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Ride Safer Travel Vest review (2021)

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We’re all about experiences over things, but sometimes things come along that makes the experiences a thousand times more enjoyable. That’s my overall impression of the Ride Safer travel vest car seat – for our family it has become an indispensable piece of travel gear as we’ve gallivanted around the globe with two young children. In this Ride Safer travel vest review, you’ll get my complete, honest opinions as a Child Passenger Safety Technician (CPST) and a mom.

We have now used two different generations of the Ride Safer Travel Vest, the Ride Safer Delight travel vest and the Ride Safer Travel Vest Gen 5. We’ve spent much of the last three years with our vests and used them for two different kids during that time, so I’ve had plenty of time to get acquainted with the vests! You may have seen parents in Facebook groups refer to it by a range of almost-correct names: safe rider vest, rider safe vest, ride safe vest, rider safe travel vest, rider safety vest… I’ve seen pretty much every combination.

Keep reading (and watching!) to learn how to use the Ride Safer travel vest, its pros and cons and how to decide if it’s right for your family.

DEAL ALERT! Save $11 off the Ride Safer Travel Vest with coupon ‘VOYAGE

What is the Ride Safer travel vest?

The Ride Safer travel vest is a wearable booster seat alternative for young children. It works by bringing the seatbelt down to your child’s level rather than boosting her up.

Your child puts the vest on (like a clothing vest) and then you secure it using the industrial-strength velcro panel and metal buckle on the front. Once you get in the car, you’d buckle the seatbelt as usual but then thread it through the seat belt guides that are included on the lap and shoulder portions of the vest. The Ride Safer Travel Vest has fairly rigid support through the body, unlike a traditional booster seat that has no body support.

It meets or exceeds all crash test requirements and Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards for harness restraints, meaning the Ride Safer travel vest is legal throughout the US. It is still considered a booster seat, allowing much more mobility than a harnessed seat. You’ll have to use your judgement regarding your young child’s maturity and ability to stay in the proper position for the whole car ride.

There’s also an optional top tether that should be used whenever possible to limit head movement in an accident. It also help to keep younger riders from reaching for a toy or slumping when asleep in this kids seat belt vest. Having forgotten the top tether piece on a recent trip, I can tell you that it’s an essential piece (even for kids who are old enough for a traditional booster seat).

Want to know all my best secrets? Click here to learn how to travel with your car seat like a pro!

Who should use the Ride Safer Travel Vest?

Ride Safer Travel Vest Gen 5 on my 5.5 year old, wearing a size 5 shirt

According to the manufacturer specifications, the Ride Safer Travel Vest Gen 5 will fit the following ages and sizes:

AgeWeight
(recommended)
Height
(average)
Smallminimum 3
average 3-6
30-60 lbs35-48″
Largeminimum 4
average 5-11
50-80 lbs45-57″
Extra Largeminimum 5
average 9-14
80-110 lbs55-64″

Ok, but what ages and sizes should use the Ride Safer Travel Vest?

As I mentioned in the introduction, we’re fortunate to have used two generations of Ride Safer travel vest small sizes over the course of many years and many rides. I’ve also polled vest owners in our Facebook group for their feedback. The general consensus is that the Ride Safer Gen 5 runs quite a bit bigger than the Ride Safer Delight.

We started using the Delight when our daughter was near the bottom of the size range out of necessity since we were traveling full time. The fit wasn’t all that great until she was closer to 4 years old, but she’s on the small side. As you can see in this photo, using the top tether helped keep her properly positioned in the vest.

Toddler girl in pink sweatshirt using Ride Safer travel vest car seat alternative
Ride Safer Delight at 3.5 years old

We received that Gen 5 when she was 5.5 years old (still a shortie!) and the fit was juuuust workable when using the top tether. Without the top tether, she ended up slumped dangerously to the side when she fell asleep because there was a large gap in the shoulder straps. A small gap isn’t a problem, and using the top tether definitely helps to keep your child properly positioned even with a bigger gap.

