Since having my first child nearly 10 years ago, I began my love/hate relationship with car seats. While they do an important job in keeping my children safe, they are also a major hassle for frequent travelers like me. If you’ve ever lugged a heavy car seat down an airplane aisle or struggled with what to do when you needed to take an Uber or Lyft with a toddler, I’m sure you feel my pain.
I’ve been on a mission the last decade to find the most compact travel car seat products to make my family’s travel logistics easier. While there have been compact travel boosters like the BubbleBum and mifold, there has yet to be a truly travel-friendly car seat with a 5 point harness that works for younger children.
So when I saw a Google ad last fall that a new company named WAYB was working on a super-compact 5 point harness car seat for kids ages 2-5, I might have gotten irrationally excited. I immediately emailed the company to get all the details.
Finally, the new seat – called the WAYB Pico – is almost here! Due my ridiculous enthusiasm, I was able to get one of the first car seats off the manufacturing line (thanks WAYB for sending me a complimentary sample). I have been using it with my own 5 year old the past two weeks to test it out at home. I also just took it on my travels this past week to Hawaii on Southwest, bringing it aboard for storage in the airplane overhead bin.
My verdict? The WAYB Pico is game-changing for family travelers. I only wish it had been around the past three years so I could have started using it sooner with my youngest. The only real downside is the high price, but since the product has many non-travel uses, it can make sense to invest in one even if you don’t travel as much as my family does.
Here are all the details parents need to know about whether the WAYB Pico is the right car seat for traveling with your child.
Editor’s Note 10/1/19: There is currently a voluntary recall on all Pico car seats manufactured between February 1-May 12, 2019. If you snagged one of the earliest seats off the line, check out the details here for replacement.
Essential Facts about the WAYB Pico
Weight: 8 pounds
Dimensions (when folded): 11.6” deep x 14.5” wide x 18.9” tall
Age: Children ages 2-5, forward-facing only. (The seat can be used for 1 year olds as well, but WAYB recommends a minimum age of 2.)
Weight Limits: 22-50 pounds
Height Limits: 30-45 inches tall (or whenever the shoulder straps are above the level of your child’s shoulders)
Install Method: LATCH or seatbelt path
Colors: Earth, Jet, Ocean, Turquoise
Optional extras: Carry backpack, $50
WAYB Pico Car Seat Set Up & Installation
What makes the WAYB Pico unique is that it folds up for significant space savings. The seat is constructed of aluminum and mesh to keep it lightweight too. The bottom part of the car seat (on which your child sits) flips around behind the back of the seat and locks into place for a more compact size.
To use the car seat, you flip the bottom around and lock it into place with a red clip. You can then adjust the headrest to the proper height for your child. Once the bottom is locked into place and headrest is set, the rest of the installation process will pretty familiar for parents used to installing other forward facing car seats. There is a top tether and LATCH straps on either side that you use to strap the car seat into the car. (Seat belt installation is also possible but a little more complex.)
Getting a snug fit took me a little longer than some of the premium car seats on the market that have special features to tighten them easily. But it certainly took me no longer on average than it might with a very basic lightweight travel car seat like the Cosco Scenera NEXT.
Strapping your child into the Pico is mostly the same as with any other car seat – but with one important difference. The chest clip is the same, but to tighten the straps, you don’t pull on a single strap between your child’s legs. Instead, there are cinch pulls on either side of your child’s hips. Pull each of those to take out the slack (check out my video above for a demo).
My son complained a bit that the padded strap covers irritated his neck – they aren’t as soft as the ones on many other car seat models.
We had only one real challenge when we used the WAYB in our travels – we found that the top tether strap wasn’t quite long enough to be able to install it in a minivan bucket seat. As luck would have it, one of the UberXLs we took and a taxi we also took on our most recent Hawaii trip both had this problem! The only way to use the Pico when this situation strikes is in the minivan third row. As you might imagine, this makes for some additional installation gymnastics. Hopefully the folks at WAYB can make this tether just a bit longer in the future, as it it truly was only an inch or two too short. (Editor’s note 4/11/19: WAYB has let me know that a top tether extender will be available on product launch for any consumer that needs one).
What Ages and Sizes are Right for the WAYB Pico
My son is a 5.5 year old of average height and he still fits in the Pico. The recommended height maximum is 45 inches and he’s about 42.5 inches right now. The straps are only just above the level of his shoulders so he’ll outgrow it probably as he approaches his 6th birthday. But unless your child is just way off the top of the growth charts, I think it’s safe to say the Pico will work for almost all 4 year olds and many 5 year olds. That should be enough time for your child to be more mature and bigger and ready to use a travel booster instead.
