The 6 best travel car seats for toddlers

Parent-Approved: The 6 Best Travel Car Seats and Boosters for Toddlers and Older Kids [ 2020 ]

We spent hours researching car seats for our children to make sure they are safe and secure in our cars, yet when we hit the road, we discover our enormous “tanks” of car seats are difficult to carry, hard to install and can get damaged during transit. So, how do we keep our children safe when we are taking taxis or tours and riding on a plane? Bring on the lightweight car seats that keep our kids secure but are lightweight and easy to install.

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For our travels, we selected the IMMI-GO — the best travel stroller, in our opinion. Weighing less than 10 pounds and able to fold in half, it is the only car seat that comes with an attached carrying case so you can easily carry it when you are not using it. The seat doesn’t convert into a booster seat, as the only way to connect it to a car or airplane seat is through its high back, but we found it to an amazingly easy, lightweight and safe choice. (Read Our Best Travel Car Seat Recommendation for the full review.)

Alas, IMMI-GO is not available on Amazon or other sites other than their own, so we also reviewed other front-facing car seats and boosters that are lightweight, travel well, and are relatively easy to set up. These car seats are best-suited for children 18 months and older, and weighing at least 22 pounds, and over 18 months of age.

Here’s how we rated the car seats on our list:

  • Weight limit for kids: The car seats and boosters listed here are for children over 22 pounds and ages of 18 months and older. We list the top weight, to make it easy for you to determine if it can handle your child.
  • Ease for travel: If it is easy is it to carry and travel with the car seat, we give it a higher ranking than if it is cumbersome and heavy, which gets a lower rating on the scale.
  • Ease of installation: When catching an Uber or installing on a crowded plane, we give top ratings for the car seats that are simple to install. The longer it takes to install, the lower the rating.
  • Convert to Booster: If a car seat can convert to a no-back booster seat, we simply mark it with a yes.
  • Value for money: When we add up all of our criteria and combine it with the price, we give higher ratings to those who offer the most, for the least.
ImageBrandDetails
BEST OVERALL
IMMI GOCheck price
PREMIUM PICK
GracoCheck price
BEST VALUE
EvenfloCheck price
ChiccoCheck price
CoscoCheck price
BritaxCheck price

Best Travel Car Seats and Boosters For Toddlers Product Reviews

1. IMMI-GO

BEST OVERALL
Highlighted Features
  • Has 5-point harness system attached to a flexible back which is foldable
  • Energy-absorbing foam in the headrest
  • Has no-rethread harness
  • Lightweight and compact allowing it to fit in the overhead bin in an airline
  • It comes with an integrated carrying case with a padded handle
  • It has a child weight limit of 55lb when using the lower anchors in harnessed seat mode

Although you cannot buy it on Amazon, trust us that this car seat is worth its $234 price tag. Accommodating children from 22 to 55 pounds at heights up to 52 inches, the IMMI-Go is easy to install and easy to pack — it folds right into its attached carrying case and weighs just 10 pounds. 

We aren’t the only ones raving about the IMMI-Go as the best traveler stroller; others like Cars.com, We Go With Kids, and weeSpring love it, as does Uber, which uses it for uberFamily rides. One parent-approved travel car seat review put it best: “Can’t be beat for travel with toddler.”

Pros
  • Light and compact
  • Quickly installs
  • Narrow design makes a good fit for small spaces
  • Easy to adjust children of different sizes
  • The low profile makes it easy for children to climb
Cons
  • Requires the use of a top tether anchor

Our ratings:

Weight limit for kids: 22 - 55 pounds
Ease for travel: 5 out of 5
Ease of installation: 5 out of 5
Convert to Booster: No
Value for money: 5 out of 5

2. Graco Tranzitions 3-in-1 Harness Booster Car Seat

PREMIUM PICK
Highlighted Features
  • It features 3 different booster modes in 1 car seat
  • Comes in 8-position adjustable headrest which ensures the comfort of your child
  • It has open-loop belt guides to ensure the seat belt is well secured
  • It comes with 2 cup holders
  • Has the Graco’s no-rethread Simply Safe Adjust Harness System that allows you to adjust the headrest and harness in one motion
  • The seat pad, buckle covers, and harness are machine washable.

Another top name for car seats, Graco’s Transzitions is a car seat, high-back booster and booster seat that provides a five-point harness system for kids as small as 22 pounds and becomes a lightweight booster seat when then grow up to 100 pounds. Priced at $100, the seat weight 18 pounds and is easy to install and durable for travel. Seventy-three percent of parents give it a 5-star rating, as well.

Of the complaints parents had? It can be very difficult to buckle and unbuckle. “My biggest complaint about this seat is how hard it is to unbuckle the leg straps. It is very difficult. My son is almost 6 and unable to get out by himself. I even struggle with the buckle. Because of that, I wouldn’t buy this again,” said one mother.