What size does the Ride Safer Gen 5 fit? I’d say you could start using it for a tall 4 year old with the top tether. If your child is on the shorter side or you’ll be traveling to a country where top tethers aren’t standard, consider the WAYB Pico instead – full review here.

Not ready for the Ride Safer yet? Here are some great travel car seats for 3 year olds and 4 year olds to consider instead.

Ride Safer Travel Vest Gen 5 on my 8.5 year old, wearing a size 7 shirt

Once your kid is big enough for the Ride Safer travel vest, it’ll fit for years to come thanks to the adjustable straps. My 8 year old can still (just) fit in the size small Gen 5. It’s really hard to beat the portability since it’s so tiny! If he wasn’t mature enough for this yet, we would have bought him the next size up.

How to put on the Ridesafer vest for kids

When you open the Ridesafer travel vest backpack, you’ll see a few different parts and you’ll need to make some adjustments. The great news is that you can fit it to your child before you need to use it in the car.

The components included in the box are the vest, a sometimes-optional crotch strap, the optional-but-highly-recommended top tether, the truly optional neck pillow and a convenient carry backpack. We ditched the pillow after just one use and the crotch strap once our kids got a little bigger.

Putting the vest on is pretty intuitive: open the buckle and the very sturdy Velcro panel in the front, then have your child slip his arms in. Tug the vest down, fasten the Velcro so that it’s snug but not uncomfortable and then fasten the metal buckle, adjusting the strap length as necessary – there’s no way that vest is coming undone on its own! To get the length right, turn your child around and open the Velcro on the crossing straps on his back. Adjust the vest until the bottom flap on the front is resting on top of his thighs (since it will hold the lap portion of the seatbelt in the proper position), then refasten the Velcro straps on his back.

The final (optional) step is to the thread the Y-shaped crotch strap through the two slots on the back of the vest on the bottom (one on each side), then pull between the legs and fasten snugly through the slot at the bottom of the front. While the crotch strap is technically optional, it’s important for preventing younger riders from “submarining” (sliding down and out of the vest).

We stopped using the crotch strap around 4.5-5 years old. It’s not long enough to use all the way to the top of the size range, but it’s also not necessary at that point.

You can see a hands-on demo of putting on the Ride Safer vest below:

How to use the Ride Safer vest in the car

The Ride Safer travel vest is very easy to use once you get it on your child.

Here are the basic steps to use the Ridesafer vest:

  1. Put the vest on the child, making sure that the lower panel is over the tops of the thighs. It can help to “fan out” the two sides of the lap panel so that it sits flat.
  2. Have child sit in the car and fasten seatbelt as normal.
  3. Feed the lap belt through both metal guides in the lap panel of the vest, then pull snug across the lap. Don’t over-tighten the lap belt or it may start to bunch in the guide on the side away from the buckle.
  4. Open the Velcro shoulder pad on the side where the should belt crosses and feed the shoulder belt through that metal guide, then pull snug and close the shoulder pad.
  5. Attach the optional but highly recommended top tether to the shoulder straps using the two metal hooks (above the pads), then attach the other end to the car’s top tether point and pull the tail to remove slack.

If you’ll be using the Ride Safe travel vest in your own car or a rental car, you can leave it attached to the car when you get out! Just unbuckle the seatbelt and remove it from the lap belt guide on the buckle side before you unbuckle the waist strap. You can leave the tether attached at the shoulders and even leave the seatbelt threaded through the shoulder and the other side of the lap! As you become more experienced with the vest, it’s a real time saver.

Ride Safer travel vest FAQs

Is the Ride Safer vest legal?

Yes, as long as it’s used in accordance with the directions the Ride Safer travel vest is legal in the United States. Please see more information on Europe, Australia and Costa Rica for additional guidance if you’re traveling to those places.

