The BubbleBum Inflatable Booster Seat has long been a favorite for travel, trips in friends’ cars, and fitting into tight spaces. One downside, though, was that the seatbelt guides could be hard to use. That changes now!
In late summer 2015, BubbleBums started hitting stores with new, easier-to-use belt guides. Not a whole lot has changed from the original version (you can read our first review here), but let’s take a new look at this new version.
- Child weight range: 40-100 lbs.
- Child height range: 40-57 inches
- Seating depth: 12 inches
- Seating width: 12 inches
- Requires lap/shoulder belt and head support up to child’s eyes
- Inflatable, comes with carrying bag
When the BubbleBum first came out, people were understandably concerned about an inflatable booster seat. I (and likely many other people) envisioned something like a blow-up pool toy and wondered how that could be safe. There was no need to worry, though. The BubbleBum is constructed of heavy-duty plastic and foam, much like a life jacket. It won’t deflate easily on its own: You need to really squeeze and roll it, otherwise it keeps re-inflating itself to an extent. It has also passed crash-testing in its deflated state, just to ensure it will still work even if something happens to it.
The nice thing about the BubbleBum is that fits pretty much anywhere, including in places where larger boosters don’t fit. Have a short or narrow middle seat and a kid who needs a booster? The BubbleBum is likely to fit. It’s also a good choice for fitting 3-across because it’s so narrow.
Fit to Child
The BubbleBum is rated as an IIHS “Best Bet” booster for fit-to-child. Despite being small, the BubbleBum tends to do well with a wide variety of kids. It usually provides a good belt fit on smaller booster riders as well as older, bigger kids who still need a bit of a boost. Keep in mind, though, that belt fit depends a lot on the individual child and individual vehicle. Also remember that smaller, younger booster riders might do better with a high-back booster, which provides some more support.
Here is my small 6-year-old (just over 40-lbs, 46″, size 5/6 clothes)
And here is a friend, 61 lbs, 51″, wearing 7/8 clothing:
The BubbleBum comes with a shoulder-belt guide to help position the shoulder belt if necessary. The shoulder-belt guide easily loops onto the bottom of the seat and can be positioned on either side of the child.
Since there’s no hard plastic support, sitting on the BubbleBum is like, well, sitting on a cushion of air. Because the seat is small, though, it might not provide enough leg support for tall or leggy kids, and might not be wide enough for wider kids. Even so, it might do in a pinch.
Because the seat is so small and light, it can sometimes feel “tippy,” especially for smaller kids. Once kids get used to it, though, they’re generally able to shift their weight to help keep the seat stable.
Ease of Use
The only “complicated” thing about the previous version of the BubbleBum was the lap-belt guides, which were cumbersome and could be difficult for kids to use. The new guides have a much more open design and make it much easier to slide the belt in, while still holding the belt securely.
Here is a comparison, with the old-style guide on the left, and the new on the right.
Here’s a video showing how easy it is for kids to use the new guides:
(Note that unlike most other booster seats, ONLY the lap belt goes into the belt guides on the BubbleBum.)
Although the new BubbleBums have been in production for a while, there are still a lot with the old-style guides out there. The old version is sold in a plastic tube. The new version comes in a rectangular cardboard box with a picture of the new guides prominently displayed.
The BubbleBum is also extremely easy to inflate. Just opening the valve starts the inflating process. Give it a few good puffs of breath, shut the valve, and you’re good to go.
To deflate it, open the valve and press down on the seat. I’ve found it helps to roll it up while pressing down, otherwise it tends to partially re-inflate itself. Once you have it squished down, close the valve and stick the seat in its handy carrying bag.
The cover is not intended to be removed, so it’s spot-clean only with mild soap and water.
Like other belt-positioning boosters, the BubbleBum is not approved for use on airplanes because it requires a shoulder belt. However, it’s so easily portable that it’s a great option for packing and carrying onto the plane for use at your destination.
The BubbleBum’s lifespan is 4 years from the date of purchase (not the date of manufacture, like most seats), and it must be replaced after any crash.
- IIHS Best Bet
- Portable for travel–can easily fit in a backpack, a locker, under an airplane seat, in an overhead bin, etc.
- Fits easily in tight spaces
- New belt guides very easy to use
- Inexpensive, making it a great backup/emergency/travel seat
Disadvantages (In all fairness, these aren’t necessarily problems but I list them here to inform consumers of potential issues.)
- Small size might not provide enough support for larger kids
- Can sometimes be “tippy”
The BubbleBum was already one of our favorite options for occasional use (like travel and rides in friends’ cars). The new, easier-to-use belt guides make it even better. It’s small size might make it impractical for everyday use (though people certainly can use it everyday if it works for them), but for the portability and price, you can’t beat it for travel and back-up situations.
The BubbleBum is available at Amazon and other retailers for about $29. It is currently available in pink chevron and black/silver fashions.
Thank you to BubbleBum for providing a seat for review. CarseatBlog was not compensated for this review and all opinions are our own.