How to Travel Smartly With the Best Car Seat for Airplane Travel

Flying with a car seat can turn into a real nightmare when you bring a bulky, massive convertible car seat. But, it's the FAA-approved model; what can you do, right?

Well, you can do a lot! There are plenty of traveler car seats, FAA-approved, and specially designed to be compact and lightweight. What is more, some of the models I found come with a carrying bag, so you don't even have to struggle with the transport. And the best thing is the affordable price that will keep you on the budget. 

But, now you're suspicious:

"Are these seats really safe for my child?"

As a parent myself, I checked all the seats to make sure they meet or exceed Federal Safety Standards, and composed the list of 7 best car seat for airplane travel below

Check them out!

Top 3 Recommendations

Don't hurry into my reviews; firstly, glance at this overview to see how the customers rated the top three recommendations I found, their current prices on the market, and what makes them so special!

Editor's Choices
Chicco KeyFit 30 Infant Car Seat, Orion*
Child Airplane Travel Harness - Cares Safety Restraint System - The Only FAA Approved Child Flying...*
Best Selling
Cosco Scenera Next Convertible Car Seat with Cup Holder (Moon Mist Grey)*
Price
$199.99
$57.01
$58.56
Prime
-
Customer's Rating
Best Feature
The Best Infant Car Seat for Airplane Travel
The Best Harness for Traveling
The Budget-Pick
Editor's Choices
Chicco KeyFit 30 Infant Car Seat, Orion*
Price
$199.99
Prime
Customer's Rating
Best Feature
The Best Infant Car Seat for Airplane Travel
Child Airplane Travel Harness - Cares Safety Restraint System - The Only FAA Approved Child Flying...*
Price
$57.01
Prime
Customer's Rating
Best Feature
The Best Harness for Traveling
Best Selling
Cosco Scenera Next Convertible Car Seat with Cup Holder (Moon Mist Grey)*
Price
$58.56
Prime
-
Customer's Rating
Best Feature
The Budget-Pick

Best Car Seat for Airplane Travel on the Market: My Top 7 Choices

Chicco KeyFit 30 Infant - The Best Infant Car Seat for Airplane Travel

I honestly doubt there is a better infant car seat than Chicco KeyFit 30. It is incredibly well designed, taking up very little space and providing your child all the comfort it needs. Above all, this car seat is also fantastic for airplane travel because it does not weigh too much and features an ultra-compact design.

The fact that this is the bestseller infant car seat in America speaks for itself. It is built to accommodate infants from four to thirty pounds in weight and up to thirty inches in height.

I always admired the advanced design of Chicco KeyFit 30. It has a spring-loaded leveling foot, ReclineSure leveling system, and the bubble level indicators. With all these handy additions, you can always be sure you installed the seat correctly, and your baby is comfortably positioned.

Additionally, the SuperCinch LATCH tightener helps you install the seat tightly along with the one-pull harness tightener.

The seat, of course, features a 5-point harness system that adjusts easily. Plus, the carry handle features an ergonomic design and two positions, so you can carry the seta conveniently.

Compared to the other offers I found, I have to admit this seat is a bit heavier, 17 pounds. But it features an ultra-compact design and thus fits into the airplane seat easily.

The seat meets federal safety standards and is FAA-approved. Plus, it is compatible with Chicco strollers, so you can use it as a car seat, stroller, and airplane seat. It truly pays off!

However, I cannot but mention that once your child overgrows it, you'll need to buy a new seat, which can be costly, so plan your finances upfront with this one. 

Pros
  • Super-safe
  • Compact
  • Advanced design
  • Bestseller
  • Easy installment
  • Can be used as a stroller
Cons
  • Infant seat only
  • Not the lightest option

Child Airplane Travel Harness - The Best Harness for Traveling

If you have done your research, as I have, you're probably not even considering a harness of any kind for the travel restraint of your child. And, that's reasonable. Federally-approved car seats are the safest restraint systems for children on the market, and they should always be your first choice.

However, there is one travel harness, FAA-approved for airplanes, perfectly safe and pretty easy to use; it's the CARES Safety Restraint System. But always make sure you're buying the original CARES system because it is the only harness approved, and the fake products are probably not safe.

This child restraint harness system was specially designed for airplane use and can be used for children at least one-year-old. The bottom weight limit is twenty-two pounds, while the maximum weight is forty-four pounds.

