- Baby and kid
The Best Travel Car Seats
Let’s face it: Traveling with little kids can be a slog. But a lightweight, compact, easy-to-install travel car seat is one tool that can help make trips a bit easier.
We’ve tested 17 travel car seats for infants and up, and examined how they perform in various circumstances, including during air travel and in rental cars. The Chicco KeyFit 35 , one of our picks for the best infant car seats , is an excellent choice for both travel and everyday use. For an affordable and easy-to-use convertible car seat for toddlers and preschoolers, we recommend traveling with the Cosco Scenera Next , which fits kids up to 40 inches tall for rear-facing or 43 inches for forward-facing. For kids bigger than that who still need a seat with a five-point harness, we recommend the Cosco Finale 2-in-1 , which also converts to a high-back booster. The backless, lightweight Cosco Rise is great for booster-age kids.
If you’ll be hopping in and out of taxis or rideshares with a baby, the Doona is a unique but expensive infant car seat that converts to a stroller. And instead of purchasing a dedicated convertible car seat for travel, another option is to bring yours along with the Britax Travel Cart .
Everything we recommend
Chicco KeyFit 35
The best infant car seat for travel.
If you’re a frequent traveler, the Chicco KeyFit 35 is easier than most infant car seats to install securely without its base.
An infant car seat and stroller in one
This unusual car seat has integrated wheels that pop out to turn it into a stroller. It’s best for parents who frequently need to move their car seat in and out of different vehicles.
Cosco Scenera Next
The best convertible car seat for travel.
This affordable and easy-to-use car seat weighs 6.8 pounds and can be used rear- and forward-facing. But kids can outgrow it quickly.
Cosco Finale 2-in-1 Booster Car Seat
The best harness booster car seat for travel.
This no-frills seat converts from a forward-facing five-point harness to a high-back booster. It weighs just 12 pounds.
Britax Travel Cart
A travel cart for lugging your own seat through the airport.
This sturdy, smooth-rolling travel cart helps you transport your own convertible car seat—and avoid buying a standalone travel seat. You can even strap your child into their seat and use it like a stroller.
The best backless booster seat for travel
This basic booster seat weighs only 2.2 pounds and can work for children as small as 40 pounds. But it has a rather large footprint and will be too big to fit in most carry-ons.
How we picked
A seat that’s lightweight is more manageable to carry between multiple locations. A more compact seat is also easier to pack.
We considered the seat’s comfort and ability to adjust straps and buckles.
Ease of installation is paramount, as the easier it is to do, the more likely it will be done properly.
We looked at crash-testing scores and ease-of-use ratings. Our infant, convertible, and harness booster picks are FAA-approved for use on a plane.
The Chicco KeyFit 35 is a great all-around infant car seat—and one of the ones we recommend for everyday use. But for travel it stands out: It has a European belt path that makes it easier to get a secure install without the base than for many car seats, and it’s cheaper than other seats that have this belt routing option.
Weight of seat: 10 pounds Orientation: rear-facing only Weight range: 4 to 35 pounds Height limit: 32 inches
Parents who can’t leave their infant seat base installed in a specific car but instead need to travel by taxi or rideshare frequently may find the innovative Doona to be a convenient option. This sleek infant car seat has integrated wheels and converts to a stroller that maneuvers easily, plus the seat is FAA-approved for use on an airplane. But the versatile Doona is much heavier and more expensive than a regular infant car seat.
Weight of seat: 14.3 pounds Orientation: rear-facing only Weight range: 4 to 35 pounds Height limit: 32 inches
The Cosco Scenera Next is a notably lightweight, affordable convertible car seat that is simple to install and carry on an airplane. It receives strong safety ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and is FAA-approved for use on a plane. But many kids will outgrow it before they reach the height or weight limit because of the low position of the shoulder straps.
Weight of seat: 6.8 pounds Orientation: rear- or forward-facing Weight range: 5 to 40 pounds rear-facing; 22-40 pounds forward-facing Height range: 19-40 inches rear-facing; 29-43 inches forward-facing
For children using a forward-facing five-point harness, the Cosco Finale 2-in-1 is a lightweight and affordable travel option that is FAA-approved for use on a plane (in harness mode only). It also converts to a high-back booster. However, it has lower height limits than some boosters so kids may not get as many years of use out of it compared to more expensive options.
Weight of seat: 12 pounds Orientation: forward-facing only Weight range: 30 to 65 pounds for harness mode; 40 to 100 pounds for high-back mode Height range: 32 to 49 inches for harness mode; 43 to 52 inches for high-back mode
Bringing your own car seat to the airport has one big advantage—you don’t have to learn how to install yet another seat. But your own convertible car seat is likely to be heavy (our picks in our guide to convertible car seats range from 19 to 33 pounds). The Britax Travel Cart is compatible with most convertible seats, and when your car seat is secured to it with LATCH, you can use it like a stroller to push your toddler through the airport. The cart can then be stored in an overhead bin during your flight.
Weight of cart: 7.6 pounds
If you need a cheap, no-frills booster seat, we recommend the Cosco Rise . It’s a bit too large to fit into a carry-on suitcase or backpack, but it’s easy to attach with a bungee cord to a carry-on for plane travel. It’s also a great option if you just need a spare booster for carpools or to order ahead for use at the grandparents' house.
Weight of seat: 2.2 pounds Weight range: 40 to 100 pounds Height range: 43 to 57 inches
Why you should trust us, who should get this, the best infant car seat for travel: chicco keyfit 35, an infant seat and stroller in one: doona, the best convertible car seat for travel: cosco scenera next, the best harness booster seat for travel: cosco finale 2-in-1, a great car seat caddy: britax travel cart, the best booster seat for travel: cosco rise, other good travel car seats, should a kid sit in a car seat on the airplane, what about checking a car seat, the competition, care, use, and maintenance.
The authors of this guide have collectively interviewed 40 industry experts, safety authorities, and physicians. Among them were certified Child Passenger Safety Technicians (CPSTs) such as Lani Harrison, who installs more than 300 car seats each year; Dr. Aditya Belwadi, a biomechanics research scientist who previously led the child passenger safety research team at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and now works at Tesla in Crash, Safety, and Occupant Protection/Biomechanics; and Bill Horn, head sled testing engineer at Calspan , one of the country’s top crash-testing facilities. The authors also talked with dozens of parents and representatives from leading car seat manufacturers.
The original version of this guide was written by Rebecca Gale, whose reporting on policy and parenting has appeared in outlets including The New York Times, Slate, and The Washington Post. Rebecca has also been certified as a CPST, completing a 40-hour training program through the Safe Kids Worldwide organization.
In 2022 and 2023, this guide was updated by Christina Szalinski, a science writer whose reporting on health and parenting has appeared in The Atlantic and Kaiser Health News . In addition to writing the most recent versions of Wirecutter’s infant and convertible car seat guides, Christina is responsible for Wirecutter’s guides to the Best Baby Formula and kids face masks .
Few people strictly need a separate car seat for travel as you can gate- or baggage-check any car seat for free with most airlines. But lugging your regular (likely heavy and bulky) seat in and out of the car and through the airport can be a major hassle. Investing in a smaller, lighter-weight option may be worthwhile, especially if you fly or use ridesharing services or taxis frequently.
Infant car seats for travel
If you’re traveling with an infant or baby, bringing along your usual infant car seat without its base (to cut down on weight and heft) is typically the best option. Our top infant car seat pick, the Graco SnugRide SnugFit 35 DLX , is relatively lightweight and, like other infant car seats, can be safely strapped in with a seatbelt only and no base.
There are two possible ways to install an infant car seat without a base: either with the belt directly across the top, called “American routing,” or with the shoulder belt placed around the back of the seat in addition to the top, called “European routing.” It’s easier to get a secure fit with European routing, and two seats we recommend in our guide to infant car seats, the Chicco KeyFit 35 and the Clek Liing , are designed to allow for that type of install. If you know you’ll be traveling with your infant often, it may be worthwhile to choose one of these as your baby’s first car seat.
Many infant car seats are compatible with easy-to-fold stroller frames, such as the Chicco KeyFit Caddy , which turns an infant car seat into a stroller and can be convenient for travel. Most infant seats are FAA-approved for airplane use, should you decide to purchase an airplane seat for your infant.
Convertible car seats for travel
When your child has outgrown their infant car seat, deciding on a car seat for travel can be trickier. Alisa Baer, a pediatrician, CPST, and co-founder of the website The Car Seat Lady , recommends bringing your own convertible car seat and using a travel cart . That way you have a seat that you’re already comfortable installing. But some people will prefer a dedicated travel car seat, as they can be significantly lighter than regular seats—as little as 7 pounds versus 20 to 30 pounds.
If you do buy a dedicated travel seat, it’s a good idea to practice installing it before your trip—you don’t want to be figuring it out for the first time when you, and your kid, are potentially jet lagged and feeling extra cranky. Installation can be the most time-consuming and frustrating part of using a car seat—and particularly a convertible car seat—and is often the point of failure for using a car seat correctly.
Booster seats for travel
If your everyday booster seat has a removable back (as with our top pick and runner-up pick, the Chicco KidFit ClearTex Plus and the Graco TurboBooster LX ), you may prefer to simply bring that seat for travel, leaving the bulky back at home. But like with convertible seats, it’s also an option to get a dedicated travel booster that may be significantly lighter and smaller than the one you rely on every day.
Jessica Jermakian, vice president for vehicle research at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, offered several tips for bringing along a backless booster, especially if it’s not one that’s compact: “I bungee cord them to my luggage while traversing the airport. On most flights, my kids could shove them under the seat in front of them and still have room to throw their backpack on top. On some flights, I’ve put them in a tote in the overhead compartment.”
Travel car seat alternatives
If you’re headed to a familiar destination, you could look into borrowing a seat from friends or relatives. Or, you may be able to rent one through a baby equipment rental service.
Many car rental companies also offer car seats for a daily fee, but it can cost up to $15 a day—adding up to much more than the cost of a travel car seat, which can be less than $50. And though you can reserve one in advance, rental car seats are subject to availability, so there’s no guarantee that one will be available when you arrive. The car seat provided may also be difficult to install properly, especially in an unfamiliar car. That said, you may be able to find discounts or other benefits through programs such as AAA, which offers one free car seat rental for members when they book a car through Hertz, Dollar, or Thrifty. Ridesharing and airport and town car services may also provide a car seat with advance reservations.
There are hundreds of travel car seat options for infants, toddlers, and older kids. We began the whittling down process by examining online customer reviews and existing media coverage, which included going to Car Seats for the Littles , Lucie’s List , and the Car Seat Lady . We found the travel car seat category to be sorely lacking in an abundance of great options, so we also considered some “regular” car seats and alternatives.
We knew from our expert interviews that proper installation is generally a far bigger problem than the level of protection that a seat inherently provides, so we searched the NHTSA ease-of-use installation database to help determine which seats offer easy installation and come with clear instructions. We also relied on the personal experience of Wirecutter staffers, volunteer testers, and car seat techs who had used the car seats in the past.
Our research led us to conclude that the ideal travel car seat should be:
Lightweight and compact: A travel car seat will likely need to be carried between multiple locations, sometimes with a baby inside (if we’re talking about an infant). The less the seat weighs, the easier it is to deal with when combined with children and carry-on items. A more compact seat can also fit more readily in a wide variety of vehicles.
FAA approved: For parents who want to use their infant seat, convertible car seat, or harness booster on a plane, FAA certification is crucial.
Easy to install: As with all of our car seat recommendations, ease of installation is paramount, as the easier it is to do, the more likely it is to be done properly.
Easy to use: Straps should be simple to adjust to get a snug but comfortable fit in a five-point harness. The buckles should be easy for parents to clip and unclip but difficult to impossible for children to mess with. We considered the experience of both parents and kids in using the seats, as well as how easy each seat was to clean.
Safe: When it comes to travel, convenience can trump a minor safety advantage; a seat that you can bring along with you is vastly superior to no seat at all. Still, we did take the relevant government safety data from NHTSA into consideration.
Over the past five years we’ve tested 17 car seats with travel specifically in mind.
If you’re shopping for an infant car seat with travel in mind, we recommend the FAA-approved Chicco KeyFit 35 , one of our picks in our guide to infant car seats . It is lightweight and easy to use, and it can be installed securely without its base using the European belt path, a method that generally provides a superior install. (Any infant seat can be installed without its base, so if you already have an infant seat, using what you already own is likely the easiest choice.)
You can save on weight and bulk by leaving a car seat base at home when traveling. There are two ways to install an infant seat without its base. The most common is American belt routing, in which the seat belt goes over the top of the infant seat and the baby’s knees. We’ve found that it can be very difficult to secure an infant seat in the car securely using this method.
A few seats also offer the option to rely on the European belt path, the method we prefer, in which the lap belt goes over the top of the infant seat and the shoulder belt goes around the back. It’s easier to get a secure install with the European belt path, but it’s only found on a few car seat models. Of the four infant car seats we recommend, only the Chicco KeyFit 35 and Clek Liing offer the option of using the European belt path.
Beyond the advantage of the European belt bath, the Chicco KeyFit 35 has everything we love about the more popular Chicco KeyFit 30 with a few bonus features, such as an anti-rebound base as an added safety option. The KeyFit 35 can also accommodate a slightly larger baby (up to 35 pounds) than the KeyFit 30.
Flaws but not dealbreakers
The KeyFit 35 is about $50 more than our top infant car seat choice, the Graco SnugRide SnugFit 35 DLX . It probably doesn’t make sense to buy this seat just for travel if you already own a similar infant car seat. But if you plan to be jet-setting with your baby, it may be worth the additional $50 or so to get a better on-the-go install from the start.
The Doona is an FAA-approved infant car seat (rear-facing only) with built-in wheels that allow it to convert to a stroller. For travel, this is about as convenient as it gets, allowing caregivers to rely on a single piece of equipment to accomplish two goals: avoid gate-checking a stroller—assuming an airline seat is purchased for the infant—and hop in and out of cabs without having to stow anything in the trunk.
Compared with a regular infant car seat, the Doona has some drawbacks. For one thing, it did not perform particularly well in Baby Gear Lab’s crash testing (there are no government crash tests available yet for this seat). For this reason, and because it’s tricky to install without its base (as most infant seats are), one of our car seat experts does not recommend this seat. At 14.3 pounds, it’s heavy and bulky to carry and maneuver when in car seat mode. The Doona also has the steepest price of any of the car seats (including infant, convertible, and boosters) that we’ve reviewed. It does come with a traditional infant car seat base that allows for an easy click in and out of a car, but the extra width means it could be impossible to fit three across in a backseat. And it would defeat the point to use that base for travel.
Switching the Doona from car seat mode to stroller mode and back requires “both hands and concentration,” said one tester, as well as “quite a bit of practice for me. It takes a rather specific, subtle motion to collapse it back and tuck the wheels.” It’s harder than taking a regular infant car seat off of a stroller with an infant seat attachment. Plus, once your child outgrows this seat, you’ll have to buy another stroller.
As a stroller, the Doona maneuvers easily, and the brake is intuitive and easy to use. But though it comes with an attached storage bag, the Doona lacks a storage basket.
The inexpensive Cosco Scenera Next weighs just 6.8 pounds, is relatively easy to carry and install, and can be used rear-facing from 5 to 40 pounds and forward-facing from 22 to 40 pounds. It’s FAA-certified and easy to install on an airplane (using the plane’s seatbelt).
The Cosco sells for $60, which is a bargain compared with many convertible car seats (the Graco Extend2Fit , our favorite convertible seat for everyday use, is a little over $200). The seat gets strong safety ratings from NHTSA, and given its low weight and heft and easy-enough install, we think it’s the best option available for an on-the-go or backup car seat. We strongly prefer the (heftier) Graco Extend2Fit for everyday use. That’s because it’s easier to get a safe, secure install with that seat and to adjust it to fit the child. Plus, it can be used forward-facing until a kid is 65 pounds and 49 inches tall—a much longer usable life than the Scenera Next.
Several Wirecutter staffers use or have used the Cosco Scenera Next, appreciating its low cost, low weight, and small size. They’ve found that the seat’s slim profile makes it a great option for smaller cars (specifically, a Prius or Renault Scenic). Senior editor Courtney Schley found that the Cosco allowed her to get three seats (two Coscos and one infant car seat) across in her family’s car.
