How to Choose a Travel System

How to Choose a Travel System

Last Updated: February 14, 2017
Not all car seats fit into all strollers, but if you’re clever about it, you can still get exactly what you want. How to Choose a Travel System

First-time parents get excited by the idea of an infant car seat that clips into their stroller (aka travel system) and for good reason.

It means you can transfer baby from car to stroller without waking them up! (This is a big deal). Also it makes it possible to use a regular stroller with a newborn. Since newborns can’t hold up their head, they can’t sit up in a stroller seat. To stroll your newborn, you either need a stroller seat that reclines all the way flat (very rare) or you need a car seat or bassinet that clips into your stroller.

Are there any downsides to having a travel system? One big downside: putting a car seat on top of a regular seat means you’re hauling two seats everywhere you go, and that gets heavy. Strollers burdened with a car seat don’t glide and maneuver as easily, and your baby won’t be able to use the regular stroller seat until they’re six months old. The weight isn’t such a big deal if you have smooth neighborhood sidewalks, but on bumpy cobblestones it could become tiresome.

Alternatives to know about

Consider using a stroller frame or a multi-mode convertible stroller rather than a travel system if you don’t want the extra weight of the doubled seat. A stroller frame (AKA a snap ‘n go or stroller caddy) is just a wheeled frame you can rest your infant car seat in. It’s very inexpensive, but it stops being useful once your baby outgrows their infant car seat at about a year old. A multi-mode convertible stroller is a frame that can accept a car seat, a bassinet, or a regular stroller seat; super handy, but often pricey.

Another option of course is just to wear your baby in a carrier or wrap, and not use the stroller at all until your baby gets old enough to sit up. If you’re strong and don’t get back pain easily, that could be a great option!

So you want to get a travel system

Definitely want a travel system? There are two ways to get a travel system: buy a pair or select a stroller and car seat that connect with an adapter.

Option 1) Buy car seat & stroller as one purchase

Buying your infant car seat and your stroller together as one purchase typically saves you $60 - $100. The trick is to make sure you love both the stroller and the car seat. Our store carries several excellent parent-recommended travel systems for you to use as a starting point.

Depending on the size of your baby and how fast they grow, they’ll outgrow the infant car seat at around 10-14 months (and switch to a convertible car seat that stays installed in the car). The stroller, on the other hand, you’ll be using during their entire toddlerhood. So in terms of length of use, it’s more important to be satisfied with the stroller. In terms of safety, the car seat is the higher-stakes decision. All new car seats follow pretty stringent federal safety regulations.

Option 2) Purchase them separately & connect with adapter

Say you have a favorite stroller and a favorite car seat, and they’re made by different brands, and you just don’t want to compromise. Totally understandable! Often you can buy a car seat adapter that makes one brand compatible with the other brand (they can cost anywhere from $10-$80). The annoying and confusing part is checking to see if the adapter exists between the brands in question.

Which strollers accept the most different types of car seats?

For the stroller brands we carry in our Babylist store, here’s a quick run-down of how compatible they are with different car seats.

Keep in mind that the adapter you purchase has to connect your EXACT car seat with your EXACT stroller including model and year, otherwise it might not click in safely and correctly. To check exact compatibilities, check out the links below to read complete information on the manufacturer sites.

Stroller brands with a lot of flexibility

  • Baby Jogger: You can purchase adapters for 14 different kinds of car seat, including popular ones from Chicco, Graco, Britax and NUNA.

  • BOB: Adapters are available for 7 seats from the 4 most popular brands, including Graco, Chicco and Britax.

Stroller brands with some flexibility

  • Britax strollers: Besides working with all Britax car seats (no adapter necessary), there’s also one adapter you can buy which works with 3 outside brands including Chicco and Graco.

  • 4moms strollers: 4moms moxi has adapters for 3 outside brands; 4moms origami only has an adapter for a Graco seat.

  • Bugaboo strollers: adapters for 4 different brands, but it varies depending on which specific Bugaboo stroller you own.

Stroller brands that tend to prefer same-brand car seats

Chicco and Graco manufacture some of the most popular car seats around (and their car seats fit in a lot of other brand’s strollers). Considering they have so many car seat choices within their own brand, they didn’t bother going out of their way to make their strollers compatible with other brand’s car seats! Likewise, NUNA strollers need NUNA car seats (although the NUNA Pipa car seat does have adapters for four different stroller brands).

What Makes a Good Stroller in a Travel System?

Try to pick a stroller that you’ll love in the long-term. You’ll be using it long after the infant car seat is unnecessary. A lot of lightweight strollers can’t support the weight of a car seat, so if you need something really lightweight, it may make sense to make that a separate purchase from your travel system. The perfect stroller depends on your situation and how you’ll be using it. (Read more in How to Choose a Stroller.) The gist of it is to pick a weight you can handle, a compactness you can store, and wheels and suspension that match your terrain.

What Makes a Good Car Seat in a Travel System?

Having a lightweight infant car seat can be really nice in a travel system, since you’ll be dealing with the weight of the stroller and the car seat combined. Of the five best infant car seats according to Babylist parents, the Graco Snugride is the lightest weight at 7.5 lbs. Because of its popularity, a lot of strollers have adapters for it, so you won’t be limited to only Graco strollers if you select this car seat.

TraveI System Use Tips

  1. If you close both the stroller canopy and the car seat canopy, they meet in the middle and give your baby 100% coverage from the sun.

  2. Don’t leave your child in the car seat for more than two hours: it’s unhealthy. Break up longer drives and strolls with little rest breaks!

  3. Travel systems can be tough to push across gravel and uneven surfaces. Plan your route accordingly.

True, finding an adapter that connects your perfect stroller with your perfect car seat is sometimes difficult and/or expensive. BUT, being able to transfer your baby from one mode of transportation to another without waking them up? Priceless.

Unless your baby is a light sleeper. Then they’ll just wake up inside the infant car seat no matter what you do. 😂 Parenthood is an adventure! Good luck!