Having a stroller and an infant car seat that clicks onto its frame with one simple click is a game-changer. This way you can quickly transfer the baby from the stroller to the car and the other way round, without disturbing your napping little one.
But do you have to stick to the travel system sets that offer matching stroller and car seat from one brand or could you pick these two piece of baby gear separately and connect them with a special adapter? There are many things to consider to get products that fully meet your needs.
In this article you will find my thoughts on whether buying a travel system as a sett or buying separate stroller and car seat is better option. I focus here mainly on things like: budget, safety and comfort of use. If you are wondering which choice will be best for you and your child, keep on reading.
The number of strollers, travel systems and car seats on the market is huge and can make you feel dizzy, especially if you’re a new parent and you’re choosing first stroller for your baby.
For a newborn baby you have a few options but often your choice boils down to this: “Is it better to get a travel system as a set or separate infant car seat and stroller?”
Let’s see what you get in both cases.
If you decide to get a travel system (TS) a set you will receive matching stroller and infant car seat from one brand. Both parts are compatible with each other and work together without any adapters.
On the other hand, you can get a separate stroller and an infant car seat which will require a special adapter to be compatible and work together.
What’s Available On The Market
I have been following baby gear market for over 5 years and I can say that there are less and less high-quality travel systems (ready sets) arriving on the market. Of course, the choice is still vast, but there are a lot of travel system strollers that were designed 5-10 years ago, while new travel stroller systems (that debuted in the last 2-3 years) are relatively few, when we consider how many stroller and car seats in general are designed and released every year.
I have to admit that I’m skeptical about those old travel system strollers, at least in most cases. Yes, I know that they have a lot of online reviews (sometimes even a few thousand), including a lot of positive reviews, and high rates in various stores (like Amazon). But it is important to note that a significant part of these positive opinions was created many years ago when there was a smaller selection of strollers on the market, the strollers had completely different functions, worse design, worse safety feature.
If we compare such strollers, designed 5-10 years ago, with strollers that came out in the last 2-3 years, we will notice a lot of differences. The old ones are simply poorer, have worse wheels (usually small plastic ones with a thin EVA “tire”), smaller canopies, and the car seats that come with them are of average quality. These old travel systems look out-dated, usually don’t meet current high standards and modern mom’s needs.
And therefore we come to the point where it turns out that the choice of travel stroller systems is not so huge, because there are just a few new kits of higher quality, that were designed in the last 2-3 year to meet more stringent requirements.
Why is it that companies are less likely to release travel systems and prefer to sell strollers and infant car seats separately?
This is because the offer of convertible strollers is now huge and it is a very convenient solution. There are dozens of full-sized, lightweight and even jogging strollers that you can convert by using a special adapter into a travel system with many different infant car seats, and even into a pram with special bassinet.
A few years ago the choice of convertible strollers was little, therefore if you wanted a stroller to which you can attach an infant car seat, you had to choose a ready TS set, because usually standard strollers were not compatible with infant car seats. Getting lightweight stroller that would work with infant car seat was (almost) impossible.
Now the situation is completely different. Currently most strollers, regardless of type (convertible, lightweight, jogging), are compatible with infant car seats, which is why baby product brands have less and less TS kits in their offers. Now you can create your own travel system the way you want it, you have more flexibility and freedom of choice.
You no longer have to decide on a set of matching stroller and infant car sea. Now you can choose an infant car seat that meets your expectations and high safety standards, a stroller that has all the features you need and connect them with a special adapter. Of course, it is important here to narrow down your selection to compatible products first. But currently majority of popular stroller brands offer a lot of adapters for the most popular and safest infant car seats, so usually there is no problem with finding compatible items.
The choice “travel system or separate infant car seat and stroller” is not easy. But let’s clear one thing – you’ll almost certainly need an infant car seat. If you have a car and are going to transport a child in it, even if it’s only occasionally (like from hospital to home, to the doctor, on vaccinations, shopping) – even if it’s only a few times, the infant car seat is must-have.
If you don’t have a car, or you are 100% sure that in the first 6-9 months you will not need an infant car seat even once, then you can skip it, buy the stroller only, and wait until the child is big enough to use the convertible car seat.
But if you’re going to transport your baby in a car, even occasionally, then the car seat is necessary. I always say that this is one of the most important pieces of baby gear that parents must choose for their new child. And I started preparation to parenting with that choice too.
If you want to get ready-to-buy TS set, first choose the infant car seat that meets your requirements, and then pick the travel system that includes it. Of course it may turn out that the stroller doesn’t have all the features you want and doesn’t fully meet your expectations (keep in mind that you should never give up infant car seat safety features for some additional convenience features of a stroller like larger basket or 1 pound lighter construction).
The alternative is that you choose an infant car seat that checks all the boxes, and then you make a list of the strollers that fit this car seat. Then you choose the one that best meets your expectations. Plus an adapter of course.
Let’s get to the point and see what are the pros and cons of each approach.
