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8 Best Portable Car Seats for Travel

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Though individual states have specific guidelines regarding portable car seats for travel and child safety, the NHTSA has regulations that all drivers should adhere to. These are the best portable car seats for travel.

Here, you will find general tips on selecting a car seat based on the vehicle model, your baby’s age, and affordability. 

When you use a properly installed car seat, your baby is 71-83% less likely to sustain any severe injuries in case of an accident. For children between the ages of 4-8 years, boosters reduce the risk of severe injuries by a whopping 45%.

Though some rentals come with portable baby car seats for travel, carrying your baby car seat is always wise. You don’t know where the car seats have been, and they might not fit your baby comfortably.

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The Best Portable Car Seats for Travel

Here are the best portable car seats for travel. Invest in one to safeguard your baby and have them ride in comfort. Hopefully, you’ll get one that fits your needs just right. Let’s dive right in!

1. Chicco KeyFit 30 Zip Infant Car Seat

baby sleeping in a Chicco infant car seat

Due to its user-friendly design and performance, the Chicco KeyFit 30 Zip Infant car seat is rated America’s top infant car seat. It is designed for kids between 4 – 30lbs and 30’’ tall, called KeyFit 30. 

Its features make it relatively easy to install securely and accurately, which is great, especially when traveling and using a rental car or taxi.

You should listen for the audible click sound to ensure you have installed it properly on either a stroller or its base. It assures you of a successful installation. 

Pros

  • The Chicco KeyFit 30 zip infant car seat has a spring-loaded leveling foot and a couple of RideRight bubble indicators to help you attain a proper resting angle for your baby. 
  • It comes with a SuperCinch tightener and a couple of Latch connectors to help keep the portable car seat firm during air travel, whether on a plane, car, or stroller. The one-pull latch tightener also helps you secure the car seat easily.
  • These portable car seats for travel have a large canopy that can be extended to protect your little one from harsh weather such as cold, rain, and dust. The canopy has a zip-open mesh for increased airflow, offering easier access to the baby. 
  • The Chicco KeyFit 30 zip infant car seat has an infant insert that works best for babies between 4 – 11lbs. Once your child grows past 11 lbs, remove the insert and keep using the seat until the baby reaches 30 lbs.

Cons

  • The only negative remark regarding this portable infant car seat for travel is that it’s quite expensive. You’ll have to buy your baby another car seat.

See Related: Best Camper Accessories

2. Nuna PIPA Infant Car Seat

sleeping baby in a Nuna PIPA infant car seat

This rear-facing Nuna PIPA Infant Car Sear is another win that is great for Nuna. One of its greatest qualities is how light it is (9.7lb) without the base. This portable car seat for air travel is designed to carry babies between 4lb – 32lb. 

Its design includes a European belt path that goes over the baby’s lap and through the back of the seat for a more snug installation. This makes installation way easier whether you are using the base or not.

Pros

  • If you are in the market for a portable car seat for a travel toddler, the Nuna PIPA infant car seat has a snuggly insert you can use. 
  • It also comes with a dream drape that is handy when the weather isn’t very baby-friendly. 
  • This baby car seat has a leg that goes to the car floor for more stability and reduced rotations. If you’re planning an international trip, the Nuna PIPA Infant Car Seat is airplane-ready.

Cons

  • Removing the seat cover for cleaning is tricky since you must unread the harness. Once you are done cleaning, you’ll have to rethread it.
  • Also, the magnets used in the dream drape aren’t that strong. You need to give it a firm tug to secure it properly.

3. Evenflo LiteMax 35lb Infant Car Seat

Man securing young girl in a car seat

The Evenflo LiteMax 35lb Infant Car Seat is a great fit for babies weighing 4 – 35 lbs and 32’’ tall (due to its compact design, it can be used for babies as small as 3 lbs). Breathable fabrics will leave your baby fresh and less sweaty. 

These portable car seats for travel are rear-facing only and have a stay-in-car base that helps minimize parental efforts. How about that? If you have two or more cars, you can install bases in each for a smoother transition of baby from one to the other.

Pros

  • For the complete safety of your little one, Evenflo has subjected this portable car seat to numerous travel tests, even exceeding the federal safety standards. The waterproof materials help keep the baby safe from wind, rain, and other harsh outdoor elements.
  • With its exclusive ergonomic handle that’s designed for maximum carrying comfort, the Evenflo LiteMax 35lb infant car seat is one of the lightest car seats on the market. 
  • You will enjoy the integrated belt lock-off system that helps ensure the base is correctly and securely installed.

Cons

  • The main problem I observed was that, though snuggly for newborn babies, the Evenflo LiteMax 35lb infant car seat gets squeezed when the baby reaches 12 lbs and over. 

See Related: The Best Baby Bottle for 2021

4. Graco SnugRide SnugLock Infant Car Seat

Graco car seat installed on a stroller

Though investing in a convertible car seat might be the best option, starting with an infant car seat is great for a baby. When selecting a rental car, remember that newborns’ portable car seats for travel are rear-facing only and designed to support your baby’s spine and fragile neck in case of a crash. 

If you go for a travel system, moving your baby from the car straight to the stroller will be seamless.

Pros

  • This Graco SnugRide SnugFit car seat is lightweight at a mere 7.5 lb without the base. It has SnugLock technology that offers a secure base install in just 3secs. Listen for the Click! Sound is to be sure of a secure installation. 
  • It’s also easy to install in a click-connect stroller, making moving a baby from car to stroller much easier.
  • It is affordable and comes with energy-absorbing foam for effective impact energy management, helping keep the baby safe and comfy. 
  • The Graco SnugRide SnugLock 35 infant car seat also offers upgrade options for plush fabrics, easy-to-adjust harnesses, and fancier sunshades.