The Scenera Next’s low shoulder straps mean that a child may outgrow this seat well before they are ready for a booster. ( Shoulder straps should hit at or below the shoulders when a child is rear-facing; when forward-facing the straps should hit at or above the shoulders.) The low straps mean that many 3-year-olds with longer torsos may outgrow the seat in forward-facing mode, even though the seat’s height and weight limits indicate that it should fit an average-size kid up to age 4. With a long torso, the straps end up hitting below the shoulders, a situation that can compromise safety.
Though the Scenera Next is simple to install compared with other lightweight convertible car seats we tested, some of our testers still found it difficult to get a tight, secure install. It has hook LATCH straps that aren’t particularly easy to use—you really have to tug on the LATCH straps to get a tight fit, and getting them off can be an even bigger challenge. We preferred installing the seat with a seat belt in unfamiliar cars, which was an easier way to get a tight install (try the inside/outside trick with the shoulder belt), and made it much easier to uninstall.
Our testers also found that the chest clip on the harness wasn’t as responsive or easy to use as those on more expensive seats. The Scenera Next also has less padding than many seats, though Baer points out that the padding on most seats is highly compressible, meaning that just because a seat looks fluffier doesn’t mean it provides much more cushion.
This seat also has a few downsides if you bring it on a plane. Like most convertible car seats, it’s wider than the aisle, so you have to carry it awkwardly down the plane to get to your seat, which can be quite a challenge if you’re on your own and have other carry-on items (plus your child). Additionally, the plane’s seat belt buckle is going to be pushing into your child’s back if the seat is oriented forward-facing. Alisa Baer, co-founder of The Car Seat Lady, recommends installing any seat with this issue rear-facing, even if a kid is used to forward-facing. Or you can put a diaper or other soft item over the buckle to make it a bit more comfortable.
The Cosco Finale 2-in-1 is a solid option for kids who are no longer rear-facing but still benefit from a five-point harness. It’s affordable, weighs just 12 pounds, and is relatively easy to install using the car’s seat belt while in harness mode (it also comes with LATCH straps, though we didn’t find these as easy to use). In booster mode, as with other boosters, it relies on the car’s seat belt to secure the child, so there’s no need to install it.
This bigger-kid seat can see a growing child through years of travel: It can be used as a forward-facing five-point harness booster seat from 30 to 65 pounds and then as a regular (harness-free) booster from 40 to 100 pounds (up until a child is 52 inches tall).
As a five-point harness, it’s FAA-certified and easy to install on an airplane using the plane’s seatbelt. However, when it’s in booster mode, like all boosters, it cannot be used on an airplane.
In harness mode, the Cosco Finale 2-in-1 performed well in an NHTSA crash test. And several Wirecutter staffers use or have used the Cosco Finale 2-in-1 while traveling after their child outgrew the Cosco Scenera Next—they liked the price and straightforward install. Converting the seat to a booster is fairly straightforward , and the seat has storage for the harness, crotch buckle, and chest clip. Once in booster mode, your child can’t use it on an airplane, but many airlines will allow you to check a booster seat for free (you may wish to check with your airline in advance).
A more expensive version of the Cosco Finale 2-in-1, the Cosco Finale DX 2-in-1 , is also available. The only difference between the two is the fabric—the DX has a tiny bit more cushion and a slightly less slippery texture. We asked several children to be blindfolded (to remove color preference as a factor) and try each seat, then report their favorite. There was no clear winner between the two seats, and our adult testers could hardly distinguish a difference in the cushioning. For this reason, we don’t think it’s worth the extra $20 for the DX.
When using the Finale 2-in-1 in harness mode you first have to install it in the car, which you can do either with the seat’s LATCH straps, or with the car’s seat belt. We found the Finale 2-in-1’s hook LATCH straps difficult to use—it’s hard to get a tight fit in the car, and getting them off can be a big challenge. As with the Cosco Scenera Next, we preferred installing the harnessed seat with a seat belt, which was an easier way to get a tight install (try the inside/outside trick with the shoulder belt), and also made it much easier to uninstall. (When the harness is removed and the seat is in booster mode, you do not need to install it in the car, as the car’s seat belt holds it in place and secures the child.)
Our testers also found that the chest clip on the harness was a bit more difficult to open compared to those on more expensive seats like the Graco Tranzitions 3-in-1 . The straps have to be manually threaded through the car seat, which isn’t particularly difficult or time consuming, but you have to remember to do it before you install the seat. It also has less padding than many seats, though our child testers didn’t complain (however, we didn’t take it on any long road trips).
This seat won’t have as many years of use as other travel options, like the Graco Tranzitions 3-in-1, because the Cosco has a maximum height of 52 inches (most boosters go to 57 inches) and does not convert to a backless booster.
If you need to travel with a convertible car seat, you can bring the one you already have to the airport and onto the airplane with the Britax Travel Cart . The main benefit of bringing your own is that you’ll have a seat that you (and your child) are comfortable with, and that you know how to install confidently.
There are a number of similar travel carts out there, but we think this one offers the most for the price. We like that when the car seat is strapped onto the cart using the car seat’s LATCH clips, you can use the whole thing like a stroller and push (or pull) your child through the airport. The frame is also studier than other models—it can hold a total of 100 pounds of car seat and child. Plus, when it’s time to get on the plane you can fold the cart to stow it in an overhead bin.
At about $100 for the cart, it is cheaper to purchase a budget convertible car seat like the Cosco Scenera Next. However, depending on your circumstances, the Britax Travel Cart may outlive the expiration of many car seats (which are between six and 10 years), and could be used for future car seats, or passed along without as much consideration as a used car seat.
For a cheap, no-frills booster seat, the Cosco Rise is a reliable option that weighs only 2.2 pounds. It’s simple to use: Like other backless booster seats, it does not need to be physically attached to the vehicle; a child simply sits in it and fastens the car’s lap belt over their knees (under the seat’s sides).
The Chicco GoFit Plus is our overall top pick for the best backless booster seat because it’s cushy, made with easy-to-clean materials, and includes two cup holders and a LATCH system to anchor the seat to the car. But it’s bulky, heavy, and not great for travel. The Cosco Rise has fewer bells and whistles, but it offers a key safety feature: Unlike many other boosters, this seat has a strap that attaches to a car’s shoulder belt to adjust the belt’s position for smaller riders (the shoulder belt should always rest on a child’s collarbone, and not against their neck).
The Cosco Rise can accommodate children as small as 40 pounds, as long as they are also 43 inches tall, meaning it will work for most kids 5 and up but may not accommodate some 4-year-olds.
This seat is a bit too large to fit easily into a carry-on suitcase or backpack (it takes up almost all the room top-to-bottom in a standard-sized carry-on, with only a little room left on the side). There is also almost no padding on this seat, merely a polyester cover, but for short rides, our testers didn’t complain.
If you want an upgraded infant seat that’s great for travel : We recommend the Clek Liing , one of our favorite infant seats . Like the Chicco KeyFit 35, the Clek Liing can be installed without its base using a European belt path, which is much easier to get secure than the standard American belt routing found on most infant car seats. And when you’re at home, we love how easy it is to install the Liing’s base, which includes an added safety feature: a load leg .
If you want a high-end infant seat and don’t own a car: The lightweight, easy-to-clean Clek Liingo is similar to the Clek Liing but without the base. In general, we think installing a seat with the base is an easier and more secure option with infant car seats. But if you don’t own a car, the Liingo can be installed without a base in several ways. It has the same European belt path that the Liing has, which routes the lap belt over the top and the shoulder belt around the back for more security than an install that just goes over the top of the seat. The Liingo also comes with a LATCH strap that routes in the same spot as the lap belt—though we found this was not nearly as secure as the European belt path routing.
If you want a longer lasting five-point harness seat for older kids: The Graco Tranzitions 3-in-1 is a good choice. This forward-facing-only seat has a five-point harness that holds kids from 22 to 65 pounds and up to 49 inches and can be adjusted without rethreading it, making it easier to modify as your child grows. When your child is ready for a regular booster, you can remove the harness and crotch buckle, converting the seat to a high-back booster that can hold a child from 40 to 100 pounds and up to 57 inches tall. Finally, you can remove the back and convert the seat to a lightweight backless booster that can also be used from 40 to 100 pounds and up to 57 inches tall.
First off, a car seat must be FAA-approved—as all of our recommended infant and convertible seats are—for a kid to ride in one on an airplane. (Booster seats are reserved for older children and not intended for use on airplane seats.)
Both the Federal Aviation Administration and CPSTs believe it is safer for kids under 2 to ride in a car seat aboard a plane rather than in their parents’ arms. In the event of turbulence or rough air, a child is much safer if strapped in. Being injured in turbulence , though very unlikely, does affect a handful of American flyers each year, and recent research indicates that turbulence is on the rise due to climate change.
Many parents find that air travel is easier when their child has their own seat (though of course you have to pay for that additional seat). Children are allowed to sit on caregivers’ laps on planes until age 2, but few toddlers can sit still for a long period of time, and that extra harness and recline (as well as familiarity) provided by the car seat may keep a child seated comfortably longer, especially once they are mobile but still too young to fully understand how to sit still in a lap belt.
There are a number of challenges to bringing a car seat, especially a convertible seat designed for a toddler, onto a plane. Some smaller planes may have seats that aren’t wide enough for many convertible car seats. And even if the car seat is narrow enough for the plane, not many seats are narrow enough to easily fit down the aisle. The Clek Foonf , one of our convertible car seat picks, is one of them, but it is pricey and heavy. (The Clek Fllo , Graco SlimFit3 LX , and Graco True3Fit also fit on an airplane seat, but we did not test them.) You’ll generally have to lift a car seat above the seats to carry it to the rear of a plane.
Finally, unlike a car seat buckle, which sits on your hip, a plane’s seat buckle sits right in the middle of your lap. That means for many car seats, once you install them on the plane, there’s going to be a large metal buckle below your child’s legs or behind their back (the Clek seats are among the few without this issue). Alisa Baer, co-founder of The Car Seat Lady, recommends using convertible seats with buckle-in-the-back issues rear-facing, even with a larger child—they’ll likely be more comfortable if their feet have a place to rest, plus they won’t be trying to rest their feet on the passenger’s seat in front of them. You can also put a diaper or spare T-shirt over the buckle to make it a bit more comfortable.
Some parents may find it simpler to use a CARES harness (Child Aviation Restraint System) to help keep kids in their seats on a plane (and their kids may prefer sitting in an airplane seat over a car seat); you install this four-point harness around the child’s seatback and under the tray behind it.
Most airlines allow at least one car seat to be checked for free but doing so has several potential problems . The luggage can be handled roughly and tossed, damaging the car seat in the process. Seats, like any piece of luggage, can also be lost or misplaced in transit. Ultimately, the main reason you may want to have your child use a car seat on the plane is so that you are absolutely confident you’ll have the car seat when you arrive at your destination.
For people who do check in their car seats, Harrison recommends—ideally—using the original box and styrofoam that the seat came with if they are available or using Bubble Wrap and a garbage bag if not. Examine the seat for visible damage when it comes out at baggage claim, and be prepared to replace the seat if it’s broken or bent.
Infant travel seats
The Chicco Fit2 can accommodate infants as small as 4 pounds and toddlers as large as 35 pounds or 35 inches. Like the Chicco KeyFit 35 we recommend as the best infant car seat for travel, it can be installed with a European belt path. But because of this seat’s large size, some seat belts are too short to route over the car seat securely.
Convertible travel seats
We previously recommended the lightweight, foldable, forward-facing WAYB Pico (rhymes with “baby”) as a good travel car seat for kids who are too big for the Cosco Scenera Next but still need a five-point harness. Its adjustable seat back allows it to accommodate taller kids, and its slim design means it takes up less room in the backseat than other car seats. The 8-pound seat is exceptionally convenient to install, uninstall, and carry around, including through airports and onto a plane. In September 2019, however, WAYB announced it was recalling 4,558 Pico car seats manufactured between March 1 and May 12, 2019, due to reports of breakage in the aluminum tube connecting the headrest to the seat. You can read NHSTA’s report (PDF) for details about the recall, how to identify your car seat’s date of manufacture, and how to inspect your car seat for damage. Since the recall, there have not been further reports of problems. Like all car seats sold in the US, the Pico was self-certified by WAYB to pass NHTSA standards (PDF) for safety testing.
The EvenFlo Tribute is a lightweight seat (9 pounds) similar to the Cosco Scenera Next and also has a weight limit of 40 pounds, but as our convertible car seat guide testing showed us, it’s not as easy to get a good install with this seat. CPSTs like Harrison recommend using a towel or pool noodle when using the Tribute to address this. It’s also more expensive than the Cosco Scenera Next.
Booster travel seats
We previously recommended the BubbleBum , an inflatable, portable backless booster seat for older kids. However, in February 2022, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety raised concerns about the safety of inflatable boosters. A study using a computerized model determined that an inflatable booster may not have the stiffness required to keep a child from sliding out from under the lap belt upon impact in a car crash.
The backless Cosco Topside is too large to fit into a carry-on or a backpack. Unlike the Cosco Rise , our favorite backless booster for travel, this booster seat also doesn’t have a belt-positioning clip, which can help the shoulder belt fit better on a smaller rider.
We liked the Graco RightGuide booster seat because it was small enough to fit inside a carry-on or backpack. But it was recently discontinued.
The Immi Go is a booster car seat with a five-point harness that folds conveniently into its own carrying bag. Due to low sales, it is no longer for sale in the US, but you may see this seat if you travel abroad.
The MiFold backless booster seat (currently unavailable) is small enough to fit into the back pocket of some pants and weighs less than 2 pounds. It works by moving the seat belt down to fit the kid (as opposed to raising the kid to fit the belt, as other boosters do). However, our testers found its hard plastic shell uncomfortable to sit on for long periods of time and said that the seat was complicated and unintuitive to set up. Also, a car seat safety expert we consulted noted that the design of the seat may encourage a child to use bad posture while they’re sitting in it—in an effort to find a more comfortable position, the child may tend to scoot forward, moving the slick-bottomed seat along with them, which could pose a safety concern.
The Torevsior Car Seat Travel Cart is about $25 less than the Britax Travel Cart we recommend, but it’s also less robust—the frame just doesn’t feel as sturdy. The weight limit is also lower than the Britax’s, at 70 pounds versus Britax’s 100 pounds. Like the Britax travel cart, the Torevsior cart has hooks for LATCH straps, to secure a car seat onto the cart so that your child can ride in it as you’re moving through the airport. It’s 6.4 pounds (Britax is 7.6 pounds), and extends up to 46 inches (Britax to 42 inches).
All of the guidelines for car seat care, use, and maintenance in our other car seat guides apply to travel car seats as well.
This guide was edited by Ellen Lee, Amy Miller Kravetz and Kalee Thompson.
Jessica Jermakian, vice president for vehicle research at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety , email exchange , August 1, 2022
Alisa Baer, pediatrician, nationally certified child passenger safety instructor, and co-founder of The Car Seat Lady , phone interview, July 15, 2022 and January 9, 2023
Lani Harrison, CPST, Car Seats for the Littles , email interview , January 28, 2019
Meet your guides
Christina Szalinski is a freelance science writer with a PhD in cell biology.
The Best Booster Car Seats
by Rebecca Gale
We researched over 50 booster car seats and tested 12, and we found the Chicco KidFit ClearTex Plus performed the best and is convenient to use.
The Best Travel Strollers
by Elise Czajkowski
After testing seven travel strollers on various trips and excursions, we’re confident that the Uppababy Minu V2 is the one to get.
The Best Infant Car Seats
by Christina Szalinski
After extensive research and field testing, we found that the Graco SnugRide SnugFit 35 DLX is the best infant car seat for most families.
Traveling With Little Kids Can Be Tough. The Right Gear Can Help.
by Kerry Davis McGuinness
From compact car seats and cribs to portable blackout shades and white noise machines, the right tools for travel can lead to less fuss—and more fun.
What’s the best travel car seat for a 6 year old? (2023 reviews)
Want to get more personal advice? Join our new Facebook group !
Sharing is caring!
This article about the best travel car seat for a 6 year old is written by certified Child Passenger Safety Technician Melissa Conn and may contain affiliate links.
Are you trying to pick the best travel car seat for a 6 year old? Or maybe you feel like your 6 year old is ready for a travel booster seat? You’ve come to the right place! If you’re shopping for a child of a different age, check out the best travel car seats for all ages to get to the right list.