What I like about this restraint system is the portability

The entire system weighs one pound and can be packed into a six-inch sack. I always hated dragging the car seat to the plane and pushing people down the aisle. With this harness, everything is effortless.

This harness is made in one size only, but it can be adjusted to fit almost every airplane seat and tightly attached to perfectly protect your child.

Supposedly, the system's installation takes less than a minute, and it can be used on all forward-facing plane seats. But, it must not be installed on side-facing seats or near the exit.

Another thing I like about this harness is the price. Since you are allowed to use the restraint system in planes only, it would be unreasonable to pay a car seat price, so I think it's pretty affordable.

Pros
  • Lightweight
  • Portable
  • Easy to install
  • Adjustable
  • Affordable
Cons
  • Not for infants
  • Aircraft-use only

Cosco Scenera Next - The Budget-Pick

As always, Cosco found its way to my list. This time, I have chosen Cosco Scenera Next, simply because of its simple and lightweight design that, alongside other significant advantages, makes it a perfect seat for plane travel. It does not differ much from other Cosco convertibles, but it does have the lightest design and compact size.

What I found here is one compact convertible car seat, built to fit three across. It is genuinely lightweight, 10.38 pounds, so it definitely won't cause you trouble carrying it down the plane aisle, and it will fit most of the airplane seats.

Cosco Scenera Next is a convertible car seat with a rear-facing and forward-facing mode. Children can ride rear-facing as long as they weigh between five and forty pounds, while the forward-facing mode is allowed for kids from twenty-two to forty pounds in weight.

The reason I honestly love this seat is its simple yet perfectly safe design. It incorporates a five-point harness with three buckle positions and five heights that can be adjusted from the front for your convenience.

What is more, Cosco Scenera Next has integrated side impact protection and meets the federal safety standards. It features the FAA-approval, so no one can bother you for using it in a plane.

Even though a budget-pick, this Cosco seat is in many ways the 'next' seat generation, as the name implies. It has many different padding designs, and you can take the seat pad off to wash it. Also, the cup holder is detachable and can be washed in a dishwasher.

I'd say this seat is in the top five seats I would use on an airplane; it's lightweight, compact, safe, and does not cost too much.

Pros
  • Compact
  • Lightweight design
  • Easy to use
  • Adjustable 5-point harness
  • FAA-approved
  • Side impact protection
  • Affordable
Cons



Tribute LX Convertible Car Seat - The Best Compact Car Seat

When it comes to airplanes' car seats, the most significant things to care for are the weight and portability.

Going through the plane aisle can turn into a nightmare, especially if you don't arrange an early check-in. That's when you realize how precious compact car sats are. This model from Evenflo is exactly one of that kind, lightweight, simple, and portable.

Evenflo Tribute LX is a classic convertible car seat with two modes, a rear-facing and a forward-facing. The rear-facing mode can be used if your kids weigh between five and 40 pounds, while the forward-facing is for kids between twenty-two and 40 pounds in weight.

This convertible car seat weighs barely twelve pounds, which, as I mentioned, means everything when you're supposed to carry all the baggage and your kids to the airport and through the airplane aisle.

Evenflo Tribute LX incorporates a five-point harness with four different shoulder strap positions that can be adjusted from the front. It has a removable cup holder, so you can take it off to create more space and fit the seat correctly in the airplane seat.

Now, Evenflo is a reliable manufacturer, being on the market for more than 100 years; hence, despite the low price, their car seats are honestly safe.

I find it essential to note that this model exceeds all the federal safety standards and includes the essential side impact protection. It keeps your child intact in the case of an accident or sudden plane turbulence that can create a side impact on the seat.

Finally, since the seat is pretty affordable, for around $100, you can get the seat and also buy a travel bag and travel strap to attach the seat to your suitcase and transport it to the airport effortlessly. 

Pros
  • Reliable
  • Affordable
  • Lightweight
  • Two modes
  • Adjustable strap
  • Safe
Cons
  • /

Cosco Convertible Car Seat-Apt 50 - Cost-Efficient and Reliable

Here, I selected another awesome car seat model from Cosco, very functional and not at all expensive - Cosco Apt 50 Convertible.

