I started shopping for baby products basically the moment I found out I was pregnant. I was SO excited. I love researching products and online shopping so this was the ultimate excuse for a major shopping (and registering) spree! One of the big dilemmas new parents face is travel system vs. separate car seat and stroller. I spent a lot of time looking at the best stroller travel systems and the best separate stroller and car seat options. I knew nothing about car seats, strollers, or travel systems so I spent countless hours researching what makes them safe, easy to use, and what to look for. My main question was should I buy a travel system or separate car seat and stroller? From there I needed to know what to look for in a travel system, car seat, and stroller as well as what various stroller styles are good for and what was necessary for our lifestyle. Gosh, so many things to think about when you’re looking for the best stroller travel system! And just like that the chaos of baby life began 😉
Here’s your cut to the chase link to the best stroller travel system, the Graco Modes Click Connect Stroller Travel System
Should I buy a travel system or separate car seat and stroller?
So, for us, this was the first big question. Travel system vs. separate car seat and stroller. I knew I wanted a stroller that would allow me to take the rear facing infant car seat out and attach it right to the stroller frame. I mean, who wants to wake up a sleeping baby to get them from the car to the stroller?! NOT ME. Ideally, I also didn’t want to have to disassemble the stroller to get the infant car seat in it. I really wanted to be able to leave the stroller seat in while the infant seat was in. You just never really know what you’ll need when you’re out and why make extra work and store extra parts for later. I just didn’t like that idea.
Now, the stroller would be lighter without the stroller seat in it but for me, this really isn’t an issue. The stroller isn’t that heavy all together and aside from taking it in and out of our SUV and the occasional stair lift; I didn’t need to be that concerned with weight. I mean, I wasn’t going to benching it or anything. I find it to be a practical weight even when it’s all put together and I’m not a big person and my arms have yet to reach the coveted “mom of a toddler” stage where they’re ripped simply from picking up a too-large-to-carry child.
Stroller Car Seat Combo Travel System vs. Separate Car Seat and Stroller
Pros and Cons of a Travel System
Stroller car seat combos, called travel systems, come with everything you need from infancy to toddler and pre-school. The infant car seat will take you up to 25-35 lbs and then you can transition to the flat bassinet style seat and progress to the standard upright seat for toddlers and pre-schoolers. The downside is they tend to be a bit larger. If you live in the city or need to navigate a lot of stairs or tight places you might not want a stroller travel system. You also commit to your toddler stroller before you have a toddler so do research on what you need in a stroller before picking your travel system.
Pros and Cons of an Infant Car Seat and Stroller Frame
The other option is to buy a separate car seat and stroller. You can get either a stroller frame that will hold your car seat or something completely independent that will not hold an infant car seat. There are several stroller frames that work with various car seats which does give you some options but almost all of them require you to buy extra parts to attach the infant car seat to the stroller frame. This tends to be cheaper initially because frames are inexpensive. Thdownsidede to stroller frames is they become obsolete after you child gets to about 25-35lbs (9-12 months) when most babies transition out of their infant car seats.
Pros and Cons of a Separate Infant Car Seat and Stroller
You can also find standard strollers with attached seats that will adapt to hold an infant car seat giving you similar usability to a travel system. This gives you a build your own travel system basically. The main issue with this is you may also need an attachment kit for the infant car seat and you are limited by which car seats and strollers work together. This can be a tedious task and end up limiting your combinations pretty quickly.
So, should I buy a travel system or separate car seat and stroller?
Travel system vs. separate car seat and stroller… for me buying a separate car seat and stroller was just too much work. I want quick, easy, and convenient. This is why I narrowed my search down to just the best stroller travel system pretty early on. Everything comes together. No extra parts are required. You can use it all in one piece or take it apart as needed. Easy peasy. Now to determine WHICH is the best stroller travel system…
What to Look for in a Stroller Car Seat Combo Travel System
The Safest Travel Systems
With a travel system, safety is #1 priority. You’re getting your car seat and stroll all at once so you want each part to be safe for their purposes. My biggest concern was the car seat safety because you could potentially have no control over when something terrible might happen. Stroller accidents seem more user error or freak accident. So I started by looking for a highly rated car seat and using that to narrow my search. Car seats are highly regulated and tested so you will have a lot of safe options. Next, you should consider the price. There are TONS of travel systems in all price points. Narrow your search to what’s reasonable for you.