If your family is anything like ours, at home the kids are riding around in harnessed boosters that might as well be kid-sized thrones . They’re amazing for safety and comfort.
But for air travel? Not so much. Many families don’t want to lug a 25 pound car seat through the airport, hoist it over an entire row to get it installed in a tiny airplane window seat, navigate back through another airport and then lift it into a taxi or rental car. A better choice if you can swing it is to pick up one of the many travel car seats for 6 year olds on the market today.
If your child is big enough and mature enough you can also start to consider some travel booster seats on the market. Nearly all of them are lighter than harnessed combination seats but not all 6 year olds are ready to make the jump – I know mine isn’t! Every family will need to decide what is the appropriate car seat for their 6 year old. In this article we’ll help you make that choice.
Read more: Bringing your booster seat on an airplane
Quick Picks: Best Travel Car Seat For A 6 Year Old
If you want to skip the details, here are my top picks for the best travel car seat for a 6 year old:
- Graco Tranzitions / Graco Wayz – best lightweight harnessed booster that works well for kids ages ~3-12 as a forward-facing harness, highback booster and then backless booster
- Ride Safer Travel Vest – booster seat alternative perfect for lightweight travel with kids who aren’t mature enough for a booster ( full review here )
- Bubblebum – inflatable booster seat for mature kids who don’t sleep in the car ( full review here )
- Graco RightGuide – age 6+ AND 50lbs; best travel booster seat for big kids ( full review here )
How to Choose the Best Travel Car Seat for a 6 Year Old
What do we look for in the best portable car seat for a 6 year old? In my experience, there are a few important priorities:
-It has to be light, ideally not more than ~10lbs
-It has to be easy to use
-Ideally it should last at least 3-4 years
On that last note, some of the options on this list are affordable enough that you might want to choose them even if they’ll only last you a year or two. Better to spend a few dollars to keep your kid boostered to a safe age than to let them ride around unsafely, even on vacation! Most kids need a booster seat until 10-12 years old to get a safe fit with an adult seatbelt.
Of course every family has unique needs. If your child is extremely tall for her age or you think she would benefit from staying harnessed for a few more years, you might want to choose taller car seat even at the expense of a few extra pounds. If your travels involve a long flight and a long drive, look for comfort features like padding and cup holders to keep your youngest passengers happy.
DEAL ALERT! Save $11 off the Ride Safer Travel Vest with coupon ‘ VOYAGE ‘
May 2023 update: So many of you love hifold that it’s out of stock everywhere! There’s no ETA on a restock at this time, but unfortunately I suspect it’s discontinued. If your travel needs are pressing, check out the Peg Perego Viaggio Flex 120 (a bit heavier and folds a little bigger, but loaded with features that make it a great every day seat) or Ride Saver Travel Vest ( full review + discount ). For kids under ~45″ the Cosco Finale makes an affordable lightweight option .
Want to know all my best secrets? Click here to learn how to travel with your car seat like a pro!
Portable Car Seat For A 6 Year Old Comparison
Best travel car seats for 6 year olds.
The NHTSA recommends that kids remain in a forward-facing harness as long as possible, and many safety advocates urge parents to keep their kids harnessed for several years beyond age 4.
The right type of car seat for a 6 year old is something of a crap shoot. You may feel ok with a booster for a 6 year old who is extremely mature, good at listening to directions and doesn’t usually fall asleep in the car. On the other hand, you may need to look for a 5 point harness booster seat for over 40lbs if you think your kid won’t be able to stay in a safe position 100% of the time.
In the reviews below, we mostly recommend travel combination car seats, which can be used forward-facing with a harness until your child is big enough and mature enough to use the seat as a high-back booster. That means they’ll last you for years – maybe even until the end of your car seat days.
Some lightweight convertible car seats might still work for your 6 year old, so if you have one laying around you can stick with that! But I wouldn’t recommend buying a new convertible car seat as you won’t get to use it for long.
At the bottom of this list you’ll also find a few booster seats that are appropriate for a mature 6 year old who meets the size requirements too. YMMV.
Does my 6 year old need a carseat to fly?
Probably not, as long as she’s at least 40 pounds and will abide by the seatbelt sign. The main reason to fly with it is that you need it at your destination and want to avoid checking a car seat on an airplane . We continued to bring this car seat on flights with us if we were doing a trip with lots of driving. If we weren’t doing as much driving (or were flitting around on trains and buses too) we brought this instead and didn’t use anything on the plane for our 6 year old.
Graco Tranzitions review
Key stats: -Weight 12.5lbs -Max harness height 18” -Forward-facing size limits 22-65lbs, 27-49″ -Highback booster size limit 40-100lbs, 43-57″, age 4+ -Backless booster size limit 40-100lbs, 43-57″, age 4+
Pros: ✔ Fits from age 3 (as a harness) to ~age 12 (as a backless booster) ✔ Reasonable price for longevity ✔ Very narrow
Cons: ✘ Can be tough to install in some cars ✘ Heavier than other options ✘ Back and base may separate when carrying ✘ 7 year expiration
If we were on the market for a travel car seat for a 6 year old who still needs to be harnessed, the Graco Tranzitions 3-in-1 harness booster car seat would get some serious consideration. The price tag is extremely reasonable for what you get and it would be a great seat to use both at home at on the go (it’s sometimes even cheaper at Walmart ).
The best part? You might never have to buy another car seat again (unless you want to, that is) thanks to the 7 year lifespan and the ability to “tranzition” the seat to a highback booster and later a backless booster.
Unlike the Evenflo Maestro , the Tranzitions harnesses to 65lbs (rather than only 50) has harness pads and a slightly wider distance between straps to keep your kid comfortable. It’s a better choice all around if your child is bigger than average.
It has an option pillow for extra padding and even two cupholders, which can be rotated inward to save space and make this a great car seat for traveling with three kids. For added convenience, as your child grows taller you can use the Simply Safe feature to adjust harness height – a no-rethread harness is a feature usually reserved for much heavier car seats.
So what are the tradeoffs? Nothing is perfect. You’ll have to carry around a few extra pounds to get all those features in a 6 year old car seat, though you won’t notice a difference if you use a cart like this one or strap it to your suitcase . Just know that if you’re using it as a booster seat for your 6 year old, you won’t be able to bring it on board a plane with you.
Some parents have had trouble installing the Tranzitions (or the Graco Wayz ) in certain cars since the path for the seatbelt and LATCH strap is mounted very high on the car seat – I’ve even had difficulty sometimes when helping caregivers with this seat. Prepare to spend a little more time with it and use these tips for installing your car seat . It also requires a top tether for installation, which you may not find in developing countries.
Lastly, the base and the back can click apart from each other too easily when you’re carrying it around – this problem afflicts just about every booster seat that can become backless (including the one we use at home) and it’s such a nuisance!
The Graco Tranzitions might be the best car seat for 6 year old kids whose families are on a budget but want a travel-worthy option. Since it converts between a forward-facing harness, highback booster seat and a backless booster seat, many families can get at least five years of use out of it – not bad for a seat with a retail price under $150.
Ride Safer Travel Vest review
Key stats: -Weight 2lbs -Size small: minimum age 3, fits best for 30+ lbs and 35-47″ -Size large: minimum age 4, fits best for 50+ lbs and 45-57″
Pros: ✔ Rolls up to the size of a 2L soda bottle ✔ Perfect for taxi rides ✔ Lowers seat belt to provide an appropriate fit for young children ✔ Keeps kids properly seated better than a traditional booster seat – even when sleeping ✔ Easy to fit 3-across since it’s only as wide as the child ✔ 5 year expiration
Cons: ✘ No side impact protection like a highback booster seat ✘ Takes practice to get belt fit right ✘ NOT permitted for use on planes
Several years ago the kind folks at Safe Ride 4 Kids sent us a Ride Safer Delight travel vest to review, and it hasn’t left our travel kit since. The Ride Safer travel vest (“Delight” has been dropped with the latest Ride Safer travel vest Gen 5 release) is completely different than the other travel car seats and booster seats on the market.
You could say that the Ride Safer travel vest is sort of in between a booster seat and a traditional forward-facing car seat. It relies on the car’s seat belt to handle most of the restraint, but also has an optional-but-pease-use-it-always top tether that minimizes head movement in an accident and keeps your child in the correct position even if they fall asleep (or drop a toy). While we won’t put our youngest child in a booster seat yet since she’s a car sleeper – especially when jet-lagged – we’re comfortable with her riding in the Ride Safer vest.
So comfortable, in fact, that we brought our Ride Safer vest on our year-long trip around the world! It’s seen action on six continents and served us well the whole time. Once we practiced a few times, we got very fast at putting her in the vest and getting her secured in the car. The biggest change from the Ride Safer Delight to the Gen 5 is an easier buckle in the front, so that should help many parents.
Many families wonder what size to buy. That can be a little tricky and I think the current vest runs bigger than the size chart indicates. The size small should last most kids until 6 or even 7 (if they’re on the smaller side). If your child is bigger than average or older but still not ready to ride in a booster seat, you can opt for the Large or even XL size. In fact, the Ride Safer travel vest is one of the best travel car seat options for taller kids who aren’t booster-ready, as all of the very tall harnesses on the market weigh 20+ pounds.
Read more: My in-depth Ride Safer travel vest review
While we generally think of the Ride Safer as a travel car seat alternative, we also use it at home often. I keep it in my trunk at all times so that we can fit 3-across in our car for those unexpected carpools or for when Grandma comes for a visit! Since the vest is as narrow as the child in it, there’s no trouble fitting it between two big car seats in our compact SUV.
Best travel booster seats for 6 year olds
Ok, so what if you feel like your 6 year old is mature enough (and big enough) for a booster seat? There are a few great choices to consider for the next stage.
When you’re shopping for a portable booster seat, it’s important to remember that even the best booster seats are not FAA-approved – here’s what you need to know about flying with a booster seat . From a safety perspective, that’s fine: your child will be over 40lbs, so the airplane seatbelt will secure her properly. But what should you do with her booster seat so it’s not lost or damaged?
Take it on board! There are a few ways to manage this. One option is to buy a folding booster seat from the list below. We own several of these and they’re great! They fold up small enough to fit in the overhead bin of a plane so that you’re never separated from them.
The other option is to separate the bottom of the booster seat from the back and put the back in a suitcase. It’s ok to check the back that way because it’ll be protected by the suitcase and padded by clothing. You’d then carry the backless part of the booster on-board with you and put it in the overhead bin or under the seat in front of your kid. The only risk is if your luggage is lost or delayed, but at least in a pinch you could use the backless portion of the booster on its own.
You can also find even more travel booster seat options here .
Peg Perego Viaggio Flex 120 Booster Seat review
Key stats: -Weight 15lbs -Highback booster size limit 40-120lbs, up to 63″
Pros: ✔ Steel reinforced frame ✔ Rigid LATCH ✔ Tons of size adjustments for a great fit ✔ Reclines for sleep ✔ Extremely narrow ✔ 10 year expiration
Cons: ✘ Really expensive ✘ No arm rests ✘ Heavy ✘ Folded size is as big as a carry-on suitcase
If you don’t have an enormous budget to spend on a travel booster seat for your 6 year old, just look away now.
If you’re still reading, don’t say I didn’t warn you. The Peg Perego Viaggio Flex 120 (usually available at a discount thankfully) has some great features, but a price tag to match as well. It’s hard to fathom spending that much on luxury high back booster seat that doesn’t have any other modes available. However, some of the premium features make it a solid choice. First off, it’ll last forever… or at least as long as you want it to. The upper size limit is a whopping 120 lbs and 63″, which is the size of a petite adult. Most riders that size will fit in a seatbelt just fine without a booster seat so you may not ever need a backless booster. The other piece of lasting forever is that Peg Perego gives a whopping 10 years until expiration of this seat. If you have a second child (or third or fourth!) they’ll be able to get a few years out of this seat as well.
Second, it’s loaded with reassuring safety features. The Viaggio Flex 120 has rigid LATCH connectors to easily install the booster seat and keep it from moving around. The back of the seat is also steel reinforced for additional safety.
Third, kids generally like it. It’s padded, it has folding cupholders on each side and the lack of armrests (though a downside for long drives) means it’s easier for booster-age kids to buckles themselves.
So what’s wrong with this portable booster seat for 6 year olds, other than perhaps the price ? It comes down to the portability aspect. The steel reinforcement and rigid LATCH add an extra 5-6 pounds, making you less likely to sling this one over your shoulder and use it out on the town. Likewise, it’s not all that small when folded – about 2′ long! You’ll be lucky to fit it in the overhead bin, but taking it when you walk around a city means you’ll need a really big backpack to carry it.
The best use for the Peg Perego Viaggio Flex booster seat is probably when you’re flying to head on a road trip and won’t be moving it in and out of cars all the time. This is a solid competitor against the Diono 5iST below.
Diono Monterey 5ist review
Key stats: -Weight 19lbs -Highback booster size limit 40lbs/38″ to 120lbs/63″; max belt guide 21″
Pros: ✔ Folds for compact storage ✔ Easy for kids to buckle ✔ Side impact tested ✔ Rigid LATCH for quick installation ✔ Very roomy, width adjusts to fit even the biggest kids ✔ Highest weight and height limits of any booster ✔ 8 year expiration
Cons: ✘ Heavier than other folding booster seats ✘ Too wide for 3-across as kids get taller
If you’re looking for the best booster seat for a 6 year old who will just be traveling to Grandma’s house now and then, put the new Diono Monterey 5iST on your consideration list. It’s not the lightest car seat for a 6 year old on this list, but it has a ton to offer.
First off, the Monterey 5iST adjusts tall enough and wide enough to last nearly every kid to the end of their boostering days (it’s officially rated to 63″ and 120lbs). Since it’s good for 8 years, if you buy it now you may not need to buy your child another car seat or booster seat ever again .
When you do plan to take that occasional flight, the 5iST folds to about the size of a carry-on suitcase so that you can probably fit it in the overhead bin (YMMV depending on the airline and aircraft). Alternatively, you can just leave it at Grandma’s and she won’t even notice it in the closet since it folds so compactly.
The Monterey 5iST has plenty of great features: side impact protection, rigid LATCH, unbeatable ease-of-use and more. Subjectively, it also feels extremely sturdy. This is a wonderful everyday booster seat.
My kids absolutely love the booster we received from Diono. You can read more in my in-depth Diono Monterey 5iST review , but my 10 year old is so enamored that he’s chosen to ride in it full-time. That’s high praise from an image-conscious tween!
Bubblebum booster seat review
Key stats: -Weight under 1 lbs ( really! ) -Backless booster size limit 40-100lbs, age 4+
Pros: ✔ Lightest booster seat ✔ Extremely narrow ✔ Good seatbelt fit in lots of cars
Cons: ✘ Can slide around if kids are wiggly ✘ 4 year expiration (from first use)
Here’s a great portable booster seat for a 6 year old in this roundup with which we’re extremely familiar: the Bubblebum inflatable booster seat . We traveled full-time with this booster seat for the better part of two years starting when our son turned 6.
The Bubblebum is pretty amazing. It weighs about one pound and deflates/rolls to the size of a soda bottle. Setting it up takes just a few seconds, and there’s even a shoulder belt guide to give a great fit for kids of different sizes in all different vehicles. It’s also extremely affordable, even for something you’ll only use every now and then.
If you’re a family with a mature 6 year old who doesn’t usually sleep in the car the Bubblebum gives you the paragon of portability. It’s the best booster car seat option for taking around on days in a city when you think you might hop in a taxi to get home at night or if you’re taking lots of planes and trains for an extended trip.
The Bubblebum is so light that it may shift if your kid is very wiggly. But if your kid is very wiggly, they may not be ready for a backless booster seat just yet. In that case, I’d go with the RideSafer travel vest for an ultra-portable option. We also had an issue with one of our Bubblebums deflating after we left it inflated in a hot car for a month (oops!); we reached out to customer service and they sent us a whole new one for just the $7 shipping charge!
The Bubblebum also has a relatively small seating area and your child’s bottom needs to be within the silver edge. If your 6 year old has wider hips, you might want to scroll down to the next option, the Cosco Rise LX .
We started using this booster seat at 6 years old, and we think that’s about right. But it’s approved for 4 years old/40lbs and there are plenty of 5 year olds who can use it successfully, especially if your drives are short. This is a judgement call for each family and also depends on the specifics of your travels.
You can also read my in-depth review of the Bubblebum .
