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.
Here we’ve highlighted a few suggestions for booster seats that make carpooling a snap for big kids.
Our criteria for these boosters includes:
- Belt fit
- 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?)
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.
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.
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.
Graco TurboBooster TakeAlong
Pros: The TurboBooster TakeAlong folds up into a bag that can fit in many back packs, unfolds easily, offers the consistent belt fit we’ve come to expect from the TurboBooster name and is narrow. In other words, it’s full of Pros!
Cons: The narrowness that makes it a great carpool option may make it less comfortable for larger kids. It’s more expensive than its cousin, the original 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!
The Chicco GoFit backless booster is fairly narrow and features a handle at the back of the seat that makes carrying the GoFit a breeze! My family has travelled extensively with our GoFit and in most cases, my kiddo was able to carry it herself!
Pros: It’s lightweight, has two cupholders that can fold inward to make more space, offers a consistent belt fit, and is easy to carry around.
Cons: At $39.99 retail, it’s not the least expensive option on the market.
Our review takes a deeper dive.
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.
Lil Fan Club Seat
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.
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.
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.
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!