We’re doing an incredible amount of traveling this summer. A whole bunch of these getaways are girls’ trips, which means I’m on my own with Ro and Ree, our luggage, transportation, etc. So I needed a travel car-seat solution that wouldn’t reduce me to tears (or worse) in the middle of the Salt Lake City airport. In buying, trying, and returning options, I discovered a booster-seat gotcha that you might not know, and this is one case where cutting corners turned out to be a good thing.
Ro and Ree, who weigh in at just over 40 pounds, are still in Britax car seats at home, and we’ve traveled with those car seats before. But if TubaDad’s not around, it’s just not doable for me to get those dang seats (or seats from the car rental company) transported and installed on my own. I’m not fragile, but holy moly my sanity sure is, especially when the kids are running around the airport parking lot all crazed and sleep-deprived after a long flight and I’m hanging upside down in the back of the car cursing and fumbling with straps. So before our last trip to Tahoe, I bought some new backless booster seats that were easy to carry and required no installation.
One gotcha though, and the main point of this post: if you have captain’s chairs in your car or van (like we do), not all booster seats will fit. Of course I didn’t find out our new ones didn’t fit until 9pm the night before we left on our trip, while TubaDad was away on business. Crap!!! Luckily good friend Maggie came over to watch our sleeping babes while I dashed to Target to exchange the first pair of seats.
I ended up buying the Graco booster seat, which I’ve now tested in Tahoe, Chicago, and will soon test in Utah. Why? Because the Graco booster has angled corners in the back, so it will actually fit in a captain’s chair.
Here’s the front view of the first seats I bought that didn’t work, the Evenflo Big Kid AMP No Back Booster Car Seat ($24.99 at Target), as compared to the seats that did work, the Graco No Back Booster Car Seat ($19.59 at Target). They both look great, huh? This front view is the only one you get to see if you order seats on the internet or just look on the packaging:
Now let’s check out the back view. See those angled corners on the Graco? That turned out to be critical:
Here’s a close-up of the Graco sitting on top of the Evenflo. That tiny little angle that wasn’t visible on the web made all the difference:
Here’s a bottom view of those angled corners, just because I’m a picture nut:
Now, this is why I cared. Here’s the Evenflo booster in our van. Note the big, unsafe, uncomfortable gap between the booster and the back of the seat. I just couldn’t get it far enough back with the sides of our Honda Odyssey captain’s chair in the way:
And here’s how the angled Graco fits flush against the back of the captain’s chair. Ah hah!:
If you’ve got bench seats in your car, van, SUV, or rental car, then as far as I can tell you can go hog-wild and get anything you want. (I actually like the looks of the Evenflo better and it has sturdier seat padding.) But if you’ve got captain’s chairs like us, take a peek at the back of your booster seat before you buy it.
By the way, any booster seats can either be checked in free of charge when you check your luggage (fellow twinmom K2 saved the original boxes and tapes them shut and checks them in those – brilliant!!), or can be carried on the plane and easily stowed in the overhead compartments. They’re light enough that the kids can carry them if you’re short of hands, and there’s no installation – just plop your booster down, then use the normal car shoulder and lapbelt, making sure to put the belt underneath the armrests (or use the extra strap attachment) so it’s held in the correct position.
PS #1: I wasn’t compensated for this info in any way. I purchased all four of the seats and I’m just sharing facts that would have saved me an extra trip to the store. (An extra trip that cost me $32 more, by the way, because I *had* to walk through the little girls’ clothing section on the way to the car seats… Heh.)
PS #2: I’m not interested in debating the safety of backless seats versus full-back seats. I personally am not able to travel with two little girls and two full-size car seats on my own.