Pros
  • 8-position headrest
  • Affordable
  • Lightweight
  • Easily converts between modes
  • Washable seat pad. Body pillow and harness covers
  • Narrow profile
Cons
  • No push-on connectors
  • Not easy to install on all vehicles

Our ratings:

Weight limit for kids: 22 – 100 pounds
Ease for travel: 3 out of 5
Ease of installation: 4 out of 5
Convert to Booster: Yes
Value for money: 4 out of 5

3. Evenflo Big Kid AMP High Back Booster Car Seat

BEST VALUE
Highlighted Features
  • It features comfortable padding around the head and the body
  • Has 2 seats in 1 removable back that allows for an easy transition to a no-back booster
  • It comes with a belt-positioning booster for children 40-110 lbs
  • It is designed and tested for structural integrity at energy levels approx. 2 times the federal crash test standard
  • It has an energy-absorbing foam line that boosts comfort and safety
  • It comes with a machine-washable pad
  • Two Elastic cup holders
  • It has 6 different heights

This super-cheap car seat by Evenflo is just $40 and can convert from a high-back to no-back booster seat easily. Lightweight at just 8 pounds, and offering a six-position height adjustment, this is a great option for traveling parents, accommodating kids up to 110 pounds in a seat that doesn’t require anchors — it can work on a plane or a car within seconds. As a high-back booster, the seat isn’t recommended for children under 30 pounds and 40 inches, otherwise 73 percent of parents give it a 5-star rating.

“I was bit hesitant to order this seat because the padding and cover seemed quite thin. However, I decided to give this seat a try for my 5-year-old son. After using very bulky Britax seats that are cumbersome to carry around, I was ready for lighter seats. The seat was easy to put together, and it was very easy to place on the back of my small SUV. My son was excited to get a new seat and he repeatedly answered he was comfortable,” said one parent.

Pros
  • Doesn’t require car head support
  • Inexpensive
  • Converts to a backless booster
  • It is very easy to clean
Cons
  • Now lower anchors
  • Not much head/torso support

Our ratings:

Weight limit for kids: 30 - 110 pounds
Ease for travel: 4 out of 5
Ease of installation: 5 out of 5
Convert to Booster: Yes
Value for money: 5 out of 5

4. Chicco MyFit Harness + Booster Car Seat

Highlighted Features
  • It features Chicco’s Duo Guard side-Impact protection for the head and body
  • It has quality LATCH connectors for installation with the LATCH system
  • Comes with 9-position headrest
  • It has a weight limit of 25 lbs to 100 lbs
  • Features dual cup holders that can be removed with a push-button
  • It has RideRight bubble levels to check if the seat is correctly installed
  • It has a Lock Sure belt-tightening system to ensure easy installation

When it comes to comfort, this Chicco car seat has it all. Four-position recline and 9-position headrest accommodates kids between 25 and 100 pounds, while the steel frame and 5-point harness system keep them safe. This seat costs nearly $200, but it is a lightweight car seat at just 12 pounds and it has 5-stars from parents who trust the Chicco brand, as well as this car seat. “Great carseat!” says one father. “My almost 5 year old says so all the time. Super quick and easy to install, on the heavy side for myself, but that is just fine. I would definitely recommend.”

Pros
  • Nine position headrest
  • It’s a lightweight
  • Easy to install and super quick
  • Durable for travel
  • Comfortable
  • Takes very little space
Cons
  • Challenging to install the cloth seats

Our ratings:

Weight limit for kids: 25 – 100 pounds
Ease for travel: 4 out of 5
Ease of installation: 4 out of 5
Convert to Booster: Yes
Value for money: 4 out of 5

5. Cosco Finale DX 2-in-1 Combination Booster Car Seat

Highlighted Features
  • It features a 5-point harness system that transforms into a belt-positioning booster seat
  • Can accommodate children of 30 to 65 pounds in the forward-facing position, and 40 to 100 pounds when used as a belt-positioning booster for toddlers and older kids
  • It has a dishwasher safe cup holder
  • Features a removable easy to clean car seat pad
  • Machine washable
  • It is lightweight and can be moved from car to car

Weighing 11 pounds, this car seat/high-back booster is priced at $90 and makes a good choice for a travel car seat to take along for rides in taxis and on planes. It can be a bit bulky and may feel flimsy, but is still worth it when needing an on-the-go seat that can handle 40 to 100 pounds. Although there is a five-point harness system, this seat is not recommended for younger kids needing for secure belting, or for older kids who only need a booster.

As one mom noted, the Finale is “good for travel, not for everyday.” Highlighting the pros, she wrote, “It is very light and easy  to fit into most situations where a car seat is needed including airplanes. Easy install, the straps were very easy to work with. I have had some seats where you need to catch your breath, drink some water and wipe your sweat after installing it in the car.”

