Parents have to first think about their child’s safety while traveling, even if it means taking a few extra essentials such as a car seat on their journey.
And whilst we truly believe that travel car seats are by far the safest option when it comes to planes, taxi's, transfers, buses and more, you can also find car seat alternatives that offer safety features as well.
Tip: Check out our guide to finding the best travel carseats for flying here.
These alternatives act as substitutes for boosters, harnesses, and convertibles in the safest and most comfortable way for your child. We have on our list 7 car seat alternatives that you can use in both a car or a plane.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at them!
Tip: If you are interested, here are options for the best travel booster seat as well.
Car Seat Alternatives for Children While Traveling
Looking for something more lightweight, compact and travel-friendly than car seats? Here is a list of car seat alternatives for planes, taxis, car rentals, transfers, buses, trains and more.
Car Seat Alternatives for Airplanes
Looking for something a bit more lightweight and compact to a car seat to use on the plane? Or maybe you can't stretch your budget to pay for that additional seat for the car seat to sit on.
When you are looking for alternatives to a car seat, you need to ensure that the alternative option is FAA approved. Whilst you can fly with a non-FAA approved seating alternative, the air hostesses will be allowed to ask you to pop it away, so best to have something that you will actually get the benefit out of using.
1. FAA-Approved Primo LapBaby (3 Months +)
A good alternative aid is the Primo LapBaby to use while flying, or even in cars, or at a restaurant.
This is one of the car seat alternatives which is suitable for infants as young as 3 months old. However, it is important that your little one has good neck support before you pop them in this lap belt.
The aid is small, compact, and lightweight (12.8 ounces). It comes with a storage bag that includes a has a washable drop cloth that you can use to keep the baby drool and baby food/crumbs off your skirt or pants.
The LapBaby allows your baby to comfortably and tightly sit on your lap. Let's face it, the infant seat belt that the airline will give you is really pretty useless. This belt is wide, tight and secure and will keep your little one safe whilst flying. It will also allow you to get in some shut eye without having to worry about holding your little one.
Important to note though that whilst this lapbelt is FAA-Approved, you will not be able to use it during take-off and landing (which I find a bit silly as it is so much safer).
If you have a young infant, this lapbelt will be beneficial to carry with you on the trip as it will come in handy not only while flying but in restaurants, on trains, transfers and more as well.
2. FAA-Approved Baby B’Air Flight Safety Vest (8 Months – 2 Years)
If you are traveling with a toddler who always needs you by his side, it’s hard to carry a car seat or a travel bassinet as well as your little one. This is a great easy alternative to an airplane car seat. Babies between the ages of 8 months and 2 years are suitable to use the vest.
Even though a 5-point harness car seat is preferable, this “lap vest” or the Baby B’Air Flight Safety Vest ads loads of safety benefits over just holding your little one on your lap during the flight. (Note that you can't use the vest during take-off and landing).
The vest is really simple to use, and is very comfortable for both parent and child. It has 3 plastic buckles for the sides as well as for the crotch. Your seat belt will pass through the loop to secure your little one to you.
The vest is also fabulous for when you need to close your own eyes and get some sleep. You can feel rest assured that your baby is safe and secure, which means you can settle into a deeper sleep yourself.
The vest is made of pure cotton for comfort and has adjustable straps. We did find the straps to be ‘short' which means that breastfeeding whilst your little one is in the vest is really hard and the vest does tend to warm up a fair bit as well (great for cold flights, but not for the hot ones).
3. FAA-Approved CARES Flight Harness (22 – 44 lbs)
One of the best alternatives to car seats during a flight is the CARES Flight Harness for Airplane Seats. This is the product we personally use – it isn't perfect, but it does offer a lot more safety than simply popping your toddler on the seat.
First of all, the harness is approved by the FAA for children weighing 22 to 44 lbs, so it isn't suitable for babies. This belt changes the useless airplane seat belt, into a 4-point harness belt instead.
Rather than dragging a car seat throughout your journey, you can take this belt instead. The belt is small (6″), compact and lightweight (1 pound) and easy to throw into your carry-on bag.
In order to use the harness, pass it around the seat of the flight and put it on your child, then secure it to the airplane seat belt and the back of the seat. Don’t worry about having to take it off during flight hours since your child can wear the harness all the time while flying according to the approval from FAA.
Whilst we personally use this belt, I do have to mention that the belt is slightly uncomfortable for our little one to sit in. Also because there is no crotch belt, when our toddler was smaller, she would often slip down a bit.
