When it comes to traveling with babies, there are a ton of things to think about. And a ton of stuff to bring! One of the most useful things you can add to your bags is a travel high chair for your baby, but which one should you choose?
The importance of a good high chair for babies
If you haven’t heard me talk about it already, I am a huge proponent of getting babies in properly fitting high chairs. It can make all the difference in the world at mealtimes with how your baby will eat.
The thing is, I would rather you spend your money on the best high chair for your baby that you will use 95% of the time at home. That is a much better option than just an okay one at home and an okay one for traveling.
Because when it comes down to the best portable high chair, convenience is really what we are looking for. And that usually comes at the sacrifice of proper fit. What your child is in at home is going to provide the base of their mealtime experience, and we want that to be our number one priority!
More: For more help with baby led weaning and how to help your baby succeed with eating, be sure to check out this article with a comprehensive guide to baby led weaning and first baby foods!
What to look for in the best travel high chair
The best chair might look different for different families. There are three general categories for travel chairs. Ones that fit on top of adult chairs, ones that hook to the table, and ones that stand by themselves. Each one of these have pros and cons. And how you are traveling most of the time is going to determine which one is the best option for you.
If you tend to go on road trips, you might not be as concerned about how much of a compact fold a chair gets. If you usually fly places, something that doesn’t take up much space in your luggage might be key. If you frequently go where there is no chair or one that doesn’t move (think a picnic table) then a hook-on chair might be your best bet. And if you camp a lot, something that is good for outdoor use and can stand by itself might be important to you.
No matter what type you are looking for, there are some important things we want to consider across the board.
First and foremost, safety features are going to play a key role in our travel chair pick. Most travel-friendly high chairs don’t come with a five-point harness, which is standard in a more traditional high chair style.
Instead, you will find a 3-point harness is standard on most travel chairs. This means that they don’t have shoulder straps for your baby. For most kids, this doesn’t raise a big red flag.
The 3-point safety harness still does a great job at keeping your baby secure. But it won’t help if your child flops from side to side frequently, likes to lean excessively far forward, and sometimes just when they try and push off something to stand up. As with any chair, the important thing is going to be that you don’t leave your child unattended while they are in the chair.
If you are considering a travel chair that straps on top of a dining chair, the straps that secure it to the chair become an issue, as well. Sometimes the straps securing the travel chair do not get tight enough, or will slip loose while the child is in it. This doesn’t usually happen for the ones at the top of the market, but it is something to be on the lookout for.
As with all high chairs, how easy it is to clean is key! Kids are messy, and when you are traveling you won’t always have easy access to soap and water, or whatever is recommended for cleaning it.
Most travel high chair manufacturers recommend that you wipe their chair, and they are often not machine washable. But many parents of young children have had success using a washing machine with the chairs that have removable covers. Making a removable cover another thing to consider in the best chair for your family.
Ease of use
When you’re traveling with kids, things can get stressful really quick. The last thing you need is a chair that is a pain to set up. Especially since meal times while traveling tend to be some of the most volatile times for young kids!
How easily something straps to the chair or hooks on the table is going to be key! Imagine your normal travel situations. What will be easier for you, strapping something to a chair, or getting it attached to the table? Both options will have a learning curve one way or the other, but you might find yourself gravitating towards one option over the other.
The other thing to keep in mind is if it lends itself to easy storage. Is it so big it’s going to be taking up a corner of your hotel room or a good portion of the trunk of your car? Or will it fit somewhere easily without getting in your way?
The Top Picks for Travel High Chairs for Kids
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s get down to the specific options out there. Since there are so many different styles, I’m going to share with you my top picks for each category of travel chairs out there. Use your own habits while traveling to help you determine which style will best fit your needs.
The Best Hook On High Chair
A hook on high chair is one that attaches directly to the table with no chair needed. Like all things baby related, there is no one answer when it comes to the best one. Different travel chairs will answer different needs. If I had to choose one of this style of chair that will fit most needs, it would be the Inglesina Fast Table Chair, shown above.
The Inglesina Fast Table Chair is a little on the pricier side for a travel high chair, but it is one of the easiest, and most loved, portable travel chairs. It will fit on most tables, and has its own carry bag to make it easy to take to restaurants or store it in your car. The seat cover is not technically machine washable, but many people have successfully washed it in a washing machine with no problems.
