‘Tis the season for holiday travel and for many families with small children, that includes flying somewhere. Since so many carseats are heavy and bulky, it makes sense in some cases to invest in a lightweight carseat just for traveling. Plus, this spares you the hassle of re-installing your main carseat when you get back to your own car, weary from traveling.
Ideally, a spare travel carseat should be lightweight (under 15 lbs), easy to install with the lap-only belt on an airplane seat and narrow enough to fit in a typical coach seat. With that criteria in mind, here are several options to consider.
Infant carseats – no need to buy anything new as long as your current infant seat can be installed without the base. I guess it’s possible to drag the base with you on the plane but that’s just making life harder than it needs to be. As long as your infant seat allows installation without the base (most do but there are some exceptions so make sure you know for sure), it’s easy to install the carrier rear-facing with the lap-only belt on the plane.
If you’re leaving the base at home – make sure you practice baseless installation a few times so when you arrive at your destination you know how to install the carseat properly in the car, using a typical lap/shoulder belt. Here is a video that demonstrates my technique for quick and easy installations of an infant carseat without the base.
Convertible seats - if you intend to install the convertible seat rear-facing on the plane then you’ll be best served by a seat that is fairly compact which will increase your chances of the seat actually fitting rear-facing in the space you have to work with.
Combi Coccoro: Rear-facing 3-33 lbs, or up to 36″ tall. Forward-facing 20-40 lbs., or up to 40″ tall
Cosco Scenera: Rear-facing 5-35 lbs, or up to 36″ tall. Forward-facing 22-40 lbs., or up to 40″ tall
Evenflo Tribute: Rear-facing 5-40 lbs, or up to 37″ tall. Forward-facing 22-40 lbs., or up to 40″ tall
Safety 1st OnSide Air: Rear-facing 5-40 lbs, or up to 40″ tall. Forward-facing 22-40 lbs., or up to 43″ tall
Safety 1st Guide 65: Rear-facing 5-40 lbs, or up to 40″ tall. Forward-facing 22-65 lbs, or up to 43″ tall
For forward-facing kids, you’ll be best served by a seat that’s lightweight, fairly narrow, with tall top harness slots and a weight limit of 50 lbs or more. Keep in mind that combination seats (harness/booster) can only be used on the plane in harnessed mode. Booster seats (or combination seats used without the 5-pt harness in booster mode) are not FAA certified and cannot be used on an airplane because all booster seats require a lap/shoulder belt, which airplanes don’t have.
Evenflo Maestro: Forward-facing only. With 5-point harness from 22-50 lbs., or up to 50″ tall
Evenflo Secure Kid 300/LX: Forward-facing only. With 5-point harness from 22-65 lbs., or up to 50″ tall
Evenflo SureRide: Rear-facing 5-40 lbs., or up to 40″ tall. Forward-facing 22-65 lbs., or up to 54″ tall
CARES Harness*: Harness for kids over 1 year old who weigh between 22-44 lbs., and are under 40″ tall. *CARES harness is certified for use on the plane ONLY. It’s very useful for situations where you don’t need a carseat to use on the ground when you arrive at your destination. We have a review of the CARES Harness here.
If you want to travel with your usual carseat, or just want to make it easier to travel with any carseat in general - there are many products that can help you transport it through the airport and onto the plane. Some are just generic luggage carts – other products like the Brica Roll ‘n Go Carseat Transporter, the Go-Go Travelmate products and the Traveling Toddler Strap are made specifically for a carseat. There are also carseat travel bags with wheels but obviously you can’t put your kid inside it too. Britax, Peg Perego, Clek & Diono all make travel accessories specifically for their carseats too.
For more info on flying with kids and carseats – check out our related blogs on the subject: