The Pico Portable Car Seat is a lightweight, foldable car seat for toddlers. Its slim and collapsible design allows it to fit easily into a carrying bag (which is included), making it a very tempting option for families on the go.
The only thing that isn’t tempting about the Pico car seat is its price tag. Costing almost $400, it’s easy to wonder if the Pico car seat is worth it. After personally taking this car seat on many trips (domestic & international, plane trips & road trips), we’re ready to answer that question.
In this post, we’ll dive into the pros and cons of this portable car seat and explain which parents/travelers will get the most value out of it. We’ll share what we love about it, and a few things we don’t. Finally, we’ll explain a few different ways to decide if the Pico is worth the price.
Disclaimer: This post is not affiliated with or sponsored by Pico or WAYB. We independently purchased this car seat for full price. If you purchase this product through our Amazon link, we do receive a small commission at no cost to you.
What is the Pico Portable Car Seat?
The Pico Portable Car Seat is made by WAYB. It is lightweight with a slim and collapsible design, making it uniquely portable. It weighs just 8 pounds and does not come with nor require a separate base.
There is a hook in the middle of the seat that locks it into a seated position or allows it to be folded in half. When folded, the car seat fits easily into a backpack carrier. A basic carrier is included, and a premium bag is available for an extra fee.
The Pico car seat can be secured using the LATCH system (the hooks that are built into most vehicles made after 2003) or a standard seatbelt. It is approved for use in vehicles and airplanes.
This forward-facing car seat is designed for children who weigh between 22-50 pounds and are 30-45 inches tall. It is recommended for children ages 2 and up.
Let’s start with the most important thing on every parent’s mind: Is the Pico Portable Car Seat safe?
According to the manufacturer’s website, the Pico Portable Car Seat “meets U.S. standards as required by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Federal Motor Safety Standards 213 for forward-facing, harnessed car seats. The Pico also meets Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) standards for use on commercial aircraft.”
You can read more about the Pico safety standards here.
As a parent purchasing a car seat, you are going to have to evaluate the safety of whatever car seat you choose, portable or not. Whether you go to the WAYB website, the Graco website or Amazon, there is a wide variety of approved car seats at an even wider variety of price points. You will have to personally evaluate design, convenience, comfort, safety and price and choose the balance that is right for you.
That’s about as much as I’m willing to say on the matter of safety. I am not an expert on car seat safety, and thus I cannot provide advice, recommendations or assessments on safety.
Why We Bought the Pico Car Seat
When our child was smaller, we had the Nuna Pipa RX car seat, and we traveled with it frequently. It was a heavy car seat, but we figured out that it fit over the handle of our Away bag. This trolley sleeve hack meant that we could pull it through the airport pretty effortlessly.
After they sized out of that car seat, we bought another “regular” car seat that fit our toddler. We didn’t even think to purchase a “travel car seat” at the time. We traveled once with that thing and immediately regretted it. It was so big and heavy, and not at all convenient to carry around.
Since our car seat didn’t travel well, we thought we’d try to not bring a car seat at all. We hoped that we could get by with Uber Car Seat and/or hiring car services with car seats. After one trip to Santo Domingo, we realized that this was stressful, unreliable and expensive.
The next trip on our radar was a lengthy trip to India. Car seats are not legally required in India, and most of the car services we talked to didn’t have them. We definitely weren’t comfortable traveling without a car seat in India, but we also knew we couldn’t lug our massive car seat around for three weeks either.
Enter the Pico Portable Car Seat. It was small, lightweight and fit in a backpack. Basically, it was exactly what we needed. At the time, spending $400 on a car seat for this trip — which was already expensive — sounded insane. Looking back, this was just the push we needed to get the car seat. The Pico immediately became essential for all future trips.
Packing with the Pico Portable Car Seat
The Pico fits perfectly into our current packing lineup. We almost always bring the following luggage pieces for a family of three, which we can carry between two adults.
- 2 carry-on size wheeled suitcases (Away, The Carry On)
- Weekender bag with trolley sleeve, pulled on top of one suitcase (BÉIS Mini Weekender)
- Kids suitcase, pulled on top of the other suitcase (Amazon)
- Backpack, worn on one parent’s back
- Pico Portable Car Seat, worn on the other parent’s back
These six items count as 3 carry-on bags and 3 personal items (on most US domestic legacy carriers.) The Pico Portable Car Seat should not technically count against your baggage allowance on most US airlines. In some cases, they may make you use or check the car seat if it’s in addition to your personal item. We don’t have hands for a 7th luggage piece, so we’ve never had to test out this policy.
