The 6 best FAA Approved car seats

woman on plane with baby in car seat

by Cat Hufton |
Published on

So, you’ve booked the accommodation and the flight, and now all that’s left to think about is how to transport your little one while you’re away. Many parents like to take their own car seat away with them so they’re not reliant on a rental provided by car hire and taxi companies. Small children may also find having their own car seat in an unfamiliar location quite comforting – especially if you arrive late at night or in a totally different time zone.

Many car seats can also be used on the aeroplane (and strapped into the plane seat) to keep your baby or toddler secure and comfortable on the journey if you are flying with your baby. It’ll also leave you free to eat and read rather than holding them for the entire flight. The downside to this is that you’ll have to pay for your baby to have their own seat which isn’t legally required until the age of two.

If you do plan on taking your own car seat, you’ll need to make sure it’s FAA approved by the airline you’re travelling with and considered for safe use on an aircraft. This ensures the car seat sits neatly in the plane seat and can be secured in properly. The good news is that there are lots of FAA approved car seats available – from newborn right up to toddler age. Below, we’ve shared 6 of our favourites.

The best FAA Approved car seats

Best compact car seat

If you’re looking for a booster seat for a child 18 months and over, this ultra-compact and lightweight design from Maxi Cosi is ideal for taking on holiday. It folds in half to about the size of a large backpack making it easy to transport and carry around. It also comes with its own travel bag so you can safely stow it away at check-in or take on board the plane with you. This car seat can also be used up to the age of four so it’s a good long-term travel option.  

What one parenting tester said: **“**After 3 weeks of use I can say ‘yes, that's what I was looking for’. The seat has everything you need if you have two cars or if you have to be constantly changing vehicles. It is light, much more than a fixed chair, easy to carry, it has a handle and folds up, greatly reducing its size, even if you need to remove it to store it in the trunk it is a good option. We are going on vacation to the Canary Islands, and we have seen that it is the best option for a rental car”.

Pros

  • Folds down into a compact size
  • Can be used from 18 months to four years
  • Easy installation
  • Can be used in all cars

Cons

  • Some reviewers say not sturdy enough to be used as a permanent seat
Model: NOMAD
Age range: 18 months to 4 years
Weight: 4.26kg
Size: 50D x 37.5W x 57H cm
Testing certificate: Not TÜV-certified, but R129/03 regulation and compatible with i-Size ready cars
  • Reinforced side protection 
  • Visible belt routine 
  • Anti-slip shoulder pads
  • Portable 
  • Fits easily into any car
  • Quick universal installation
  • Easy harness and headrest adjustment 
  • Easy to remove washable fabrics
  • Lightweight (4.26 kg)
  • 5-point safety harness

Best lightweight car seat

If you’re travelling with a newborn or very small baby, Bugaboo’s Turtle Air by Nuna car seat is suitable for babies from birth up until around 18 months.  TÜV-certified, it has a super strong shell, three-point harness, and an SPF50+ sunshade that will shield your baby from any bright sunlight on the plane or car. Reviewers also love its very lightweight feel that’s ideal for travel. 

What one mum tester said: **“**I am so happy with the quality and construction of the car seat. It looks and feels very safe and very comfy for a newborn and yet still lightweight (only 3 kg) for a baby car seat. I love that it could last baby for a while and all the handy extra features like the sunshade and merino wool insert make this an amazing car seat”.

Pros

  • Ultra-light three-point harness
  • Adjustable head support
  • Isofix wingbase
  • In-built sun canopy with SPF50+ 
  • Very lightweight and easy to transport
  • TÜV-certified

Cons

  • Only compatible with Bugaboo prams
Model: Turtle Air by Nuna 
Age range:Newborn to 15 months or a maximum of 13 kg and 83 cm
Weight: 3kg
Size: 69 x 44 x 59.8 cm
Certification: TÜV-certified
  • Comfortable padding with merino wool insert
  • Lightweight (less than 4kg)
  • Rear facing
  • Adjustable head support
  • Sun canopy with peekaboo window
  • Three-point harness
  • 220-degree swivel 
  • Compatible with the Bugaboo 360 ISOFIX Base (sold separately)
  • From newborn

Best car seat for longevity

Joie TiltArgos

Suitable from birth to approximately four years, the Joie Tilt offers plenty of longevity and safety. It also meets most airline’s weight and size regulations so, while you’ll need to check before your flight, it’s a safe bet for taking on board. It’s fitted with a very secure five-point harness and has an adjustable headrest so it can grow with your child. The only thing to bear in mind is that this car seat can only be secured with a seatbelt as it isn’t ISOFIX compatible. 

What one mum tester said: **“**I bought this a month ago and am so happy with this purchase. The tilt-in-front feature is fantastic for growing children. My 2-year-old doesn't like to sit rear face anymore. So, it's pretty good and enjoyable for her and supportive for their neck during nap time. Moreover, it's quite a good size to put on the middle seat of the car if you have three kids. I researched a lot and returned my previous purchase to fit three kids in a car, and I am so happy it's so perfect”.

