Using booster seats is required by law for children who have outgrown forward-facing car seats. However, there are some distinguishing features between the many styles of booster seats available on the market that make some better than others for long-distance travel.
Naturally, the safety of the child is of the utmost concern when choosing a booster seat. Generally, booster seats won’t be available for purchase in the United States unless they have been approved by the National Highway Traffic Administration. The seat belt should lay securely across the upper thighs and the shoulder strap should cross the chest.
Children under the age of 8 years old and a weight of 80 pounds should be secured in a booster seat in the back seat of the vehicle during travel. Children under the age of 13 should always ride in the back seat whether using a booster seat or not.
Proper fit of the engaged seat belt is also a matter of comfort that can seriously affect the enjoyment of a long trip. If the belt does not fit properly when engaged with the booster seat, it can have a choking effect by crossing the neck or stomach.
Booster seats are also useful in other modes of transportation. Since they are portable and do not require stationary attachment to the vehicle, they can be used in buses, airplanes and taxis. Most commercial lines have regulations requiring the use of child restraint systems for transport so even if a traveler is not sure about the requirements or cannot check in advance, it is best to have a booster seat on hand, just in case.
The same booster seat that is used for travelling in the vehicle can usually pull double duty as a dining booster seat. When using the car booster seat as a dining booster away from home, it is important to remember that there is no belt to keep the child in place or in the seat.
The extended time of sitting in the booster seat for long distance travel makes the features affecting comfort even more important. Make sure that the padding and cushion of the booster seat is durable enough to remain soft and supportive for an extended trip.
The head-rest will play a vital role in that the child should be able to comfortably nap in the booster. An inadequate head-rest can result in broken rest or neck stiffness when the child awakens.