Why your preschooler needs a portable booster seat for car travel
You’ve planned every aspect of your family’s trip down to the last detail. Each child has their allotted luggage space and you’re prepared to lug every last bit of it to the ticket counter or pack it in your vehicle’s trunk. Hotels are in order, rental cars are booked, and it’s almost go time.
Then you realize it: You don’t have a portable booster seat for your kiddos. How are you going to obey safety laws without one? How are you going to lug around your normal car seat to every rental car and bus on your itinerary?
Let’s wake up from this nightmare together, shall we? There’s absolutely no need to panic. We’re here to help you find the Best Portable Booster Seats for Travel without adding a significant burden to your luggage count.
This post is part of our tried & tested family travel product review series
Why Use a Booster Seat?
You may be wondering when your child is ready for a booster seat, and there are several indicators. Most school-age children over the age of 4 can ride in a booster seat, although ideally they would be used for children age 5 and older.
Booster seats are a necessary next step up from an infant or toddler car seat, and required by law in many countries once your child has outgrown the height and weight requirements of their forward-facing car seat.
Booster seats elevate your child’s position so that they can safely and effectively use your vehicle’s seat belt straps. A portable booster seat is an essential travel companion to ensure that your young one is safe and secure.
What to Look For in a Portable Booster Seat for Travel
Portable Booster Seats vs. Regular Booster Seats
The key differences between a portable booster seat and a regular one is that many portable seats are able to be folded for more compact storage and easier transportation, and they are also lighter. While this may mean a little less padding, safety standards are never compromised.
High Back vs. Backless Boosters
The two main types of portable booster seats are high back and backless boosters. Let’s take a look at the key features of each type:
Backless Booster Seats
These are essentially a specialized cushion that your child can sit on to enable them to use a seatbelt. Many backless boosters have armrests that act as seat belt guides, or the guides are built into the seat. We definitely recommend backless boosters for air travel, as they can be easily stored and changed from one mode of transportation to another.
High Back Booster Seats
High back booster seats offer increased back and head support and can be much more comfortable on a long car ride than backless boosters. Many portable high back booster seats also fold down for compact storage or separate so that you can just use the bottom cushion as a backless booster.
These are an excellent option if you’re going to be using a rental car for travel and don’t want to pay the added fees to rent a car seat.
Features of Good Portable Booster Seats
Safety: It’s essential that you look at the safety ratings of your portable booster seat and ensure they comply with the country’s laws you’ll be traveling in. Many travel booster seats are compliant with most major countries’ safety guidelines and recommendations, but it’s best to double check.
Size and Weight: Unless you’re only traveling to a few different locations on your trip, two of the highest selling points of your portable booster seat should be the size and weight. If you’re going to carry the travel booster around an airport or even to the ticket desk, I can tell you from experience, they get heavy pretty quickly.
Portability: It’s important to choose a portable booster seat that is, well, easily portable. Bulky or hard-to-break-down booster seats may not fit easily into overhead luggage, and you don’t want to spend an hour trying to unfold the thing in between taxi rides. Trust me, they charge you for that time.
Washable: Portable booster seats WILL get disgusting and dirty. It’s a fact of life. Look for a travel booster with a removable cover or one that can be easily wiped clean. We all know that children will demand snacks five minutes into the journey, and they will more than likely end up wearing some (or all) of them.
Child Weight and Size Requirements by Country
|Children must be in a car seat until the age of 12.|
Only EU-approved weight-based child car seats can be used in the UK(Designated with a capital ‘E’ in a circle and ‘ECE R44’)
|Children ages 4-7 must be in an approved booster seat.|
Children ages 7-16 who are too small to be restrained by a seatbelt properly must use an approved booster seat for travel.
|Laws vary by state|
It’s important to check child safety laws in the state you’ll be traveling in or to.
|Children who weigh between 40-80 lbs (18 kg to 36 kg) and who are under the age of 8 must use a booster seat.|
Best Travel Booster Seats
|Brand||Packed Dimensions||Product Weight||Min/Max Requirements||Cost|
|Graco Affix Highback Booster Seat with Latch System||15.5" x 16.5" x 26.75"||9.8 lbs||30 - 100 lbs||$$|
|Hifold Fit-and-Fold High Back Booster Seat||14.6" x 13.4" x 10.7"||10 lbs||33 - 100 lbs||$$$|
|Evenflo Big Kid Amp High Back 2-in-1 Belt-Positioning Booster||16.5" x 19" x 33"||8.1 lbs||10 - 110 lbs||$$|
|Graco TurboBooster Backless Booster||15" x 17.5" x 8.6"||5.5 lbs||40 - 100 lbs||$$|
|Bubble Bum Inflatable Backless Booster Seat||11" x 4.5" x 11"||1.2 lbs||40 - 100 lbs||$|
|Cosco Topside Backless Booster Car Seat||16" x 15" x 3"||2.2 lbs||40 -1 00 lbs||$|
$ = Under $30 USD; $$ = $30 to $60 USD; $$$ = over $60 USD
Best High Back Travel Booster Seats
Best Overall: Graco Affix Highback Booster Seat with Latch System
Why We Love It: This travel booster seat can be installed quickly and easily with its signature one-hand, front-adjust Latch system. This comes in handy when time is of the essence or you need to switch it between vehicles.
