When you buy a travel system, you need to examine three things: the car seat, the stroller, and how they work together.
It’s not always simple, and sometimes, you’ll end up with one or two amazing components that don’t work well together for you.
That’s what happened to me six years ago. I was all gung-ho to choose a travel system, and I even made sure it was handled stairs easily and folded in, not out. What I forgot to check was if I could carry it easily, and how easy it would be to maneuver the stroller with a 20-pound child in it instead of a nine-pounder. The answer? Not easy.
I made a mistake, and I want to help you avoid doing the same.
In this article, we’ll compare six popular travel systems, examining them for:
- Ease of car seat installation
- Easy stroller folding
- Stroller recline
Below are reviews of our favorite combos:
Table of Contents
- Our Top Picks for the Best Travel Systems of 2020
- 1. Britax B-Lively / B-Safe 35 Ultra Travel System
- 2. Chicco Bravo Trio KeyFit 30 Travel System
- 3. UPPAbaby CRUZ Stroller with MESA Car Seat
- 4. Graco FastAction Fold Jogger Click Connect Baby Travel System
- 5. Baby Trend Expedition Jogger Travel System
- 6. Evenflo Vive Elite With Embrace Infant Car Seat
- 7. Peg Perego Booklet Travel System
- Want to see how the technical details compare?
- Remember you are buying a car seat AND a stroller
- How to Avoid Making Mistakes
- Frequently Asked Questions
- The bottom line
Our Top Picks for the Best Travel Systems of 2020
1. Britax B-Lively / B-Safe 35 Ultra Travel System
The stroller: The B-Lively stroller is a 3-wheel jogging stroller with a swivel front wheel, all-wheel suspension, and a one-hand fold. The B-Lively accommodates babies and toddlers up to 55 lbs (25 kg). Britax’s suggested age? 0-6 years. While you probably won’t be pushing your six-year-old around in a stroller, it’s good to have the option for a four-and-a-half year old.
The B-Lively fully reclines, and its upright position sits closer to a 90 degree angle than many others. This stroller is compatible with any of the Britax’s infant car seats.
The car seat: The B-Safe 35 car seat accommodates infants from 4-35 lbs (1.8-15.9 kg) who are less than 32″ (81 cm) tall. Like many other Britax seats, this seat features several easy installation features. In addition to its built-in lock-offs, the seat has springs and indicators to help parents find the proper position.
Unlike previous versions, the new B-Safe 35 car seat offers no-rethread easy harness adjustment. This seat also has a removable “body pad” which cushions smaller babies and can be removed for older babies.
How much does it weigh? The B-Safe 35 car seat weighs 11.5 lbs (5.2 kg) without the base, and the B-Lively stroller weighs 18 lbs (8.2 kg).
The pros: The Britax B-Lively B-Safe 35 is a safe, quality travel system offering important safety features, convenience for parents, and a comfy ride.
The cons: I couldn’t find information on how to wash it, so until further notice it’ll have to be damp cloth and mild.
Is it for you? If you’re looking for extra safety features, a sturdy stroller, and high quality at a price that won’t break the bank, this is the travel system for you.Click here to see today's price for the Britax B-Agile 3/ B-Safe 35 Ultra on Amazon
2. Chicco Bravo Trio KeyFit 30 Travel System
The stroller: The Chicco Bravo is made for babies up to 50 lbs (22.7 kg), and offers all-wheel suspension and a large storage basket. This stroller also offers a one-hand fold, swivel wheels, a removable canopy, and (like the car seat) a five-point harness.
A big plus? The basket is accessible even when the seat is reclined. Also, the handle is height-adjustable to accommodate parents of differing heights.
The car seat: The Chicco KeyFit 30 is a rear-facing infant car seat intended for babies weighing between 4 and 30 lbs (1.8-13.3 kg) who are less than 30 inches (76.2 cm) in height. For babies between 4 and 11 lbs (1.8-5 kg), the car seat features a “newborn insert.”
Like most other car seats, the KeyFit has a LATCH option. Unlike many others, it also has an easy installation system: the base offers a belt-locking system for vehicles without LATCH, and a foot which helps level the car seat so it’s at the right angle for your car’s own seat.
This car seat will fit into any Chicco strollers which can hold an infant car seat.
When you buy the Chicco Bravo Trio Travel System, the car seat’s base is included free of charge.
How much does it weigh? The car seat weighs 9.5 lbs (4.3 kg) sans base, and the stroller weighs 23 lbs (10.45 kg).
