Are you a new mom or dad looking to keep your baby safe while riding in your car?
Are you also hoping to get the most for your money and find a car seat that will grow along with your child?
Do you have an active lifestyle and need a car seat that can keep your child comfortable, but is also easy to operate?
When you find the right car seat, you also find peace of mind.
Parents purchase an infinite amount of gear for their kids. The car seat is often one of the first purchases due to the fact that parents cannot leave the hospital in a vehicle that doesn’t have a properly secured car seat. And because a car seat can save the life of your child, it is the most important purchase you will make.
So, where should you begin when searching for the best convertible car seat for travel? In this article, we looked for the best convertible car seats for travel, gathered product reviews and scoured and summarized the data, so you don’t have to. Check out the findings and read the details to see which car seat best fits your individual needs.
Best Overall: Graco Extend2Fit Convertible Car Seat
Best Budget Pick: Evenflo Tribute LX Convertible Car Seat
Who Should Use This Review
Which parents are most likely to benefit from reading this review? Below are a few types of parents who might be searching for similar information:
- First-time parents. New parents, like all parents, want the best for their children. Everyone has advice for you, but you must make your own decision in the end.
- Veteran parents welcoming a new baby into the mix. New car seats are being manufactured all the time. Whether it’s been one year or several years since the last time you purchased a car seat, your desire for safety and convenience hasn’t changed. Getting the very best car seat requires a bit of research.
- Grandparents or other caretakers. You might be purchasing a car seat in order to provide care for a child that is not your own, but you still want to ensure the safety of that child.
How We Picked the Best Convertible Car Seat for Travel
You want to find the best convertible car seat for travel. Car seats are required to meet government safety standards, but some are still better than others. We utilized the same criteria that you would analyze in order to review and choose the best options. That criteria included:
Safety Features: Priority number one. In order to operate as intended, car seats must be installed properly. Some car seats often come equipped with leveling systems that indicate whether they have been installed properly.
Easy to Install: Car seats are installed using a seat belt or the LATCH system. Many people prefer the LATCH system because it is easier to use. Built-in lower and tether anchors exist in cars manufactured after 2002 and allow for easy securing of the car seat.
Size and fit: Car seats vary in shapes and sizes. Depending on the type of car you have and how often you’ll be flying, you might want to consider options that are narrower.
Weight Limits: More and more studies are showing that infants up to toddler age should ride rear-facing in the car for as long as possible or at least until they have reached the highest weight and height level the car seat’s manufacturer has allowed. The best convertible car seats for travel have higher rear-facing weight limits that will permit children to ride rear-facing for at least two years.
Fabric: Of course, you want to check for fabric quality. The fabric should be soft, breathable, and aesthetically pleasing. It’s also important to consider the fabric’s durability and how practical it will be to remove and wash when messes inevitably occur.
Leg Room: Although it’s been reported that there is no risk associated with children bending their legs to fit rear-facing, parents often switch them to face forward prematurely because of this. Therefore, extra leg room is an important consideration when searching for the best convertible car seats for travel.
Best Convertible Car Seat for Travel: Our Picks in 2020
Best Overall: Graco Extend2Fit Convertible Car Seat
Safety is what makes this the best overall convertible car seat for travel. The Graco Extend2Fit features a 4-position extension panel that provides for 5 inches of extra legroom. The additional comfort enables your child to remain rear-facing for a more extended period of time. With a 10-year lifespan, this model is also a good decision economically as it can be passed down to younger siblings.
- Can be used rear-facing from 4-50 lbs. It is also forward-facing from 22-65 lbs.
- Five and six-year-old children can still fit comfortably while rear-facing in this seat.
- Ability to adjust the height of the harness and headrest as your child grows
- Harness storage holds the buckle out of the way, so it’s easy to get your baby in and out.
- Metal and plastic parts are easy to clean
- The seat pad is plush and machine washable
- Many find installation to be difficult
- Straps can be challenging to cinch down
- Wide fit is not ideal for three-across seating
- Smaller vehicles can’t use much of the Extend to Fit feature
- Cup holders are square, not round
- This car seat does not come with harness strap covers
- Fabric cover can be difficult to remove for cleaning purposes
This car seat made it to the top of the list because of its ease of use. Three-position options for recline make it easy for you to get a good fit in your car. You can easily adjust both the harness and the headrest in one step. This seat support infants rear-facing up to 40 pounds.
- Two comfortable grow-with-baby pillows provide for a snug fit and additional head support and can be easily removed when your baby no longer needs them
- Harness holders keep the harness in the open position and eliminate the need to search for the harness and the clip from behind your child, making it easier for you to get your child in and out of the car seat
- For easy cleaning, that car seat pad comes off the seat in layers with no need to remove the harness
- Neutral colors
- Two cup holders fit all size cups
- Fewer recline positions than other models.
