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Are you wondering which car seats are FAA-approved for flying with your child? Are you wondering if you even need a travel car seat for your child? We know how overwhelming the idea to fly with a toddler and a bunch of luggage can be-but not to worry.

In this post, we will answer these questions and guide you to find the best travel car seat that is also FAA-approved. We will also give you tips about bringing your car seat on board so as not to have worries when the time comes.

FAA Baby and Toddler Car Seat Regulations for Airplanes

You cannot be allowed to use your car seat on the plane unless it is FAA approved.

To know if your car seat is FAA approved, it should have a sticker that reads, “This restraint is certified for use in motor vehicles and aircraft.”

Here is a snapshot of what you should be looking for:

Best FAA-Approved Car Seats Reviews 2021

FAA-Approved Child Harness Device (CARES)

The CARES Harness is the only FAA-alternative (other than approved car seats) that is available in the market that you can use to secure your child when traveling by plane.

It is a great option if you don’t need a car seat once you reach your destination.

The CARES harness is designed for kids over one year of age and weighing between 22 to 44 pounds and up to 40 inches tall.

It is also important to note that seat belt extenders and other baby travel vests are not approved for use by the FAA. Therefore, they must be removed from the child during take-off and landing, but ideally, they should not be used at all.

What Is FAA Approved Car Seat

An FAA-approved car seat simply means it is permitted to be used in an airplane after having passed various testing. Such a seat must have a sticker as proof of acceptance that reads,

“This restraint is certified for use in motor vehicles and aircraft.”

It is only the car seats that have this sticker that can be used on an airplane.

Reviews of the Best FAA-approved Car Seats:

1. Safety 1st Guide 65 Convertible Car Seat 

Best FAA-Approved Car Seats Reviews 2021

Weight: 14 pounds

Width: 18.5 inches

Weight/height limits: 5 to 40 pounds rear-facing, 22 to 65 pounds forward-facing

Safety 1 st Guide 65 is our best travel car seat because it’s lightweight enough to carry around, and it has a high weight limit that allows you to use it from birth to 65 pounds.

We also value comfort and love that this convertible car seat has a removable body pillow for your infant as well as adequate padding so that your child will be comfortable even on long trips.

This car seat is approved for airplane use in both rear and forward-facing configurations. And with 18.5-inch width, it will not be a problem to install on an airplane seat or three of these seats in your back seat.

The other reason it’s a top pick for us is that it’s easy on your wallet, so you don’t have to worry too much if it gets dirty or a bit damaged during your trips.

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Narrow and compact design, easy to fit three across and in an airplane seat
  • Comfortable with a body pillow and adequate padding
  • Side impact protection
  • Great pricing

Cons 

  • Difficult installation with both LATCH and seat belt; you need to use a lot of force to tighten both

2. Graco Extend2Fit Convertible Car Seat 

Best FAA-Approved Car Seats Reviews 2021

Weight: 18.4 pounds

Width: 19.6 inches

Weight/height limits: 4 to 50 pounds rear-facing, 22 to 65 pounds forward-facing

The Extend2Fit is perhaps the most popular car seat in the US. What sets this seat above its peers is having an extended rear-facing limit of up to 50 pounds. If you didn’t know, rear-facing is the safest riding position for your child because it offers head and neck protection. This has made the Extend 2Fit gain a higher safety rating than most of its peers.

This is a fantastic option for travel because of its easy installation using either Latch or your vehicle seat belt; many reviewers found the process easy. Plus, when adjusting the harness, you don’t need to rethread. The two cup holders and machine washable covers were also nice additions to have.

The other reason that sold us out was that this seat will grow with your child from infancy all through toddlerhood until they are 65 pounds. This makes it a smart investment, especially when you also factor in its budget-friendly price point.

The Extend2Fit is FAA approved, but because of the cup holders, you might need to raise the armrest to get it to fit on the airplane seat. You should also note that this seat can only be installed in the forward-facing position on the plane. It would be a good idea to call the airline first and confirm it will fit before leaving.