The pros: The stroller is high quality and has great safety features. The car car seat is safe and sturdy, and also includes important easy-installation features.
The cons: The fabric is not machine-washable.
Is it for you? Probably. ☺ If you’re looking for a good travel system, a safe car seat, and easier installation, this is the best value for your money. Pretty much everything you’ll find from this price down will lack the extra (but important) safety features the Chicco Bravo Trio offers.Click here to see today's price for the Chicco Bravo Trio on Amazon
3. UPPAbaby CRUZ Stroller with MESA Car Seat
The stroller: UPPAbaby’s CRUZ stroller offers a versatile frame and a removable “toddler seat” which can be used for infants as well. Children can ride rear-facing or forward-facing, reclined or upright, and the toddler seat can be replaced with UPPAbaby’s MESA car seat. It’s worth noting that UPPAbaby offers an adapter which allows the frame to be used with Chicco and Maxi-Cosi car seats as well.
The CRUZ also has a large basket, extendable handlebar, and large extendable sunshade.
The car seat: UPPAbaby’s MESA car seat fits infants from 4 lbs (1.8 kg) to 35 lbs (15.9 kg), who are up to 32 inches (81.3 cm) in height. Like other travel system car seats, the MESA is rear-facing only. The MESA car seat comes with an easy-install base offering self-retracting LATCH connectors and a window indicating whether it’s correctly installed.
The car seat also includes a no-rethread harness, breathable fabric, and an adjustable headrest. It fits without adapters into the CRUZ stroller. This seat includes an “infant insert” intended for babies who weigh between 4-8 lbs (1.8-3.6 kg).
How much does it weigh? UPPAbaby’s CRUZ stroller frame weighs 15 lbs (6.8 kilograms) on its own. When you use the toddler seat and frame together, it weighs a total of 21.5 lbs (9.75 kg). The MESA car seat weighs 9.9 lbs (4.49 kg) without the base, and 18.9 lbs (8.57 kg) with the base.
The pros: The MESA is a sleek car seat which solves the biggest problem facing parents who use infant car seats: properly installing the seat’s base. The two indicators and easy LATCH adjustment mean it’s hard to go wrong, and
The cons: Neither the car seat nor the stroller has machine-washable fabric. Also, even though the stroller reclines, it doesn’t allow the child to lay fully straight with their legs out (unless it’s a small infant and you don’t use the harness).
Is it for you? If you’re looking for a quality travel system with handlebar protection that isn’t yankable foam, and don’t mind the inconvenience of hand-washing everything, this is the travel system for you.
4. Graco FastAction Fold Jogger Click Connect Baby Travel System
The stroller: As a jogging stroller, the FastAction Fold Jogger Click Connect has three large wheels and is easier to maneuver than a four-wheel stroller. It offers 3- and 5-point harness options, has a one-hand fold, and can hold children up to 50 lbs (22.7 kg).
The Fold Jogger Click Connect is compatible with all Graco infant car seats. Its front wheel both swivels and locks. However, though this stroller does recline, the specs don’t mention a full (180 degree) recline.
The car seat: Graco’s SnugRide car seats are among the most popular among US parents, and for good reason: It’s a classic seat, based on a design that’s been around for years, if not decades. Nowadays, these seats come with a base (included in the travel system) and offer an option to use LATCH instead of your car’s seatbelt.
Graco’s FastAction Fold Jogger Click Connect travel system includes Graco’s SnugRide 35 infant car seat, which fits babies from 4-35 lbs (1.8-15.9 kg), and until they reach a height of 32″ (81 cm). The downside of this car seat is that it doesn’t come with an easy-install system, though using the base does make proper installation somewhat easier.
How much does it weigh? The car seat weighs 7.8 lbs (3.5 kg) without its base, and the stroller weighs 30 lbs (13.6 kg).
The pros: The Graco FastAction Fold Jogger stroller is sturdy, maneuverable, and comfortable for parents and kids.
The cons: There’s no easy-installation features, and even though Graco’s car seats have been proven safe over the decades, it’d be kind of nice to see some upgrades.
Is it for you? If you’re looking for sturdy, simple, safe, decent quality, and relatively inexpensive – go with the Graco.
5. Baby Trend Expedition Jogger Travel System
The stroller: The Baby Trend Expedition Jogger Travel System (or Baby Trend Expedition Travel System) accommodates children up to 50 lbs (22.7 kg) and 42″. The handle is ergonomically shaped, and the stroller includes a 3-wheel jogging stroller with bicycle tires and a swivel and locking front wheel.
