Soon after we found out Claudia was pregnant, it hit us: traveling will be a bit more difficult going forward. Especially since we like going on longer trips. One evening she asked me if I knew what are the best car seats for distance driving. I had no idea at the time, but I knew I needed to find out. I ended up doing a lot of research about the best car seats for long distance driving.
Accoring to the CDC, car seat use reduces the risk for injury in a crash by 71–82% for children, when compared with seat belt use alone (source).
After doing a lot of reading on the subject, I believe a longer trip with a young child is possible if you have a comfortable car seat and you take regular driving breaks.
During these breaks, the child should be taken out of the car seat as much as possible. Sure, the trip might take a little longer, but with a bit of planning and setting the right expectations.
We hope the options presented below will help you choose the most comfortable car seat for long trips and help you plan for perhaps your next long road trip with a toddler or just long distance driving in general.
Best Car Seats For Long Distance Driving
- 4 in 1 car seat gives you 10 years of use: seamlessly transforms from rear facing harness car seat (4 40 pounds), to forward facing harness car seat (22 65 pounds), to high back belt positioning booster (40 100 pounds), to backless belt positioning booster (40 120 pounds)
- Simply safe adjust harness system adjusts the height of your harness and headrest to 10 positions in one motion to ensure that Your child is always properly secured.Do not use bleach
- 6 position recline helps keep your growing child comfy on Your many journeys together
- Integrated belt lock off for easy vehicle seat belt installation
- Machine washable, rapid remove cover removes in 60 seconds without uninstalling the seat for easy cleaning
- SAFE & COMFORTABLE NEWBORN POSITIONING: Features newborn travel high wedge to create a safe and secure lie-flat travel position. The innovative technology pushes baby up to reduce head slump while helping to keep airways open. As your baby grows, simply remove the wedge to allow the 2-in-1 infant positioning liner for support
- REAR-FACING FOR LONGER: This slimfit convertible car seat is designed and engineered to keep your child rear facing even longer up to 50 lb/ 22. 7 kg, approx. 4 years old
- 10 YEARS ONE CAR SEAT: With 4 ways to travel safely from birth to booster, the radian 3RXT adapts as your child grows to offer a custom adjustable fit from birth to 120 lbs
- REINFORCED STEEL CORE: Mechanically engineered, reinforced steel core, made from automotive grade high density plastic and steel to create the ultimate protection for your child
- THE ORIGINAL RADIAN 3 ACROSS: Built with our famous Radian slim fit convertible design for a 3-across option only with Diono Radian combinations without compromising child or passenger comfort. Feel safe having your children secure in the backseat.
- Convertible car seat grows with your child from rear-facing harness (5-40 lb) to forward-facing harness (22-65 lb)
- Slim car seat design saves space in your back seat
- Compact and lightweight to easily transfer from car to car
- Travel car seat is certified for aircraft use to help keep your child safe while flying
- Graco ProtectPlus Engineered: a combination of the most rigorous crash tests that helps to protect your child in frontal, side, rear & rollover crashes
- This convertible car seat helps protect rear facing infants from 5-40 pounds and forward facing toddlers from 22-40 pounds. Age at least two years of age
- The Tribute LX meets or exceeds all applicable Federal Safety Standards, as well as Evenflo's Side Impact Test Standard for Structural Integrity. Forward facing Fit: The top of the child’s ears is at or below the top of child restraint seat back
- The 5-point harness system with 4 shoulder strap positions allow this convertible car seat to accommodate growing children longer. Rear facing fit tip is top of child head is at least 1 inch below the top of the child restraint seat back
- The light and compact weight of the Tribute LX makes it an excellent choice for smaller vehicles, movement between multiple cars, and air travel
- Easy to remove machine washable seat pads allow for quick and easy cleaning; Also comes with a removable cup holder and Plastic and metal parts may be wiped clean with mild soap and water and dried with a soft cloth, do not use abrasive cleaners or solvents
- 5-point harness system with up-front adjustment
- Removable cup holder
- 4 shoulder strap positions
- Machine washable pad
- Compact size for great vehicle fit
- Extended Use: 65 lb. weight rating offers extended harness use for your little one
- Up-Front Harness Adjust: Central, front access to harness adjuster provides an easy way to adjust child's harness for an accurate, snug fit
- 6 Shoulder Harness Positions: provide a proper fit for your growing child
- Dual Cup Holders: Two built-in cup holders keep drinks and snacks within reach – allows driver to stay focused on the road
- Machine-Washable: Durable fabrics – remove for easy cleaning
1. Graco 4Ever DLX 4 in 1 Car Seat
The Graco 4Ever is our clear winner from the list. The plush head and body inserts can keep your baby comfortable for the duration of the trip. It does not overheat due to the breathable fabric. It also has plenty of legroom compared to other Graco models.
