The Graco TurboBooster is the workhorse of booster seats. There are a few flavors of this well-respected, well-fitting booster seat. All of those versions have slightly different features but they share one thing in common: a consistently good vehicle seat fit for most children. Graco has upped the ante on this consistent fit with the new TurboBooster TakeAlong.
I realize this is kind of a boring way to introduce a booster that I’m pretty darn excited about but bear with me for a moment.
Carpooling Without Worry
A consistent vehicle seat belt fit and setup the kid can do on their own is the Holy Grail of carpooling. When we send our booster riders off into the wild blue yonder of rides with friends, so many things are worrisome. Will she set her booster up correctly? Will she manage to lose her booster at school? Will the vehicle seat belt fit her properly in a different vehicle?
To calm all of these fears, I’ve typically sent a full-sized backless booster seat for carpool rides, choosing a larger booster seat over something more portable, but more difficult to set up. So when I first met the Graco TurboBooster TakeAlong at the JPMA show last spring, I was kind of beside myself but couldn’t tell you about it just yet. Today, I am thrilled to finally share our review with you.
CSFTL Quick Stats
- High back booster weight range: 40-100 pounds
- High back booster height range: 43-57 inches tall
- CSFTL recommends that children be at least 5 years old before moving to a booster seat.
- Backless booster weight range: 40-100 pounds
- Backless booster height range: 43-57 inches tall
- Expiration: 10 years
- Replace after any crash
- Does not require a vehicle head rest behind it
- No overhang allowed
- Required to be flush against the vehicle seat back
- Folds in a seemingly magical way that booster riders can set up without adult assistance
- Two cupholders that can fold in to make the seat narrower
- Backless mode: folds to a very portable 6 x 14 inches with a carry handle built into the seat
- Includes shoulder belt guide adjuster
- Seat pan depth: 14 inches
- Width of high back at widest point: 16 inches
- Width of seat bottom with cup holders folded in: 16.5 inches
- Width of seat bottom with cup holders extended: 18.5 inches
- Internal seating width: 11.5 inches
- Height with headrest fully extended: 28 inches high
- Highest booster guide position: 19.25 inches high
- Weight, high back mode: 8 pounds
- Weight, backless mode: 5 pounds
- Easy to set up without (very much or any) adult assistance
- Easy to carry
- Consistent belt fit
Height and Weight Limits
Other versions of the TurboBooster have a 38 inch minimum height and a 30 pound minimum weight in order for a child to use the seat. We always advocate for best practice, and that a child be at least 5 years old before riding in a booster seat. The TurboBooster TakeAlong’s higher height and weight limits — 40 pounds and 43 inches tall — make that 5 year old minimum a more realistic option for this seat. We’re pretty darn happy about that!
IT FOLDS UP
The Holy Grail of carpooling boosters is one that the kiddo can easily carry, set up properly, and get a consistently good vehicle seat belt fit. There are some well-publicized petite options on the market that fall quite short when it comes to actually fitting the child properly so we look closely at every “carpool-friendly booster seat” to see how well it fits the child.
That’s why we are SO EXCITED about the TurboBooster Takealong, especially in backless mode.
In backless mode, fully expanded, it’s a slim 16 inches across with the cupholders folded in and offers the same consistent vehicle seat belt fit that we expect from a TurboBooster. In addition to that petite size, it folds up via an ingenious handle in the seat pan and unfolds with ease.
The kiddo just picks the TurboBooster Takealong up by that handle, and it folds into a very respectable 6×14 inch package that fits into most backpacks. The booster includes a handy storage bag with a shoulder strap.
My amazing model was kind enough to star in a video that showed how she sets the seat up, then buckles in. The entire process took 23 seconds. That includes a few seconds where I gave her an off-camera reminder to buckle in, then give a thumbs up at the end. She chose not to include dialogue in this video.
This is the shortest but most significant paragraph in this review.
We realize that other carpool-friendly booster seats on the market are smaller than this. But each of those options comes with some compromises — the BubbleBum has a bit of a learning curve when it comes to inflating it and using the belt guides correctly (though we remain big fans!!) and the mifold has a significant learning curve around the setup and a wildly inconsistent vehicle seat belt fit that’s caused us to not recommend it at all.
In high back mode, the TurboBooster TakeAlong also folds up, albeit into a slightly less convenient package. The high back portion of the seat slides into the backless portion. There’s a handle on the back of the high back portion of the seat to carry it around with. My 8 year old model was able to carry both pieces around without issue. It’s a bit clunky but workable for families who prefer to send a high back booster with their Littles.
Setting Up — Backless Mode
Getting the TurboBooster TakeAlong ready for use is a snap. We’ll show how easy it is in backless mode first.
1. Set the folded booster onto the vehicle seat.
2. Grab one armrest with each hand and expand the seat, then press down on the middle of the seat pan.
3. Press down on the seat pan to fully expand the seat,then lock it into place. There’s a satisfying click when the seat is fully expanded and locked into place.
Tabs on the Back
The TurboBooster TakeAlong that’s sold as a backless booster is the same backless section that’s sold with the high back version.
There are two harmless little tabs on the back of the seat. — those tabs would connect to the high back portion of the seat if it was a high back TurboBooster TakeAlong.
Setting Up — High Back Mode
Setting the seat up in high back mode adds an additional step to the ones listed above for backless mode. Do those first, then snap the bottom of the high back portion onto the two tabs at the back of the backless portion of the seat. It also clicks into place with a satisfying noise.
With the cupholders turned in, the TurboBooster TakeAlong measures just 16 inches at the cupholders. In high back mode, it’s 18 inches across at the shoulders. It’s so narrow that I almost think three of them could fit across in my reviewmobile — a 2016 GTI that boasts a rather very narrow back seat.