Graco RightGuide booster seat review
Key stats: -Weight 2 lbs -Backless booster size limit 50-120lbs, 43-60″, age 5+
Pros: ✔ Extremely light booster seat ✔ Very compact booster seat when folded ✔ Narrow option for 3-across with big kids ✔ Inconspicuous option for tweens ✔ 10 year expiration
Cons: ✘ Belt guide may not stay in place securely ✘ Incompatible with some seatbelt designs
If you have a big kid or tween who’s approaching readiness for the adult seatbelt (usually 10-12 years old) but not quite there, check out the Graco RightGuide . It’s ultra low profile and easy to throw in a backpack or clip to the outside of a carry-on suitcase. It does require that kids be at least 5 years old, 43″ and 50lbs – a weight many kids don’t achieve until they’re around 7 or even older.
The RightGuide offers a wonderful seatbelt fit even for kids at the bottom of the stated size range. It can be problematic with certain types of seatbelts, so be sure to read my Graco RightGuide review to know what you need to look out for.
Cosco Rise LX booster seat review
Key stats: -Weight 2 lbs -Backless booster size limit 40-100lbs, 43-57″
Pros: ✔ Extremely light ✔ Bargain price ✔ Good seatbelt fit ✔ Narrow enough for 3-across ✔ Updated LX version has more padding
Cons: ✘ Doesn’t fold
Do you like the idea of a more “traditional” booster seat but want a more compact form for travel? Or do you worry that your child will outgrow the width of the Bubblebum too quickly? The new Cosco Rise LX might be your best travel car booster seat option! We own the original non-LX version and have used it extensively.
The Cosco Rise LX (and original) are the booster seat in its simplest form: you put it down on the seat and then your kiddo buckles and runs the seatbelt under the arm rests to place it properly on her body. If your child is on the shorter side, there’s also an attached adjustable shoulder belt guide to bring the seatbelt down low enough to cross her collarbone.
That’s it. It’s not a folding booster car seat, but at 2 pounds it’s one of the lightest booster seats on the market. It’s also incredibly affordable, coming in right around $20. I’ve used it for multiple kids ranging from 6 to 10 and the fit is good on all of them. Even if you never plan to use it for travel, this is a great one to have on hand as a spare since it’s the cheapest booster seat you can buy.
The Cosco Rise is also the narrowest booster seat aside from Bubblebum at just 15″. That makes it a viable booster seat for 3-across, especially since it’s narrower at the back where your child will need to reach the buckle. We managed to squeeze one into the middle seat of our old CR-V between another narrow booster seat and an adult!
The biggest downside of the original version is the sparse padding, including none on the arm rests. This isn’t the seat my kids typically want to ride in for more than about 30 minutes, and we probably wouldn’t choose it for a long road trip if we had another choice. I recommend that you spring for the LX for just an extra $3-5, as it has more padding including on the arm rests.
Note that the minimum height for this booster seat is 43″ – many kids won’t reach that until almost 6 years old. Our son didn’t get there until almost 7 years old, so parents of shorter kids may need to look elsewhere . But the Cosco Rise LX may be the best booster seat for 6 year old globetrotters who need more hip room and prefer a stable seating area. On the other end of the spectrum, the Rise may not offer quite enough thigh support for the oldest booster riders since the seat is on the shallower side; at 11 years old, my son usually refuses it.
At 2 pounds, the Cosco Rise booster seat is one of the lightest booster seats available. It’s also extremely affordable ! If your child is ready for a backless booster and you don’t mind the extra size or weight compared to the Bubblebum or if your child has outgrown the small seat of the Bubblebum, this just might be the best booster seat for travel.
Chicco GoFit Plus review
Key stats: -Weight 5lbs -Backless booster size limit 4yo/40lbs/38″ to 110lbs/57″
Pros: ✔ Great padding ✔ LATCH to secure it when unoccupied ✔ Nice, removable/foldable cupholders ✔ Long arm rests ✔ 8 year expiration
Cons: ✘ The 57″ height limit means tall kids might need another booster down the line ✘ Seat isn’t wide enough for kids at the top of the growth chart
We own the Chicco GoFit and love it! (Actually, if I’m being honest we now own four Chicco GoFits and three of them are permanently in my van.)
The padding is nice and squishy, the arm rests and cup holders are great and the price is very reasonable. It’s not terribly wide and the cupholders fold in to help it play nicely with other car seats. Installing the booster seat with LATCH is just as easy as with all of our other Chicco car seats.
This is one of the best car booster seat options for kids who are on the smaller end of the growth chart. If you have taller or broader kids, the seat may not be wide enough to hold them until the end of their booster days. There’s also a 57″ standing height limit, which may not work for the tallest kids.
This is the booster seat we use at home and the one we take for our child when we know we’re going to be doing a lot of driving at our destination. It’s extremely comfortable and has a great carry handle integrated into the back of the seat (it’s where the back would attach if you’d bought it as part of the KidFit highback booster seat, which we also have and like). On some planes my son has put the GoFit at his feet, while on other flights he’s put it in the overhead bin.
If you want to save a little money and a little weight, the original Chicco GoFit weighs about a half pound less than the Chicco GoFit Plus – the only differences are the lower anchors and fancier armrest fabric on the Plus.
Best car seat for 6 year old FAQs
Most 6 year olds are big enough and mature enough to ride in a high back booster seat or even a backless booster seat. If your 6 year old can’t sit still in the car or still likes to sleep in the car, it’s better to choose a 5-point harness. For 6 year olds who still need a harnessed booster seat, the Chicco MyFit ( save 20% when you buy direct ) and the Britax Grow With You ClickTight both offer long-lasting harnesses. You might just need to strategize about how to travel with them !
Most 6 year olds meet the height and weight requirements to ride in a booster seat. However, their developmental level is just as important. Your child needs to be able to sit correctly in a booster seat 100% of the time, even when sleeping.
Most 6 year olds meet the height and weight requirements to ride in a backless booster seat. If your child is developmentally ready for that step, a highback booster can still be a better choice because it provides support for sleeping and the sides are an important reminder to stay seated in the proper position. The right backless booster seat age varies a lot by kid.
The best car seat for your 6 year old is the one that fits their bodies, fits your car, fits your family budget and that you can use correctly 100% of the time. Many 6 year olds ride in combination (also called “harnessed booster”) car seats. In addition to the travel-friendly car seats in this list, here are some fantastic options to consider that will last your child for many years: – Britax Grow With You ClickTight – Chicco MyFit – Graco Nautilus SnugLock Grow If your 6 year old is ready for a booster seat, check out these great options to find the right one for your family!
A 6 year old absolutely needs a car seat or a booster seat to ride safely and legally in the car. Seat belts are designed to restrain adult bodies, and most kids don’t get a safe seat belt fit until 10-12 years old.
There’s a lot that goes into choosing the right booster seat for a six year old! In addition to making sure your child is mature enough and within the height and weight requirements of the booster seat, you’ll need to do a little research before buying. Some vehicles need to have their head restraints removed when using a booster seat, but some booster seats require a head restraint behind them; that can make some combinations incompatible. It’s important to read your car’s manual and the manuals of booster seats you’re considering before you buy. In addition to the travel-friendly booster seats in this list, here are some fantastic 6 year old booster seat options to consider that will last your child for many years: – Chicco KidFit – Diono Monterey 4DXT (requires headrest) – Nuna AACE You can also read about the most comfortable boosters for long drives (or for around town!).
What’s your favorite travel car seat for a 6 year old? Tell us in the comments below!
Leave a Comment Cancel reply
Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.
This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed .
5 Absolute Best Travel Booster Seats for 2023 (+Useful Tips)
By Author Jurga
Posted on Last updated: October 18, 2023
One of the most asked questions when it comes to road-tripping with kids is what kind of travel car seat is the best. The answer depends on so many different factors – how and where you travel, how old are your kids, and how light you want to travel. In my opinion, packing a high-back car seat on a plane is really not worth the hassle, so in this article, I will only focus on the best booster seats for travel – portable booster seats . Here’s why.
In my opinion, if you are traveling with a baby or a young child, you better just rent an appropriate car seat when you rent a car abroad.
Car seats for that age group cost a lot of money and are bulky to pack, while the price to rent one isn’t that high compared to what it costs.
Whereas if you travel with older kids who can use a booster car seat, it’s exactly the opposite. Travel booster seats are cheap to buy, easy to take with you, and renting one would often mean paying more.
And now back to the best portable booster car seats . Below, you can see an overview of the information you can find in this article, including all the best travel boosters in our selection.
You can jump straight to the product information, but I strongly recommend that you also read practical tips and advice that should help you choose the right child booster seat for travel.
Update: We have done our best to update this article through the years. But there are so many changes all the time! Regulations change, products and companies disappear and new ones emerge. With the last update, we had to remove two products completely since they are not available anymore and there are no similar alternatives. So use this just as a guide to see what kind of different types of travel boosters there are, and be sure to always double-check the requirements and product specifications that are important to you!
TIP: At the moment of the last update, BubbleBum booster is the most popular travel booster seat choice among our readers in the USA. Ride Safer Vest is a distant second, on a much higher budget but also quite incomparable to any others safety-wise.
Travel booster seats – overview:
- Our Experience with Travel Booster Seats
Booster Seat Requirements
- Other Things to Consider when Choosing Travel Booster Seat
1. The BubbleBum Booster Seat
2. ridesafer travel vest, 3. trunki boostapak, 4. hiccapop uberboost inflatable booster car seat, 5. belt-positioning backless booster, travel car seats & booster seats – our experience.
We have three kids and have traveled with them overseas ever since they were born. We always rented car seats for our kids when they were young. I just couldn’t imagine adding a big car seat to our travel luggage , not even to mention having to take two or three of them.
To us, traveling light is the best way to survive traveling with young kids.
LEARN MORE: Tips for Traveling with Kids
When our oldest was almost 5, we made a 5-week road trip in Australia . Twins were just 3 years old at that time. With three young children and multiple flights, there was just no way we would pack portable car seats for all of them. So we reserved car seats for the twins when we booked our rental car. With multiple rental cars at 4 different destinations in Australia, we spent a small fortune on those two car seats.
We, therefore, decided to at least look for an alternative solution for our 5-year-old. That’s when we started researching all available booster seats and realized that buying one would save us several hundreds of dollars.
But even a regular booster seat is not easy to pack with you. So we looked for the best travel booster seats – something that would fit all the safety requirements and at the same time would be easy to pack.
This was years ago and in the meantime, we have bought two more travel boosters for our twins as well. I am happy to say that we are still using the same travel booster seats today. We have used them on every single trip ever since and also on a daily basis at home. Buying a quality travel booster car seat was one of the best investments ever.
But before we talk about the specific travel booster seats, we should first cover some things you have to consider before buying a booster seat for your trip. Read on!
Booster seats are generally suitable for kids from around 4 years of age when children are no longer required to use a car seat with a 5-point harness. A portable travel booster seat ensures your child’s safety whenever you rent a car or use a taxi away from home.
However, the rules for the use of car seats and booster seats vary significantly from one country to another. So it’s essential to consult an official source for the country that you are traveling to in order to make sure that you have the right car seat for your child. More information about this below.
In some parts of the world – particularly much of Asia and northern Africa, there are hardly any laws requiring car seats or boosters of any kind. However, I’d still advise to rent one or bring your own. After all, you should be more concerned with your child’s safety than the (lack of) local laws.
We have rented car seats in South Africa and in Namibia for our kids and most of the time they looked completely ok to us. If in doubt, ask to change a car seat – quality car rental agencies usually have plenty of them available.
As I said before, the moment our kids were old enough for a booster car seat, we just bought our own and never had to worry about it again. Bringing your own booster seat gives you complete peace of mind and ensures that your children can travel safely wherever you go.
If you are traveling abroad, make sure to check the laws for booster seats in the country you are visiting.
Below you can find some links to the car seat and booster seat rules for a variety of destinations. Please note, however, that laws around car seat requirements change all the time , so it’s your responsibility to do proper research for the most up-to-date situation for the country you’re visiting.
Some countries require travel booster seats to carry specific labels in order to be legal for use, so it’s very important to read these regulations carefully.
- Children’s car seat rules in the USA (please note that the laws vary from state to state).
- Car seat rules in the UK .
- Car seat regulations in Canada .
- Car seat rules in Australia .
- While the rules about car seats and boosters for children are very relaxed across much of Asia , there are some countries that do have regulations. Our advice is to look up your specific destination and check the rules before you travel.
- Car seat requirements are now a bit different all over Europe . While in the past you could use a booster car seat for kids from around 4 years, the new law requires a minimum height of 125 cm (4ft1) and weight of at least 22 kg (49 lbs) in order to use a backless booster seat. In most European countries, kids can use a regular adult seat from 135 cm (4ft4) height (e.g. France, UK, Denmark, Sweden, Spain, Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg…). However, some other countries require that kids under 150 cm (4ft 9) or under 12 years use a booster seat as well (e.g. Germany, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Portugal, Poland, Slovenia,…).
Since car seat requirements are different in every country and the situation might change again, I encourage you to research the laws of the specific country you’re planning to visit . You may also want to check if the booster you have is approved for use in the country you’re traveling to.
Other Things to Consider When Choosing Travel Booster Seat
In addition to local laws and regulations, there are a few other important things to consider when choosing the most suitable booster car seat for travel. Find out!
High-backed booster seats with ‘wings’ are the safest type, as they provide the best protection for your child’s head and neck in a side-impact crash. Unfortunately, though, it’s not always possible to carry this type of seat with you if you are traveling long distances.
The important thing to remember is that any approved booster seat is better than none at all.
Weight and Size
After safety, weight and size are probably the most important considerations when choosing the right (booster) car seat. Whilst some travel booster seats are ideal for local trips and days out and about, others are more suited to longer journeys where you are restricted on how much you can carry.
That being said, you might find that any extra baggage charges you incur from taking your own booster seat would be less than the cost of hiring a booster seat at your destination. Plus, of course, you will then have a portable booster seat for future use!
If you are traveling with 2-3 kids, consider if you can fit all the travel boosters next to each other (and hope they don’t fight all the time 😉 – see also our tips for how to handle long car rides with kids .
Some seats are designed to serve more than one purpose, which is great if you have limited luggage space and want to get the most ‘bang for your buck’.
Wherever possible, we recommend sitting with your child and keeping an eye on them if using a backless booster, as it is a little easier for them to wriggle into an unsafe position.
Try to place your travel booster seat in the middle back seat if appropriate. Experts say that this is the safest position in the car.
Practice fitting the booster seat before you travel. While most boosters are pretty straightforward, some may need a little more expertise!
Best Travel Booster Seats: Comparison & Review
There are several good options when it comes to booster car seats for travel. So in order to give you the most complete guide to the best travel booster seats available at this moment , I not only based it on our experience, but also consulted other family travelers, and did extended research.
In the end, I selected portable booster seats that I think are the best options for those looking for a lightweight travel booster that doesn’t compromise on safety. In addition, I also included one high-back foldable booster seat. It’s obviously not as easy to pack as the backless boosters, but if you are traveling with a smaller child and still rather pack a car seat of your own, it might be a good option.
Below is our selection of the best travel booster seats. You can find a short review of each booster seat and a list of the main features that we think make them so useful. Of course, we also included our personal favorite – the travel booster seat that our kids have been using for years. Find out!
Here are the best travel booster seats:
The award-winning BubbleBum Booster Seat is described as an inflatable booster seat. However, it actually contains more memory foam than air, meaning that it will protect your child even if punctured in an accident.
BubbleBum Booster Seat takes just 20 seconds to inflate for use, then deflates quickly and folds to a small size, perfect for popping into your hand luggage or backpack.
The booster is designed for use with a 3-point adult seat belt (not a lap belt). The shoulder belt positioning clip and side lap belt clips help keep your child safe and comfortable.
At just 1.2 lbs it is the lightest travel booster seat we reviewed and it’s also the cheapest. But because it is a little smaller than some other travel boosters, we feel it’s more suited to shorter journeys than long road trips.
BubbleBum booster seat features:
- Suitable for children age 4-11 years, weighing from 40-100 lbs (18-45 kg).
- Inflates and deflates quickly.
- Lightweight and folds to a compact size and easy to store anywhere.
- Comes with its own bag.
- Made of a durable material.
- Narrow design allows you to use 3 across the back seat.