A similar clip on travel chair is the Chicco caddy hook-on chair. It has slightly different clips to accommodate different tables. If you travel somewhere with a table that the Inglesina won’t work on, this is another option to consider.
If you are looking for a chair that is even lighter and more compact than the Inglesina or Chicco ones, the Mountain Buggy Pod clip on chair is a great option. It is so small that it and it’s included carry bag can fit inside of a diaper bag. The chair part will also get your child a bit closer to the table, which is always a plus. Although there are still many other fit concerns to it, as is to be expected in this category.
Hook On High Chairs Are Not Good Day-to-Day High Chairs
It can be really tempting to buy just one chair for travel and daily eating. I highly encourage you not to do that with these chairs! By design, these chairs have a very deep seat that puts many kids very low at the table or counter. Fine for a bit of traveling. Not good for eating every meal in.
They also tend to have a deep back and wide sitting area. Again, not great for positioning our babies and toddlers for eating. If you have room, I’d even consider sticking in some extra towels in your luggage when traveling to help improve the fit on these chairs.
Try sticking a folded towel behind your child to get them closer to the table in the chair. And try placing a towel in the bottom of these chairs to get your child a bit higher up at the table, especially if you have a smaller baby.
The goal isn’t to make them so high at the counter or table that they are unsafe and can fall out. But to find a happy medium that positions them a little better for eating. I also recommend aiming to find a dining chair to place under the hook-on chair. This can give your baby someplace to rest their feet, and help with overall eating.
The Best Travel Booster Seats
This style of travel high chair is specifically designed to fit on top of a dining chair. They have safety straps that go from the edges and clip underneath the adult chair to keep the booster seat secure.
When it comes to traveling, the best seats in this category tend to be the ones that are foldable booster seats. Often they have some form of box or cushion at the bottom of them to provide height to your baby in the chair. Then they have a back and side to secure your baby to the booster. The back folds down on top of the booster for easy storage.
These portable booster chairs tend to be very versatile, and fit to most regular chairs you will find in houses and restaurants.
They also tend to be better options for older children, as they often have a higher weight limit of around 50 pounds and can function as a toddler booster seat when traveling.
With that said, they also don’t tend to be the best option for younger babies. They are generally marketed for babies 9 months and older.
This is primarily due to the fact that the sides don’t securely hold in a child that is flopping around. If you have a child who is a good sitter, they will likely be fine. Many babies have the trunk strength needed to sit in this chairs closer to 6 months. But it is something to keep in mind.
One small perk to these is that they often come with storage pockets inside the booster part of the chair, which makes carrying bibs or plates and utensils a bit easier. They also have very compact folds that make for easy transport, with carrying handles or straps standard.
My Favorite Travel Booster Seat Options
Most of these travel boosters are really interchangeable. My favorite in this category is the Munckin Brica GoBoost Travel Booster Seat. Its shoulder strap and extra storage make it especially convenient for travel and keeping in the back of the car.
The First Years On-The-Go Booster Seat and the Nuby Easy Go High Chair Booster Seat are also easy, and easily accessible, options. Their main features, weight limit, and almost every other important aspect are very close to the Munchkin chair.
Travel Booster Seats Are Not Good Day-to-Day High Chair Options
As with the hook-on chairs, these type of seats are not good daily options for your child. They do not provide the support, positioning, and a myriad of other things you will find in more traditional high chairs. Having your child properly positioned in a high chair for most of their meals will infinitely help with their ability to eat well.
The Best Travel High Chair Is One That Works for Your Family’s Lifestyle
Travel chairs are not daily high chairs. The same things don’t need to be primary in your head when choosing the best one. Which means that using what I’ve talked about here to decide on the type of chair you want for your family, and then choosing whichever one I’ve mentioned in that category that fits your budget and aesthetics is all you need to do.
Spend your time and money finding a high chair for your baby that will position them properly at the table the majority of the time. Because proper positioning is hands down the number one thing to consider in a high chair. But it’s not something that is anywhere close to being available in a travel chair that is currently on the market.
And if you’re curious about what I have in my car? It’s the Munchkin Brica GoBoost Travel booster. I have used it successfully in many different travel situations, and on the rare times when it doesn’t work I will just safely hold my child on my lap to eat. (But remember, that doesn’t mean it’s the right one for your style of traveling!)