It is also possible to gate check the Pico car seat, just as you would any other car seat or stroller. In most cases, you will need to have the item tagged at the gate. Then you drop the car seat on the jet bridge just before you board. In most cases, you can pick up the car seat on the jet bridge at your destination.
How we Use the Pico Portable Car Seat
Living in New York City, we don’t own a car. We almost exclusively use our Pico car seat for travel.
As you may expect, we need the car seat most on domestic trips. We travel frequently to visit family, which almost always requires car travel and thus a car seat. My parents live a few hours from their nearest airport, and my brother, who lives in upstate New York, lives 30-minutes by car from the nearest train station. For these trips, we always pack the Pico.
We don’t just use the Pico for family trips, though. Many US cities don’t have good public transportation from the airport to the city center or tourism district. We often need to bring the Pico just for transportation to and from the airport. In our case, the most common example of this is when we go to Walt Disney World in Orlando and Disneyland in California.
International trips can go either way. For the most part, it’s possible and easy to travel around Europe without ever needing to get in a car. We spent three weeks in London, Paris and Amsterdam without a car seat and did perfectly fine on public transportation. For that trip, we didn’t bring a car seat at all. But then we went to India, and we used our Pico for car transportation almost every day.
For all trips though, we primarily use our Pico for car transportation. The FAA does not require car seats on airplanes, and they are considered optional. Personally, we stopped putting our child in a car seat on planes when they aged out of their infant car seat. They’re 3 years old now and use the standard seatbelt on planes.
Why we Love the Pico Car Seat
We love the Pico car seat because of its main selling point: portability.
The Pico Portable Car Seat is lightweight and folds up into a backpack carrying case. (A basic bag is included or you can pay more for the premium carrying case.) We bring it on just about every trip these days, even if we aren’t sure car travel will be required.
For example, we have a trip to Finland coming up. We don’t currently have any car travel planned, but we’ve already decided that we’re going to bring the Pico just in case. That way, we’ll have the flexibility to safely take a car if needed. (Maybe our flight is delayed or we book a last-minute excursion. It’s nice to have a car seat handy, especially if it’s not inconvenient to carry around.)
Not only is it lightweight, but it’s relatively quick and easy to install in almost any car. This is never more important than when we’re taking a rideshare to or from an airport. One of us can usually install/uninstall the Pico car seat in the same amount of time that it takes the other to get our luggage in/out of the car. We’re never holding up traffic or our driver, which is very important to my husband and his coveted Uber rating.
More so than anything, I love that it is comfortable and safe for my child. I love that we can seamlessly go from train to plane to car, without having to sacrifice convenience or safety.
Who is the Pico Car Seat Best for?
We love the Pico Portable Car Seat for our lifestyle. That said, it’s definitely an expensive option that might not be right for everyone. There is definitely a type of parent and traveler that will get the most value out of the Pico car seat.
The Pico Portable Car Seat is best suited for …
Frequent plane travelers. If you are traveling through airports more than once or twice a year, the Pico will make your life substantially easier. It’s convenient and lightweight to carry around through the airport, it’s easy to go through security with it, and it fits in most standard overhead bins. When you arrive at your destination, you can safely take a car (be that a rideshare, rental car or car service) to your destination without any hassle.
Parents without a personal car. The Pico is perfect for parents who don’t own a car. For these parents, the Pico can easily be the only car seat you need, which makes the price much more competitive. The Pico is generally pretty quick and easy to install, which makes it great for parents who need to move their child in and out of different vehicles regularly.
Travel with multiple destinations. If your only trips are to Grandma’s house or a resort in Mexico where you park it for a week straight, the Pico is probably not necessary. However, if you’re trip involves multiple stops, hotel changes, trains, flights, etc … then having a portable option makes a huge difference.
Destinations without reliable Uber Car Seat. I love Uber Car Seat. If it was reliable everywhere I went, I probably wouldn’t need the Pico at all. Unfortunately, it’s common that there are no Uber Car Seats available when you them them. At these locations, it’s hard to rely on Uber Car Seat without a backup option. If you are traveling somewhere that has spotty Uber Car Seat availability, the Pico is the next best option for rideshares.
Children with multiple caregivers. If your child is frequently changing vehicles for any reason, the Pico can be extremely valuable. If you have a coparenting arrangement, a nanny/babysitter or a school carpool, the Pico makes it easy to switch to different cars.
What we Don’t Love About the Pico Car Seat
I love the Pico car seat and use it regularly, but it is not perfect. There are a few drawbacks to this car seat that are worth noting.