Keep in mind that this seat harness can be used in airplanes but not in cars. Because it is so small, it is easy to carry this child car harness in combination with the Ride Safer Travel Vest mentioned below or rent a car seat after reaching at your destination if you’re planning to rent a car as well.
A fabulous travel harness for toddlers and older kids.
4. FlyeBaby Air Travel Hammock (Not FAA-Approved)
The FlyeBaby Air Travel Hammock is made to make sleep more comfortable for your baby when on a plane. What’s good about the hammock is that it gives you a break from holding your baby on a plane. Even though babies are little it can quickly get super uncomfortable when you are holding your baby in the small airplane seats.
The hammock has a 3-point harness and is very soft for infants. Its size is so small that it can fit in the side pocket of a backpack, making it an ideal portable travel hammock for your little one.
To use it, you have to attach one end to the front tray and another to your seat belt.
The hammock is not approved by the FAA, nor is it recommended for use while the plane takes off or lands. But keeping that aside, unless the air hostess complains about you using it, you can get away with using it during the flight.
I do personally prefer to use the lapbelt option mentioned above, as I feel like it is a safer option. Plus It means you can sit back and relax rather than looking after the hammock. I would also be very worried about the person in front of me reclining and of course, you would need to disturb your baby when meal times come around. Great idea though.
Car Seat Alternatives for Taxis, Transfers & Car Hire
Here is a great alternative to a car seat when it comes to keeping your kids safe in taxis, transfers, buses, trains and car rentals.
5. The Ride Safer Travel Vest (3 years +)
This lightweight car seat vest can be used for children traveling in a car who are above 3 years of age.
Your children can first wear the vest before putting the seat belt on. Its purpose is to tighten and position the seat belt properly for children.
The vest comes with a headrest to make car rides comfortable for kids. And unlike normal boosters, it also includes a crotch strap as a 5-point harness for extra safety.
However, the only drawback is that it can only be used for cars and not for flight seats, but it has passed crash tests and vehicle safety standards.
Booster Seat Alternatives for Older Kids
If your child is 4 years and older, a better alternative to car seats, is to find either an inflatable or foldable booster seat to use with the car seat belt instead. I
Important to note that it isn't recommended to use these on the planes because there is no shoulder belt on the plane. However, you could use the booster seat for comfort purposes during the flight (but not take-off or landing). Because they aren't FAA approved, the airplane staff will have the right to ask you to stow it away though.
The two most popular options for booster seats are:
6. Inflatable BubbleBum Booster Seat (4 – 11 years)
We have to admit that once our children are old enough (4 years +) to use boosters instead of rear-facing or forward-facing convertibles, traveling with them becomes pretty easy.
Although boosters cannot be used in flights (because there is no shoulder belt), they still make traveling safer and more comfortable in cars. If you’re planning to have a lot of car rides at your destination, carrying one will be a very good idea.
We have here the BubbleBum Inflatable Booster which is small, narrow, compact and foldable, meaning it will not consume too much space inside the bag. It is also small enough to fit inside your kid’s backpack.
Kids who are and above the age of 4 can use this inflatable booster all over the US and Europe.
It has been crash tested and meets and exceeds all safety requirements. As it contains more memory foam than air, the foam actually reduces the displacement of air in a crash. That means that the seat offers more stability and structural integrity, which is safer for your child.
Many parents love it because it is lightweight and easy to use. Along with that, it assures safety for their children while going around and visiting different places in long rides.
7. Foldable Mifold Grab-and-Go Car Booster Seat (4 Years +)
This Foldable Mifold Grab-and-Go Car Booster is yet another booster seat alternative you can bring along if you don’t like the idea of carrying a car seat. It can be used for children who are and above the age of 4. It supports weights up to 100 lbs.
It comes in a “size of a hand” pouch, therefore, it is perfect if you have more than one kid to pack for. You can also just slide it into your kid’s backpack where it’s easier to find.
The pouch fully opens with solid straps to be secured tightly to the seat of a car when seating a child. It has been tested for safety and meets the NHTSA standard FMVSS 213, hence, it is approved for use all over the US.
To use the Mifold booster, you just need to fit it to the seat belt or follow the steps as per the instructions in the pack.
We understand that traveling with little kids is not an easy job for parents. Therefore, getting any one of these car seat alternatives will be very helpful in making sure your child stays safe and comfortable. But it will also make it easier for you to drag around all the luggage as you can easily pack these away, leaving your hands free to deal with suitcases.
So, pick one for your next trip and of course, stay safe!
Click here to find more great options of travel gear to take along for babies.
Tip: You might also be interested in checking out other flight accessories here.
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