Pros

  • Perfect fit for newborns with head pillow and body support
  • Comfortable with decent padding and breathable fabric and harness pads
  • 10 position adjustable headrest with no-rethread harness
  • Extended rear-facing weight up to 50 pounds
  • Fuss-free harness adjustment without rethreading
  • Extra legroom for your child’s comfort
  • 10 years expiration
  • Great pricing

Cons

  • Heavier and bulkier than other seats on this list
  • Customers complain that it’s a pain to remove the cover or put it back after washing
  • Takes up more space rear-facing when the leg rest panel is extended

3. Cosco Finale DX 2-In-1 Car Seat

Best FAA-Approved Car Seats Reviews 2021

Weight: 11.5 pounds

Width: 18 inches

Convertibility: 30-65 pounds forward-facing and 40 to 100 pounds in booster mode

If you have bigger kids, 3 and 4-year-olds, the Cosco Finale DX is a great car seat that provides lots of room for growing kids up to 100 pounds.

This car seat is a great choice for travel because of its low weight and slim design that easily fits in most cars and on airplane seats. In addition, the two cup holders remove to make it more compact, enabling you to even fit three of these car seats in the back of most cars. It is also very easy to install with a latch or seat belt.

As a car seat specifically for older kids above 2 years, the Finale DX is a forward-only facing car seat, and it does not recline. It is a tall seat with room for kids up to 49 inches in the forward-facing mode. Once your child gets to 4 years, you can convert the car seat into a booster seat until they get to 52 inches. However, it is important to note that you cannot use the booster seat option since the plane doesn’t have a shoulder seat belt to secure it down.

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • A great choice for growing families
  • Slim design enables it to easily fit three across in most cars and on a plane seat
  • Easy to install
  • Easy care; fabrics and seat pad are machine washable and dryer safe
  • Inexpensive

Cons 

  • Some felt it might not last because it feels flimsy
  • Doesn’t have much padding

4. Cosco Apt 50 Convertible Car Seat

Best FAA-Approved Car Seats Reviews 2021

Weight: 11 pounds

Width: 20 inches

Conversion: 5 to 40 pounds rear-facing, 22 to 50 pounds forward-facing

Cosco Apt 50 is a great portable car seat that you can carry around without feeling weighed down. However, it might not be a strong choice for air travel because it is a bit too wide at 20 inches, but you may be able to fit with the armrests up. Still, we recommend enquiring with the airline first if you plan on taking it into the plane before you leave.

The car seat also comes with nice features like dual cup holders, machine washable pads, and a fantastic low price to boot.

Pros

  • Ultra-lightweight
  • Easy care; machine washable and dryer safe
  • Easy installation
  • Side impact protection

Cons 

  • Doesn’t have head and neck support for newborns

5. Combi Compact Coccoro Convertible Car Seat 

Best FAA-Approved Car Seats Reviews 2021

Weight: 14.3 pounds

Width: 15.5 inches

Convertibility: rear-facing 3 to 33 pounds, forward-facing 20 to 40 pounds

Combi Coccoro is a favorite among traveling families due to its super slim design. With a width of just 15 inches, you will easily install it on any seat, even in bulkhead seats. It is the slimmest seat on this list.

The Coccoro is expensive and slightly heavier than some options on this list, but it has better quality, has slightly more padding, and is also more comfortable.

The other advantage of this car seat is that it installs a rear-facing position in the airplane because of its small size, and the seat in front can still be able to recline.

The Coccoro converts to offer both rear and forward-facing options, but it has a lower height than most of its peers. Hence some kids outgrow it before they even reach the weight requirement. Because of this, we would not advise getting this seat if your child is on the taller side.

