Every time I heave my mass into a kneeling position, sweating and huffing, in the backseat of my station wagon, perched atop a cushy, brightly colored seat meant for one of my kids, I can’t help but wonder: “isn’t there an easy solution?” I remember insisting that my husband ride in the back seat for the first three months (maybe more) after our first son was born as I chauffeured them around a la Driving Miss Daisy. In the years that have lapsed from those first nerve-wracking days, I’ve tried several seats. One thing is for sure: convertible is king, as with the Safety 1st Grow and Go Air 3-in-1 car seat.

Safety 1st Car Seat recline

Photo Courtesy of Safety 1st

Safety 1st Grow and Go Air 3-in-1 Car Seat

All car seats are not created equal — this much I’ve learned. We’ve tried at least six different car seats in the course of five years — everything from the bucket-style carriers with bases to backless boosters and several convertibles in between. I am certainly no expert, but I have put myself through the paces when it comes to schooling up on car seats and safety. The Safety 1st Grow and Go Air 3-in-1 convertible car seat is aptly named. See how it stacks up to expectations and industry standards with this comprehensive hands-on review.

The Car Seat At a Glance

First things first – some quick-stats to get you started:

Rear-facing Recommendations: 5-40 lbs.  19″ – 40″ (at least two years)

Forward-facing Recommendations: 22-65 lbs. (two year minimum for forward-facing)

Belt-Positioning Booster Recommendations: 45-100 lbs.

TEN Year Expiration from car seat manufacture date

Easy numbered positions – 1, 2, 3

7″ Additional leg room for passengers when in rear-facing mode

Best Attributes

Affordable! The trusted Safety 1st brand is readily available at many department stores and for this seat in particular will only set road trippers back approximately $150. Some hotel rooms will cost you more!

This seat beats some of the market contemporaries simply because it remains a functional seat in every stage. Many seats “swamp” newborns or shortchange the big kids in the comfort department once they are ready for the high back booster. Not so here. All three phases work well.

Slim vertical space. Nothing comes close to the feeling of owning a five passenger car and only being able to accommodate the driver and two little people in car seats. That’s where we were for a long time.

Safety 1st Car Seat

Photo Credit: Amanda Williams

My Subaru Outback was only for baby hauling since my poor husband (or any passenger larger than a pigeon) could not fit into the passenger seat comfortably. Safety 1st claims you get an additional SEVEN inches of leg space!! That’s fantastic news for my leggy husband (since this rural traveling mom is usually the driver!). Even in the third position, rear-facing (the one for newborns), my passenger seat can be utilized comfortably.

Though safety is always first with my family in the car seat department, the cushioning is incredibly luxe on this one! Talk about posh baby! If my toddler could tell me, I’m guessing he’d be pleased with the super cozy material that covers the straps and pads.

The guide isn’t like starting into War and Peace. It’s very well-organized, and an easy read.

This color. Oh this color! It’s called “Evening Tide.”  As a girl who lived by the ocean tides for years, it sings to my heart. I sort of wish most of what I owned came in this color!

Harness Clip Holders — this is probably one of the easiest, most profound and convenient additions to any car seat I’ve seen. It took me two weeks to figure out what the gray rectangles were (more than superficial decor) — they hold the metal latches of the harness so you can put baby in without digging for the buckles!

Compared to our other convertible seat for our older son, this one is much lighter — perfect for toting along for air travel and for arrival at our destination for use in rental cars.

Noteworthy Limits

The seat is only FAA-approved in “harness mode” — meaning once it is a booster it makes the no-fly list. This isn’t a big deal for us, but it might be for some jet setting families.

We have our toddler in the rear-facing position using the third reclining setting — it’s the one you’d use for a newborn too. He has fantastic head control BUT even in this most reclined position, he often ends up napping doubled over. So, the fully reclined position isn’t quite as dramatic as that of an infant carrier in my opinion. We did NOT try this car seat with a newborn-sized baby (for lack of access to one!). I can honestly say I don’t know if this is a shortcoming of the car seat itself, or if my child is just a crazy sleeper.

The integrated cup holders for SOME would bump up to the “sweet features” section, but for me they are rarely if ever used and so they take up maneuvering space. The silver lining is that they cannot be lost from the seat this way.

This is a relatively large seat to accommodate use from birth to booster. Most convertible seats are large — this one is a bigger stature BUT is pretty lightweight. Not so great for packing three across in a sedan but it’s the go-to for travel at around 18 pounds, if you don’t skimp on safety!

Grow and Go Air

Photo Credit: Amanda Williams

Installation and Use

The LATCH system was easy to use in both of our vehicles (we have a minivan and a station wagon), but as with any seat, always compare the installation guide with the owner’s manual for your vehicle.

We found that while changing and cleaning the removable cover, it’s best to start removal from the bottom and work your way up. It’s an easy seat to clean.

We found the seat does actually provide more room for the passenger front seat rider (or the driver, depending on where you place the seat and how your vehicle is set up).

We had been using a rear-facing competitor model and while I felt my infant’s head was well-supported and protected (not with air protect technology though), the Grow and Go Air is a lighter, slightly smaller style that feels even more safe. So we ditched some of the weight, saved space and get the newer technology cradling my baby’s brain.

There is a slight learning curve with feeding the LATCH system (something done for you in other models) – but once you figure it out it’s not hard and you’ll be that much the wiser in the future with any car seat system. As a MAJOR bonus Safety 1st has impeccable customer service – super friendly, well-informed technicians for any bump in the road.

I have yet to find a harness system that doesn’t have tangled buckles and straps. Has anyone found one that is tangle-free? ThisProduct Review disclosure is certainly not the worst on the market for strap twirling and twisting, and the amazing harness holders really help cut down on the frustration, BUT it still tends to happen.

Lastly, we’ll use the car seat for years. We have genuinely enjoyed testing it out and I prefer it to the predecessor. For the price point, it’s a great value, super economical. (Roughly $15/year if you want to figure in some pretty easy math!) Not only will the car seat be a fixture in our lives for quite some time, the box it came in has been in our living quarters for going on a month. It’s the new favorite hangout and can only be considered a fringe benefit! Get your Safety 1st car seat box today! You won’t regret it!

Do you practice extended rear-facing? Do you just LOVE the color?! What are your car seat travel tips?