The compact and lightweight RideSafer Travel Vest is a brilliant alternative to a travel booster seat, but it comes with a much steeper price card. Weighing only 1.5 lbs (800 gr), it takes up very little luggage space and is particularly ideal for small cars, where bulkier car seats and boosters can be a tight fit. Fitting three of these vests in a row on the back seat is no problem whatsoever!
While the RideSafer may seem to offer less protection than booster seats at first glance, it’s actually the opposite. This is one of the safest solutions available!
Its clever design means that it maintains the car’s seatbelt in the proper position at all times. The shoulder belt is held in place, but away from your child’s neck, making him feel much more comfortable. It also positions the lap belt below your child’s abdomen, which best protects the internal organs.
This is the most expensive of the travel boosters we have reviewed in this article, but for the convenience and safety of your child, the RideSafer Travel Vest is invaluable!
RideSafer travel vest features:
- Available in 2 sizes, to fit children from 3-10 years, weighing from 30 to 80 lbs (15 to 36 kg).
- Certified for use in cars in the US.
- Small, lightweight, and easy to pack in hand luggage or backpack.
- Maintains proper seatbelt positioning at all times.
Trunki BoostApak is the travel booster seat that we chose for our kids. We bought one for our oldest son when he was 4 and used it till he didn’t need it anymore (around the age of 8-9). Our twins got the same Trunki boosters when they were 4 and used them until the age of 10.
I can’t even start to count the number of flights and road trips we have taken them on. The kids also used Trunki BoostApak boosters for their daily commute to school. Our high-back booster seats were only in use when we traveled big distances with our own car here in Europe. Since the new law in some European countries requires that booster seats are used till the kids are 150 cm tall, we used Trunki BoostAPak for our twins until the age of 10.
When we mentioned versatility earlier in this article, Trunki BoostApak is the booster seat we had in mind! The Trunki BoostApak is not just a booster seat, it’s also a hand-luggage approved child’s bag, with padded straps for comfort and a generous 8-liter capacity.
This means that you can use it to easily pack your child’s toys, books, games, and snacks for them to carry, then quickly convert it into an EU-certified travel booster seat whenever needed. You don’t need to unpack the Trunki before using it as a seat, as its hard plastic internal shell protects the bag’s contents. The shell is also designed to provide maximum strength in an accident.
It’s very easy to convert Trunki from a backpack to a booster seat, but if you (like many of us!) find some kids’ accessories a little challenging, be sure to practice with it before leaving home!
In addition to using it as a backpack and a car booster seat, the Trunki Boostapak with its wipe-clean cover makes a great booster seat for the movies too! We once even took our kids’ Trunkis to a theater.
The only minor issue we’ve had with this booster seat/backpack is that it’s slightly too heavy for younger children to carry – an empty Trunki BoostApak weighs 3.8 pounds (1,7 kg). So when our kids were just 4-5 years old, we usually had to help them with it at the airport. It’s not a big deal since the Trunki usually stays in the car for the entire duration of our trip.
Trunki BoostAPak travel booster features:
- Suitable for children age 4-11 years, weighing from 30 to 80 lbs (15 to 36 kg).
- Converts from a backpack to a booster seat in seconds.
- The fold-out seatbelt guides and seat belt adjuster help you ensure a perfect and safe fit.
- Approved as hand luggage by most airlines.
- EU certified for everyday car use.
Where to buy Trunki BoostApak. For some reason, Trunki BoostApak has always been a ‘European’ travel booster. Probably because it’s only been approved to be used in the EU and is not (yet) on the market in the USA. You can buy it on Amazon UK , but unfortunately, not on Amazon in the US.
Similar in principle to the Bubblebum, the Hiccapop Uberboost travel booster seat inflates and deflates quickly, so you can simply roll it up and pop it in your hand luggage, backpack, etc.
It’s cheaper than the BubbleBum, is made of a very thick, durable material and is comparable in weight.
The biggest difference is that – unlike the BubbleBum – there is no foam in the air bladder. Nevertheless, it feels as sturdy as a regular booster seat when inflated.
Hiccapop Uberboost features:
- Very compact and lightweight.
- Positions seat belt over the lap, not the stomach.
- Lifetime guarantee.
Update: The model reviewed below is not available during our last update, so check out these popular alternatives that offer pretty much the same functionality. Since this is the most popular portable booster design, there are so many brands selling similar models and they change the colors and the looks all the time.
Chicco GoFit Belt-Positioning Backless Booster is the only backless booster seat we reviewed that has dual cup holders, which are a huge plus on long journeys. The cup holders fold away, which is handy if you need to fit several car seats across the back seat. They can easily be removed and are dishwasher safe.
A little more expensive than other backless boosters, the Chicco GoFit feels very robust and well-made, whilst providing a lot more padding for your child’s comfort than many other seats of this type.
The seat has lap belt guides and a shoulder clip, which is attached to the back of the seat by a fabric strap. In some cars, you can fit three of these seats in the back – but you should only do this if you have a 3-point seat belt in the center seat, not a lap belt.
At 5 lbs it is heavier than the other travel booster seats in this selection and would also take up more luggage space. Nevertheless, it is still light enough to carry around and easy to move from one vehicle to another.
The only downside to this seat is that it doesn’t have latch connectors. Whilst this is a bonus in terms of travel, as it can quickly be moved to any vehicle, it does mean that it may shift a little during your journey and will also need to be stowed safely away when not in use.
Chicco GoFit booster seat features:
- Suitable for children age 4 and up, weighing from 40-110 lbs (18-45 kg).
- Double foam padding.
- Armrest covers and seat pad are machine-washable.
- Built-in carry handle.
- Smooth underside to protect vehicle seats.
So this is our complete guide to the best lightweight portable travel booster seats. I hope it helps you to find the best-suitable travel car seat for your kids.
Have you used any of these lightweight booster seats or have a favorite portable travel booster? Feel free to share your experience – you can leave a reply below.
READ ALSO : Best travel bags for kids
More tips for traveling with kids:
- Family travel: Tips for Travelling with Kids & Benefits of Family Travel
- Gear & luggage: Best Travel Gear for Kids & Best Kids Luggage
- Gift ideas: Travel Gifts for Kids (That They’ll Actually Use)
- Footwear: Best Travel Shoes for Kids
- Books: Travel Books and Destination Guides for Kids
If you found this post useful, don’t forget to bookmark it and share it with your friends who might be looking for a travel booster seat for their children. Are you on Pinterest? Pin this image!
Some travel inspiration for families:
- Best Family Travel Destinations
- Best USA National Parks to Visit with Kids
- Lesser-known US National Parks for Families
- Top USA Spring Break Destinations
- Top Spring Break Destinations in Europe
- Yellowstone with Kids
- Arches National Park with Kids
This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed .
Wednesday 31st of May 2023
I love this post! I actually read it years ago, then when I was looking at booster seats recently, I was so happy to find it back. I saw that it now has the comfiGO booster-type seat by ClypX. I was very interested in that seat, but when I started doing more research on it I found that US child passenger safety news site called Safe Ride News had an article stating that the booster is not actually classified as a booster in the US, so safety regulations don’t apply to it. Since it claims it complies with the regulations (deceptive), and because of how it is designed, I would be hesitant to use it or recommend it to anyone, whether or not they are in the US.
Tuesday 6th of June 2023
Hi Nanika, based on everything I find online, this booster seat is certified in the US.
Saturday 27th of May 2023
Do you have any information on when and why mifold went out of business? Have their booster seats been recalled? When I purchased our mifold years ago, it was considered very safe, approved for use in the UK (which is where we mostly need to use it) and we have loved it, but I know that ratings can change with more information. Thanks!
Hi Lindsey, it happened rather recently and I haven't heard anything about recalls. The company just stopped from one day to the other; I don't think it had anything to do with the product safety. Maybe try searching online - I wasn't able to find much info when I checked when updating this article last time.
Saturday 3rd of December 2022
On February 1, 2022, very shortly after you updated this for “2022 & Beyond” (Jan. 24), IIHS actually removed their “Best Bet” rating from both the BubbleBum and Hiccapop UberBoost inflatable boosters. This conclusion was made after new studies (using computer modeling vs. static dummies that were previously used) discovered the high potential for “submarining” in the event of a collision due to the lack of rigidity with an inflatable booster. Since they’ve determined more research/studies need to be performed with inflatable boosters, they have changed their previous “Best Bet” determinations to now “Unrated”. I just wanted to comment because you had mentioned the IIHS ratings in your article, so if that rating is a deciding factor for someone, they may want to choose another option. If someone is in need of a compact travel booster that does not inflate, your recommendation of the Mi-Fold would meet that criteria but again, that’s another option that is not rated by IIHS. Nonetheless, I found your article very helpful, thank you, and wish that the Trunki option you decided on was available here in the US!
Hi Cortnie, thank you for this update. It's difficult to keep up with all the changes, isn't it... I'll see when I can find the time to update this again. PS If you like Trunki Boostapak, I think you can just order it from Amazon.co.uk. We sometimes order products from Amazon in the US and they get shipped to Europe without any problems. They usually add some extra costs for shipping and customs duties, but sometimes it's still worth it. I'm just not sure if the Trunki is officially approved in the US and what that means if you'd use it there. I'm sure they are just fine safety-wise since whatever passes European standards could probably pass any others, but I don't know about the legal side of this. We took ours all over the world and in the last years, we see more and more families here in Europe traveling with these Trunki boosters/backpacks.
Wednesday 12th of May 2021
I would advise against renting car seats - you don't know their history - if they were in accidents or washed incorrectly, and they certainly aren't car rental agencies' specialties. I've seen car rental businesses advertise rental seats down to 2lbs, which just don't exist in the general market, if at all. If they can't list them correctly, how can you trust them to care for them correctly? Plus the fact that renters could wash them incorrectly and not disclose it to the rental company.
Thursday 13th of May 2021
It's not always ideal, indeed. But we have rented car seats for our kids and never really had any issues. I just couldn't imagine dragging two or three full-size car seats with us, in addition to all the other luggage... Sometimes you just have to make concessions and find what works for you and your family at that particular moment. But when our kids got bigger and we could avoid renting car seats, we started packing our own boosters and that was always worth it - both financially, as well as quality-wise. But you can't compare packing something so small as a booster to something as big as car seats...
Tuesday 9th of March 2021
Wow, great article. It came at the perfect time. We're getting ready to move abroad. I have a 3 and 4 year old. Do you think the Trunki would work for the 3 year old too? I hate to have to buy something different for each child when they're quite close in age, weight and height. We'll fly to Portugal and then will be driving/flying throughout Europe. I'm happy to have found your site!
Wednesday 10th of March 2021
Hi Kimberly, you'd have to check weight/ height requirements when deciding which car seat to get. In general, a booster is not suitable for kids under 4. Also, many countries in Europe now require a car seat with back support for 4-year olds and older kids as well. This depends on the country and the height of your child. So based on where exactly you are traveling, your kids might be too young for a backless booster seat in many countries in Europe . And if you are planning to cover a few European countries in one trip, it's better to be on the safe side and get a seat that will definitely fit everywhere. This might mean that it's easier to just rent car seats when you rent a car. Or you should consider getting a high-back booster like this relatively recent model from Mifold - Mifold Highfold Highback Booster. I now even updated our article to feature it as well as it's one of the best high-back booster travel solutions on the market at the moment. It's suitable for kids from 40 lbs. and at least 40 inches tall. This seat should be ok for your 4-year old, but I'm not sure about the 3-year old. You can always just pack one seat and rent one. That's what we used to do when our younger kids needed bigger car seats when traveling. Have a great trip!
4 best travel car seat for toddlers
Sharing is caring!
When it comes to holidaying abroad, it’s hard to know what’s best to do about your kids and car seats. The thought of not having appropriate car seats makes us really anxious so I researched and tried out a few portable car seat for toddlers. In this blog post I compare 4 options of portable travel car seats for toddlers and tell you which we bought and why.
Travel car seat for toddlers options
We don’t mess about when it comes to our kids’ car seats. We take it seriously and do our research, following whatever is the best guidance at the time.
It is one area where we don’t try to scrimp, even for grandparent’s cars. To us, it’s just not worth it.
Our three year old has good extended rear facing car seats in both our car (Cybex Sirona, you can see our review here ) and in her grandad’s car (Concord Reverso – see our video review here ).
But for our recent trip to Spain we chose to take portable car seats for toddlers.
Our daughter is too young for a booster seat at 3 and I would never put our 6 year old in a booster seat without a high back at home.
However, I’ve done my research and a travel car seat option would be better for both than nothing at all.
Portable car seats for toddlers in the UK
After asking around and doing some googling and it seems there are 4 top options for travel car seats for toddlers on the UK market at the moment:
- The BubbleBum (affiliate link) – this is an inflatable booster seat that you blow up for them and then deflate to put in luggage. From the limited amount of safety reviews I’ve been able to find on travel car seats, this one seems to score the best. BubbleBum is crash test approved and meets and exceeds the EU ECE R44. 04 and the US FMVSS 213 safety regulations. This means we are able to use this one for our upcoming trip to Iceland.
- The Trunki BoostApak (affiliate link) – this is a hard shelled back pack that transforms into a booster seat. The h ard shell means that whatever you have put in the backpack can remain in it meaning it’s a good ‘two for one’ option . I’ve read some reviews that say it can be a bit heavy (3lbs without anything in it) for younger kids though and I know mine would complain about carrying it.
- The mifold grab and go booster seat (affiliate link) – this is a foldable car seat that guides the seat belt into a more optimum position on the child. If you are looking for the most compact travel seat then this is the smallest I’ve seen on the UK market.
- The same company have also now launched the HiFold (below) which transforms into a higher back booster. This looks good but we haven’t personally tried it as it wasn’t available when I wrote this post originally. It’s the priciest travel car seat for toddlers.
BubbleBum as a portable travel car seat for toddlers
We’ve chosen to go with the BubbleBum for a several reasons:
- It seems better for safety (as I read here) and meets EU and US safety testing regulations as described here .
- My kids both seemed better positioned with it than the mifold when testing them in it
- My kids said it was the most comfortable to sit on (as compared to the mifold)
- I liked that it had a case unlike the others. You can pay £15 for a case for the mifold but I think that’s a bit of a cheek when you just paid £50 for the seat itself.
- It was the lightest product at only 1lb . The mifold is 1.5lbs and Trunki BoostApak is 3lbs.
- It was the cheapest product on the UK Market , coming in at around £30. The mifold is around £50 and the Trunki BoostApak is around £60. To get the safest product for the cheapest price was a no-brainer for us.
BubbleBum travel car seat for toddlers – holiday review
We have now taken the BubbleBum with us on our recent holiday to Lanzarote. They aren’t heavy at all and they fit inside the kid’s carry on luggage (kid’s size character suitcases).
We tried both the BubbleBum and the mifold out in our car to see which we preferred. The kids seemed positioned better on the BubbleBum and told us it was much more comfortable.
I was surprised that something so small and light could make such a difference . It reassured me that whilst it’s not as safe as a high backed proper car seat, it’s certainly a lot better than just putting a seat belt on them.
If you usually don’t take car seats on holiday because of the hassle, then I would thoroughly recommend the BubbleBum as a travel car seat for toddlers. It’s an easy option to make their car journeys safer and give you some peace of mind.
Buy our recommendation for travel car seat for toddlers
You can buy the BubbleBum for £29.99 on Amazon here (affiliate link). This is a bargain to keep your kids safer. It puts it £20 cheaper than the the mifold and £30 cheaper than the BoostApak.
Updated to add: This year we have used the Bubblebum for my 8 year old daughter on a 2 week holiday in America and for a trip to Iceland whilst there and it really helped position the seatbelt better for her and gave us reassurance. It was also very portable for carrying around with us when not in a car or taxis. We have really got years of our money’s worth out of this product.
Other options for kids car seats when travelling abroad
Just risk it.
It’s legal to not have car seats for taxis/transfers in the EU so you won’t get into trouble for not using one.
Lots of people do this and generally it’s fine, after all, crashes aren’t super common.
We decided against this option though as we spend all this money to keep them safe at home, why risk it when abroad?!
Arrange for the travel company to provide seats
Our first port of call was to contact the travel operator to ask if they could provide car seats. After 2 emails, we weren’t making much progress though and there was a language barrier.
I was left with no confidence that there would be seats provided, and if they were, that they would be the right ones for the size of my children. This would be my preferred option though.
If anyone knows of any great European transfer companies that are good at providing car seats please let me know in the comments.
