Carpooling Options for Big Kids

Any of the backless boosters on our Recommended Seats list are great options for carpoolers.  As our Littles evolve into Big Kids with Big Opinions, sometimes they need a booster that doesn’t quite look like a booster or a booster that fits into a backpack.

In celebration of CPS week and in honor of #therightseat, we’ve highlighted a few suggestions for booster seats that make carpooling a snap for big kids.  We’re also hosting a very special giveaway of a Clek Olli!

Our criteria for these boosters includes:

  • Belt fit
  • Portability
  • Subtle styling (think boosters that don’t look like a typical car seat)
  • Compatibility in three across situations
  • Ease of use for the Big Kid (can the kiddo put the booster in the car and use it properly without assistance from the driver?)

BubbleBum

BubbleBum

BubbleBum

Pros: Possibly the most portable booster ever, the BubbleBum rolls up into a tidy little bag that can be tucked into a child’s backpack.

Cons: The BubbleBum inflates, so the child would have to inflate the seat before use.  The other tricky piece of using the BubbleBum is the belt guides — the seat belt threads through belt guides on both sides of the seat.  Not every child can inflate the seat properly or thread the belt properly through these guides so it’s a good idea to practice inflating and using the BubbleBum before sending your big kid off with one.

Read more in our review.

Safety 1st Incognito

Safety 1st Incognito, backless booster, nbb, booster

Safety 1st Incognito

We still find the Incognito ingenious!

Pros:   This stealth-looking belt positioner offers bigger kids (60-120 pounds) that extra boost they might need to make the seat belt fit properly.  It’s lightweight  and fairly easy to carry.

Cons: It does not, however, fit in too many backpacks or fold into a smaller shape.

Read more in our review.

Harmony Youth Booster

Harmony Youth Booster

Harmony Youth Booster

My carpooling booster rider has an embarrassingly large number of boosters to choose from, but her current favorite is the Harmony Youth Booster.

Pros: It’s lightweight, easy to carry, narrow enough to work in a lot of three-across situations, and provides a nice belt fit.

Cons: Some of the cover options aren’t as subtle/non-booster looking as some of the other options in this list.

Take a deeper look in our review.

Graco TurboBooster

Graco TurboBooster

Graco TurboBooster

The workhorse of the booster world!

Pros: The TurboBooster offers a great belt fit for children in all size ranges.  From small kiddos to big kids, the Turbo is light enough that the carpooler can carry it and fits well.

Cons: Some cover styles are less subtle than others.  Many TurboBoosters are shipped without the required screws, make sure that the screws are installed before sending your carpool rider off with a TurboBooster!

Take a closer look in our review.

Maxi-Cosi RodiAP

RodiAP Backless Mode

RodiAP Backless Mode

The Maxi-Cosi RodiAP is both a high-back booster and coverts to a VERY portable backless booster. Since converting the seat to backless mode, it’s quickly become the favorite option for my 9 year old carpooler.

Pros: Easy to carry, the subtle tones of the cover make it a little easier to leave on the shelf of 4th grade classroom bookshelf (a place where our RodiAP visits every week) than some other options. The small armrests make it a nice option for some three-across situations, especially where the child rides next to a passenger who passes the Five Step Test.

Cons: 
It’s not available for purchase as a backless booster — this great seat is only available with the high back RodiAP.
See more detail in our review.

Diono Solana

Diono Solana

Diono Solana

The Solana is another name for the Diono Cambria in backless mode.

Pros: It’s lightweight, has not one but TWO cupholders, and can be installed using LATCH.

Cons: My daughter finds it quite comfortable but it’s not the first pick for carpooling because it’s a little wider than some of the other options.  When she’s riding with a number of friends, the Solana’s width could make three children across a bit of a challenge.

See the Solana and the high backed Cambria in our review.

Lil Fan Club Seat

Lil Fan Club Seat backless

Lil Fan Club Seat backless

The Lil Fan Club seat is a high-back booster that converts to a backless booster that’s VERY carpool-friendly!

Pros: The backless Club Seat is not only lightweight and comfortable, it has a bar across the back that doubles as a convenient handle.

Cons: There’s nothing subtle about the styling of the covers.  These seats are great options for sports enthusiasts but not the first choice for my oldest kiddo.

Note: Lil Fan also sells a dedicated backless booster that does not have the handy handle that the backless Club Seat does.

Check out our Lil Fan Club Seat review and giveaway!

Safety 1st BoostApak

Safety 1st BoostApak

Safety 1st BoostApak

Perhaps the most clandestine of all carpool-friendly booster seat options, the BoostApak is a transformer!  It’s both a backpack and a booster seat.

Pros: It’s not obvious that it’s a booster.

Cons: As a backpack, it’s kind of small.  The shoulder portion of the seat belt must be routed over the armrest closest to the seat belt buckle (lap portion is routed under armrest).  We’d suggest working with your Big Kid to master the belt routing before sending them off to carpool.  The BoostApak is narrow enough to be a great option in three across situations.

Take a closer look in our review.

Ride Safer Travel Vest

7 year old small RSTV

Ride Safer Travel Vest

The Ride Safer Travel Vest is a booster alternative that folds nicely and can fit inside a backpack.  It can even fit inside the BoostApak!

Pros: Lightweight, portable.  The Ride Safer Travel Vest can fit inside most backpacks. Newer models come in subtle colors.

Cons: The rider has to thread the seat belt through three metal belt guides.  This can be a challenge for younger riders.  The optional top tether could also be a challenge for younger riders to connect.  Older models were more brightly colored and not as subtle as the newer model.

Note: We recommend the Ride Safer Travel Vest for children who are at least 5 years old.

Take a peek at our Ride Safer Travel Vest review.

Clek Olli

Clek Olli on the go!

Clek Olli on the go!

In some ways, the Clek Olli is made for carpooling.

Pros: The Olli includes a handy carry strap (Strap-thingy) that makes it easy for booster riders to sling the seat over their shoulders when going between cars.  It offers a solid belt fit for most children and has a LOT of padding.

Cons: The Strap-thingy attaches to the rigid LATCH anchors on the seat, it takes a bit of practice to remove the strap and click the LATCH connectors into the vehicle’s lower anchors.  We’d suggest taking a little time to teach your booster rider how to remove the Strap-thingy and install the seat before sending them off to a playdate.

Let us tell you more about the Clek Olli!

Carpooling represents a big step in independence for our Littles.  Having booster seat options that keep them secured properly even when they’re riding with someone else can give everyone in the family a little extra peace of mind.  We hope these options pointed your family toward an option that works for your Big Kid!

 

Our friends at Clek were generous enough to offer a Clek Olli to one of our lucky readers! Enter below for your chance to win a Clek Olli!
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