But, it’s Narrow
Because the TurboBooster TakeAlong is pretty narrow, it’s probably not the best option for older kiddos on the larger side of the growth chart. Our primary model is 8 years old and at the 75% for height and weight. She fits well but doesn’t have a ton of room for growth in this seat. Still, it works for her now and will continue to fit her for at least another year or so.
In Case you Were Wondering
Yes, it’s possible for a determined or very curious kiddo to pull the handle up and start to fold the seat while they’re riding in it, though folding it all the way is pretty much impossible since the kiddo’s body is in the way. I couldn’t figure out why my model said it was starting to fold up until later, when she confessed that she’d lifted her rear end off of the seat pan, grabbed the handle, then lifted herself up during a ride.
We’d suggest working with kiddos before they ride in this seat to help them understand that the handle isn’t for use and their rear ends belong on the seating surface during trips.
In response to my question about this scenario, Graco assured us that “In designing this seat, we went through multiple rounds of fit to child in addition to scenario testing. The seat design, vehicle seat belt routing, and weight of child are all factors in the booster design, each aiding to a complete intentional design that cannot be folded while a child is sitting properly buckled in the seat.”
The cover on the TurboBooster TakeAlong isn’t terribly padded. We’d absolutely expected that since the seat is so darn lightweight — this isn’t a giant, wide, extra padded, plush yet not very portable booster seat. Kiddos who are particular about how their booster seat feels may not love this seat but….it was designed with well-fitting, child-friendly portability in mind. We also would like to report that the purple fabric is more quilted than they gray — months later, our gray TurboBooster TakeAlong has been around the world (literally) while the purple one sits idly, waiting for carpool friends to use it.
When it comes to well-fitting portability, the TurboBooster TakeAlong absolutely comes through.
Fit to Child
High Back Mode
6 Years Old
Our 6 year old model weighs 60 pounds and is 49 inches tall. His mom is a big fan of the TurboBooster TakeAlong because it fits the centre cutout seat of their Dodge Ram truck. That’s amazing and rare for a booster seat! Despite the short seat pan, this model does not ever complain about comfort.
His mom loves how well the headrest locks in place. That thing is SOLID! As a bonus, this model’s 2 year old sister can set up the booster for him! She doesn’t ride in it, of course. She rides rear facing in a convertible car seat. But she loves helping her big brother!
8 Years Old
This kiddo is 8 years old. She weighs 64 pounds and is 51 inches tall. She is super amused and amazed at how the TurboBooster TakeAlong folds up. In high back mode, she’s almost out of growing room by height but it offers a good vehicle seat belt fit for her and she’s still got a lot of height left to grow in backless booster mode.
She finds it comfortable enough but would prefer that the armrests have some type of cushion on them. The armrests are a smooth rubber that cleaned up quite nicely after a spill.
My reviewmobile is a 2016 VW GTI with some rather very curved seating areas in the back seat that cause problems for all kinds of car seats and booster seats.
We found that the TurboBooster TakeAlong was no exception. It slipped around a bit. To buckle herself in, this kiddo needed to slide the booster out of that indentation before she climbed in.
As much as I love this seat for carpooling (and I do, perhaps more than seems within the range of normal for a so-called adult like myself), I don’t see it as my first choice for this kiddo in this car every day.
However, that’s more my car’s fault than the booster. It was very easy to use the seat in vehicles with a flatter vehicle seat than my car.
For you, and for science, we’ll try it in other vehicles and take it on a plane trip as well.
Once again, our 8 year old model is here to show us how the seat works. She remains 64 pounds and 51 inches tall.
To fully simulate a carpool situation, I had her start with the TurboBooster TakeAlong folded. She carried it herself, unfolded it, and was able to set it up properly without me saying or doing ANYTHING. Compare this experience to other portable booster seats that require adult assistance and it’s easy to see what makes this booster pretty spectacular for kids on the go.
We have put our TurboBooster TakeAlong to the test by taking the backless portion along a number of trips, including a world tour! I packed it into the storage bag that came with the seat and hooked the bag over the handle on my suitcase.
This is a small thing and a big thing all at once — that bag fit perfectly on my carryon bag and didn’t flop around at all while we dragged it through the airport.
Once on the plane, we stored it under the seat in front of my daughter — it’s small enough that we could have also fit a medium sized backpack next to it in that space!!!
Important Information: Where to Find
Manual storage: the manual stores in a pouch under the seat pad on the backless portion of the seat. The manual lists this information on the back cover.
Date of Manufacture Label: the date of manufacture label is on the bottom of the backless portion of the seat.
FAA Approval Label: because the TurboBooster TakeAlong is a belt-positioning booster seat that requires a lap/shoulder belt, it’s NOT approved for use on aircraft. This is true for all booster seats.
However, the seat folds up into a tidy little package that fits under the airplane seat in front of the child or in the overhead bin.
At $49.99 for the backless version and $99.99 for the high back version, we realize that the price is higher than some other portable booster seat options. However, the way the TurboBooster TakeAlong does everything we needed it to do with ease makes that a bargain from our perspective. Just knowing that my kiddo can set herself up and have a good vehicle seat belt fit anywhere she goes is worth the price!
The TurboBooster TakeAlong excels at its main purpose in life — being a very portable option that most Littles can set up and use properly with minimal or no supervision.
This is a big task for a small seat. We’re thrilled to see that the TurboBooster TakeAlong does all of this with ease.
To celebrate CPS Week 2018 our friends at Graco are generously giving away one high back TurboBooster TakeAlong to a lucky reader in the United States. Read our terms and conditions, then enter below for your chance to win.
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