When compared to Scenera Next, Apt 50 is negligently heavier, but it allows longer use since it accommodates children up to fifty pounds in weight, while Scenera can support kids up to 40 pounds heavy.

Cosco Apt 50 is a convertible car seat that can be used in a rear-facing mode and front-facing mode. When used rear-facing, it can support kids from five to 40 pounds, while the front-facing position can be used for kids up to fifty pounds in weight.

I would recommend this car seat for plane use because it weighs barely eleven pounds and features a pretty compact design. With that in mind, you definitely don't have to worry about transport to the airport too much, and people won't hate you for blocking the plane aisle. Everything runs smoothly.

Now, the seat features a five-point harness with three buckle positions and six heights. What is more, it incorporates the side impact protection, so your kid is super-safe in cases of turbulence or, God forbid, an accident.

Just like the Scenera model, Apt 50 also has removable pads that can be washed in a washing machine and dryer in a dryer. Therefore, keeping your baby equipment has never been easier.

Finally, you get a solid convertible seat for less than sixty dollars that meets federal safety standards and is approved for aircraft use and a 1-year warranty. Given that Cosco is a reliable manufacturer, being on the market for more than seventy years, this sounds like an excellent offer to me.

Pros
  • Affordable
  • FAA-approved
  • Safe
  • Comes with a guarantee
  • Two modes
  • Lightweight
  • Compact
Cons
  • Not the highest quality

WAYB Pico Travel Car Seat and Travel Bag - The Ultimate Travel Car Seat

Slowly we've come to one extraordinary piece of baby equipment, WAY Pico Travel Car Seat, a specifically adapted front-facing car seat for traveling. Name anything you'd want from a travel car seat; this model has it! It's lightweight, foldable, compact, federally-approved, and comes with a carry bag.

Pico travel seat includes a five-point harness and convenient LATCH system that allows easy installation with a seat belt or a plane belt.

The seat is exceptionally lightweight, it weighs only eight pounds, and despite such a light construction, it meets the federal safety standards. The secret behind its design hides in the AeroWing aerospace-grade aluminum frame and AstroKnit mesh fabric that allows breathability.

The best part is that this travel car seat is foldable and comes with a carrying sack that you can wear as a backpack or connect to your luggage. I find this genius! When I was flying with a car seat, my biggest problem was the transport, so when the seat folds flat, it really means the world.

Unlike other models on my list, this car seat is only front-facing, and it is allowed for kids at least two years of age and between twenty-two and fifty pounds in weight.

Importantly, it is FAA-approved for aircraft use, and it meets all the safety standards listed in FMVSS 213.

I would most definitely buy this seat for traveling, yet I don't find it very reliable for everyday use since it reminds me more of a booster seat than an ultra-safe child restraint system. But given that it passed safety tests, it should be given a chance.

Pros
  • Lightweight
  • Foldable
  • Compact
  • Meets safety standards
  • Comes with a bag
Cons
  • Front-facing only

Safety 1st Continuum 3-in-1 - The Best 3-in-1 Convertible Car Seat for Flying

The last car seat I selected is this three-in-one convertible from Safety 1st, pretty functional and a bit pricey when compared to the previous offers on my list, yet truly lightweight for a 3-in-1, so you can buy it for everyday use and still use it when flying.

The seat includes three modes, rear-facing, front-facing, and belt-positioning booster seats. The rear-facing mode is recommended for children between five and 40 pounds, front-facing for children between twenty-two and fifty pounds, and booster seat supports kids weighing between forty and eighty pounds.

When compared to the other convertible car seats, I reviewed thus far, this seat is a bit upgraded. It has three recline positions, harness holders for easy in and out, side-impact protection, and a Quick Fit system. Quick Fit system allows you to adjust the harness and the headrest in one motion only.

This car seat is an excellent infant car seat because it includes the removable infant pillows to enable a snug fit and comfortable ride.

What is more, you can take off the seat pads and wash them in a machine to keep everything clean. Also, the cup holders are removable as well, so you can take them off when flying to fit the seat more easily.

Finally, the seat itself weighs fourteen pounds, so it is not the lightest option, but also not too heavy. And it is, of course, FAA-approved, so you can use it on aircraft legally.

I love this model because it is pretty well-built and can be used safely every day, and at the same time, it doesn't weigh too much, so it can as well be used for traveling.