Is the RideSafer vest safe?

Yes, it passes FMVSS 213 testing just like all other car seats in the United States.

Can I use the RideSafer Travel Vest on an airplane?

No. If your child is under 40lbs, the CARES harness (full review here) is an excellent complement that can be used on planes.

RideSafer Travel Vest Review Impressions

Bottom-line upfront: we liked it enough to take it with us for a full year of travel. Yes, its that much of a game-changer. Now having returned, I have no regrets about that choice.

Now for my full thoughts: The Ride Safer vest is an awesome product that really delivers on its promise to make traveling with preschoolers and older kids easier without compromising safety. We took it to Europe without ever testing it at home, which was a risk for sure, but I figured it out pretty quickly. Our son barely complained during any of our car rides, though he’s generally pretty easygoing about car seat safety and is accustomed to riding in a forward-facing harness most of the time at home.

When we used it during our gap year trip, it was perfect for taxi rides in the cities because I could just roll it up and put it in our day bag. We also used it for some very long road trip stretches, and found it to be solid overall. There were times when our daughter slumped more than we would have liked when sleeping, and early in the trip the shoulder straps seemed a hair too long for her; however, a little gap at the shoulders isn’t necessarily a concern. In our long-term testing, she never complained about comfort despite some drives of 6 hours in a single day.

Overall we’re very satisfied with our decision to bring the Ride Safer rather than our usual travel car seat. For kids who are mature enough and big enough to fit, we whole-heartedly recommend it in situations like ours where traveling light is the only practical solution.

It’s also a great alternative to a booster seat for taxi or Uber riders living in major cities or families on extended trips at age 4+, especially when many families would otherwise allow their children to ride unrestrained. Just throw it in the included backpack and let your kid carry it around! We’ve also found it indispensable for fitting 3-across in our small car when Grandma comes to visit.

Bubblebum (left) compared with Ride Safer travel vest (right)
Bubblebum (left) compared with Ride Safer travel vest (right)

If your child is younger or smaller, take a look at the WAYB Pico, which is an excellent folding car seat with a 5-point harness. If you travel infrequently and will just be taking a single flight and then renting a car, one of these travel car seats might be a good fit for your needs.

The RideSafer travel vest is also sometimes prescribed for children with special needs, especially now that there’s a size Extra Large available. It can be a great choice for older children and even teens who have outgrown the tallest harnessed car seat and still need more support than a traditional booster seat can offer.

What we like:

-Feels very well made

-Design has multiple fail-safe mechanisms

-Extremely compact (takes up less than half of a preschool-sized backpack)

-Easy to use, takes less than 3min to put on the vest and get the seatbelt in place (assuming your kid is a willing participant)

-More torso support than a backless booster, avoids booster rider slumping when asleep

-Adjustable sizing so it can last for several years

What we don’t love:

-Fit on kids at the bottom end of the stated range isn’t great

-Can take some practice and tweaking to get the fit of the car seat vest just right

-Crotch strap was almost too short for our son at 41”, though its use is not required

-Getting the vest on the kid and then the kid in the car can get to be tiresome if you’re doing it several times per day, every day, for a whole year

-Lots of parts to keep track of (for a city family using the vest in a taxi, you can leave the headrest at home and save tons of space)

-The optional headrest is more trouble than it’s worth

-Not permitted to use on an airplane, so for a child under 40lbs you’d need to buy a CARES harness to make the airplane seatbelt safe

-Kids can’t see out the window (can be used with the Delighter booster seat to give them a lift)

Final Thoughts on the Ride Safer car seat vest

portable car seat for travel

As you can see from my impressions above, there is room for small changes or additional features; however, our impression is overwhelmingly positive. I was especially pleased that, when used with the top tether, the car seat travel vest prevented slumping out of position while sleeping. If we had just brought a booster seat, our daughter would have been in an unsafe position. Moving from two bulky car seats to none on our gap year was absolutely epic (we use this one for our son since he was 6 years old by then – full review here). I honestly don’t know how we could have managed without the Ride Safer travel vest.

