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Best Car Seats and Boosters for Air Travel

I’ve been on over 200 flights with my kids, and there is one question I still always have trouble answering before a flight: what car seat or booster should I bring? My travel priority the last 10 years is always to transport my kids safely, but doing do also can be a major pain! Car seats and boosters are awkward, bulky, and add a lot of logistics to air travel.

Car Seats and Boosters for Air Travel with Kids

I’ve written a pretty comprehensive guide to common questions about car seats and air travel. But sometimes you can solve some of those problems simply by investing in the right travel gear in the first place. Quite a few new car seat and booster products have come onto the market the last few years. Products are more compact and designs are more innovative. Taking a car seat on a plane and being able to use it at your destination grows ever easier. It’s about time!

So, what are all these must-have innovative products that are revolutionizing family air travel? If you are planning to fly with a baby, toddler, preschooler or older child, this guide has car seat and booster recommendations for every age and stage. Note that not all of the products in this guide can actually be used on planes. Instead, they are child restraint devices for use in getting to and from the airport in cars that are also small enough to bring with you successfully during air travel. So check the specs carefully to make sure you buy the product that makes sense for your travel needs.

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Best Car Seats for Air Travel for Infants

Chicco Keyfit 30

For infants, the classic bucket-style car seat is ideal for airplanes. The Chicco Keyfit 30 is a reasonably priced option that also works for everyday use, so there’s no need to buy a special additional product for travel. It can be used on the plane if you’ve purchased a seat for your baby. It’s also lightweight enough to carry down an airplane aisle, even with a baby in it. Then it can be used in a car at your destination without the base, by installing it with a regular seat belt.

Car Seats International Travel - Baby in Infant Car Seat

We used a Chicco Keyfit 30 on planes with both of our kids when they were babies very successfully. We combined it with a lightweight stroller frame that we gate checked so we could easily push the baby in the car seat through the airport.

Important Specs for the Chicco Keyfit 30

  • Recommended Age: newborn, infant (use weight/height limits as guide)
  • Weight Limits: 4-30 pounds
  • Height Limits: Up to 30 inches tall
  • Dimensions of Seat: 27.5″ x 17″ x 24″
  • Weight to Carry: 9.6 pounds
  • FAA approved for use on a plane?: Yes
  • Fits in an overhead bin of a plane?: No

Doona

The Doona came onto the market just a bit too late for me to use it with my younger child, but it has been pretty game-changing for parents of babies on the go. The Doona is the first product of its kind that is both infant car seat and stroller in one. The stroller wheels pop back and fold up under the seat, turning the product into a bucket style infant car seat. This product works so well for travelers who are going to be in and out of cars and then who need a stroller when they arrive at their destination. It can also be used on the plane, so it has a lot of versatility.

Doona Infant Car Seat Stroller

At $499 and up, the Doona is an expensive product. As a result, it probably only makes sense for frequent travelers or for city-dwellers who would use it a lot for taking ridesharing services or taxis.

Important Specs for the Doona

  • Recommended Age: 0-18 months
  • Weight Limits: 4-35 pounds
  • Height Limits: Up to 32 inches tall
  • Dimensions of Seat: 28.5 x 18.3 x 16 folded (40 x 17.3 x 32.3 inches unfolded in stroller mode)
  • Weight to Carry: 16.5 pounds
  • FAA approved for use on a plane?: Yes
  • Fits in an overhead bin of a plane?: No

Best Car Seats for Air Travel for Toddlers & Preschoolers

Cosco Scenera NEXT

Taking a convertible car seat on a plane is one of my least favorite things about flying with kids. They are big and bulky but oh-so-necessary. So going compact and light is essential. One of the most lightweight convertible car seats on the market is the Cosco Scenera NEXT. Luckily, it’s also one of the cheapest on the market too (it’s sold only at Walmart and costs about $40-45 depending on color).

Cosco Scenera NEXT Review Square

The Cosco Scenera NEXT was my go to airplane car seat during the toddler and preschooler travel years (see my full Cosco Scenera NEXT review). We flew with this car seat with our son after he graduated from the infant bucket seat until he was ready to graduate to a booster. It’s lightweight enough to balance on top of a roller bag or carry down an airplane aisle. We also loved that if and when we did choose to check it (instead of using it on board), it was cheap enough that we could afford to replace it if an airline damaged it. And when we weren’t traveling, the seat worked well as an extra for grandma’s car or anywhere else we needed one!