Cons

  • The fabrics used for the base model are both unplush and unsoft, and it’s likely to get toasty for your baby during the summer. 
  • Most moms also find the headrest’s lack of head support and thickness a turnoff. The button for adjusting the harness is pretty hidden.

See Related: Best Portable Strollers for Travel

5. Cosco Scenera NEXT Convertible Car Seat

Cosco Scenera NEXT installed in the backseat

I like the Cosco Scenera NEXT convertible car seat for its quite space-friendly. You can install three of these babies in your back seat.

Investing in this convertible car seat for a large family could be great, especially if you only have one car. For the best experience, your baby should ride rear-facing at (5 – 40lb) and forward-facing at (22 – 40lb).

Pros

  • It has side impact protection to protect the baby from side collisions or rollovers. The 5-point harness also ensures that the baby is firmly and securely installed in the seat. 
  • This portable car seat for air travel is certified for use on aircraft, and it comes in a compact TSA design that’s friendly for airport security. You can easily install it in your taxi or rental once you arrive at your destination.
  • The seat cover is removable and machine- and dryer-friendly for easy cleaning.

Cons

  • The Cosco Scenera NEXT Convertible portable car seats for travel are quite hard due to inadequate padding.
  • Always watch out for the size when shopping for your toddler -actual fit may vary (not all children will comfortably fit in the seat for the full weight and height ranges listed).

6. Graco Extend2Fit Convertible Car Seat

baby safely secured in a Graco Extend2Fit convertible car seat

What I find most interesting about the Graco Extend2Fit Convertible car seat is that it offers both rear and forward-facing options and grows with a baby as early as 4 lbs – 65 lbs. It keeps your cuddly monkey rear-facing longer, which is safer than forward-facing.

These portable car seats for travel are quite easy to install, whether in a rental or your car. They come with a 6-position recline option that makes it more comfortable for the baby through the years.

Pros

  • 4-Position Extension Panel offers babies 5 inches more for some extra legroom as they grow. It also makes rear-facing riding more comfortable as the baby grows. 
  • The no-rethread is safe for adjusting the harness and also comes in handy. It allows you to adjust your baby’s car seat with the baby securely tucked in.
  • A steel-reinforced frame and side impact protection (SIP) guarantee a safer and longer-lasting car seat for your child’s entire life.

Cons

  • When cleaning this baby, that’s when things get a little problematic.
  • The seat cover is a pain to remove and return because you’ll need to thread it through small holes for it to cover the seat properly. 
  • The square cup holders are also a nuisance since they can’t firmly hold a cup. This increases the chances of baby spilling when you are on the move.

7. Graco 4Ever DLX 4 in 1 Car seat Infant to Toddler

3 Graco 4Ever DLX 4 in 1 car seats on display

As an upgrade to the Graco 4ever 4-in-1, the Graco 4ever DLX 4-in-1 has a rapid-remove cover that you will be grateful for whenever your baby spills or goes while tucked in. 

It still has four modes of use, which include the rear-facing Harness (4-40lb), forward-facing harness (22 – 64lb), highback booster (40 – 100lb), and the Backless Booster (40 – 120lb).

You can use it from birth to elementary school. How cool is that!

Pros

  • You will enjoy the easy and secure installation. It has two base installation options: the integrated belt lock-off and the InRight LATCH connectors. 
  • Your infant will enjoy the ride with the added padding and a range of reclining positions. 
  • You only need to thread the harness once, and that’s it! Plus, you don’t have to worry about adjusting it. It has a one-hand adjust handle.
  • To ensure your little champ is well protected from head to hips, these Graco model baby portable car seats for travel use a steel frame and TrueShield technology. You can now easily drive, knowing your baby is comfy and safely strapped in. 

Cons

  • One thing you’ll have to sacrifice is the convenience of movement, as the Graco 4Ever DLX 4-in-1 is quite heavy and not so easy to pop out of your car.
  • It’s also a bit pricey compared to most baby car seats. 

8. Britax Grow With You ClickTight Harness-2-Booster Car Seat

Britax Grow Car Seat on Green Background

The other great portable baby car booster for travel is the Britax Grow with You ClickTight harness-2-booster car seat. This car seat grows with your child from toddler to big kid (25 – 120 lbs).  Whether using a rental or your vehicle, fitting two babies in the back isn’t easy.

Pros

  • Switching from the belt-positioning booster to the 5-point harness is quite easy. Britax has installed a V-shaped tether in this car seat that safely hugs your baby in case of an accident. 
  • It also comes with 2-layer impact protection for additional safety. The ClickTight system offers an easy, safe, and secure installation experience.
  • Due to its bulky and heavy-duty design, the Britax Grow with You ClickTight Harness-2-Booster is quite durable. 
  • Cool flow ventilating fabric helps keep the baby comfortable and cool in extreme weather conditions.

Cons

  • The Britax Grow with you ClickTight Harness-2-Booster Car Seat is quite wide and, therefore, unsuitable for infants and newborns. 
  • The fabric loop at the bottom of the car seat keeps coming off, and some headrests keep rattling.
  • Though they are portable car seats for travel, they’re quite heavy, especially if you have to move them around a lot.

When traveling with a baby, the type of car you use will greatly affect the type of portable car seat you’ll get.

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