Pros 

  • Perfect fit for newborns
  • Slimmest car seat on this list
  • Great safety with deep side walls and Side impact protection
  • The small size makes it a perfect option for tight spaces
  • Machine washable pad

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Some kids outgrow the seat fast because of the low height limit
  • Difficult to install

6. Evenflo Stratos 65 Convertible Car Seat 

Best FAA-Approved Car Seats Reviews 2021

Weight: 13 pounds

Width: 18. 5 inches

Convertibility: rear-facing 5 to 40 pounds, forward-facing 22 to 65 pounds

Evenflo Stratos 65 is a great portable car seat approved by the FAA. It is a lightweight seat that you can carry around easily. It also has a slim design which makes it comfortable to fit on all plane seats.

This lovely seat is designed with your little one’s comfort in mind with a removable body pillow and six adjustable harness positions for the right fit. Additionally, it’s designed with ventilation channels for improved airflow to keep your child comfortable during rides regardless of how hot temperatures are.

Pros

  • Sturdy yet lightweight
  • The slim design makes it a comfortable fit in all plane seats
  • Multiple layers of energy-absorbing materials
  • Made with cooling fabrics
  • Easy installation
  • Easy to clean

Cons

  • Complaints about cup holders coming off

7. Graco Size4Me 65 Convertible Car Seat

Best FAA-Approved Car Seats Reviews 2021

Weight: 19.3 pounds

Width: 22 inches

Convertibility: rear-facing 4 to 40 pounds, forward-facing 22 to 65 pounds

Graco Size4Me is much heavier and the widest on this list, but we feel it’s a great travel option because it is super comfy for kids with nice cushions.

The car seat is FAA approved, and with a 22-inch width, you might think it’s too wide to fit on an airplane seat. However, because of its narrow base and shape, it still fits on most plane seats with armrests down.

It’s also a great travel option because it is compact and is able to fit even on small cars both rear-facing and forward-facing and still leave enough legroom for the driver or passenger seat.

Pros

  • Durable construction
  • Compact design, which is great for tight spaces
  • Easy installation
  • It comes with pockets to store buckles away
  • Easy to clean with removable fabrics

Cons 

  • One of the heaviest on this list
  • It is wide and may not fit narrow plane seats
  • Would be nice to have an additional cup holder

8. Graco SnugRide SnugLock 35 LX

Best FAA-Approved Car Seats Reviews 2021

Weight: 9.5 pounds

Width: 15.5 inches

Age range: 4 to 35 pounds

When you have a newborn, the best option for travel is an infant car seat that you can simply carry by the handle without waking your sleeping little one.

This infant car seat measures only 15.5 inches, so it will comfortably fit on all airplane seats. It’s important also to note that you cannot use the base of the infant car seat on the plane, but you can just keep it in the overhead bin.

The other nice thing is the shade canopy that will help to keep the harsh lighting on the plane from your baby’s eyes.

The Graco SnugRide SnugLock 35 LX is compatible with all Graco Click Connect strollers, so you can have it as your go-to travel system to make your life much easier.

Pros

  • Soft fabrics and cushions for baby’s comfort
  • Easy to carry with handle
  • The silent canopy that blocks the harsh lights from the baby’s eyes
  • Slim design that fits on all airplane seats
  • Easy to install
  • True shield side impact protection

9. Graco 4ever

Best FAA-Approved Car Seats Reviews 2021

Weight: 22.8 pounds

Width: 21.5 inches

Convertibility: rear-facing 4 to 40 pounds, forward-facing 20 to 65 pounds, high back booster mode 40 to 100 pounds, backless booster 40 to 120 pounds.

The Graco 4Ever is another great choice for travel, and it’s very similar to the MySize we saw earlier. It is just as comfy and even more versatile, but it ranks lower on this list because it’s the heaviest and much wider than others here. It is also the most expensive here.

That said, this seat will grow with your child from infancy to when they no longer need a car seat thanks to backless booster mode, which is often lacking in other convertibles. This makes 4Ever a valuable investment. It has a ten-year lifespan, just like the sister, MySize.

