The ultimate guide for travel with children from birth to 5 years.

Review of the Graco ComfortSport

Convertible Car Seat


See also:  Infant Car Seats     Safety Boosters     Car Seat Alternatives


Priced to move... but does it travel?


The Graco ComfortSport enters the market at around $80, and ranges up to $120 depending on possible upgrades--including "Gracopedic" memory foam liner and better fabrics, both of which could prove well worth it depending on how many miles you plan to put on this seat. Regardless of external upgrades, all models of the ComfortSport have an EPS energy-absorbing liner for that added measure of safety.


The ComfortSport at a glance:


Rear-facing 5 to 30 lbs.

Forward-facing 20 to 40 lbs. or 40" tall

FAA-certified for flying

Weighs 11.5 lbs.

17" W x 26.5"H without cupholder'


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The ComfortSport's shape is very similar to the Britax Roundabout or Britax Marathon, with a streamlined body and deep side wings (even slightly deeper). It also sits high like the Britax seats, with a total height of 26.5" -- falling in between the Roundabout (25"H) and Marathon (28"H). However, the Roundabout and ComfortSport share an upper height limit of 40"H, while the Marathon can be used for children up to 49"H. Like the Roundabout, this seat bears a maximum weight limit of 40 lbs.


If you are leery of car seats that leave children slumped in a C-shape when facing forward, or that sit them up almost painfully upright, you will also appreciate the subtle recline this seat offers even when in the forward-facing position.



Travel-friendly features


Lightweight: The ComfortSport, however, is not only much lighter on the wallet than the Britax seats, it is also lighter in the hand at only 11.5 lbs fully equipped (Roundabout is 13.5 and Marathon is 17.5 lbs).


Narrow base: At only 17" W (with cup holder removed), this car seat should easily fit in any airplane seat when forward-facing (the flight-friendly Roundabout is 18"W). The narrower base and high positioning also make it easier than some seats to install--and remove--the seat when using with aircraft seatbelts.


Padded side wings: The deep, padded wings may also provide some support and comfort while dozing in this car seat in the forward-facing position.


Cup holder: The cup holder easily pops off when not needed (during flights), but gives children a place to rest that sippy cup during the long drive.


Deep seat: The seat is actually much deeper from front to back than most car seats in the 40 pounds category. While that means it takes up more space than some others may, possibly decreasing the older child's leg room, it gives babies and small toddlers an extended leg rest--also a plus if you'd like your child to ride rear-facing longer (up to 30 lbs in this seat).


High ride: Since the seat sits higher, it's easier for the child passenger to see out the windows than it may be in some other car seats--a plus for keeping them happier longer, and possibly even preventing carsickness.


Seatbelt simplicity: Forward-facing, I found the seatbelt installation quite easy, with a roomy path to feed the safety belt (and hand) through in the back--about as simple as it gets. Rear-facing, the belt passes under the seat cushion, though the openings to feed the belt through on each side were accommodating of the belt buckles and it was fairly simple and straightforward.


Ready LATCH: The hook-style LATCH belt remains in place through the belt path when not in use, with "place holders" for the connectors to hook through underneath at each side, so you won't have to keep track of extra pieces or have LATCH clips dangling in your way as you travel. This keeps things simple and efficient in transit when going from airplane to rental car, using safety belt and then LATCH.

Travel considerations


Rear-facing fit: As when traveling with any convertible car seat used rear-facing, the car seat height should be taken into consideration, and also the age of your child at the time of travel. When positioned at a 45 degree angle as required for an infant, a taller car seat such as this may not fit on some rows in coach or in the back seats of some cars--especially economy class rental cars. Once your child is older and has already developed good control of her neck muscles, less of a recline is necessary in the rear-facing position.


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Other considerations


Before testing the seat for myself, I had read some parent reviews complaining about difficulty adjusting the harness straps--and keeping them tight once adjusted. At first, I had no trouble lengthening or shortening the harness straps, and I thought it may have been a fluke or user error that led to the handful of parent complaints I had seen. After I changed the height of the harness straps, however, I had some difficulty adjusting the strap length.


I eventually found that "the trick" seemed to be pulling the strap adjustment tab (shown at seat front as gray rubber tab) straight down, while it seemed more natural to pull it out at an angle--especially when the seat was installed rear-facing and there was barely any room to pull downward. I did manage with the captain's seat in the minivan, but I noted it was more difficult with the firm bench back seat. I didn't have a problem with the straps self-loosening on the seat I used.



Bottom line


Ultimately, this is a great forward-facing option for air travel and use in rental cars (and by no means should it be overlooked for everyday use as well). As a rear-facing car seat, it may be best for road trips in your own vehicle, or when your child is old enough to ride rear-facing at less than a 45 degree angle. Those who (understandably) fear lugging their Britax Marathon through the airport or squeezing it into an airplane seat may want to consider the ComfortSport as a second car seat for travel.


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See also:  Infant Car Seats     Safety Boosters     Car Seat Alternatives


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