While the Ride Safer vest is a little pricey for an item most families will use only occasionally, if your family travels often with older preschoolers or young school age children I can’t recommend it enough. It would be a fantastic choice for car-free families with kids ages 4 and up as well, as you can easily shove it in your purse or backpack for unexpected taxi rides. After extensive use, we’d give a general recommendation of 4.5yo for average size kids and 5yo for smaller size kids.

We feel confident that the Ride Safer offers a safe alternative to either lugging a huge car seat around a city or relying on an unfamiliar car/driver to maybe offer car seats. Ready to buy your own Ride Safer vest? Get it directly from Safe Ride 4 Kids for amazing customer service and fast, free shipping! Use coupon ‘VOYAGE’ to save $11 on your order.

Key stats:
-Weight 2lbs
-Size small: minimum age 3, fits best for 30+ lbs and 35-47″
-Size large: minimum age 4, fits best for 50+ lbs and 45-57″

Pros:
✔ Rolls up to the size of a 2L soda bottle
✔ Perfect for taxi rides
✔ Lowers seat belt to provide an appropriate fit for young children
✔ Keeps kids properly seated better than a traditional booster seat – even when sleeping
✔ Easy to fit 3-across since it’s only as wide as the child
✔ 10 year expiration

Cons:
✘ No side impact protection like a highback booster seat
✘ Takes practice to get belt fit right
✘ NOT permitted for use on planes
✘ Fits most kids better when they’re close to 3.5-4

DEAL ALERT! Save $11 off the Ride Safer Travel Vest with coupon ‘VOYAGE

Still not sure? Pin this for later to come back to it!

Not sure what car seat to bring for travel? Find the best travel car seats by age

Our friends at Safe Ride 4 Kids sent me a Ride Safer travel vest for kids to review; all opinions are my own. 

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13 thoughts on “Ride Safer Travel Vest review (2021)”

  1. Hello!
    What are your thoughts on this for a tall 7 year old who is complaining that cat seats are getting uncomfortable, but has ADHD and needs something to help him stay in his belt? He also falls asleep in the car and tips over so I am not anywhere close to a booster for him. Thanks.

    Reply
    • Hi Chelle,

      The Ride Safer is a wonderful solution in that situation as long as he won’t unbuckle the seatbelt. Just be sure to use the top tether for extra support. I suggest size large given his age and height (the length and width are adjustable). Right now you can grab the vest for 20% off with coupon HOLIDAYTRIP20.

      Best,
      Melissa

      Reply
  2. You mention the RideSafer Delight when discussing the size of the vest as an option for smaller children. As I search for the Ride Safer Delight, I find options that say things like RideSafer Delight (Gen 5) and they look exactly like the Gen 5. Do you have any advice for finding the Delight or know what the distinguishing features are? I can’t find the Delight on the Ride Safer website.

    Thank you,

    Quinn

    Reply
    • Hi Quinn,

      Thanks for stopping by! The Ride Safer Delight was the official name for the Gen 4 vest – I don’t know why they moved away from the numbers for that one and then moved right back! Unfortunately the Delight is discontinued now and not available to purchase. Only the Gen 5 is available. Since most reviews on the internet still reflect the Delight, I wanted to make sure everyone understands the sizing difference. The easiest ways to tell the difference are:
      -Gen 5 has fabric covered loops on the tops of the shoulders rather than metal on the Delight
      -Gen 5 has a buckle that slides closed from the top rather than hooking across on the Delight

      I hope this helps!

      Best,
      Melissa

      Reply
  3. What are your thoughts, in terms of convenience and comfort, of using this INSTEAD of a booster?

