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Is the Cosco Scenera NEXT a Good Travel Car Seat? My Honest Thoughts

It’s lightweight, affordable, and easy to tote on trips. The Cosco Scenera Next is one of the most popular travel car seats out there, but is it safe and worth using?

Now that my son has aged out of his infant car seat, this is the one we travel with after reading numerous reviews stating that this is THE travel car seat.

Do I love it? Yes and no. Here’s what to know before you buy it:

The Cosco Scenera NEXT Specifications

  • Weight: 10.4 lbs (4.7kg)
  • Cost: Only $59!
  • Rear-facing from 5-40 lbs
  • Forward-facing 22-40lbs (max weight is 40)
  • Height range: 19-43 inches.
  • Has side Impact Protection.
  • 5 harness heights and 3 buckle locations allow for the best fit for growing children.
  • Seat pad is machine washable and dryer safe.
  • Removable cup holder is dishwasher safe.
  • Certified for use on aircraft – Compact TSA friendly design for airport security.
  • Meets or exceeds Federal Safety Standards (NHTSA).
  • Comes in many colors, which is kind of fun, no?

As a travel car seat, something lightweight that’s also TSA-approved is about the best you can hope for. Given the size an orientation of the car seat, I have also found that it’s really easy to pack extra things into the travel bag that we use with it – the JL Childress car seat bag, which has an extra storage bag that’s perfect for stashing diapers and wipes.

Is the Cosco Scenera Safe?

can you take a baby on safari

My first question was with regards to safety. Can a car seat this cheap and light really be safe? At home, we’re using the Nuna Rava following using the Nuna Pipa when our son was an infant, which I picked for the safety ratings and nontoxic materials used. They’re also at a much different price point.

But does price matter when it comes to safety?

According to consumer ratings, the Cosco Scenera scores ‘better’ in crash ratings. The forward latch rates the highest, and the rear facing while still rating well, is not as strong. I can vouch, although it’s not the toughest car seat to install, it’s not the easiest, either. Out of 100, this car seat has a score of 74, while the Nuna Rava scores an 81. Not bad when you consider it’s a tenth of the price!

Is the Cosco Scenera Easy to Install?

To install the car seat, I initially needed to find a YouTube video to help and found that in order to do a rear-facing install, I needed to pull back the seat padding to fully access the bottom and tighten the belt as much as possible. You’re really reliant on a good seatbelt, which can honestly be tricky in the developing world. On our African safari trip, we could only make it work with one of the seat belts in the back, which meant I took the other one. I won’t think too much about that!

Unlike an infant base that clips into the back seat, this one has hooks that, while a bit looser than a base clip, function similarly. If the car is too old to have clips, you’ll be using the seatbelt only.

Practice at home before you arrive at your destination. Sometimes it takes both of us parents to get it tight enough to feel secure, but once it’s installed, we’re good for the rest of the trip. On an airplane, it’s even easier, routing the seatbelt behind the seat padding and pulling tight.

What I Like about the Cosco Scenera Car Seat

The best thing about the car seat, apart from the affordable pricing, is how light it is. Given that my son is still young enough to be a lap infant, I usually opt to check the car seat as hold luggage, which no airline I’ve encountered charges for. Since it’s so much lighter than most car seats, we use the extra bag in our car seat travel bag and load it up with diapers and wipes, which saves us so much more room in our own checked luggage. Since it’s so light to begin with, gate agents don’t question it.

If he has his own seat, I’ll just use the CARES harness on board, which I find easier than lugging a car seat through the airport.

However if you do bring the car seat on board, it’s FAA-approved and can fit in the airplane seat with the armrest down, which will be required for take off and landing. It even fits in the bulkhead seats, which can sometimes be narrower due to the screen taking up armrest real estate.

Since it’s so light, it’s not a huge burden to carry through the airport in a car seat travel backpack, although there are some downsides.

What I DON’T Like about the Cosco Scenera Car Seat

It can’t all be pros, and there are some big cons with the Cosco Scenera.

When you have it installed in an airplane, the belt buckle is likely to be at your child’s back. Since the padding is very thin, that means it’s probably not going to be that comfortable of a ride.

It isn’t nearly as well padded as our Nuna Rava. I’ve had to remove the padding of both for washing, and it’s evident that the Cosco has far less crash padding and overall comfort than the Rava. It isn’t made with flame-retardant free materials, either. Since they can release more toxic fumes, I wouldn’t use it as our everyday car seat. It’s also not as sturdy as the Nuna Rava, which doesn’t budge and is easier to install. That said, it’s so heavy, it would not be ideal as a travel car seat.

The 40 lb weight limit will also present a problem for us, since my son is nearly 30 lbs already at a year and a half old.

Once he ages out of it, we might be stuck traveling with the Nuna, however if your child is more in the average ranges, you might be ready for a booster seat by the time they reach 40 lbs.

Bottom Line on the Cosco Scenera

For the price point, I like the Cosco Scenera NEXT as a travel car seat. It’s so lightweight, it makes it easier on us parents when I feel like we’re already packing so much for a baby. It has really simplified adding extra wipes and diapers as well when we check it as hold luggage and pack a little extra with it.

I like that it fares well in safety ratings. Nothing else would matter if it didn’t, but since it does, I have no reservations about using it on our trips. It won’t be useful for as long as another brand would be since the weight limit is low, but we’ll be relying on it until that day comes.

*Some links in this post are affiliate links that support us at no extra cost to you when you purchase through them. We only recommend products that we personally use and have tested ourselves. Everybody wins!

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