Since it’s so versatile, this may be the first and last car seat you buy for your little one, meaning it’ll be easy for them to get used to a seat that grows with them. Also, the fabric can be easily removed in 60 seconds for cleaning purposes.
Graco 4Ever 4-in-1 Comfort & Quality
The 4-in-1 4Ever car seat has plenty of padding throughout so your child’s head and neck remain secure and supported. A comfortable infant insert is included for your little one’s comfort while in the car seat.
How to install it
LATCH installation is so much easier with the In Right LATCH system. As for the ease of installation, you won’t have to uninstall your car seat to adjust the child’s harness height since the harness is self-threading.
2. Diono Radian 3RXT Car Seat (great for small cars)
The Diono Radian 3RXT is the ideal choice for a small car, thanks to its sleek and stylish design. Radian 3RXT’s ability to fit three across the typical backseat makes it stand out in this chain. A car seat with this structure allows for additional space in the front seat for other passengers. So, if you’re searching for the perfect car seat to take on a trip, this is a great choice.
Radian 3RXT also has its FAA approval, which gives it the approval of being used on an aircraft, in addition to being very convenient to fold up and store when you’re on the go.
With this car seat, you’ll be able to navigate the airport’s crowded space without any difficulty. Hence, if you’re looking for a compact, sleek, stylish, and packable car seat, the Diono Radian 3RXT is the right pick for you.
Diono Radian 3RXT Comfort & Quality
Radian 3RXT has just the right amount of padding throughout so that your little one has a snuggly car ride every time. In addition to the layers of Side Impact Protection, there is additional padding in the headrest. Furthermore, the Radian 3RXT is equipped with specially designed infant pillows that bring comfort to your child as they grow. This is also one of the best car seats for toddlers.
How to install it
Easy Click SuperLATCH is an integral part of the Radian 3RXT’s design for safer and easier installation. You can also install it using your vehicle’s seatbelt. With an audible-click locking system, the Radian 3RXT has a visual locking system that lets you know your car seat is installed correctly and at the right angle.
3. Graco Contender Slim Convertible Car Seat, West Point
This is a great option for small cars. Measuring only 21.5 x 20.1 x 24.75 inches, it will fit in most smaller-size cars so it's perfect if you have multiple children, or just want to save on space. Even though it's a slimmer version, it still has a lot of padding.
The breathable fabric allows plenty of air circulation thus preventing overheating.
For such a slim car seat, it comes with a cup holder which was a bit surprising.
How to install it
4. Evenflo Tribute LX
There is a significant amount of padding in the Tribute 5 Convertible Car Seat's headrest, however, giving the seat some extra Side Impact Protection.
This is a great budget choice and comes with surprisingly many features for the price.
The fabric is breathable and soft which will prevent overheating.
This car seat is air travel friendly and is lightweight, making it easy to carry.
How to install it
It can be mounted with LATCH and a seatbelt, and it’s one of the only car seats in today’s market with a non-rethread harness system and four positions. The quick-release buckle and up-front harness allow easy and instant adjusting.
6. Evenflo Sonus Lightweight Convertible Car Seat
An affordable, lightweight car seat with superior features from Evenflo, the Sonus offers excellent value. Its compact design makes it possible to seat three across comfortably or have passengers in the back seat with enough space to breathe.
The Sonus' easy LATCH installation and adjustable harness make it the preferred car seat for a kid who requires a broader range of motion in a car.