    My oldest (7) will outgrow his 5pt harness car seat soon and so I’ve started researching boosters etc when I stumbled on your review. I LOVE the idea of no more bulky boosters etc to deal with…just wondering if this is easy for kids to get in and out of on their own and if they’re more comfortable or as comfortable as boosters?

    *not asking about safety differences! Just ease of use and comfort for every day use*

    Reply
    • Hi Shanna,

      Thanks for stopping by! It’s an important question. While I love having the Ride Safer in my toolkit when I need it (travel, tight 3-across etc), it’s not something I’d choose for every day use if I could realistically use a different option. Getting a perfect fit can be tricky and requires fine-tuning.

      I’m not sure if you know this, but there’s no evidence that a highback booster is safer than a backless booster. There are some crashes in which one is (theoretically) better and other crashes in which the other option may perform better. If your child is at least 50 pound (and can sit properly for the duration of the ride), the Graco RightGuide is the most minimalist option out there. I’m actually about to buy one myself to review, but I’ve heard excellent feedback from my colleagues. One downside is that shorter kids may not be able to see out the window in some cars. My son has also liked the Chicco GoFit, Graco Turbo GO and Bubblebum over the years.

      I hope this helps!

      Melissa

      Reply
  4. Your review is so very helpful. I have a situation where on 2 days of the week I have 2 different nannies doing pick ups and drop offs making the car seat situation difficult. Would you recommend the safe rider travel vest for these 3 times per week 20 min rides? I have a 3.5 and 5 yr old (40 and 44 lbs respectively). I am just so worried about the lack of side impact protection, though I have read that many cars have high standards for side impact protect in the car itself. Would love to know your thoughts on this.

    Thanks,
    Brandy

    Reply
    • Hi Brandy,

      That’s a great question. The Ride Safer can be a little finicky to fit properly on the lap – it needs to be lower than most people think, with the lower flap sitting flat on the thighs. It would really depend on how confident you are in the nannies’ abilities to get the fit right and their attention to detail. When we had a nanny for our kids back in the day, I made sure to get the absolute simplest seats I possibly could for the kids to reduce the chance of installation or usage mistakes – remember, most parents don’t even get everything right with their car seats!

      Can you tell me the kids’ heights? And do you feel like your 5yo is mature enough to ride in a booster seat on those trips? I’m happy to try to come up with some additional ideas if you don’t feel that the nannies could properly use the vest.

      Safe travels,
      Melissa

      Reply
  5. Thank you for this great review! We are Americans living in the EU, car-free so we only need car seat for taxis and rental cars. My large 3-year-old (37 lbs, 39”) is THIS close to outgrowing her Cosco Scenera NEXT so we are trying to find our next seat. Hoping this will work. We looked at Wayb Pico but I don’t think it’s technically approved in the EU like Ride Safer is, and we have never gotten good at the locking clip (we try to use LATCH/Isofix now). Do you think this will work? Am I overthinking given she hasn’t been in a car in months? 😂

    Reply
    • Hi Katie,

      Thanks for stopping by! Unfortunately the current version of the Ride Safer isn’t approved for Europe either 🙁 That said, in your situation I might still opt for it. We know that it is a *safe* choice. Since you’re rarely in cars it does seem like the best option. I suspect that many European parents in your situation might choose to use nothing other than the adult seatbelt, which of course is not a safe choice, or a booster seat (also not a safe choice). Some of the details will also depend on which country you live in, whether you’re there on US government orders, etc.

      Safe travels,

      Melissa

      Reply
  6. Hello,
    Thanks for this review.
    Is it mendatory to use the “TravelSmarter Delight Booster Seat” or can we use in any booster such as “bubble bum”?
    Thanks again.

    Reply
    • Hi Hany,

      Thanks for stopping by! Using the TravelSmarter Delight booster seat (thanks for pointing out the name change) isn’t required, but the Ride Safer travel vest HAS NOT been crash tested with the Bubblebum. They are not approved for use together.

      Safe travels,
      Melissa

      Reply

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