Take your own seats
Our second consideration, was whether or not we should take our own seats. This is something we decided against. We have our hands full with 2 kids and luggage at the airport anyway. The kids’ car seats are really bulky and heavy. Plus they are expensive and I don’t want to risk them getting damaged in the hold.
Buy cheap car seats to travel with
This is certainly an option, be it booster seats or just cheaper, more travel friendly seats than we have but for some of the reasons above, this again is something that we chose not to do.
Summary of the best portable travel car seat for toddlers
There are 4 main options for portable car seats for toddlers on the UK market – the BubbleBum, MiFold, HiFold and the Trunk BoostApak.
We recommend the BubbleBum as our kids preferred it for comfort, it scored highest on the safety scores we read and it was the cheapest. We were pleasantly surprised at the difference it made compared to belt only.
Are there any new options I’ve missed? Let me know in the comments if so.
If you liked this post about travel car seats you might also like:
- Cybex Sirona Review – extended rear-facing UK car seat
- Review Video: Concord Reverso – Extended Rear Facing Car Seat
- Abora Interclub Atlantic Gran Canaria review
- Occidental Margaritas, Gran Canaria, family holiday review
- HD beach resort, Costa Teguise, Lanzarote, review
- Getting the ferry from Newcastle to Amsterdam with kids
- 12 ideas for toddler busy bags for airplane travel on Amazon
- Toddler won’t brush teeth? 11 tips for brushing your children’s teeth
If you have enjoyed this post or found it useful, here are some quick and easy ways that you can support Nomipalony or say thanks:
- Share this post with your friends
- Follow Nomipalony on Facebook , X , Instagram , Pinterest or YouTube
- Pop over to my Amazon Storefront to see what products I have been buying and loving from there recently, including my health and fitness products list.
- Click here to buy me a virtual cuppa
- Sign up to my mailing list
- Women can join my feminist Facebook group – the Nomipalony Freehouse
Please note this post was originally written in May 2018 and was last updated October 2023.
Disclaimer: Thanks to BubbleBum for sending us some of their travel seats to test for this post. This blog post contains clearly marked affiliate links. If you buy a product using an affiliate link you pay no more for the product but we get a small fee for referring you.
6 thoughts on “4 best travel car seat for toddlers”
Safety is worthwhile investing in.
This was really interest. I’m on the hunt for stage two car seats for my twins and traveling in Europe wasn’t something I’d considered!
Confused as bubblebum seat says from 4yo and your child was 3, which is how I came to this page by searching for travel seats for my 3yo. Can it be used for 3yo? Can’t see a weight guide.
Bubblebum’s FAQs says ‘EU law varies slightly between 135cm-150cm. Best practice for your child is to remain in a booster seat until the age of eleven AND/OR until they reach a height of 4ft 9 inches. This is when their body proportions are starting to be more like that of a small adult and they can sit properly in the vehicle seat. Never transition your child to a booster seat until at least the age of four AND weight of 15kg.’ But for us it was a case of Bubblebum or nothing at all and we felt that the Bubblebum provided a bit more protection than nothing for our 3 year old. We’d not have used it for her in the UK as a regular seat but it was better than nothing when travelling. The weight range from what I can see is from 15KG-36KG.
Can you please link to the safety reviews you mentioned you have found on portable car seats?
Hi Janet, sadly I can’t as it was on Which? and you need a paid membership to read them however if you head to the Which? website that’s where I read them.
Leave a comment Cancel reply
This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed .
- Register your booster
- mifold -Instruction videos and manuals
- hifold - Instruction Videos and manuals
- FAQ - mifold
- FAQ - hifold
- Shipping Policy
- Accessibility statement
- Regulatory approval
- cps techs and instructors
- mifold and hifold awards
- Influencer Affiliate Program
- Mifold Worldwide
Your Cart is Empty
- $0.00 Subtotal
- mifold Comfort
- mifold Basic
- mifold Sport
The mifold range features the world’s most compact and adjustable car booster seats, making them ideal for the needs of the modern family - "compact safety for every adventure."
Designed for children aged 4 and up, 40 to 100 lbs, and 40 to 59 inches tall, mifold Comfort is ideal for everyday use and compact enough to take with on every adventure!
mifold is the world’s most compact and portable backless booster seat. mifold is more than 10x smaller than a traditional booster and just as safe. mifold Comfort features the super comfortable, extra padded “Compact Comfort” seat cushion, anti-slip pads and an easy to fit shoulder guide.
mifold Comfort is safety tested to FMVSS 213 in the US and is globally regulated which means it can be used in every country except Australia and Taiwan.
hifold is the world's most adjustable highback booster. hifold is suitable for children aged 4 and up, between 40-100 pounds and 40-59 inches tall.
With 243 individual settings hifold provides optimal safety and comfort whatever size your child. hifold is lightweight and folds down for easy storage, moving from car to car and for hassle-free travel.
introducing mifold Comfort
Introducing mifold hifold, the mifold range of boosters are great for everyday use and for:.
so compact, it's easy to fit in your hand luggage
always have a booster for every kid in your car
taxis never have booster seats, and that is not safe!
no need to clutter up the back of the car
cheaper than renting a booster seat, and you get to keep it!
fits 3 in a row, even in the smallest cars
All mifold seats meet and exceed global safety standards
shoppers in the USA can buy the mifold range of products here
- Trying to Conceive
- Signs & Symptoms
- Pregnancy Tests
- Fertility Testing
- Fertility Treatment
- Weeks & Trimesters
- Staying Healthy
- Preparing for Baby
- Complications & Concerns
- Pregnancy Loss
- School-Aged Kids
- Raising Kids
- Personal Stories
- Everyday Wellness
- Safety & First Aid
- Food & Nutrition
- Active Play
- Pregnancy Products
- Nursery & Sleep Products
- Nursing & Feeding Products
- Clothing & Accessories
- Toys & Gifts
- Ovulation Calculator
- Pregnancy Due Date Calculator
- How to Talk About Postpartum Depression
- Editorial Process
- Meet Our Review Board
The 12 Best Booster Seats for a Safer Ride, Tested by Kids and Parents
We evaluated booster seats based on design, comfort, ease of use, and value
We independently evaluate all recommended products and services. If you click on links we provide, we may receive compensation. Learn more .
Verywell Family / David Hattan
A booster seat is a vital piece of gear that reduces the risk of nonfatal injuries in vehicle crashes by 45%, particularly among children ages 4 to 8. Children should transition to a booster seat once they max out their forward-facing harness seats' height and weight limits.
Booster seats are designed to “boost” your child so they fit properly in a vehicle’s seat belt. Some feature a high back with a headrest, while others are backless. Regardless of the style you choose for your family, consider your vehicle, the space in your back seat, if you’ll travel with the unit, and whether you would like a LATCH attachment system (lower anchor and tethers for children).
To find the best booster seats, we researched safety guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). We also spoke to parents and medical professionals. With this guidance in mind, we researched top-rated booster seats and considered their design, installation, ease of use, durability, safety features, and value. We then narrowed our list down to 19 booster seats that met our criteria and sent them home with our parenting editors to use with their children, ages 4 to 8, and in their personal vehicles.
Our editors continue to use these booster seats to help us gauge their durability and longevity. We will update this list as we gain additional insights to ensure we recommend the best booster seats for kids.
- We Also Tested
- How We Tested
- What to Look For
Why Trust Verywell Family
Best overall, graco turbobooster 2.0 backless booster.
- Design 5 /5
- Ease of Installation 5 /5
- Ease of Use 5 /5
- Durability 5 /5
- Ease of Cleaning 5 /5
Compact, lightweight, and portable
No installation necessary
Comfy and durable
Must remove/reinstall a screw to adjust armrests
Convertible: No (backless) | Installation: No installation required | Weight and Height Range: 40 to 100 pounds, and 43 to 57 inches tall | Recommended Age: 4 to 10 years old | Dimensions: 15 x 17 x 8.6 inches | Product Weight: 5.1 pounds
Why We Recommend It
The Graco TurboBooster 2.0 Backless Booster tops our list for its simple yet sturdy design, portability, and easy cleaning. This backless booster is for kids ages 4 to 10, weighing 40 to 100 pounds and measuring 43 to 57 inches tall, and provides just enough of a boost for children to ride safely with the vehicle’s seat belt.
The Graco TurboBooster 2.0 Backless sits directly on the vehicle seat, is lightweight (5 pounds) and portable , and requires zero installation—you just put it on the seat and you're done!
The seat feels sturdy and high-quality, with plenty of room to grow. The kiddos who used this backless booster seat described it as super comfy —more than their previous seats—thanks to thicker padding and adjustable armrests. Plus, its compact size doesn’t take up too much space. In fact, during our testing period, we had two adults sit beside the booster seat on two separate two-hour road trips, and they reported that there was enough space and they felt comfortable for both rides.
We found the process of changing the position of the armrest slightly inconvenient: you have to remove a screw, press a button on the base, and reinstall the screw. On each side of the seat, you’ll also find a hide-away cup holder that folds into the base when not in use.
A removable, machine-washable seat pad makes for easy cleanup every time. Unsnap buttons on the underside of the base and unhook tabs on the top of the seat to remove the padding. Wash the seat pad in cold water with gentle soap on a delicate cycle and drip dry. Shake crumbs and other loose debris out of the seat and use a vacuum for the rest.
Kids loved this backless booster, praising its plush seat pad and dual cup holders that keep water bottles and snacks handy. One kiddo said this booster seat is nearly comparable to her comfy mattress. The $29 price tag is the cherry on top.
Price at time of publication: $29
Cosco kids rise backless booster car seat.
Super light (2 pounds)
High armrests for easy seat belt access
Machine washable/dryer safe seat pad
Lacks cup holders/adjustable armrests
Convertible: No (backless) | Installation: No installation required | Weight and Height Range: 40 to 100 pounds, and 43 to 57 inches tall | Recommended Age: Not listed | Dimensions: Not listed | Product Weight: 2 pounds
Impressively lightweight and portable , the Cosco Kids Rise Backless is the best booster seat for travel. It weighs only 2 pounds and requires no installation, so you (or the kids) can transport it from car to car effortlessly.
This backless booster reaps the same weight and height requirements as the Graco TurboBooster 2.0 Backless: 40 to 100 pounds and 43 to 57 inches tall. Despite its wide base for growing kids, it’s not bulky and works as a three-across booster seat in most vehicles . Additionally, it easily fits in the overhead bin on a plane.
The overall design of the Cosco Rise Backless is basic and uncomplicated . It doesn’t feature thick padding like the TurboBooster 2.0 Backless, but none of our kids complained about comfort. Plus, the fabric is available in solid colors and patterns, like black, pink, and “ripple,” a fun pattern with variations of blue and circle-like shapes.
We appreciate the machine washable seat pad for when—not if—messes strike. The company says you can wash the seat pad separately in cold water on a gentle cycle. It’s also safe to tumble dry separately on low heat for 10 to 12 minutes.
While the armrests aren’t adjustable, they sit higher for more convenient seat belt access for kids, and there's also a seat belt adjuster to ensure proper positioning. This Cosco backless booster lacks cup holders, so you’ll want to keep that in mind.
This booster seat logged many miles from flights, taxi rides, rental vehicles, and everyday use in our test. It’s held up against drops and bumps and shows no signs of wear and tear. It’s a great backless booster seat for travel, and its low cost is easy on the wallet.
Price at time of publication: $14
Best With Belt Positioning
Chicco gofit cleartex backless booster car seat.
- Ease of Installation 4.8 /5
Seat belt positioner stays put
Cup holders fold into themselves
Built-in carry handle
Easier to put belt positioner on with the child in the seat
Convertible: No (backless) | Installation: No installation required | Weight and Height Range: 40 to 110 pounds, and 38 to 57 inches tall | Recommended Age: Minimum of 4 years old and can sit relatively still in same seated position | Dimensions: 15 x 17 x 8.5 inches | Product Weight: 6 pounds
If you feel more comfortable using a booster with a belt-positioning system, the Chicco GoFit ClearTex Backless Booster is a great option. It features built-in lap belt guides and a shoulder belt clip that help ensure a correct fit with the vehicle’s seat belt.
This backless booster seat has a slightly higher weight limit (40 to 110 pounds) and a lower minimum height limit (38 to 57 inches) than the Graco TurboBooster 2.0 Backless and Cosco Kids Rise Backless. The company recommends the booster for kids at least 4 years old, who can sit relatively still in the same position during a car ride.
Weighing 6 pounds, the booster seat isn’t difficult to carry. It’s also narrow enough to function as a three-across booster seat or be placed next to a backseat passenger without overcrowding them.
Because there’s no LATCH system to install, you can simply place this backless booster onto the vehicle’s seat. The only part that took us a couple of minutes was getting the shoulder positioner onto the seat belt (tip: It’s easier with the child in the seat). We appreciate how the positioner stays on the vehicle seat belt even after the child gets out of the car, so you don’t have to reattach that piece every time. However, if you prefer a booster seat with a LATCH system, the Chicco GoFit Plus offers that installation method.
One of our favorite features of this Chicco backless booster is its integrated ergonomic handle for portability . It’s easy to grab and it distributes the seat’s weight evenly while carrying it between cars or through the airport.
While the armrests don’t adjust, they’re cushy for added comfort. Parents and kids alike will love the removable, dishwasher-safe cup holders that fold into themselves to save space. Additionally, the seat is a breeze to clean—simply toss the seat pad in the washing machine (cold water on delicate cycle with mild detergent, then hang dry).
Price at time of publication: $50
Chicco kidfit zip air plus 2-in-1 belt positioning booster car seat.
- Durability 4.5 /5
Converts to backless booster
Seat padding zips on/off
Removable footrest provides additional comfort
Kids console doesn’t stay in firmly
Convertible: Yes (high back and backless) | Installation: LATCH | Weight and Height Range: 40 to 100 pounds (high back) and 40 to 110 pounds (backless) | Recommended Age: Minimum of 4 years old and can sit relatively still in same seated position | Dimensions: 20 x 17 x 26 inches | Product Weight: 11 pounds
If you’re looking for a convertible booster that goes from high back to backless, you’ll love the KidFit Zip Air Plus 2-in-1. There’s a slight variation in the weight limit for each mode: high back is for kids 40 to 100 pounds, while the backless mode is for kids weighing 40 to 110 pounds. All riders must be between 38 to 57 inches tall for both modes. Because this is a 2-in-1 booster seat, it features a higher weight of 11 pounds and a larger size, but it never felt heavy or oversized during testing.
While this Chicco booster seat requires some assembly, it’s simple and quick to put together the first time (approximately 10 minutes). Installing it in a vehicle using the LATCH connectors takes about the same time.
This booster seat feels very sturdy and has a few features that our kiddos love. A zip-on cushioned leg rest provides additional support and comfort for kids (it can also be removed to save space). In addition to two cup holders that fold in (to save even more space), kids really like the bonus console that detaches and holds items like snacks, toys, or sunglasses. The only downside is that the console doesn’t stay firmly in place, though it never fell off during testing.
All fabrics, including the seat pad and armrest covers, are removable via zippers and are machine washable. Putting the padding back on is surprisingly easy and everything fits perfectly, making the booster look like new again.
The Chicco KidFit Zip Air Plus 2-in-1 is a good value for a family needing options. It’s a seamless transition from car to car and it's just as effortless for kids to buckle themselves in (before you double-check their work, of course).
Price at time of publication: $160
Diono solana 2 with latch.
- Ease of Use 4.5 /5
Retractable dual cup holders with snack compartments
Easy to clean
Convertible: No (backless) | Installation: LATCH | Weight and Height Range: 40 to 120 pounds and 38 to 63 inches tall | Recommended Age: Not listed | Dimensions: 16.1 x 18.5 x 9.4 inches | Product Weight: 6.6 pounds
For kids who are eager to transition out of their car seats, a backless booster is a great compromise. We particularly like the Diono Solana 2 with LATCH because it has a higher weight and height limit for growing kids (40 to 120 pounds and 38 to 63 pounds tall) to ride safely longer and comes in three color options: black, blue, and pink. This booster seat feels light at 6.6 pounds, making it convenient to transfer when needed.
Like the Chicco KidFit Zip Air Plus 2-in-1, the Diono backless booster can be installed using the LATCH system . Two connectors latch into your vehicle’s lower anchor bars and tighten via two pull straps on the front of the seat. It took us approximately 10 minutes to install the seat the first time, but once you get the hang of it, it’s quicker and easier to install.