At 21.5 inches wide, you can still install this seat on a plane seat with the arms up. Plus cup holders can be removed to make it even slimmer. However, you can only use it with the internal harness system and not as a booster seat.

Pros

  • Perfect for growing families with a wide weight range
  • Proven crash safety records
  • Easy seat belt installation
  • No-rethread harness
  • Two removable cup holders
  • Removable covers for washing

Cons

  • Heaviest on this list
  • Some reviewers remarked that the head cushion pushes the baby’s head forward, which seems uncomfortable.
  • Bulky especially rear-facing
  • No locks off device for seat belt install
  • The harness can be tricky to tighten

10. Britax Emblem

Best FAA-Approved Car Seats Reviews 2021

Weight: 19.5 pounds

Width: 18.2 inches

Convertibility: rear-facing 5 to 40 pounds, forward-facing 22 to 65 pounds

Britax Emblem is one of the heaviest car seats recommended here, but it’s also one of the best convertible seats in the market. It combines high-end quality along with Britax’s advanced safety features at affordable pricing.

Britax Emblem is approved for air travel, and with a width of 18 inches, it fits most traditional airline seats, although it might be a struggle to fit rear-facing due to the tall backrest.

Pros

  • Slim design
  • Perfect fit for newborns with a removable body pillow
  • Dual-layer side impact protection
  • Built-in lock-off for easy seat belt installation

Cons 

  • Heavy in comparison
  • Would be better if fabrics were machine washable
  • Doesn’t have cup holders

11. UPPAbaby Mesa

Best FAA-Approved Car Seats Reviews 2021

This is yet another fantastic option for families with a newborn. It is FAA approved, but it is super heavy with the base. The good thing is that it measures only 17 inches wide, so you can easily install it in all plane seats.

The other reason it’s a great travel option is that you can have it as a travel system with Vista or Cruz stroller; that way, you can easily wheel your baby right to the airplane door. Plus, you don’t need any adapters for these strollers.

With the seat’s canopy, glaring lights in the plane are kept from glaring your baby’s eyes, allowing your little one to continue napping peacefully all through the flight.

Pros

  • Slim design
  • Comfortable with soft fabrics and infant insert
  • Hideaway UPF canopy that blocks the sun and glaring lights on flight
  • Side impact protection
  • No-rethread harness
  • Compatible with Vista and Cruz stroller without adapters
  • Easy and accurate installation with indicators

Cons 

  • Heavy
  • Expensive

List All FAA Approved Car Seats

  • Britax Allegiance
  • Britax Emblem
  • Britax Grow With You
  • Britax Pinnacle
  • Chicco Keyfit 30
  • Chicco Bravo Trio
  • Combi Coccoro
  • Cosco Scenera NEXT
  • Cybex Aton 2
  • Diono Radian 3RXT
  • Doona
  • Evenflo Every fit
  • Evenflo Sonus
  • Evenflo Stratos 65
  • Evenflo Symphony Sport
  • Evenflo Tribute LX
  • Graco Extend2fit
  • Graco Slimfit
  • Graco Snugride SnugLock
  • Graco 4Ever DLX
  • Peg Perego Primo Viaggio
  • Peg Perego Primo Viaggio Nido
  • Safety 1 St Guide 65
  • UPPAbaby Mesa

One thing to note is that almost all seats in the US are FAA approved. If you don’t see your favorite car seat on the list, just check for the sticker. If it is there you should be good to go.

FAA Approved Car Seat Stroller Combo

  • Graco SnugRide SnugLock with any Graco Click Connect Stroller
  • UPPAbaby Mesa with Vista or Cruz strollers
  • Chicco Bravo Trio Travel System

Best Travel Car Seats Sorted By Age

Perhaps you don’t have the time to read through the reviews of our long list of recommended products, so we thought it might be helpful to have a chart classified by age and a brief description. This way, you can quickly pick a suitable product for your family.

