even the smallest of babies. Pros: Stroller and car seat in one, easy to use, saves room when traveling, fits babies 4 to 35 pounds Cons: Expensive, heavier than many other infant seats The best travel car seat for air travel Lightweight to carry through the airport, compact to fit in the plane seats, and comfortable for your baby or toddler, the Evenflo Tribute LX will serve you well on any flight. The Evenflo Tribute LX is a lightweight and compact seat at just over 9 pounds. It's suitable for babies and toddlers from 5 to 45 pounds. This seat fits well both on airplanes and in compact cars as it measures 17 inches wide, 25 inches high, and 19 inches deep and weighs 9.29 pounds. It's also a very affordable seat that doesn't skimp on comfort or safety. We like that the Tribute LX has more padding and is more comfortable than many other travel seats. Its removable cup holders make it very convenient on long trips. If you have a very snug fit on an airplane or in a car, you can easily return them. The seat can be installed rear- or forward-facing and with or without the LATCH system. Another great feature is the option to purchase this seat with a travel and storage bag. This makes it easy to store at home when you're not traveling and will help protect your seat if you decide to check it rather than have your child sit in it on the plane. Board-certified pediatrician Juliet Spurrier of BabyGearLab praises this seat because it scored very well on their crash tests, and it's inexpensive. That combined with its light weight "makes it a good candidate for parents who frequent taxis or Uber," Spurrier said. Pros: Lightweight and compact, inexpensive, comfortable padding, option to purchase with a travel bag Cons: Some reviewers have difficulty getting a proper fit in a car What else we considered Finding the perfect car seat isn't an easy task, and especially when you're looking at lightweight travel options, you're always sacrificing one feature in favor of another. Here are the other travel car seats we considered for this guide, and why they didn't make the cut. Evenflo Sonus: The Evenflo Sonus is very similar to the Evenflo Tribute LX and is also a great pick for air travel. We like that it has a higher weight capacity, so it will last you longer, but we ultimately picked the Evenflo Tribute LX because the Sonus is a bit heavier and more expensive than the Tribute LX. CARES Child Safety Device: CARES is the only safety device that is not an actual car seat that is approved by the FAA. It's a five-point harness that is designed to keep your child safe on a plane. We didn't include it in the guide because it's not an actual seat, and it's not approved for use in cars. Baby Trend Yumi: The Baby Trend Yumi is a high-back booster seat with head support, and we like it because it provides more security and protection than a backless booster. It does fold up to fit into an overhead compartment on an airplane, but we chose the BubbleBum instead because it is so much more compact when folded, and it's lighter.