We appreciate the sleek and modern style of the Diono Solana 2. The kids in our test also liked the booster seat’s retractable dual cup holders with extra snack compartments.
The seat features two armrests, but they’re short and non-adjustable. On the plus side, they likely won’t intrude on a nearby backseat passenger. Another feature of the seat kids love is the deep, padded cushioning that’s comfy for any car ride. Plus, the seat pad is one full piece and a breeze to remove and clean in the washing machine when necessary.
The Diono Solana 2 with LATCH remains in beautiful condition well after our initial four-week testing period. We love how easy it is to clean, how lightweight it feels, and that it takes up minimal space in the back seat—even with another car seat on the other side. The seat is a good value for its high quality, especially for families who travel often or need a booster seat that’s not a challenge to store.
Price at time of publication: $60
Best High Back
Nuna aace booster seat.
Color indicators on LATCH connectors
Height-adjustable headrest and recline positions
Overall shape is wider (but doesn’t feel bulky)
Convertible: Yes (high back and backless) | Installation: LATCH | Weight and Height Range: 40 to 110 pounds, measuring 38 to 60 inches tall (high back) and 50 to 120 pounds, measuring 38 to 60 inches tall (backless) | Recommended Age: Minimum of 4 years old (high back) and minimum of 5 years old (backless) | Dimensions: 14.6 x 21.5 x 26 inches (lowest position of high back) and 15 x 22.5 x 33 inches (highest position of high back) | Product Weight: 15.6 pounds
The Nuna AACE Booster Seat grows with your child via two booster conversions: high back and backless. While we like this Nuna booster seat in both modes, we particularly love it as a high back booster because of its height-adjustable headrest , large shoulder width for extra room, and expandable seat with eight recline positions.
Children can use this pick as a high back booster if they’re at least 4 years old, weighing 40 to 110 pounds, and measuring 38 to 60 inches tall. For backless riding, children must be at least 5 years old, weighing 50 to 120 pounds, and measuring 38 to 60 inches tall. This booster seat isn’t the heaviest we tested, but it weighs 15.6 pounds.
Installing the Nuna AACE Booster Seat is impressively simple; we didn’t even need the manual (but we checked just in case afterward). Pull a handle on the front of the seat to release the metal frame with the rigid LATCH connectors (meaning no straps) on the back of the seat and connect to the vehicle’s lower anchor bars. One of our favorite features of this Nuna booster seat is the color indicators on each LATCH connector. When locked in place, the color indicators change from red to green to ensure a secure installation. To convert the high back into a backless booster seat, eject the seat base and pull the high back out.
We love the sleek look and solid construction of this Nuna booster seat. It reaps a nine-position height-adjustable headrest—via a one-handed handle—to accommodate growing kids. A cool feature of the adjustable headrest is that it widens the shoulder area during adjustment.
An eight-position recline (high back only), built-in armrests, and expandable seat ensure kids of all ages and sizes are comfy. Under the armrests and headrest, you’ll find colored belt path indicators to help kids learn where the seat belt should go. While the booster seat comes with a single cup holder rather than two, it clips into openings on either side of the seat.
Thanks to the smooth, padded fabric, you can use your hand to wipe off crumbs or other debris. Remove the seat covering for messes that absorb into the material by unfastening a few buttons and clips. Toss it in the washing machine with mild detergent and run it on a delicate cycle before hanging it to dry. We appreciate how the seat cover didn’t shrink or change quality after we washed it a few times to eliminate sunscreen residue, deeper food debris, and more. To clean the shell of the booster seat, the company recommends using mild detergent, water, and a soft cloth and air drying.
Price at time of publication: $250
Best With LATCH
Peg perego viaggio flex 120.
- Design 4.7 /5
Adjustable backrest, headrest, and side wings
High-quality feel and look
Rigid LATCH feels secure and is easy to use
Cup holders have no base (vehicle seat is the base)
No armrests (a con for some families)
Convertible: No (high back) | Installation: LATCH | Weight and Height Range: 40 to 120 pounds, measuring 39 to 63 inches tall | Recommended Age: Not listed | Dimensions: 22 x 17.25 x 26.75 inches (unfolded) and 23.5 x 17.25 x 9.75 inches (folded) | Product Weight: 14 pounds
While we have other booster seats with LATCH systems on our list, our favorite is the Peg Perego Viaggio Flex 120 because it's a dream to install with its rigid LATCH connectors. The manufacturer recommends this booster seat for kids weighing 40 to 120 pounds and measuring 39 to 63 inches tall. The seat weighs 14 pounds, which is about right for its size, yet doesn't feel heavy.
It's important to note that this Peg Perego seat is only a high back booster and does not convert to a backless booster—but don't let that discourage you; this pick wowed us during testing.
The Peg Perego Viaggio Flex 120 features a rigid LATCH similar to the Nuna Aace. To install it, you need to push a yellow handle on the front of the seat to eject the metal yellow LATCH connectors on the back of the seat. The LATCH connectors seamlessly click into the vehicle's lower anchor bars, so you don't have to fumble with straps or tightening. Once you click the connectors into place, push the same yellow handle at the front of the seat to push the seat back. An indicator on the LATCH arms turns red to green when the connectors properly lock into place on the anchor bars—a feature we love for peace of mind. The only part that took us some time during the installation was finding the manual in a hidden compartment on the seat's base.
We love how the Viaggio Flex 120 compactly folds after you uninstall it via a strap on the back of the seat. The headrest features a tab that connects to the base to keep the unit from unfolding during travel or transfer to another car. Two cup holders fold into the car seat's base to save space. However, we don't recommend them for small drinks because there's no base in the cup holders. Instead, the vehicle seat is the base.
The booster's additional features are also impressive, including the five-position recline and adjustable backrest, headrest, and side wings—all of which you can easily operate via one button or handle.
According to the company, all upholstered covers (the seat cover, backrest, and headrest) are safe to machine wash (maximum water temperature 87 degrees Fahrenheit).
Price at time of publication: $300
Chicco kidfit cleartex plus 2-in-1 belt-positioning booster car seat.
- Ease of Use 4.9 /5
- Ease of Cleaning 4.1 /5
Converts from high back to backless
Rigid LATCH is easy to install/optional
Challenging to snap in armrests
Tedious to remove cover for washing
Convertible: Yes (high back and backless) | Installation: LATCH or seat belt | Weight and Height Range: 40 to 100 pounds (high back) and 40 to 110 pounds (backless), measuring 38 to 57 inches tall | Recommended Age: 4 years old | Dimensions: 17 x 17 x 26 inches | Product Weight: 10 pounds
Whether you need to accommodate other car seats or passengers, the Chicco KidFit ClearTex Plus 2-in-1 fits the bill. Despite its 2-in-1 design, which converts from a high back to a backless booster, this pick reaps a narrow size of 17 x 17 x 26 inches. We were even able to use the unit as a three-across booster seat for several weeks when one of our editors welcomed a new baby earlier than the arrival of their three-row SUV.
Children must be at least 4 years old for both booster modes and weigh between 40 to 100 pounds for high back riding and 40 to 110 pounds for backless riding. Regardless of the booster mode, children should also be between 38 and 57 inches tall.
The overall installation of this Chicco booster seat is simple, except for putting on the armrests. We had to turn the unit upside down and apply force to the seat to snap in the armrests. Following that hiccup, installation was a dream. A button on the front of the seat releases the LATCH connectors in the back to secure the lower anchor bars. Pull a strap on the seat’s base to tighten, and you’re good to go.
If LATCH connectors aren’t your forte, that’s OK—they’re optional , according to the company (but there’s nowhere to store them). You can opt to use the seat belt only instead. Either way, the only part of installation that concerned us during testing was removing the back for backless mode. We were afraid of snapping a plastic connector, but it proved durable and held up through multiple conversions with no breakage or tear.
A 10-position headrest grows with kids, though you may have to tinker with the adjustment to get a proper fit for the seat belt. Once you find a secure and comfy fit, use the colored paths under the armrests and headrest to guide the lap and shoulder seat belt into place.
Double foam padding , a two-position backrest, and two removable cup holders will make kids feel like they’re riding in the actual vehicle seat. The cup holders collapse when you need a narrow fit and can be removed for cleaning in the dishwasher.
While the Chicco KidFit ClearTex Plus 2-in-1 has a removable and machine-washable cover, it’s tedious to remove. The elastic loops are tiny, and the plastic hook pieces are difficult to engage. We recommend removing the entire fabric for big messes (like potty accidents, car sickness, etc.) rather than snack dust or other light clean-up.
Price at time of publication: $100
Maxi-cosi rodisport booster car seat.
Adjustable headrest and recline
Bright red seat belt guides
Feels sturdy and secure
Only one cup holder
Convertible: Yes (high back and backless) | Installation: LATCH or seat belt | Weight and Height Range: 40 to 100 pounds and 43 to 57 inches tall | Recommended Age: Not listed | Dimensions: 18 x22 x 18.5 inches | Product Weight: 13 pounds
If your family spends a lot of time in the car, the super comfortable Maxi-Cosi RodiSport might be a good fit for you. It converts from a high back belt-positioning booster seat to a backless mode for kids weighing 40 to 100 pounds and measuring 43 to 57 inches tall. We appreciate the spacious size for growing children that doesn’t feel bulky or take up too much space.
Despite instructions that aren’t intuitive, the rigid LATCH installation of the RodiSport is seamless. The seat arrives in two pieces (the back and the base) that click together in seconds. It took us about 10 minutes to install this booster in the back seat the first time, but now the process barely takes us two minutes. The company says the LATCH connection is optional, but we think this installation method makes the booster feel more sturdy and secure.
The consensus among the kids who rode in this booster seat during our test was clear: They all thought it was super comfortable —and now we understand why. A seven-position headrest, multiple recline options, padded material, and armrests allow for a better fit and added comfort as kids grow. Like the other booster seats on our list, you push a handle on the top of the headrest to make it move up or down.
We appreciate the bright red seat belt guides beneath the armrests and under the headrest to help kids know where their seat belt goes. While kids missed having two cup holders (there’s only one), they didn’t struggle to fit or keep drinks in it.
Removing the seat cover of the Maxi-Cosi RodiSport is just as easy as cleaning it. The plush fabric is safe for the washing machine and washes beautifully without changes or wear and tear. The single cup holder is also removable and top-rack dishwasher safe.
Price at time of publication: $180
Best With 5-Point Harness
Britax grow with you clicktight plus harness-2-booster car seat.
- Ease of Installation 4 /5
- Ease of Use 4.6 /5
Use from 25 to 120 pounds
LATCH or seat belt installation with tether
Machine washable and dryer-safe cover
Cumbersome to remove five-point harness
Convertible: Yes (5-point harness and high back) | Installation: LATCH or seat belt | Weight and Height Range: 25 to 65 pounds and 34 to 49 inches tall (harness) and 40 to 120 pounds and 44 to 63 inches tall (belt-positioning high back) | Recommended Age: Minimum of 2 years old for forward-facing harness | Dimensions: 21 x 23 x 25 inches | Product Weight: 26 pounds
The Britax Grow With You ClickTight Plus Harness-2-Booster transforms from a forward-facing harness to a belt-positioning booster seat. Children weighing 25 to 65 pounds and standing 34 to 49 inches tall can ride with the five-point harness, or they must weigh 40 to 120 pounds and stand 44 to 63 inches tall for belt-positioning booster mode. It's important to note that Britax recommends the booster mode only after a child outgrows the harness mode.
There are two ways to install the Britax Grow With You ClickTight Plus: LATCH and tether or seat belt and tether. Britax recommends families use the top tether at all times to help improve the seat's stability. The installation is simple using either system, but removing the five-point harness is cumbersome (you have to remove the back cover to expose the harness clips).
Following installation, the Britax booster seat feels solid, secure, and stable. While its large size isn't three across-friendly, it provides plenty of room for kids to grow. The booster seat boasts an easy-to-adjust nine-position headrest and two recline options to help you find the most comfortable fit for your child. Kids will love having two cup holders with built-in snack areas. Moreover, they'll appreciate the padded headrest, seat, and armrests for additional coziness.
While you need to unhook the fabric cover for a full cleaning, you can safely toss it in the washing machine and dryer. You don't even have to remove the harness to take off the cover. There aren't many nooks and crannies to worry about, either. Note: The company recommends periodically cleaning the harness buckle to ensure proper operation (thoroughly rinse with warm water, but do not soak).
The Britax Grow With You ClickTight Plus is the third-highest-priced booster seat we tested, but it's important to remember that you're paying for two seats in one. Plus, it's a great quality product, so you can expect it to last a long time.
Price at time of publication: $350
Best With Lap Belt Positioner
Uppababy alta booster seat.
- Design 4.5 /5
Padded headrest adjusts to 7 positions
Removable cup holder is dishwasher safe
Large and wide
Convertible: No (high back) | Installation: LATCH | Weight and Height Range: 40 to 100 pounds and 38 to 57 inches tall | Recommended Age: Not listed | Dimensions: 20 x 19 x 25.5 to 33 inches | Product Weight: 16.6 pounds
Why We Recommend It:
The UPPAbaby Alta Booster Seat boasts a feature no other booster we tested has: a lap belt positioner. This special piece helps kids 40 to 100 pounds and 38 to 57 inches tall find a proper fit easier.
We also appreciate how easy this booster is to install: it took us less than five minutes to install it using the rigid LATCH system. The two lower anchors swing out from underneath the seat and click directly into the anchor bars—no tightening necessary. We love the green and red indicators that let you know the anchors clicked in properly. The entire installation process was so simple that we were initially confused by how quickly we finished.
This high back booster seat has a padded headrest and a cup holder that clicks into either side. The cup holder can be easily removed when you need to save space or clean it in the dishwasher. However, if you install the cup holder on the same side as the seat belt buckle, you have to pull the seat belt around the cup holder, which is awkward and extends the seat belt. We had no issues using the seven-position headrest, and kids appreciate the comfy armrests and lap belt positioner that helps keep the seat belt from riding up.
The headrest and seat covers of the UPPAbaby Alta are machine washable, but we found that brushing out the crumbs was enough to make the booster look like new. We didn’t have any challenges with cleaning the seat, and there were no deep or difficult-to-reach nooks and crannies. Plus, the plastic shell is a breeze to wipe down.
As for the size of the booster seat, it’s wide and big . We couldn’t fit an adult between this booster and another car seat in the back seat of a Chevy Cruze. Moreover, we couldn’t fold down the back seat center console for cup holders because it interfered with the seat. On the plus side, its big frame gives children tons of wiggle room for comfort.
The UPPAbaby Alta reaps a median price for booster seats, which is fair for its nice quality and great performance. The entire unit is in excellent condition after the initial testing period, with no wear and tear or other quality issues.
Graco nautilus 2.0 lx 3-in-1 harness booster car seat.
- Design 4.3 /5
- Ease of Use 4.3 /5
Forward-facing harness, high back, and backless
Narrow design saves space
Removing/reattaching back and harness is difficult
Harness system rattles without child in seat
Convertible: Yes (forward-facing harness, high back, and backless) | Installation: LATCH or seat belt | Weight and Height Range: 22 to 65 pounds and 27 to 49 inches tall (forward-facing harness), 40 to 100 pounds and 43 to 57 inches tall (high back), and 40 to 120 pounds and 43 to 57 inches tall (backless) | Recommended Age: Minimum of 4 years old | Dimensions: 19.7 x 19.4 x 26 inches | Product Weight: 17.4 pounds
Once your kiddo outgrows their rear-facing car seat, they will need a forward-facing seat and then a booster seat—so why not kill two birds with one stone and save some money in the process? The Graco Nautilus 2.0 LX 3-in-1 transforms into three modes of use: forward-facing harness, high back booster, and backless booster. Thanks to its three modes, kids (at least 4 years old) can use this seat for years (22 to 120 pounds). We appreciate that the booster seat doesn’t feel bulky and is narrow enough that it doesn’t take up too much room in the back seat.
Depending on the mode, installation is either LATCH or seat belt. Graco says securing the seat in booster mode with LATCH is safe, but only if the vehicle manufacturer allows it. We recommend reading over the booster seat and your vehicle manuals to ensure a proper installation. We installed the seat during our testing period using the LATCH system, which was easy peasy. The only tricky part was removing and reattaching the back and harness. We also found that the harness system rattles when a child isn’t strapped in, which was a minor inconvenience.