3 Wheel vs. 4 Wheel Stroller Travel Systems
Next, determine the type of stroller you want. Are you a jogger, shopper, traveler? Will you be using it on pavement and smooth floors or are you often on uneven, unstable ground (like in the country)? This will help you determine if you need 3 or 4 wheels. 3 wheels strollers are good for jogging but can be tippy on the front. On the flip side, 4 wheel strollers are more stable but not good for jogging. Large rubber tires are good for uneven ground, where plastic tires will work for solid, smooth ground.
I’m a 4-wheeler. Not like the ATV, I like 4 wheels on my strollers. They have more stability and I actually think they handle better in tight quarters. I also NEVER run. Like, never ever. And if I did, it would be in the privacy of my own home on our treadmill (or as my husband likes to call it, our clothes drying rack). At no point in my life will I need a jogger. I did, however, want nice wheels that would last. We live in the suburbs but on a river and we have 2 cabins in the family. We will need to take the stroller on gravel roads. This meant I narrowed my search down to a travel system with high safety ratings, 4 wheels, and large rubber tires. From there I needed to determine what extras I needed and wanted in a travel system.
Positioning Options for the Best Stroller Travel System
I wanted to be able to have baby facing me while he’s young. The Graco Travel System we went with (here) has a ton of positions with and without the infant car seat. This picture shows the positioning options as an infant car seat carrier (the third is how we use it), as an infant stroller facing you or facing out, and as a toddler stroller facing you or facing out, reclined, and adjusted for child size.
What do I need in a travel system stroller?
Everything else is basically for convenience. A big must is easy one-handed folding and set up. For convenience and safety, you want good wheel locks. You’ll also want a large basket under the stroller for carrying your massive diaper bag, shopping bags, food, beverages, coats, and basically anything else you could ever think of. Cup holders for you and eventually your toddler are a must. A small covered compartment for things like a garage door opener, keys, etc. is nice to have when you don’t have pockets and are going for a walk without all the baby gear.
Some people like hooks for their diaper bag to hang it from the handle. I don’t find that necessary or practical (who wants to walk with a big huge bag hitting them in the thighs and making the stroller back heavy) but to each their own. Another thing to think about is how many cars you’ll need to work with the car seat. We have 2 cars and planned to use both for baby. We purchased an extra car seat base for out Graco SnugRide Click Connect Infant Car Seat.
The Best Stroller Travel System 2017
Keeping all of this in mind I choose the Graco Modes Click Connect Travel System Stroller as the best stroller travel system for 2017. It has ever feature listed above (except the handle hook for the diaper bag but you can purchase that separately) plus high safety ratings at a super affordable price. It also comes in the 3 wheel Graco Modes Travel System style or the 4 wheel Graco Modes Travel System style which we have. Plus, both styles come in tons of color options, we have the Downton color.
When we purchased ours I went to a Babies ‘R’ Us to test it out in store and make sure I liked the maneuverability and the ease of use (taking the car seat in and out, folding it down, adjusting the seat back, etc.) I also tried a 3 wheel stroller and the 4 wheel stroller and a few other brands. I then went online and found it for the cheapest price in the color we wanted. Amazon is generally $50-$100 cheaper than baby stores. Plus some colors you can get on deep discount when they are retired!! Regardless, the Grace Travel System was hands down the winner. We still use it regularly and love it to this day!
So, should I buy a travel system or separate car seat and stroller?
In the travel system vs. separate car seat and stroller debate, the winner is stroller car seat combos, or “travel systems.” They truly make the most sense unless you live in the city or take public transportation often with your child. They might cost a bit more upfront but end up being more affordable in the end because they last you longer. As long as you do research on the best stroller travel system (and I’ve basically done the work for you 😉 ) you’ll love your pick for the long haul! This Graco travel system stroller and car seat combo has all the key features you look for in the best stroller travel system! Just pick from the 3 or 4 wheel options, select your color, and you’re good to go!
What did you look for when selecting the best stroller travel system or separate car seat and stroller?
Share your tips in the comments below!
Until next time,