This stroller doesn’t flaunt a one-hand fold, but it does say it has an “effortless trigger fold.” One very good thing is that it has reflectors on the footrest, providing added visibility for parents and kids walking at night. Also, its canopy is adjustable.
The car seat: The Expedition Jogger Travel System comes with an infant car seat and an EZ Flex-Loc base. The car seat accommodates infants who weigh between 5 and 30 lbs (2.2-13.6 kg), and who are less than 30 inches (76.2 cm) in height.
The car seat’s height-adjustable base is LATCH equipped and includes an indicator to aid proper installation. That said, I didn’t see any unique safety features which would tip the scales in its favor.
The car seat’s best feature? Its unique carrying handle, which features a crossbar allowing for a variety of carrying positions.
How much does it weigh? All told, the travel system weighs 41 lbs (18.64 kg). After much digging, I found that what seems to be its car seat weighs 10.5 lbs (4.7 kg) without the base. Its stroller – when sold without the car seat – weighs 26 lbs (11.8 kg). However, the base (belonging to the car seat I found) weighs 6 lbs (2.7 kg), and these numbers, quite frankly, are not matching up.
If weight is important to you, skip this one.
The pros: It’s safe, it comes in lots of cool colors, and it’s super-cheap.
The cons: The reviews on this travel system are split, with half the parents loving it, and the other half complaining that it did not stand the test of time. Another common complaint was that the car seat straps were uneven. Those who loved it praised the maneuverability, the fact that it’s lightweight, and its ease of use.
Is it for you? If you’re looking for a cool travel system, but don’t want to spend a lot of money, this is the one for you.
6. Evenflo Vive Elite With Embrace Infant Car Seat
The stroller: Evenflo’s Vive Elite stroller accommodates babies and toddlers up to 50 lbs (22.7 kg) or five years of age. The stroller brags of an extra-slim fold, easy brakes, and a two-way pivoting tray. As a four-wheel stroller, the Vive Elite trades some maneuverability for added stability.
The car seat: The Vive Elite car seat fits children between 4 and 35 lbs (1.8-15.9 kg) and 17-30 inches (43-76 cm). Unlike most of the other sites, Evenflo’s site specifies a basic fact true for all rear-facing seats: The child’s head must be at least one inch (25 mm) below the top of the car seat.
One good thing is that the car seat’s harness adjusts from the front instead of the back. However, other than that, this seat doesn’t specify any special safety features, and I have to assume (it doesn’t specify) the seat is LATCH compatible.
How much does it weigh? Unfortunately, I was unable to find separate weights for the car seat and the stroller. According to Amazon, both together weigh 67 lbs (30.45 kg). I would have to assume that includes the car seat base; however, though I assume the base is included, it’s not absolutely clear from their site or from Amazon that that’s the case.
The pros: The car seat’s harness is easy to adjust, and the stroller folds compactly, to fit, in Evenflo’s words, “any size vehicle, from large to small.” And though the car seat doesn’t have any easy installation features, it’s won a few safety awards.
The cons: The stroller is not a one-hand fold, though (and the company doesn’t claim it is), so if that’s an important feature, you’ll probably want to look elsewhere.
Is it for you? If you’re looking for simple, safe, compact, no-frills car seat at a can’t-be-beat price, this is the one for you.
7. Peg Perego Booklet Travel System
The stroller: Of all the strollers I’ve seen, the Peg Perego Booklet is one of the absolute lightest. At 9 kg, this stroller is super-easy to maneuver, and the suspension and ball bearings allow for 360 degree agility. Though this isn’t technically a jogging stroller, both front wheels swivel and lock.
Also, the Booklet’s handle is height-adjustable, and there’s a hook under the hood for a favorite toy.
The car seat: Peg Perego’s Primo Viaggio 4/35 car seat can seat children between 4 and 35 lbs (1.8-15.9 kg) and up to 32″ (81 cm) tall. The car seat comes with a base and – get this – an integrated anti-rebound bar. The car seat also attaches easily to the stroller’s frame, without any additional adapters.
In addition to the anti-rebound bar, the Primo Viaggio 4/35 also has color-coded belt paths for when the base is not in use, and a scalloped bottom to ensure more stability when used in vehicles. Plus, it has a no-rethread harness which adjusts to six different positions.