The Graco Nautilus 2.0 LX has several features for premium comfort, such as a 10-position headrest, a four-position recline, and padded seating. We had zero issues using any of the booster seat’s features; everything worked as it should, including the dual cup holders.
While there are several pieces to this booster seat, many of them are machine washable, like the headrest pad and upper and middle backrest pads. We think that the $190 cost is a good deal for a three-in-one design that will last for years to come.
Price at time of publication: $190
Booster Seats We Also Tested
- Graco TurboBooster 2.0 Highback Booster : We love how this pick easily converts from a high back to a backless booster and installs just as effortlessly. It feels light to carry and features height-adjustable armrests and a comfortable headrest. However, the headrest doesn’t have thick padding, and the overall unit doesn’t feel very sturdy.
- Safety 1st Store ‘n Go Sport Booster Car Seat : This Safety 1st booster seat doesn’t feature a LATCH system, so installation and transfer are a breeze. There’s also a storage drawer underneath the seat for small items, like sunglasses, a tablet, and more (which we and the kids loved). On the other hand, adjusting the headrest is challenging because you must take the whole seat out to reach a certain piece for adjustment. Moreover, we felt we might break the headrest when changing its height.
- Cosco Kids Finale 2-in-1 Booster Car Seat : The Cosco Kids Finale is a basic 2-in-1 booster seat without bells and whistles. It’s quick to install, feels sturdy and lightweight, and is easy to clean, thanks to a removable and machine-washable cover. Plus, it converts from a forward-facing harness to a belt-positioning booster seat. The booster seat’s downfall is that it doesn’t feel high quality, and there are no adjustments to the headrest and armrests.
- Diono Monterey 5iST FixSafe : The machine washable and plush fabric, great durability, and folding capability of the Diono Monterey 5iST FixSafe are its saving graces. Unfortunately, the seat is heavy (18.7 pounds), was somewhat challenging to install, and felt inconvenient to carry around due to an awkwardly placed carrying handle.
- Clek Oobr High Back Booster Car Seat : We love the sleek, minimalist design of the Clek Oobr. The booster seat, which is a high back and backless booster, feels solid but lacks cushioning for kids. Moreover, some kids felt “squished” when using it in high back mode.
- Diono Monterrey 2XT Latch : While we love the LATCH installation and how lightweight this high back booster is, we were a little concerned that the back detached from the base when not installed (when we moved it from one vehicle to another).
How We Tested Booster Seats
To find the best booster seats, we began our research by studying AAP, NHTSA, and IIHS safety guidelines. We also spoke with parents and medical professionals, including Jessica Jermakian , DSc, Vice President of Vehicle Research for the IIHS; Heather Trnka , Injury Prevention Coalition Supervisor at Akron Children’s Hospital; and Denise Scott , MD, a JustAnswer pediatrician, to learn more about what to look for in a booster seat.
With this expert guidance in mind, we then researched dozens of booster seats available on the market and narrowed our list to the top 19 options that met all the safety guidelines. To ensure we’re recommending the best booster seats, we sent our picks to parenting editors to use at home with their children for an initial four-week testing period. Our editors used these booster seats in their own vehicles and assessed each one on several key attributes, including design, ease of installation, durability, ease of use, ease of cleaning, and overall value.
To kick off our testing, our editors unboxed the booster seats and examined them for flaws, loose threads, sturdiness, and quality. We also looked for special features, such as removable and washable covers, cup holders, armrests, a recline option, an adjustable headrest, and more. While some booster seats arrived fully assembled, others required the attachment of backrests, headrests, or cup holders. Next, we asked editors to watch videos from the NHTSA on booster seat installation tips before reading over manufacturer instructions. Then, we set a timer to determine how long it took us to install the booster seats according to the manual in vehicles of different sizes, such as a Chevy Cruze, SUVs, and minivans. We installed the booster seats using LATCH systems (when applicable) or seat belts. During the installation process, we noted any struggles or challenges, the overall size of the car seats compared to other seats in the vehicle, and safety features.
Before taking the booster seats on test drives, we made sure the children were buckled in safely. We also made additional adjustments to accommodate their size and needs, such as adjusting the headrest, recline, or armrests,
Editors and their children used these booster seats in their daily routines for an initial four weeks, driving to school, soccer practice, and even going on road trips. To better understand the kids' perspectives, we asked them if they felt comfortable in the seats and what they liked or didn't like about them. We also cleaned the booster seats according to each manufacturer’s recommendations at least once or as often as necessary. For convertible booster seats, we also converted them from the high back configurations to the backless modes, noting the ease or difficulty of the transition and if we needed help.
We’re still evaluating these car seats well beyond the initial four-week testing period to better gauge their performance and durability in the long term. Our editors continue to use them almost daily and provide feedback to ensure we’re recommending the best booster seats. We’ll update our list with current information on how the booster seats fare over the next six months and beyond.
What to Look for in a Booster Seat
Before transitioning your child to a booster seat, ensure they're ready for the change. According to our experts and the AAP, keeping your child in a forward-facing car seat is safest until they outgrow the weight and height limitations. Moreover, if their shoulders are above the top harness slots or the tops of their ears reach the top of the seat, they should transition to a belt-positioning booster.
Double-check a booster seat's age, weight, and height recommendations so you'll know if it will work for your child. Additionally, each state has age and weight requirements for car seats you need to follow. Unfortunately, sometimes these requirements are low, and children are safest when they max out their forward-facing seat. Dr. Jermakian says she often sees parents forgo the booster seat when it's inconvenient, such as carpooling. However, it's vital that kids use a booster seat on every trip until a vehicle seat belt fits properly, typically around 8 to 12 years old and at least 4 feet 9 inches tall.
To use a booster seat, children must use a vehicle's lap and shoulder belts. The lap belt should sit low across your child's thighs, while the shoulder belt should sit in the middle of the chest and shoulder (off the neck), according to our experts and the IIHS.
Lastly, avoid inflatable booster seats, as they may deform under the forces of a crash, explains Dr. Jermakian. Inflatable booster seats are less stiff; if a collision happens, you need a unit that's stiff enough to keep the seat belt across the pelvis and shoulder. Under the forces of a crash, inflatable boosters may cause a child's hips to slip under the belt, which can cause the seat belt to move into the soft areas of the abdomen and result in serious injury, Dr. Jermakian adds.
According to Heather Trnka, caregivers should look for a booster seat that fits their child, vehicle, and budget. The goal of all booster seats is to boost your child up so they fit properly with the vehicle’s seat belt. There are two main booster types: high back and backless. You may also see all-in-one car seats or combination seats. Below, we break down each booster type and who it’s for.
- High back: In addition to giving kids a boost, a high back option provides neck and head support (typically via a built-in backrest and headrest). A high back booster is best for vehicles lacking headrests and high seat backs. Some models, such as the Nuna AACE , feature a LATCH system for installation, while others allow you to secure the seat via the vehicle’s seat belt.
- Backless: This booster seat gives kids the lift they need without a backrest. Instead, kids use the vehicle’s seat as the backrest. A backless booster, like the Graco TurboBooster 2.0 Backless Booster (our best overall pick), is much more compact and travel-friendly. It’s ideal for vehicles with headrests and for older children.
- Combination: A combination car seat transforms from a forward-facing harness car seat into a booster seat (think Britax Grow With You ClickTight Plus Harness-2-Booster Car Seat or Graco Nautilus 2.0 LX 3-in-1 Harness Booster Car Seat ).
- All-in-One: These are for kids to ride in while rear-facing before converting to a forward-facing harness seat and then a booster seat. If you opt for an all-in-one car seat, Trnka recommends reading the labels on the seat’s side to determine when it’s safe for children to transition to booster mode.
Dr. Scott recommends checking your vehicle before buying a booster seat. Look in the back seat for both the lap and shoulder straps, headrests, the height of the seats, and airbags, as well as your vehicle’s manual to learn more about its booster seat requirements, she adds. Moreover, consider whether you’ll be transferring or traveling with the booster seat often. Booster seats are installed via two main methods: LATCH systems and seat belts. If a booster seat begins as a forward-facing harness and transforms into a booster seat, you may also have to use a tether.
LATCH systems come in two styles: straps and rigid LATCH. Most booster seats have a button on the unit you can press to release the LATCH systems. Rigid LATCH is full metal (rather than a moving strap that needs tightening), and connects directly to the vehicle’s lower anchors. For example, the Diono Solana 2 features LATCH straps, while the Peg Perego Viaggio Flex 120 boasts rigid LATCH. Regardless of which LATCH system you may prefer, you typically can’t use it in the middle of the back seat because most vehicles don’t have lower anchors there.
For car seats without LATCH systems, they rely on the seat belts children use to install. So essentially, there’s no installation method. The booster seat sits directly on top of the vehicle seat, and children use the vehicle belt to secure themselves and the seat. Dr. Scott says you should only use booster seats with both the lap and shoulder seat belts, not the lap belts alone.
Ease of Use
At some point in your kiddo’s childhood, they’ll learn how to buckle themselves in independently. While you should always check your child’s work before hitting the road, look for a booster seat that’s easy for children to use. Moreover, opt for a comfortable booster seat, especially if your family travels often.
Many booster seats, like the Chicco KidFit Zip Air Plus and Maxi-Cosi RodiSport , feature colored seat belt paths so kids know where to put the vehicle belt for a proper fit. For older kids (and insistent young ones), look for a seat lightweight enough to carry from vehicle to vehicle. Lastly, consider a machine-washable seat cover for easy cleaning.
We tested booster seats from as low as $14 to as high as $370, with a median price of $173. Booster seats that are 2-in-1 or 3-in-1, meaning they transform from one mode to another, often reap a higher price tag. Backless booster seats typically cost less than high back booster seats because they’re only the seat portion of a full high back option.
According to Dr. Scott, the best booster seat for kids will depend on your car. She adds that when a unit is used properly, both types of booster seats are equally protective. Remember: A booster seat with a higher price doesn’t equate to easier use or better safety.
Frequently Asked Questions
The appropriate age for a booster seat is more about your child’s stats, such as how tall they are and how much they weigh. According to Trnka, children should max out their car seat with a harness, meaning they use it to the maximum height or weight limits, before transitioning to a booster seat. Additionally, they need to be mature enough to sit properly for the whole ride, Trnka adds.
Children should ride in a car seat with a harness as long as possible (at least until they're 4 years old). Our experts agree that children should reach the height and weight requirements of their forward-facing harnessed seat before moving to a high back booster seat.
Children may begin riding in a booster seat after maxing out their forward-facing harness seat, which varies by car seat. A backless booster seat is a great option for big kids who aren’t ready to graduate to the vehicle seat yet.
Dr. Scott explains that a car seat belt usually doesn’t fit a child properly until they reach 4 feet 9 inches, typically 10 to 12 years old. However, there are a few steps they need to pass first. According to Trnka, children must pass the “Five-Step” test to graduate from the booster seat: feet flat on the floor, knees bend at the end of the vehicle seat, bottom sits at the bight of the seat, back is against the back of the seat, and the seat belt sits midway between the shoulder and child’s neck, while the lap belt is across the hips instead of the stomach.
Katrina Cossey is a commerce writer, enthusiastic shopper, and devoted mom. She spent several years in broadcast journalism but found her true passion in writing about the best products for families, pregnant people, and kids of all ages. She’s researched thousands of baby products, toys, gifts, and more and personally tested many of them. In her spare time, you’ll likely find her in the beautiful outdoors of Oklahoma with her husband and 3-year-old son. While Katrina’s son isn’t in a booster seat yet, she tested the Graco Turn2Me for her son as part of Verywell Family’s rotating car seat test . The Turn2Me (an all-in-one car seat) transforms from a rear-facing harness to a forward-facing harness and high back booster. Katrina plans to buy a backless booster as a travel-friendly option and has her eyes set on the Chicco GoFit ClearTex Backless Booster .
Durbin DR, Hoffman BD. Child Passenger Safety . Pediatrics . 2018;142(5):e20182460. doi:10.1542/peds.2018-2460
American Academy of Pediatrics. Car seats: information for families .
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Car seats and booster seats .
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Child safety .
By clicking “Accept All Cookies”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts.
Skip to content
Car Seat Safety: 4- to 8-year-old Children
Car seat safety for kids, belt-positioning booster seat.
When used correctly, a belt-positioning booster seat prevents injuries in a crash. A booster seat raises your child up so that the vehicle's lap and shoulder belt is properly positioned across your child's hips and chest and away from his belly and neck.
CHOP Research has shown that the use of belt-positioning booster seats lowers the risk of injury to children aged 4-8 years by 45 percent compared with the use of seat belts alone. If the vehicle seat belt is at your child's belly rather than below the hip bones and touching the thighs, he could suffer damage to internal organs and/or a spinal injury if a crash occurs. Until your child is big enough, he needs a boost . Watch the video to learn about installing and positioning booster seats.
View this video with a transcript
Booster seat safety tips
The following are some important booster seat safety tips to help keep your child safe:
- When your child reaches the highest weight or height limit allowed for his forward-facing child safety seat with a harness, he should use a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle lap and shoulder belt (adult seat belt) fits properly, typically when he reaches 4 feet 9 inches in height and is between 8 and 12 years of age.
- You should use a belt-positioning booster seat in the back seat of your vehicle — always with the vehicle lap and shoulder belt.
- When using a booster seat, make sure the lap belt lies low and snug across your child’s upper thighs, below the hip bones. The shoulder belt crosses the center of your child’s chest and shoulder and not cut across her neck or face.
- To make the shoulder belt fit better, many boosters come with belt guides (high-back booster seat) or plastic clips (backless booster seat) to help the belt stay on the shoulder. If not, use the shoulder belt height adjusters that are built into your vehicle. We do not recommend non-regulated or "add-on" belt adjusters that can be bought in retail stores because there are no national standards for these products.
- If your vehicle doesn't have shoulder belts in the back seat, consider having your auto dealer or auto repair shop install (retrofit) shoulder belts, or you can consider using a travel vest, which accommodates children up to 168 pounds.
- Your child should be tall enough to sit against the vehicle seat back with his knees bent without slouching, and can comfortably stay in this position throughout the trip.
Make sure to follow booster seat safety tips to help keep your child safe.
Types of booster seats
- Combination seat : A high-back booster seat with five-point harness is called a combination seat. The five-point harness can be used for children who weigh 40 pounds or more. The harness can then be removed and the seat becomes a belt-positioning booster that works with the vehicle’s lap and shoulder belt. Some of these seats can safely accommodate children up to 100 pounds. Be sure to check your safety seat instruction manual or the car seat label for exact weight and height limits.
- A high-back belt-positioning booster seat is useful if your vehicle does not have head rests or has low seat backs. If you use a high-back booster, you might need to remove the vehicle's head rest if it pushes the booster seat forward. Check your owner's manual for instructions.
- A backless belt-positioning booster seat can be used if your vehicle has head rests or high seat backs.
- Built-in child restraints : Integrated booster seats are built into the vehicle by a few manufacturers. Some are similar to combination child safety/booster seats. They have a five-point harness system that can be removed when your child reaches a certain weight and used as a booster seat with the vehicle lap and shoulder belt. Some cars have only booster seats. Check your vehicle owner's manual for weight and height information for your built-in restraint.
A wide variety of car safety products , including booster seats, are sold at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia's Safety Center. For more information about specific safety seat models currently available, visit the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) website .
Choosing a belt-positioning booster seat
Follow these suggestions to help choose the best seat for your child:
- Let your child help you pick out the booster seat. Ask him to try out seats to find one that is comfortable. Teach him how to buckle himself up.
- Make sure the booster seat meets national standards. The label should say, "This child restraint system conforms to all applicable Federal motor vehicle safety standards."
- Show your child that the booster will let her see out of the window better and help make the seat belt comfortable. Tell her that boosters are for "big kids." Don't call a booster seat a child's seat.
- Explain to your child why he is using a booster seat and not just the car's seat belt. Let him know that a booster would help keep him safe if a crash occurs.
Booster seat registration card
Don't forget to mail back the registration card . If you don't, you will not be notified if the booster seat is recalled or has other safety problems.
If you moved since you mailed the card, make sure you call your booster seat manufacturer to update your address.
If you misplaced the registration card that came with your booster seat, please download and complete this form and mail or fax it as instructed.
Download our Booster Seat Safety brochure
Our Booster Seat Safety brochure is available for download.