Age groupBrand DescriptionPrice 
Birth- 1 yearGraco SnugRide SnugLock 35 LXSuitable for babies weighing from 4 to 35 pounds. The seat weighs 9.5 pounds and its width is 15.5 inches comes with an adjustable carrying handle. It also has a head and body insert for comfort.NB: base is not FAA approved so it needs to be checked in.
1 -4+ years oldSafety 1 st Guide 65 Convertible Car SeatSuitable babies 5 to 65 pounds. It weighs 14 pounds and has a width of 18 inches. It is our best selling convertible seat
2-4 yearsWAYB Pico Car SeatSuitable from 22 to 50 pounds. The seat is for big kids who can sit in forward-facing mode. It weighs just 8 pounds and measures 14.5 inches wide. It also folds and is easy to carry and store.
3- 4+ year old CARES Travel HarnessThis is basically weightless at just 1 pound. Although it’s recommended from 1 year of age, we feel it has a better fit on older kids from 3 years and above. It is suitable for kids up to 44 pounds and 40 inches tall. 

Do Kids Need A Car Seat On An Airplane?

It is not a legal requirement, but both the Federal Aviation Administration and the American Academy of Pediatrics highly recommend that you use an FAA-approved child restraint device. That means either an approved car seat or the CARES harness.

For small ones under 2 years of age, you may carry them on your lap or use an FAA-approved car seat. 

Travel Car Seat Buyers Guide – What To Consider

When looking for a travel car seat, here are the things you should think about.

Your lifestyle

Your car seat should work for you. For example, if you travel frequently, you want a car seat that is lightweight and easy to carry. And if you usually use different cars, taxis, or rentals, choose a car seat that is optimized for easy installation and uninstalling. Or, if you walk a lot, choose a car seat that can fit in your stroller, but put more emphasis on the car seat, not the stroller, because it’s the one that may one day save your child’s life in case things go bad. And again, if you plan on air travel, make sure the car seat is FAA approved.

Seat dimensions

Car seats are not designed the same, some are very tall, and others are a bit wide. So you want to take a note of the seat dimensions (height and width) to make sure it will fit in your car, especially if you have a compact car or plan to install three seats in your back seat.

The width of a car seat is also an important consideration if planning on air travel because it has to fit on the airplane seat. Airplane seats have a width ranging from 16 to 22 inches, with most measuring about 17 to 18 inches.

Car seat weight and height limits

Car seats have different weight and height limits. Infant car seats provide the best fit for small babies, but you also use them for a limited time. Convertible car seats have higher limits, so your child can use them for many years, so they save you money in the long run. They also allow you to keep your child rear-facing longer, which is significantly safer than forward-facing.

But whatever seat you choose, make sure it has a comfortable fit for your child.

Tips for Using A Car Seat On An Airplane

1. Make a point to call the airline ahead of time to notify them that you plan on bringing along a car seat. It would be best to ask them to issue you a written confirmation of approval that you can take on the plane just as an extra precaution.

2. When booking a seat to install your car seat, ensure it won’t block anyone from exiting. That means getting a window seat or one in the center section of the plane. Also, you may install your car seat in the bulkhead seats if the car seat is really narrow. Bulkheads have fixed armrests, reducing the space available for a car seat.

3. If you use the car seat rear-facing, the person seated in front of it might not be able to recline. Therefore, consider booking one parent to the right of your baby and one in front.

4. Remember, if using an infant car seat, you can only use the seat part on the plane itself. The base would need to be checked–in or kept in the overhead compartment if it fits.

5. Booster seats are not FAA approved for travel. If you have a combination car seat/ booster seat, you will only use the car seat with an internal harness, but the booster seat cannot be allowed because the plane does not have a shoulder belt to use.

6. Juggling your toddler, their luggage, plus your luggage as you make your way through the airport with all the luggage, a car seat, and your child is very tricky. Make things easier by getting a car seat trolley or using a backpack to carry the car seat.

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