When used with the base, the Primo Viaggio 4/35 uses Peg Perego’s “Right Tight” system to lock the base in place. This is true whether the car’s seat belts or LATCH tethers are used.
How much does it weigh? The Booklet stroller weighs 19.8 lbs (9 kg), and the Primo Viaggio 4/35 car seat weighs 9.5 lbs (4.38 kg).
The pros: The Peg Perego Booklet travel system is top quality and offers important safety features that you’ll be hard-pressed to find in other infant car seats, high quality, and lots of great features for parents.
The cons: The stroller isn’t intended for children over 3.
Is it for you? If you’ve got the money for this top-quality travel system, go for it. If you’re looking for something cheaper, pick one of the other options on this page.
Want to see how the technical details compare?
What do these weights mean?
The weight of the stroller determines, in large part, how easy it’ll be for the wind to tip it over – and how easy it’ll be for you to stash it in the trunk of your car or walk up a short (or long) flight of stairs with it.
It’s important to understand that “umbrella” strollers usually weigh about 12 lbs (5.5 kg), and heavy duty strollers can weigh 30 lbs (13.6 kg) or more. Most strollers are somewhere in the middle.
Before you buy a travel system, you’ll want to check the weight of the stroller and how heavy the stroller and car seat are when used together.
Remember you are buying a car seat AND a stroller
Earlier, we said there are three things you need to think about when buying a travel system: the car seat, the stroller, and how they work together.
On the whole, strollers are easier to buy. They need to be strong and sturdy, not to have a history of recalls, and to match the parent’s needs. Car seats, on the other hand, need to keep your child safe in case of a road accident, and they need to fit in your car.
Car seats used in travel systems are infant seats. They’re not made for children above a year or so, and certainly, you won’t plop a toddler in a car seat onto your stroller.
Before you buy a car seat, you’ll need to make sure it’s safe (all of the ones in this article meet safety standards), and you’ll need to make sure it fits in your car. This is especially true if you already have a child or two buckled into a safety seat in your back row.
Car seat + stroller = travel system
To determine which travel system is best for you, first find a company whose car seat you like.
Then, look for travel systems incorporating that car seat. For instance, Chicco’s KeyFit 30 car seat is included in several of the company’s travel systems. True, I wrote about the Chicco Bravo Trio travel system. But the same car seat is included in the Cortina CX, Viaro, and Coal KeyFit Magic Infant sets.
Chicco isn’t the only company who does that. Graco does it, too, and there are others as well.
How to Avoid Making Mistakes
Six years ago I was all gung-ho to choose a travel system, and I even made sure it was handled stairs easily and folded in, not out. What I forgot to check was if I could carry it easily, and how easy it would be to maneuver the stroller with a 20-pound child in it instead of a nine-pounder. The answer? Not easy.
To avoid mistakes like mine when choosing your travel system, make a list of what you want.
Do you do a lot of walking? Do you need your stroller to fit in the trunk of your car? Are you tall, or does your stroller need to fit behind a pushed-back driver’s seat? Maybe it needs to fit through your building’s elevator doors, and maybe you need something you can easily toss in the machine.
Regardless, be sure you can easily steer and maneuver your stroller, both with and without a car seat attached. Also make sure the stroller isn’t too heavy for you to lift on your own. If it is, taking it in and out of your trunk, or up and down stairs, will be….purgatory.
To sum up, think about your lifestyle, and make a list of your needs. Then, find the travel system which will meet those needs.
Frequently Asked Questions
What should I look for in a travel system?
We recommend you give top priority to safety and comfort. Also take into account ease of car seat installation, maneuverability, weight, easy stroller folding, and stroller incline.
How do I choose the best travel system for my family?
To determine which travel system is best for you, first find a company whose car seat you like. Then, look for travel systems incorporating that car seat. For instance, Chicco’s KeyFit 30 car seat is included in several of the company’s travel systems. See more examples in our list of best travel systems.
What is the difference between a travel system and a car seat stroller combo?
Since a travel system is a combination of a stroller and a car seat, the two are essentially the same thing
If you’re looking for extra safety features and high quality, then you’re best off with the Britax B-Agile 3/ B-Safe 35.
If you want the best value for the money, go with the Chicco Bravo Trio.
If you want to save big, choose the Baby Trend Expedition Jogger or the Evenflo Vive.
Do you have a travel system to recommend? Have you used any of these travel systems? Let us know in the comments.