By Kristin Varela on December 14, 2011
If you're a parent, you're guaranteed to run into the "three-across" conundrum at some point. If you drive a sedan, a wagon, a crossover or an SUV with two rows, there will come a time in your parenting career when you'll need to squeeze three kids across the backseat. With the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's best practices for booster seat usage, it's likely you'll try to squeeze three kids into booster seats across the back. In the past, I'd give you a little smirk and a "Good luck with that!" and send you on your way to buy a minivan. That is until the Bubble Bum came along.
The Bubble Bum in an inflatable booster seat developed by Grainne Kelly, a mom of two, who was frustrated by booster seats when traveling with her family.
Lugging boosters through the airport is a pain in the @#$%. I know because I spent five years as a single mom traveling with two kids in booster seats, trying to haul our luggage and boosters around by myself.
Trying to get booster seats through a rental car company isn't any better. I was once let down after reserving two booster seats that didn't show up with the rental car, rendering us sitting ducks for our entire vacation. If you are "lucky" enough to get them through a rental car company, there's a good chance they're old, recalled, peed on and/or just generally disgusting.
Kelly's inflatable booster seat, which is for kids weighing 40 to 80 pounds, solves a multitude of problems. First off, the Bubble Bum was named a Best Bet by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety because it correctly positions the seat belt's lap and shoulder belts across the child. Because it's inflatable, it is also deflatable (clearly), which means you can press the air out in seconds and pack this puppy flat or folded in your carry-on bag. For city taxi trekking, you can inflate the Bubble Bum with just a few big breaths.
Here's the real kicker: At roughly 12 inches wide, you can easily fit three across the backseat of most cars. As a comparison, some of the narrowest booster seats on the market right now are between 17 and 18 inches wide. You do the math.
In my situation, every other weekend we go from hauling around two kids to three when my stepdaughter is along for the ride in my 2004 Mercedes-Benz C320. Before Bubble Bum, with my younger two in their Britax Parkways, there was really no chance for a third child to squeeze in the middle seat (photo below). With the two little ones in narrower Clek Ollis, it was doable, but my oldest was extremely uncomfortable sitting in the middle. I also needed to help the girls buckle up from left to right just to get them all in. Needless to say, this made family outings or even simple errand runs unpleasant.
Now, my two younger ones can sit on their Bubble Bums in the outboard seats with more than enough room leftover for my oldest in the middle (photo below). They even have enough room to buckle up on their own. My girls also raved about how comfortable the air-cushioned Bubble Bum is to sit on, and they liked that their friends couldn't see that they're sitting on a booster seat while pulling through the carpool lane at school.
While you can pay close to $300 for certain booster seats, which shall remain nameless, the Bubble Bum costs $39.95. That makes it an affordable option to have as a "just-in-case" seat when the need arises. The Bubble Bum comes rolled up in a little tube that's perfect for sticking in the top of a Christmas stocking, too. You can thank me later for introducing you to this booster seat, or maybe we all should thank Grainne Kelly for solving so many of our family-on-the-go woes.
Senior Family Editor Kristin Varela blends work and family life by driving her three tween-teen girls every which way in test cars. Email Kristin