Pros

  • Suitable for rear and forward facing
  • Meets most airline regulations 
  • Grows with your child
  • Five-point harness

Cons

  • Doesn’t have official TUV certification
  • Not ISOFIX compatible 
Model: TILT
Age range: Newborn to four years (or 18kg)
Weight: 6.72kg
Size: 49.2 x w 42 x h 61.6 cm 
Testing certificate:ECE R44/04
  • Deep recline with four positions
  • Adjustable head rest
  • Five-point harness
  • Padded and removable infant insert
  • Suitable for forward and rear facing

Best car seat for a newborn

If you’re travelling with a newborn or very young baby, Maxi-Cosi’s Pebble 360 Pro is a popular choice for many parents. First off, it’s TÜV-certified so can be used on most airlines (however it may be too wide for some aircraft seats so be sure to check beforehand), and it comes with a five-point harness, and excellent head and neck support. It also has an integrated sun canopy, which is super helpful when travelling to warmer climes, and feels light in hand, even with a baby inside. 

What one mum tester said: **“**Love this car seat, the recline feature is so amazing. I also love how the straps don’t fall down under baby due to the way the hardness is made. The seat colour is so lovely, and I can clip it to my pram with the adaptors. I also have the rain cover. Really happy”.

Pros

  • TÜV-certified
  • Approved by most airlines
  • i-Size compliant 
  • Excellent head and neck support
  • Padded seat

Cons

  • May be too wide for certain airlines
Model: PEBBLE PRO
Age range: Newborn to 12 months
Weight: 4.55 kg
Size: 67 x 44 x 56cm 
Testing certificate: TÜV-certified
  • Only rear facing
  • Three-point harness with stay-open feature
  • One-touch buckle system
  • Can be used with or without ISOFIX base
  • Can be used with travel system
  • Integrated sun canopy

Best car seat for safety

Joie i-Gemm 3Joie

When it comes to travel safety, Joie’s i-Gemm 3 car seat is not only TÜV-certified, but it also exceeds ECE R129/03 safety standards. It’s designed for optimum comfort with a super-soft padded seat and memory foam headrest that will keep your baby’s head and neck fully supported. The very generous UPF50+ protective hood is also super handy for keeping their delicate skin protected as you travel around, and we love the curved base which allows you to rock baby to sleep when they’re secured in the car or aeroplane seat.

Pros

  • Super soft and comfortable
  • Can be used with ISOFIX or seatbelt
  • Curved base allows you to rock baby
  • Soft-grip handle
  • Good-sized UPF hood

Cons

  • Only rear facing
Model: i-Gemm 3
Age range:Newborn to 12 months
Weight: 4.5kg
Size: 66 x w 43.5 x h 58.5 cm
Testing certificate: TÜV-certified and exceeds ECE R129/03 safety standard 
  • Can be used with ISOFIX or seatbelt
  • Memory foam headrest
  • TÜV-certified
  • UPF50+ sun canopy
  • Encore spinning system
  • R129 + i-Size Certified
  • Three-point harness

Best car seat for flexibility

Nuna Pipa NextJohn Lewis

This lightweight and easily portable car seat from Nuna is TÜV-certified and R129-compliant – which means it’s undergone extra tests for head and neck safety. It’s also comfortable to carry with a high-strength handle, and super comfy for baby with a headrest that can be placed in seven different positions. The straps are also easy to adjust and secure while you’ll have the flexibility between using it with an ISOFIX base or seatbelt. 

**Read our review of the Nuna Pipa Next.
**
What one mum tester said: “Straps are easy to move and secure. Ideal with the 360 bases with getting our baby out of the car easily and quickly. Also comes with adapters with the pushchair base to slot onto the base”.

Pros

  • Straps are easy to adjust and secure
  • TÜV-certified
  • UPF 50+ canopy
  • Lightweight

Cons

  • Expensive
Model: PIPA NEXT
Age range: Newborn to 15 months 
Size: H59 x W44 x D69.5cm
Weight: 3.58 kg
Testing certificate: TÜV-certified and R129-compliant (i-Size ready)
  • Rear facing
  • Additional in-built sleep shade
  • Lightweight and portable
  • Can be used with ISOFIX or seatbelt
  • Headrest with 7 different positions
  • High-strength handle

FAQs

Do I need to take my own car seat on holiday?

This all depends on what you’re most comfortable with and where you’re travelling to. Different countries have different laws on car seats so, while you may be able to organise hiring a car seat or high-backed booster for your rental car or booking a taxi with a car seat in it, it may not be as high-quality as the one you have at home. If you’re not planning on using your car seat on the flight and are confident that you’ll be able to rent a good quality one at your destination, then you may prefer to travel a little lighter. The car you hire will need to have ISOFIX or ISOFIT points in the car which is standard in most modern cars.

Is a bassinet better than a car seat on an aeroplane?

A bassinet is a great option for smaller babies on long-haul flights as it provides a safe, flat surface for them to sleep in comfortably. If there’s turbulence, however, you’ll be asked to take your baby out of the bassinet and hold them. If you want to take an FAA-approved car seat on board so that your baby has a safe place to sit, there’s a few things to bear in mind. First, you’ll need to buy an extra seat for your baby which is otherwise not legally required until the age of two. A car seat is also not a suitable option for a young baby to sleep in for hours at a time on a long-haul flight because babies can't stay in car seats for prolonged periods. Current safe sleeping advice states that babies should lie flat while sleeping and are not in a car seat for more than two hours without a 30-minute break.

Does every airline allow you to take your own car seat on board?

Most airlines allow you to bring your own car seat on board a flight if they are FAA approved, but the rules can vary from airline to airline. Make sure you check what’s required before you book so that you’re not caught off guard.

Cat Hufton is a freelance journalist and writer who has worked for some of fashion’s most iconic companies and written for the world’s best known magazines and newspapers.

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