Pros
  • Three-in-one design
  • Lightweight
  • Includes a booster seat
  • FAA-approved
  • Three recline positions
  • Great for infants
Cons
  • /

Car Seats for Airplane Travel: A Buyer's Guide

Finding the appropriate traveling car seat for your child is by no means an easy task.

Should you go with a convertible car seat or find an infant car seat? 

Is there a travel harness you can use?

Can a seat belt fasten the travel car seat appropriately?

I guess these are only some of the dilemmas you are having at this moment. I felt the same when I was buying the traveler car seat for the first time. But once you go through it, you become an expert

So today, I am sharing my tips and tricks with you, so stay tuned!

Tip #1

Choose convertible car seats over one-mode travel car seats. 

Convertibles are usually lighter than infant car seats and therefore won't be as much of trouble carrying to the airport.

Tip #2

Make sure the seat is no more than 12 pounds heavy

Ideally, look for the seats 10 pounds heavy or so, since you'll have to carry them to the airport and down the aisle.

Tip #3

best car seat cover for airplane travel

Buy a cheap convertible car seat for traveling only

Cheaper seats are less heavy because they usually incorporate cheaper materials that are not as durable as perhaps steel, but hey, you'll only be using it for traveling.

I recommend checking Cosco's and Evenflo's offer.

Tip #4

Check for the compact models, fit-three-across, preferably. 

These convertible car seats are made to fit small cars and will come in handy in the narrow plane aisle.

The Must-Haves

  • Never purchase a car seat that is not FAA-approved. Check for the sticker on the surface of the seat that says the seat is approved for plane use.
  • Airplane car seats also need to be federally-approved. Therefore never buy a car seat that did not meet the federal safety standard.
  • Don't buy booster seats! Booster car seats are not federally approved for use on aircraft. Every travel car seat that you are planning to use on a plane needs to have an internal harness. So you can either choose a rear-facing/forward-facing car seat or a convertible car seat.

To sum it all up, travel car seats should be lightweight (preferably around ten pounds); therefore, a convertible car seat is a way better option than an infant car seat.

They should be compact, so check for fit-three-across models. But, above all, travel car seats need to be federally approved.

Additional Information

best car seat for traveling by air

Did you know that car seats are not obligatory on a plane? However, flying with an infant on a lap is not at all safe.

As inconvenient as it is, bringing a car seat on a plane is the safest way to accommodate your child while flying. For more advice that will make flying with your infant less demanding, look at these articles:

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you bring a travel car seat on a plane?

YES, you sure can! All FAA-approved car seats can be brought and installed in a plane.


What car seats are airline approved?

All the car seats that have the FAA-approved sticker on them are approved for the use on aircraft.


Can you install a car seat in a plane seat?

YES, you can! Here is one useful video on how to install a car seat in a plane seat:


What is the best seat for my baby on a plane?

If you're traveling with a child and planning to use a car seat, it is best to avoid the seats near the exit rows.

In fact, many airlines forbid installing a car seat here, so it is best to ask the flight attendant for exact instructions.


How to fly with a car seat?

best child seat for airplane travel

Final Thoughts

That’s it, these were the car seats for airplanes I would honestly recommend. I hope you found this text helpful because my genuine intention was to share all I know and ease your troubles with the traveller car seats.

I would like to note once again that all the FAA-approved car seats, except for a booster seat, can be used on aircraft. My first recommendation is Chicco KeyFit 30 Infant for infants. It is honestly the most securely built car seat, a bestseller on the market, and the best car seat for airplane travel.

Chicco KeyFit 30 Infant Car Seat, Orion*
  • The #1-rated infant car seat in America!
  • Easiest to install with Recline Sure levelling foot, Ride Right bubble levels, and Super Cinch LATCH tightened
  • Designed for travel system use with compatible Chicco strollers (sold separately)
  • Removable new-born head and body supports. For infants from 4 to 30 lbs and up to 30 inches in height
  • 5-point harness with easy-pull tightened. 2-position carry-handle with comfortable grip; Product Max Seated Height: 19.5 Inches

For toddlers, I recommend this harness Child Airplane Travel HarnessIt is federally approved yet lightweight and super-portable.

Kathy Warner

Kathy is a busy mother of two and a CPS technician for more than eight years. Her mission is to awaken parents to the importance of child passenger safety and show them the right practice. You can read more about her here