- Complaints about difficulty during installation and loose-fitting results.
- When the car seat is empty, it has the tendency to rattle around.
- Pushing the button to release the straps can be challenging.
- The level indicator does not offer an exact reading.
Best Budget Pick: Evenflo Tribute LX Convertible Car Sea
The Evenflo Tribute LX Convertible Car Sea doesn’t make the very top of many review lists but is often cited as worth mentioning. The seat holds one of the highest scores in crash testing and ease of use and is also the least expensive by far among the seats included in our roundup.
- Low price
- Easy to install
- Narrow design fits airplane seats as well as three across even in smaller cars comfortably
- Just under nine lbs., the lightweight nature of this model makes this seat a good candidate for air travel or parents who often UBER or use taxis
- The buckle on this model is often reported to be the easiest to push
- Some reviewers called the fabric on this model the easiest to remove and clean
- When rear-facing, the installation can be loose.
- The seat belt installation method provides a tighter fit than the LATCH system. While some might not consider this a con, many prefer the LATCH system.
- The chest clip is more difficult than the buckle to push.
- Due to the price point, the model lacks added comfort and design features, most notably cushioned padding and plastic pieces peeking through the cover.
Honorable Mention – Best Convertible Car Seat For Travel
This seat gets high ratings for comfort and attractive appearance. The Pria Max 3-in-1 Convertible Car Seat is a 2020 National Parenting Product Awards winner.
- GCell foam in the car seat is designed to absorb any crash energy and protect your child’s head
- Strap clips keep straps secure while you place your child into the seat
- Comfortable and very attractive
- The soft material is easy to clean
- Big and bulky
- Too loose when rear-facing
- When empty, seat rattles around
In addition to its flexible six harness heights and three buckle locations, this seat earned an honorable mention for its ease of installation.
- Lightweight and easy to maneuver
- Spacious with deep sides, so a child’s head does not roll forward when sleeping
- Buckle release button was cited as a bit too small
- Cover can slide easily off the frame
- Not a lot of padding
How to Decide What is Best for You
It can be a formidable challenge to narrow the field and choose the car seat that is best for you and your family. Consider the type of travel you’ll be doing most.
What needs from the list below and beyond are most important to you?
The seat should be easy to transport. One of a car seat’s most important features, especially when traveling, is its weight.
You’ll be moving around and lugging it along. Arriving at airport checkpoints, going through security and restrooms throughout the airport, on the aircraft, off the aircraft, you get the idea. Traveling becomes easier with a good quality lightweight car seat.
Our finalists weighed in at:
Graco Extend2Fit: 23.19 lbs.
Safety 1ˢᵗ Grow and Go 3-in-1 Convertible Car Seat: 18.66 lbs
Evenflo Tribute LX Convertible Car Seat: 9.29 lbs
Maxi-Cosi Pria Max 3-in-1 Convertible Car Seat: 22.95 lbs
Cosco Apt 50 Convertible Car Seat: 11.0 lbs.
When you gear up for traveling, you might think “smaller is better.” But really, isn’t it more about what is better for you and for your child?
Depending on whether your child is still rear-facing, you’ll want to ensure that there is at minimum of one inch of space or “shell height” above the head of your child. If your child is forward-facing, you want to ensure that his or her ears are within the seat’s shell, and the top slots are fixed above the shoulders.
Seats with shorter shells will generally be lighter due to the fact that they are made with less material. But you’ll have to decide what is best for you.
For example, you might not need to purchase the tallest car seat if your child is not that tall. When your child is approaching four years of age, your priority might be an ultra-lightweight car seat.
Frequency of Installation
When you are flying to your destination, you will undoubtedly have to install this car seat in a car with which you are unfamiliar to get from the airport to your destination, at the very least.
How often you will have to pop the car seat in and out of the car should be considered. This will help you determine where this particular criterion ranks in your priorities.
Comfort is perhaps the most important but also the most subjective factor to be considered. When traveling, an uncomfortable child is often a cranky child. Based on the length of time, you expect your child to spend in the car seat will determine how important comfort ranks on your list.
Final Thoughts – Best Convertible Car Seat For Travel
If you are like many parents, this is not the first article you have read about the topic, and you are still wondering what the best convertible car seat for travel is.
Whether this is your first baby or your fourth, you need it for a family vacation or when traveling for any reason, a car seat that fits the needs of your child and your family can be your best friend. The right seat can keep your child safe and comfortable and maintain your sanity while not breaking your back or your budget.