After 8 years of travel with kids and 5 years of blogging about it, I have tried a lot of kid travel products. A few have been awesome. A few have served a limited purpose well for a limited period of time. A few have been big flops.
A very select few of these products have become must-haves in our family’s travel life. One such product is the subject of today’s travel review: the BubbleBum Booster Seat.
I have recommended the BubbleBum on this site many, many times. I have loaned our seat out to friends in real life, who have become converts and have purchased their own. But I realized I have never written a feature article on the BubbleBum to explain why it works so well for my family. So, I naturally jumped at the chance to partner with BubbleBum to share why I think their booster is a must-have for families that travel with younger kids.
What is a BubbleBum?
The BubbleBum is just what it sounds like: an inflatable booster for use in the car instead of a regular booster. It is approved for use with kids of booster seat age and size: 4 years and up and at least 40 pounds. It has a valve to blow it up to inflate for use. It then smashes fairly flat when not in use for packing or storage. It’s less than a pound, making it super compact and lightweight for travel.
Kids can use a BubbleBum for many years. The recommended practice these days is for a child is to remain in a booster seat until the age of eleven and/or until they reach a height of 4 feet, 9 inches. So that’s up to 8 years of use.
The BubbleBum retails for $29.99 and is available at BubbleBum’s website, Amazon, Target, and at several other major retailers. While it was previously only available in black and purple, BubbleBum just released a few new fun color choices with some national pride. The stars and stripes are featured on the USA version, Irish shamrocks to represent BubbleBum’s country of founding, and a Union Jack is available for the Anglophilic among us.
Of course, since I have a redheaded 8 year old daughter, we had to get the Irish shamrocks. We’ve long owned the black version in our family but with her little brother turning 4 this fall, we knew a second seat was a must-have.
Why the BubbleBum Works for Traveling Families
It is pretty obvious why the BubbleBum works so well for travelers: space! Like many traveling families, we often fly to a destination where we rent a car. There is nothing I hate more than traveling with a giant car seat. Yes, safety is paramount. But the hassle of carrying a car seat while juggling little kids and strollers and suitcases and everything else makes me crazy. In addition, checking a car seat can put it at risk for damage. I also know a lot of parents are uncomfortable with renting car seats and boosters from rental car companies, not knowing their history.
Related: Guide to air travel and car seats
That’s where the BubbleBum helps. The BubbleBum doesn’t solve those car seat woes for those of you with babies and toddlers (see my recommendations for best car seats for air travel for even more ages), but it’s game-changing with kids big enough for booster seat use.
While we kept my daughter in a five point harness at home until she was 5 or 6, switching to the BubbleBum booster for limited use in our travels once she was 4 saved my sanity. We simply deflated it flat and put it in the front pocket of a rollaboard suitcase for easy access at our destination. It barely took up any extra room or added any weight at all. Plus, because we carried it with us and knew its history, we had peace of mind that we were not using a damaged or defective product.
Don’t forget that the BubbleBum is also excellent for travelers who use ridesharing services like Uber & Lyft regularly like we do (or even those of you who opt for the old fashioned taxi). It’s small enough to deflate and put into a large purse or backpack and take with you on a day exploring a city destination.
How to Install & Use the BubbleBum Properly
Of course, a booster is only as safe as its install, so you need to install it properly. Check out the video below for a demo (and always read the instructions that come with any child safety product).
The bottom line is that install is pretty easy and quick:
- Blow up the BubbleBum and turn the valve to prevent air from escaping.
- Put the BubbleBum in the back seat (in the same spot with the same positioning as you would with any booster) and have your child sit on top.
- Buckle the seat belt. Thread the lap belt portion of the belt through the two red buckles on either side of the BubbleBum.
- Optional: BubbleBum also comes with a shoulder belt positioner that is for comfort but not required for safety. It secures the shoulder belt so it won’t rub smaller kids. With a tall 8 year old, we don’t use it. When my almost 4 year old son graduates to a BubbleBum in a few months, it will probably get some use for a year or so.
Why Do I Recommend the BubbleBum?
There are a lot of travel products I try and love. I find I can’t really recommend all of them, however, to casual travelers even if I think the product is a great innovation. Why? Because the price is often too high for a product regular families will likely use only a few times. It’s hard to recoup the investment on pricier specialty gear items unless you are traveling a lot.
The BubbleBum is different. I can honestly recommend it without reservation even to families who travel only occasionally. Why?
- Price: First, at under $30, it’s cheap. You can’t find boosters for much less than $20, so it’s not much more than a regular product you would have to buy anyway. To pay just $10 more for a product with much more flexibility and a wider variety of uses is a no-brainer.
- Non-Travel Functionality: Second, it has a ton of non-travel uses. We often keep BubbleBum in the trunk of our car to use when we have to carpool one of my daughter’s friends unexpectedly. It’s the only booster that will fit in our small back seat between my son’s massive car seat and my daughter’s regular booster. Speaking of size, it’s also one of the few boosters that fits three across in smaller vehicles. For bigger families with smaller cars, this may well be the only product that works.
Ready to give BubbleBum a try with your traveling kid? Buy it here!
Disclosure: BubbleBum sponsored this post and also provided me with a free product for review purposes as well as a product to give away. As always, all opinions are my own.