One of my first memories of traveling with my family as a kid is piling into the back bench seat of our pea-green Plymouth (affectionately known as “Old Green”) with my two big sisters on either side of me. As I crossed my ankles, white ruffled socks and patent leather shoes, my mom turned from the passenger seat and instructed my sisters to hold hands across my lap.
This was my seatbelt.
I have another memory of my dad driving and us (three little girls) sprawled across the back, fighting. Someone kicked someone or was threatening to spit or farted. My dad’s big hands gripped the steering wheel, knuckles white like marbles, until he could no longer take it and swatted into the air in the backseat in an attempt to separate us. With his eyes on the road, my sisters and I scrambled to one side of the car to avoid him. As he flailed his hand from left to right we banged our bodies into one another like we were beads sliding across a lopsided rack. We squealed and laughed, always just out of his reach, and forgot all about who started it.
It’s a wonder no one died, really. It wasn’t until 1985 when the first child passenger safety laws were put into place requiring children under five-years-old be in carseats. Since I was actually five in 1985, the laws never applied to me. (Come to think of it, maybe this set the tone for the rest of my life. That would make a lot of sense.)
Nowadays, parents wouldn’t dream of putting their precious cargo in a vehicle without the proper restraints, even if it’s just to roll to the end of the driveway. We’ve seen the crash dummy videos. We’ve heard the stories. They loop in our heads as we buckle and unbuckle, tighten and check.
Parents spend hours researching and agonizing over which infant carrier to put on their baby registries (Does it have a head cradle? What about fleece lining?), when to switch from backwards-facing to forwards-facing (Are his knees supposed to be bent like that?), and how old is really too old to be in a booster (When he grows his first mustache! When she’s six feet tall!).
And when you throw travel into the mix, forget it. What do we do about taxis? What about the $50 a day they charge to rent a carseat with the car? Do you take the carseat onto the airplane or check it with the luggage? (For the record, I’ll always suggest checking it when your child's feet can reach the seat in front. Unless, of course, you love the death stare you’ll get from the seething stranger who your kiddo is already kicking the crap out of before you even take off.)
Honestly, it’s enough to make me just want to stay home.
That is, until I discovered the BubbleBum. The BubbleBum is a portable, inflatable booster seat made for kids 4-11 years old and a total game changer, no matter where your travels take you. When not in use, it deflates and folds flat and can be tucked into a purse or backpack. Best of all, it comes in a variety of colors! Just kidding. The best part is that it’s safe.
Here’s how it works: You inflate the BubbleBum by blowing into the air valve. Now, we’ve all been stuck at one time or another blowing up a massive pool raft in the shape of a flamingo until the point of passing out. This is not like that. This takes a few puffs (and I know you know how to do that), and you’re done.
The clips on the side of the seat position the lap belt so that it’s exactly where it needs to be and the shoulder positioning clip ensures that the shoulder belt is in place and across the center of your child’s chest. This means your kid won’t complain about the seatbelt strangling her or try to tuck the shoulder strap in her armpit where it's basically useless, even dangerous.
At just 9 x 13 inches (think the size of a piece of paper, but a little bigger), the BubbleBum is made out of similar materials as airbags and life vests. It has memory foam technology and a cover that can be spot-cleaned. Ours has been on a shuttle bus in Iceland, taxis in London, trains and cabs in Paris, out to eat in the Bahamas, some random person’s car in Cozumel (OK, so maybe that wasn’t safe, but the car seat was), and all over the states, so you know that thing has had a few spots.
And I'll save you from doing the research: The BubbleBum has been crash test approved and meets and exceeds the US safety regulations (FMVSS 213). It’s also been awarded the Best BET Booster Award by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety for seven consecutive years, and Consumer Reports likes it, too.
But, before you run out and buy one, you need to know that the booster is only appropriate for kids aged 4-11 (or 40-100 pounds), so if you have younger children, this isn’t for them.
The BubbleBum is perfect for trips, car rental, cabs, field trips, and is even awesome just to have in the glove compartment when you're Soccer Mommin' hard and other kids find their way into your minivan. You can even fit three of these suckers across the backseat. The kids will still be able to kick each other, but at least you’ll know they’re safe.
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