Pros
  • Lightweight
  • Easy to install in cars and planes
  • Easy to clean with a washable machine
  • Exceeds federal safety standards
  • Reversible cup holder
Cons
  • It’s a bit bulky
  • Poor quality in stitching

Our ratings:

Weight limit for kids: 40 – 100 pounds
Ease for travel: 4 out of 5
Ease of installation: 5 out of 5
Convert to Booster: No
Value for money: 3 out of 5

6. Britax Frontier ClickTight Harness-2-Booster Car Seat

Highlighted Features
  • It has a Patented ClickTight that makes installation easy
  • It easily transitions from the harness to belt-positioning booster to fit your kids as they grow
  • No-rethreading
  • It comes with 9-position harness with a headrest for a comfortable and secure fit

Britax is a great name in car seats, consistently ranked high for safety by Consumer Reports. This 25-pound Britax Harness-2-Booster is no different. The seat offers nine positions without having to redo the belts, with the seat holding weights up to 90 pounds and the high-back booster accommodating up to 120 pounds and 36 inches. The seat doesn’t convert into a backless booster, which doesn’t make this $280, heavy car seat an option for older kids, who will outgrow it after their shoulders pass the 19.5-inch top harness. 

But for kids who need a car seat and high-backed booster, 78 percent of parents give it a 5-star rating and love the safety features, material and durability. Parents reviewing the good and the bad find it’s easy to install and switch to other cars, but as one father pointed out: “It’s good but with one major flaw that will require you to fix. The back of it where the belt runs back and forth will rub against your car’s seat and make it very hard to adjust the strap when the weight of your child is pushing on it.” 

Pros
  • Easy to install
  • Value for money
  • Comfortable
  • Safety 5 point harness
  • Takes up less space
Cons
  • It’s pretty Heavy
  • The straps won’t tighten or lockout

Our ratings:

Weight limit for kids: 25 - 120 pounds
Ease for travel: 2 out of 5
Ease of installation: 3 out of 5
Convert to Booster: No
Value for money: 2 out of 5

Best Travel Car Seats and Boosters For Toddlers Buying Guide

When buying car seats and boosters for toddlers, there are a few things that you need to consider.  In this section, we will take you through a list of the most critical considerations:

Safety

The ‘winged’ booster seats are the safest. The reason is that they offer protection for your child’s head and neck in a side-impact crash.  The only downside of these seat boosters is that you cannot always carry them when traveling for long distances.

Weight and Size

While some travel booster seats are ideal for local trips and days out and about, others are ideal for longer distances where you are restricted on how much you can carry.

Therefore, you must consider how you intend to use a booster seat while on the go. If you will be taking multiple cabs and will be carrying the booster in your bag, you need to ensure that it is lightweight and compact.

Also, if you expect the kids to carry their booster seats in their hand luggage, then the weight is an important consideration.

However, if you intend to hire a car on arrival at your destination, then you can choose a more robust option. You can go for options like the high back booster. Still, you will need to select a small booster seat that can easily be checked with the rest of your luggage.

Versatility

Some seats are designed to serve more than one purpose.  That is great, mainly if you have limited luggage space and want to get the best value for your money.

Car Seat Law

By law, all children must be in an appropriately sized car seat. If you are traveling abroad, check the regulations for booster seats in the country you are visiting. It is important to note that the rules often change, thus the need to do thorough research for the most current laws in your country of destination. Some states will require that the boosters have specific labels for them to be legal for use. So, you must read these regulations keenly.

Just to sample some countries:

In Asia, the car seats and boosters are very relaxed. When you move to other countries like Singapore, there are no rules at all.

In Europe, the rules differ. In the past, you could use a booster car seat for children from 4 years. At the moment, the minimum height is 125 cm and weighs 22kgs for using a backless booster seat. In most countries, kids can start using the regular adult seat at an altitude of 135 cm. However, other states require kids under 150 cm and under 12 years to use a booster seat.

Always remember to research the laws of the specific country you intend to visit since the rules keep changing.

Car Seat Fitting Tips

The back seat is the most recommended place to place car seats as most crashes impact the front of the car. If not possible, it is crucial for the rear-facing child car seats that the front passenger airbag is disabled as the baby’s head in this position would be too close to the airbag if it was triggered.

If you wish to put the kid in a forward-facing seat in the front of the car, it is essential to move the seat as far back as possible to increase the distance between the child and the airbag.

The manufacturer will offer to fit the seat for you when you buy it. However, it is vital to make sure that you read and follow the fitting instructions carefully and look out for any signs that show the seat is not well fitted.

If the seatbelt is twisted or sits incorrectly across the child, alarm bells will go off. Make sure that you remove bulky jumpers and coats before adjusting the slack.

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