Buying Travel System As A Set – Pros & Cons
+ Usually it's more affordable solution - you can find a travel system that will cost less than a stroller and infant car seat bought separately (of similar quality as travel system)
+ All you need is already in the set, you don't have to look for additional parts or buy anything extra (like adapters)
+ Transition from the car to the stroller is a breeze because the infant car seat clicks onto the stroller within few seconds, without any adapters
+ You don't have to remember to take adapters always with you, be careful not to loose them, be careful to attach them properly
- Sometimes the quality of the stroller and infant car seat in travel system set in not equal - there are many travel systems that come with a great car seat, but stroller is not so great
- The choice is not vast, there are lots of old, out-dated travel systems, so it does require extensive research to find a travel system that is both good-quality and budget-friendly
- The infant car seats sometimes are poor-quality and have worse safety tests results than infant car seats sold separately (from other brands)
Getting An Infant Car Seat & A Stroller Separately – Pros & Cons
+ You have much wider choice - you can choose whatever car seat you want and then pick one of many strollers compatible with it, that also meets your needs, including all-terrain strollers which usually don't come as travel systems
+ You can choose more types of strollers - convertible full-size stroller, jogging stroller that will serve you for running after few month or a lightweight stroller that you'll be able to use for travels later
+ You can choose from different brands - some brands are better for car seats, some are better for strollers, you don't have to stick to one brand
+ You don't have to compromise any features - you can choose whichever car seat you want, then whichever stroller you want
- Usually adapters are sold separately, they are not expensive but still it's something you need to pay extra for
- You need to remember about one more piece of gear when you leave the house
- Sometimes attaching the car seat to the stroller with adapter it's a bit more difficult, you need to learn how to do it, wiggle a bit the car seat - therefore it's important to check the stroller and car seat in person in a local store or do proper online research and read lots of parents reviews
- Usually it's a bit more expensive option, but not always
Which Option Should You Choose?
Of course, choosing a ready TS kit is more convenient because you have everything in one set. If you are sure that both elements of the set meet your needs and are of high quality, then go for it.
But if among the ready-to-buy sets you don’t find what would meet your needs – don’t worry. You can choose the infant car seat first – with the highest quality, the best safety test results, and then choose the stroller that works with it. This way you will be sure that both things have the features you really need and want.
What To Look Out For When Choosing Infant Car Seat
I’ve mentioned above that it’s good to start your research with the car seat. What things you should check?
- Safety tests – Did it pasted test (with what score) or was just “tested”?
- Safety features: side impact protection, anti-rebound bar
- Safety harness
- Headrest & infant insert – does it have adjustable headrest and removable insert?
- Is the cover removable and machine-washable?
- Fabrics – how breathable is the fabric?
- Weight of the car seat (without the base) – it is convenient and lightweight to carry?
- Minimum and maximum weight capacity
- How roomy is the seat
- How easily it is to install in the car, how easily in clicks onto the stroller frame/adapter/car base?
These are just some examples of things that you should keep in mind when buying an infant car seat. Make sure to follow the rules specific for your country. Lots of information how to choose an infant car seat in the US you can find here.
It’s also recommendable to consult with certified advisor which car seat would be best for you baby.
My Favorite Travel Systems, Convertible Strollers & Infant Car Seats
If you’re interested in ready-to-buy travel systems, I recommend you to take a look at my ranking. I don’t want to repeat myself here, but among the travel systems that I love most are: UPPAbaby VISTA TS with Mesa Infant Car Seat, Nuna Mixx 2019 TS with Pipa Lite Infant Car Seat (these are high-end products), Britax B-Lively (medium price range), and Evenflo Pivot Modular TS (low-budge choice).
However, if I had to choose an infant car seat and a stroller separately, I would start with the car seats. My favorite brands are Nuna, UPPAbaby, Cybex, Maxi Cosi and one more budget-friendly – Chicco.
Among strollers, my favorites for all year use are those that have large wheels (preferably all-terrain ones).
Almost-all-terrain strollers that I love: UPPAbaby VISTA, Cybex Balios S, Nuna Mixx, Baby Jogger City Mini GT, Bugaboo Fox, Thule Spring.
Truly all-terrain strollers that I love: Bumbleride Indie and Bumbleride Era, Thule & BOB joggers.
Thanks to more advanced design and better quality, now even the lightweight strollers are compatible with infant cat seats (not all of them, but the choice is vast)! If you plan to travel a lot with your infant this may be a good solution for you. For frequent travels I would choose a lightweight, easy to fold, compact, strong and sturdy stroller.
Among lightweight strollers that are compatible with infant car seats, I love: Babyzen YOYO+, Baby Jogger City Tour 2, GB Pockit Plus All City.
|PRO TIP: If you don’t plan to use the stroller often in the first few months, there is a cheaper solution that you should consider – car seat stroller frame. Like the name suggests it’s a stroller frame (without the regular seat) that allows you to attach the infant car seat onto it, when you want to go for a short walk or do little shopping, but you don’t want to carry your baby in the car seat (it’s heavy and tiring!). Car seat stroller frame is a pretty cheap piece of baby gear (some costs less than $100). Once the baby outgrows the infant car seat and can sit upright, you can simply buy a second lightweight stroller – which you will need anyway! However if you like long strolls, a full-sized stroller will be necessary, because it’s not healthy for the baby to stay in the car seat for a long time. This is only a solution for quick, occasional walks.
The purpose of this article is informative. It’s not a substitute for medical consultation or medical care.