Review of the BubbleBum Inflatable Safety Booster (Updated!) – After using the BubbleBum backless inflatable booster with all three of my children–and several of their car-pooling friends, I thought it would be great to update this post and share with those of you who may be wondering about it now–or for a trip in your future. It’s been a great solution for us many times, and we’ve even loaned ours to friends for their travels. Read on to see for yourself if this inflatable safety booster may be just the thing to help ease your family’s travels.
If you’re like me, the first thing you may wonder upon hearing the words “inflatable safety booster” are, is any booster that’s “inflatable” actually safe for road use?
I was surprised to learn that, not only was the BubbleBum invented by a nationally certified Child Passenger Safety Technician, but the creators have had it tested and certified for BOTH U.S. and European safety standards–something most child safety seat manufacturers don’t bother with. Even more surprising? The BubbleBum even passed the European safety testing when DEFLATED. To be clear, its certification reads:
“BubbleBum is crash test approved and meets and exceeds the EU ECE R44.04 and the US FMVSS 213 safety regulations. These entail both crash testing and materials testing.”
So, I’d say they’ve got safety covered with this one. But how does it play out during travel?
Traveling with our two BubbleBums
Yes, it can be rolled up to fit in its own travel sack at about 12″ Long x 6″ Diameter, but for our purposes, it was perfect to leave our two BubbleBums as flat as possible and instead pack them right inside our youngest child’s car seat carrying case. We checked them all through to Hawaii for free in the car seat travel bag (car seats are checked free with most airlines, but suitcases, notsomuch).
When we reached our rental car, and rain began to fall, the girls were able to sit inside the car and finish inflating their seats as it poured. Like Therm-a-rests and similar products, the Bubble Bum begins inflating as soon as you open the valve, but giving it the final taught breaths and sealing it off with a twist at the same time can be tricky. Likewise, when deflating the BubbleBum, I found it necessary to use my knee to keep the rolled seat totally deflated while closing the valve to prevent it from re-inflating. This wasn’t a problem, however.
The one draw back we found was that it was very difficult for our girls to route the safety belts through the red clips each time they got back into the car, partly because one had a car seat on that side of her and partly because it just is a little tricky. We got used to helping them with this, though it has been nice to no longer need to do that with their standard boosters! While there is an optional shoulder belt positioning clip that might be helpful with the younger children using this booster, we did not need it.
Other things to consider…
Thanks to the two BubbleBums provided for our review, we had no problem fitting our three kids across the back seat of our rental car during our vacation. At only 13 inches wide, and weighing less than 2 lbs., it is also ideal for carpooling with extra children. And its packability makes it easy to send along to school with your child on days when someone else might pick up.
I would also like to mention, that with a thin layer of memory foam on top of the “bubble,” it’s also surprisingly comfy (yes, I had to try it myself!). I think the BubbleBum folks should consider making a grown-up version for long-haul drivers and also the elderly who can use a little extra padding, and may no longer be the height considered safe for airbags (what, you weren’t expecting that in the Travels with Baby blog!?).
BubbleBum vs. the RideSafer travel vest
While the BubbleBum is a far more affordable option to the RideSafer travel vest for older / larger children at least 4 years and 40 lbs., I would note that it does not work for the 3-year-olds and smaller 4-year-olds, as the size small RideSafer travel vests do (recommended for 3 years and 33 lbs. and up). Like the RideSafer travel vest, it can be used with shoulder-only safety belts. Though the RideSafer 2 (deluxe) also includes a safety tether so it may also be used with a lap-only safety belt when a tether anchor is available. In select states with strict “elevated booster seat” requirements, the Bubble Bum meets this criteria for use in private vehicles. Unlike the RideSafer travel vest, which is not a seat and never expires, the Bubble Bum has a 4-year life.