You also get the best of both worlds due to the fact that you can remove the back and use it as a backless booster as well. The price point is reasonable for all that you’re getting, and the safety rating is unbeatable.
Possible Cons: The seat belt guide at the top doesn’t hold the belt in place as securely as some would like.
- Product Dimensions: 15.5 x 16.5 x 26.75 inches
- Min/Max Requirements: 30-100 lbs
- Product Weight: 9.8 lbs
- Comfort Features: Multi-layer headrest, full-coverage back support, fully adjustable headrest, integrated cup holder and storage compartment
- Cleaning: Machine-washable seat padding
Most Versatile: Hifold Fit-and-Fold High Back Booster Seat
Why We Love It: This incredibly adjustable portable booster seat can be adjusted to 243 different settings and folded down for quick and easy storage. It adjusts with your child as he or she grows, and is regulated for global use, so you can take it just about anywhere.
Possible Cons: Not regulated for use in Australia, a higher price point may not make it worth it for occasional travel.
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- Product Dimensions: 14.60 x 13.40 x 10.70 inches
- Min/Max Requirements: 33-100 lbs
- Product Weight: 10 lbs
- Comfort Features: Sections can be adjusted separately to accommodate your child’s size, 6 advanced impact protection zones and 4-layer design for optimum comfort and protection, comes with convenient carry strap, can fit three across back seat
- Cleaning: Surface can be wiped clean
Why We Love It: This 2-in-1 portable high back booster seat has an integrated belt guide and six height position to not only grow with your child, but off versatility in travel as well. It easily separates so that you can use the backless booster on its own, and an energy absorbing foam liner guarantees a comfortable ride every time.
Possible Cons: Seat base is wider than other booster seats, so it may block the seat belt buckle
- Product Dimensions: 16.50 x 19.00 x 33.00 inches
- Min/Max Requirements: 40-110 lbs
- Product Weight: 8.10 lbs
- Comfort Features: Comfortable padding around head and body, elastic cup holders, one-hand height adjustment
- Cleaning: Machine Washable Seat Pad
Best Backless Booster Seats
Best Overall: Graco TurboBooster LX Backless Booster
Why We Love It: This shockingly affordable, highly rated backless booster seat is a steal by any standard. Not only is it top-rated by leading consumer magazines and publications it also exceeds US safety standards. Dual cup holders and padded armrests aren’t bad either.
Possible Cons: The seat padding may not be the most comfortable for long car trips.
- Product Dimensions: 15 x 16 x 8.5 inches
- Min/Max Requirements: 40-100 lbs
- Product Weight: 5.10 lbs
- Comfort Features: Dual cup holders, padded, height-adjustable arm rests, deluxe seat cushion
- Cleaning: Machine washable seat cushion
Most Versatile: Bubble Bum Inflatable Backless Booster Seat
Why We Love It: This is one of the most compact and lightweight backless booster seats on the market. It can easily be deflated, folded, and put in a nappy bag or purse, and meets or exceeds US and EU safety ratings. The patented memory foam technology in the seat ensures a comfy ride every time.
Possible Cons: Some customers said that the strap that brings the shoulder strap down can come loose if the child moves around a lot.
- Product Dimensions: 11.00 x 4.50 x 11.00 inches
- Min/Max Requirements: 40-100 lbs
- Product Weight: 1.2 lbs
- Comfort Features: Air bladder contains memory foam for added comfort, Cover surrounding air cushion made of energy absorbing material
- Cleaning: Spray, wipe, and allow to air dry
Best Value: Cosco Topside Backless Booster Car Seat
Why We Love It: Sometimes basic is best, and this no-frills booster seat not only fits the bill, but it comes in several vibrant colors as well. The extra-comfy plush pad and covered armrests make for hours of comfortable travel, and the booster’s ultra-lightweight design allows you to transport it with ease.
Possible Cons: Only approved for use in the US
- Product Dimensions: 16.00 x 15.00 x 3.00 inches
- Min/Max Requirements: 40-100 lbs
- Product Weight: 2.20 lbs
- Comfort Features: Extra plush seat pad, designed to leave seats unmarked
- Cleaning: Hand wash only
Providing safe travel options for your older children has never been easier or more affordable with the Best Portable Booster Seats on the market. You can rest easy on the eve of your next adventure with the knowledge you’ve got everything covered.
Want more handy guides for travelling with your kids?
We have travelled across the continents with our kids for the past 10 years. Some bits of baby and toddler travel kit are definitely more useful than others! Here are just some of the pieces of travel gear we recommend you invest in:
- A cover for your car seats if you’ll be checking them into the hold on a plane to keep your valuable gear protected
- A carrier for your toddler, especially if you are travelling in busy places where strollers could be more hindrance than a help
- A portable travel cot – to make sure everyone gets a good nights sleep when you travel
- A durable and adaptable diaper bag-cum-backpack for fitting all your family gar from diapers to snacks and everything in between. Invest well at the start and this bag could last your family years
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