The Cosco Scenera NEXT is approved for infant use as well, so you can definitely start using it earlier. We found though that using the bucket-style seat with a stroller frame was easier than dragging a convertible car seat and a separate stroller through airports for a baby.

Important Specs for the Cosco Scenera NEXT

  • Recommended Age: o- 4 or 5 years old (use height & weight limits)
  • Weight Limits: 5-40 pounds
  • Height Limits:  Up to 19-40 inches tall rear-facing, 29-43 inches forward-facing
  • Dimensions of Seat: 17.63 x 15.75 x 30.25 in
  • Weight to Carry: 10.4 pounds
  • FAA approved for use on a plane?: Yes
  • Fits in an overhead bin of a plane?: No

WayB Pico Car Seat

For anyone who hates the convertible car seat balancing act, there is a new option on the market for 2-5 year olds as of earlier this year. The WAYB Pico is a car seat with a 5 point harness that folds up small enough to put in a backpack and fit in an airplane overhead bin. It also can be used on the airplane! I have a complete review of the WayB Pico in all its MacGyver awesomeness. We used it earlier this year on a trip to Hawaii and were totally sold.

WAYB Pico - Car Seat 5 Year Old

To be sure, the Pico is expensive, retailing at $320. Like the Doona, it’s probably a seat that works only for a speciality audience. But if you can justify the price, the product solves a lot of usual the air travel car seat dilemmas with toddler and preschoolers.

Important Specs for the WAYB Pico

  • Recommended Age: 2-5 years old
  • Weight Limits: 22-50 pounds
  • Height Limits: 30-45 inches tall
  • Dimensions of Seat: 11.6″ x 14.5″ x 18.9″ in
  • Weight to Carry: 8 pounds
  • FAA approved for use on a plane?: Yes
  • Fits in an overhead bin of a plane?: Yes

ImmiGo

Before there was the WayB Pico, there was one other super-compact convertible car seat on the market that worked well for toddlers and preschoolers. The ImmiGo car seat works forward-facing and is foldable/collapsible, making it small enough to carry and another option that fits in an airplane overhead bin.

The ImmiGo does require a top tether (and for all intents and purposes, also LATCH) for use in 5 point harness mode. As a result, this car seat won’t work in planes or in some older cars or cars in many international destinations. But if you know you are going to be in a rental car or ridesharing vehicle with LATCH and a top tether, then the ImmiGo is a somewhat less expensive product choice than the WAYB Pico at least.

Important Specs for the ImmiGo

  • Recommended Age: 2-5 years old
  • Weight Limits: 22-55 pounds (22-65 with vehicle seat belts in booster mode)
  • Height Limits: 30-45 inches tall
  • Dimensions of Seat: 16.5” x 9.5” x 13.5” in
  • Weight to Carry: 8 pounds
  • FAA approved for use on a plane?: No
  • Fits in an overhead bin of a plane?: Yes

Ride Safer Delight Travel Vest

One child restraint option that a lot of travelers don’t know about isn’t a car seat or a booster at all – it’s a vest! The Ride Safer Delight Travel Vest is approved for kids ages 3 and up. It’s a brand new 2019 improvement on the Ride Safer Travel Vest that has been around for years. The vest helps position a regular shoulder and lap belt in a proper spot that is safe for smaller passengers. In addition to being good for travel, this compact option also helps squeeze three kids across in back seats that would not accommodate multiple car seats.

Ride Safer Delight Travel Vest

This vest comes in three sizes. But since most families probably won’t purchase multiple items just for travel given price tag, I’d probably recommend the small which is good until about 60 pounds and 47 inches tall (around age 6). This would cover most younger kids until they get to be of an age where a less expensive travel booster (see below) would be a viable and safe alternative.

One word of warning – please, please be careful in purchasing vest-like child restraint devices on sites like Amazon. There are a number of fakes sold from overseas that are definitely not approved and not safe. If the price looks too good to be true, it’s probably is. Be sure to only purchase products manufactured by the company “Safe Ride 4 Kids.”

