Welcome to Travel Non-Essentials, where T+L editors Mark Orwoll and Nikki Ekstein sound off on a different breed of travel product—sometimes ingenious, sometimes just plain odd. Today: an inflatable booster seat by BubbleBum.
What It Does: This inflatable car booster seat by BubbleBum ($30), for children ages 4-11, folds flat for packing, weighs less than one pound, and is useful for taxis, carpooling, or when renting a car on vacation. Orwoll and Ekstein—and a couple of Orwoll’s neighbors!—check it out to decide if it’s a must-have, or just a nice-to-have.
MO: You just blow it up and fit it right into the car’s seat belt. The one we’re looking at is obviously very girly.
NE: It’s got pink chevron stripes. It’s actually pretty cute. And I like this little carrying bag that comes with it. It deflates into less than half the size of a yoga mat.
MO: It’s still going to take up a fair amount of space in a suitcase. It’s not insignificant. I’m going to try to blow it up.
NE: [Counting Mark’s breaths.] One…two… That’s it!
MO: Just two deep breaths and it’s inflated. That didn’t take any effort. And it comes in different colors. You don’t have to get it in pink. My cool neighbors Dominik and Katherine and their two kids took this on vacation with them to the Caribbean recently. Here’s what they had to say.
Dominik: The pattern/design/colors didn’t resonate well for my kids, a six-year-old and nine-year-old girl. Too kiddish, the nine-year-old said. Too girly, the six-year-old said.
Katherine: No matter how young my kids were, fashion mattered. We were a Bugaboo family, so from a design perspective we’re more Scandinavian, less Hannah Montana/Disney. Kids are never too young to develop a sense of style!
Dominik: Blowing it up was easy, and it seemed very sturdy. I sat on it myself and it survived!
Katherine: I think it could be made into a backpack or like a purse. But I wouldn’t want the kids to sit on my stuff, so it could have a zipper-off feature. It would obviously need a fashion remake if mommies were going to use it as a purse. Or it could be a backpack for the kids where the seat zips off and inflates.
Dominik: We ended up not using it on our vacation, maybe because we’re terrible parents, but also because the cab rides we took were very short, and in the easygoing Caribbean you don’t feel the need to really provide every last bit of safety in a car. (Wow, maybe we really are terrible parents!) [Note from Mark: Dominik and Katherine are wonderful parents!] We took a bus tour and it would have been a bit strange to make the kids sit on a booster seat. No other kids had them, and our kids wouldn’t want to be the “loser” kids who “have to sit in a booster seat.”
Katherine: Maybe our kids are just too old, or we’re too experienced as travelers…
Dominik: I think this would be useful as an easy to stow away, additional booster in our car for guest kids.
Katherine: The other opportunity is for kids to use them on field trips. Every time there is a Girl Scouts trip, the moms are borrowing or asking us to send our kids with booster seats.