First, it’s not always easy to install with LATCH clips. When done properly, the LATCH clips and seatbelt installation methods are equally safe. We generally prefer the clips because there is less room for error with those than the seatbelt.
In our experience, we found that the LATCH clips only quickly install in about half the cars we try. (There is something about the angle and the distance that sometimes takes substantially more effort than others.) In these cases, we use the seatbelt install method, which just takes a minute or two.
Similarly, the Pico car seat does require a bit of strength to fold and unfold. There is a metal clasp that hooks around a bar to lock it in the seated position. Presumably by design, it takes a bit of effort to remove this clip to fold up the car seat. I struggled with this the first few times I tried to use it.
The Pico car seat also isn’t great for sleeping, and thus it’s not great for long car rides. The slim and sleek design that makes is so incredibly portable is also why it’s not overly comfortable at nap time. The Pico car seat is very vertical, and it does not have the slight recline that a traditional toddler car seat can have. It also doesn’t have the extra padding in the headrest that makes a comfortable pillow to sleep against.
And finally, the trolly sleeve on basic carrying bag is not useful. The included, basic carrying bag is a lightweight and loose-fitting fabric bag. (There is a more streamlined and structured carrying bag available for an extra $95.) It has a trolley sleeve, but it’s not tight enough to hold its weight and stay on top of a suitcase for very long. This bag works best as a backpack.
The #1 Problem the Pico Car Seat Doesn’t Solve
This is in a separate section because this is not a flaw of this specific car seat or it’s design. This is a problem that faces all parents who travel without a car. The Pico car seat does not solve the Uber/Taxi/Rideshare problem for daily activities. Even with the Pico, you can’t just take a rideshare to an activity.
For example, in Santo Domingo, a popular thing to do is visit an open-air cave called Los Tres Ojos. It’s just a short drive from city center, and it’s a cheap Uber ride there. Let’s say you do that, you put your kid in the Pico, you get there … and you now have to carry around the car seat as you’re hiking through the caves. No one wants to do that.
In that specific use case, the Pico is inconvenient but possible, which is not always the case. Many tourist destinations like museums, monuments or sporting events have rules on bags. Even though the tram from Fenway ballpark is horrible, we couldn’t plan to take an Uber to and from our hotel because we couldn’t bring our car seat into the stadium.
If you need to take your toddler in a car from your hotel to any other activity, you’re going to hit a road block no matter what car seat you have. This has by far been the most frustrating and unexpected issue when it comes to traveling with a toddler.
If you’re traveling somewhere that requires car transportation to an activity where it’s not convenient or possible to carry around a car seat (even an 8lb one in a backpack), you will need another solution. You can either rent a car or hire a car service, both of which will allow you to leave your car seat in the vehicle while you enjoy whatever the activity is. Or sometimes, based on the destination, you can get away with Uber Carseat or a similar rideshare service that includes car seats.
So … is this Pico Car Seat worth it?
The Pico car seat starts at $380 (as of publication). That price is competitive with similar vehicle and flight approved car seats for toddlers on the market. While you can find similar car seats on Amazon for as low as $75 (like this one), it’s not uncommon to see brandname car seats (Graco or Nuna for example) like this selling for upwards of $500 or more.
If you’re only planning to buy one car seat, the Pico can very easily be worth it. For parents who are frequent travelers and/or don’t own their own car, the portable and lightweight Pico is most likely worth the price. These parents will get the most value out of the Pico’s unique features, and most likely do not need any other car seat.
The analysis gets trickier when you are considering buying the Pico as a secondary car seat. When you already have a car seat of equal price, it’s hard to stomach spending another few hundred dollars on a car seat just for travel.
One way to determine if it’s worth the price is to compare it to Uber Car Seat (assuming you are traveling to destinations that have that service.) Uber Car Seat is typically about $10 more than Uber X. If you bought the Pico car seat and used Uber X instead of Uber Car Seat, you need about 40 Uber Rides to justify the cost.
That sounds like a lot at first glance. However, if you take an Uber to and from the airport at your destination and at home, that’s 4 rides per trip right there. That means you only need to take 10 trips over the course of the 3 years (at least) that your child can use the Pico. That number is actually pretty reasonable for a moderate to frequent flyer.
Driven by this math — and assuming you’ll actually get substantially more value out of it — I would argue that the Pico is worth it as a secondary car seat if you travel 3 or more times a year.
So is the Pico worth it? The Pico is worth the price as a primary car seat for frequent travelers and parents who don’t own a car. The Pico is worth the price as a secondary car seat if you travel 3+ times per year.