Important Specs for the Ride Safer Delight Travel Vest

  • Recommended Age: 3-6 years old (small), 5-11 years old (large), 9-14 years old (XL)
  • Weight Limits: 30-60 pounds (small), 50-80 pounds (large), 80-110 pounds (XL)
  • Height Limits: 35-47 inches tall (small), 45-57 inches tall (large), 55-64 inches tall (XL)
  • Weight to Carry: 1.5 pounds
  • FAA approved for use on a plane?: No
  • Fits in an overhead bin of a plane?:  Yes

Best Boosters for Air Travel for Older Kids

BubbleBum

The BubbleBum is an inflatable booster that is just ideal for air travel. Small enough to fit in a backpack or purse when deflated, parents can just throw this in a carry on bag and have a safe child restraint upon landing at their destination. Priced under $30, it’s also a very affordable.

BubbleBum Review - Child Installing Booster in Car

The BubbleBum is the travel product our family has used most, hands down (see my complete BubbleBum review). We’ve had one since my daughter reached booster age and height. She used until her 10th birthday on all of our travels (when she finally hit 4’9” and can now go without!). My 6 year old son now uses the newer design of this very same product regularly when we rent cars or take Uber/Lyft at our air travel destinations.

Important Specs for the BubbleBum

  • Recommended Age: 4-11 years old
  • Weight Limits: 40-100 pounds
  • Height Limits: 40-57 inches tall
  • Dimensions of Seat: 12 x 4 x 12.25 in
  • Weight to Carry: 1.2 pounds
  • FAA approved for use on a plane?: No
  • Fits in an overhead bin of a plane?: Yes

mifold

The biggest competitor to the BubbleBum for a super-compact booster option is the mifold. Basically the size and depth of a clutch purse, this child restraint is as small as it gets for squeezing into a bag or backpack. Instead of lifting a child up (like a traditional booster), it positions the seat belt down into the proper place.

My kids found the mifold a bit uncomfortable for sitting for long periods of time because it doesn’t have much padding. We also struggled to get the right belt fit a bit more than compared to the BubbleBum. But I know many families prefer it because it’s even more compact. The mifold can be a smart choice for shorter rides when space is really at a premium.

Important Specs for the mifold

  • Recommended Age: 4-12 years old
  • Weight Limits: 40-100 pounds
  • Height Limits: 40-57 inches tall
  • Dimensions of Seat: 1 x 13 x 7 in
  • Weight to Carry: 1.7 pounds
  • FAA approved for use on a plane?: No
  • Fits in an overhead bin of a plane?: Yes

hifold Highback Booster

Many parents prefer the safety and security of a highback booster seat, even for older kids. But highback boosters are mostly just as big and bulky as convertible car seats. No longer! The makers of mifold just came out with a folding highback booster seat that is ideal for taking on a plane – the hifold.

hifold Highback Booster

A lot of traveling kids technically big enough for a lowback booster aren’t really ready for one, especially those in the 4-6 year old age ranges. The hifold bridges this gap, offering a highback option small enough to fit in backpack or also in an airplane overhead bin.

I’ll have a full review of the hifold coming very soon, but I already like what I’ve seen enough to recommend it fully. When folded, it’s really not that much larger than a typical hard shell low back booster.

Important Specs for the hifold

  • Recommended Age: 4 years old & up (subject to weight/height max)
  • Weight Limits: 33-100 pounds
  • Height Limits: 36-59 inches tall
  • Dimensions of Seat: 9.8 x 13.5 x. 13.5 in folded, 29.7 x 15.6 x 18.9 in unfolded
  • Weight to Carry:  10 pounds, 2 ounces
  • FAA approved for use on a plane?: No
  • Fits in an overhead bin of a plane?: Yes

Have you used any of these car seats or boosters in travels with your kids? Share your favorites in the comments!

Flying with kids and worried about safe transport at your destination? These 9 car seats and boosters are compact, travel-friendly products perfect for Uber and Lyft rides, taxis, rental cars and more. Plus, many of them are FAA approved for airplane use or small enough to fit in the plane overhead bin! #carseat #airtravel #travelwithkids

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