How the WAYB Pico is Amazing on Planes
So now that the basics are out of the way, here’s why I’m freaking out about this car seat — the air travel possibilities. So many parents are rightfully fearful of checking their car seat with the airlines. You simply never know how the airlines will treat your car seat and whether it will sustain any damage or get lost.
On some trips, my family has brought aboard our car seat for use during the flight to avoid checking it. But that is not without its issues too. One on trip a few years back, my son wanted nothing to do with the car seat and simply wanted to sleep on my lap. I found myself with an unused car seat taking up a ton of seat space when we needed to stretch out.
On another trip, I found the car seat positioned my son just perfectly to kick the seat in front of him repeatedly. That made for an incredibly stressful flight. There are just some times when having the car seat on board causes more hassle than it solves.
The Pico gives you so much more flexibility in dealing with both these airplane dilemmas. When packaged up in its travel bag, the seat is small enough to take onto the plane as a carry on. I had no problem fitting ours into the overhead bin of a Southwest Airlines 737-800. It’s about the same size as my usual roll-aboard suitcase.
But then if you feel you want to use the car seat on board, you have that option too. The Pico is FAA-approved for use on aircraft (several ultra-compact travel car seats are not because they have LATCH only). So if you feel your child needs the extra seat to stay restrained, you can always pull it out of the overhead bin and use it. Due to its slim size, it takes up even less space than many other car seats you might bring.
Using the WAYB Pico for Uber & Lyft
The other game-changing use for the Pico is when taking ridesharing services like Lyft and Uber with kids. Except in a few select cities that have Uber Car Seat/Uber Family service, its impossible to ride in a Lyft or Uber without bringing your own car seat. It’s quite tough to do that, however, when you don’t have anywhere to store your car seat at your destination, such as when you are doing city touring.
In its optional travel backpack, its conceivable that you can just take the Pico with you. It’s lightweight enough that you can carry it around on your back (or even hanging from some larger stable strollers) – no storage necessary. While I probably wouldn’t recommend this for a family out-and-about for a full day (as it would get tiring for many hours of carrying), it’s a significant improvement to the options for families with a ridesharing quandary.
Uses for the WAYB Pico at Home
Before you invest in an expensive car seat only for travel, most families want to make sure it has uses at home. The Pico does. I used it for two weeks in my normal routine at home. I found it was no more time-consuming to use than with the car seat we normally have installed.
The Pico revealed itself to be ideal for space-saving for anyone who has a tight fit in the back of their car. I have a small backseat in my car. Fitting two additional children in it when my son is in his normal mega-car seat is next to impossible. The middle seat is basically not usable, and certainly not usable when that child needs to be in a booster. When I have the Pico installed, it opens up the rest of the back seat for two children to sit because it is much more narrow.
This is also a great car seat for grandma and grandpa or a babysitter who only transports your child occasionally. They can keep it in a trunk when not in use and it won’t take up a ton of space they otherwise would need.
Pros & Cons of the WAYB Pico
Ok, so that’s a lot of information. Here’s a brief overview of the pros and cons to help you make your choice.
- Incredibly lightweight.
- No other product like it for air travel – that can both fit in the overhead bin and be used on the plane.
- Kids ages 4-5 can ride more safely for longer in a 5 point harness instead of a booster on trips where bringing a standard car seat isn’t feasible.
- Narrow for tight back seats to enable three kids sitting across.
- Cost – at $320, the Pico is a premium product that may be out of the price range for many families, especially as a second or third car seat.
- A tad slow to install compared to premium car seats.
- Top tether may not fit all vehicles – not long enough to reach over and clip on a minivan bucket seat.
How Can You Get a WAYB Pico?
Last but certainly not least, where can you get a Pico? The crowdfunding campaign was record-breaking so I have a feeling a lot more families are going to want to get one once the word gets out even more.
The WAYB Pico is being shipped to customers who pre-ordered on their Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign in the next few weeks. Regular pre-orders just launched again on WAYB.com for delivery in about 4-6 weeks. Expect to find the Pico on Amazon later this summer and offered through a few select retailers even before that once the product is shipping . I’ll keep this post updated as all the places to buy are unveiled.
Do you have questions about the WAYB Pico? Leave them here and I’ll answer them. And come back and comment if you buy the product and have insights to add in the coming weeks once it is released.
Disclosure: WAYB sent me a complimentary Pico car seat and travel bag for review purposes. As always, all opinions are my own.