Evenflo Sonus Comfort & Quality
The Sonus car seat has soft padding throughout but no shoulder pads. There is also no additional padding in the headrest, minus the Side Impact Protection. However, it comes with an infant insert pillow for extra comfort and support. This is also one of the lightest car seats for travel.
How to install
This car seat is LATCH-equipped, making installing it easier than ever before. On the contrary, it is necessary to rethread the harness so that the harness height can be adjusted.
What To Look For in a Car Seat for long-distance driving
Here are a few things to consider when buying a travel car seat:
Consider what options will work best for your needs and your family before buying a car seat. The most popular features include a five-point safety harness, safety rating, canopy shade, cup holders, and removable and washable items.
2. Width and length of car seat
It will be more significant if you’ll be flying with the car seat, but it may also be important when traveling by car if there are several young children in the back seat. Keep in mind that just because a car seat is FAA-approved does not mean it will fit in an airplane seat.
The car seat typically fits in an airplane seat if it has a width of 17″ or less, so you can always call the airline to make sure.
You don’t want to be weighed down by the car seat or struggle to carry it through the airport. A lightweight car seat is key. Weigh is about ten pounds. That should be manageable for you to carry it through the airport, onto the plane, and to your hotel.
Convertible car seats are those you can use for your newborn until they’re a toddler. Children may be able to fit in convertible car seats as young as three pounds and reach 65 pounds in weight. You will be able to save money by purchasing a convertible car seat since you would not need to purchase another one when they outgrow their infant car seat.
Weight is going to be critical if you’re going to be out and about a lot. You don’t want to lug a car seat too heavy or struggle to carry it through the airport. Weight-wise, a lightweight car seat usually weighs around ten pounds. That should be relatively manageable for carrying through the airport, onto the plane, and to your hotel.
You should consider a booster seat or a car seat for your child when you travel. Five-point harnesses keep children in car seats securely in place. These harnesses make contact with the child’s shoulder, hip, and crotch. It does not allow the child to move out of position when the harness is correctly tightened. Car seats are suitable for infants as well as toddlers.
A booster seat is also used when a toddler outgrows their car seat. A booster seat’s job is to ensure that the child’s seat belt fits properly around his or her body while driving. A child does not necessarily need to move to a booster seat at a specific age but should be old enough to maintain a good seat position.
When traveling on a plane, it is important to check that the car seat you choose is approved by the FAA. Installing a car seat on a plane won’t be a problem if you research the seats of the plane beforehand.
What is the most comfortable and safest car seat?
The 5-point harness car seat is a good choice for a child for long drive. The 5-point harness car seat is for children from birth to about 4 years old.
How long can a baby be in a car seat in a distance driving?
Babies should not be confined in car seats for more than two hours at a time and should be taken out frequently. You should take frequent breaks if your trip involves driving for long periods.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long should a baby be in a car seat when driving?
Many parents ask, “how long can babies stay in car seats?” The general advice is that babies should not stay in their car seats for longer than two hours at a time.
When can a baby be in a car seat longer than 2 hours?
It is recommended that a baby should not spend more than two hours in a car seat within 24 hours. As a result of a baby being in a semi-upright position for an extended period, they may suffer from 1—a strain on their still-developing spine.
How long can a 3-month-old sit in a car seat?
According to organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, the baby should not spend more than two hours in a car seat or lying in a fixed position. They continue to develop their motor system and their arm, back, and neck muscles.
Can newborns go on long car rides?
You will need to properly install your child’s car seat if you plan on taking a long drive. Even so, car seats are not ideal for babies who are not closely supervised while sleeping for very long periods. Furthermore, they should not be considered safe places to sleep for a baby outside the car.
Can a 4-month-old go on a road trip?
When your baby is four months old, it’s a crapshoot age when he could sleep all day or not. Planning is the only way to ensure he will sleep. You should allow time to depart to have the most extended nap of the day or drive at night if they are on any set schedule.
Your car seat shouldn’t be one of the things you worry about when you’re traveling. We have reviewed several of the best car seats for long-distance driving that are great and comfortable. Perhaps you feel better informed at this point about finding a car seat that meets your traveling expectations. Take your time choosing the right car seat. It’s out there—you’re going to find it!