There’s tons of baby gear to spend money on, but you can’t buy everything you want. Every family with kids needs a car seat — it’s an absolute necessity. And for many parents, a stroller has become an absolute must-have.
What if you could buy a car seat stroller combo (aka travel system stroller or simply travel system)? The best travel systems out there can leave your bank account or credit feeling less than thrilled. Luckily, there are cheaper options that do the job. But which are the best budget travel systems for price-conscious families?
In this post, you’ll get a nice little list of 5 good stroller car seat combos for parents on a budget. More importantly, you’ll learn how to pick out a car seat/stroller combo that meshes well with your baby’s needs and your lifestyle.
Who Came Out on Top in the Budget Travel Systems Showdown?
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The Chicco Bravo Trio Travel System carried the day. It has the looks, but it also offers many great features that together make for a safe, comfortable ride each time. The handle is height adjustable so parents can take turns to push baby. Plus, there’s a parent tray and cup holder, but none of this for an older child.
The under-seat storage is generous as is the sun canopy with a peek a boo window. The wheels roll nicely over multiple surfaces, just not as well on grass and rocky terrain. It steers great, and the all-wheel suspension makes the glide even smoother.
The LATCH-equipped car seat (the top-rated Chicco KeyFit 30 infant car seat) installs simply and securely. And it’s not too heavy. Also, the stroller collapses and folds easily, and it doesn’t gobble up all of the available trunk room.
However, the brakes’ placement seems somewhat awkward. And they don’t activate as easily as others. But they work.
Overall, this is a good stroller car seat combo that scores of parents and grandparents out there love. While it has a flaw or two, it’s nothing too bad as to be a deal breaker.
Why Choose a Travel System?
There’s a bunch of benefits of a travel system you need to be aware of so you can decide if this buy would be a lifesaver for you.
6 Reasons to Buy a Travel System Stroller
Reason #1: If you purchase a stroller with a car seat, you get to own both baby safety equipment at once. No need to spend time researching the best car seat and then spending even more time researching the best compatible stroller for it.
Reason #2: Choosing a stroller/car seat combination guarantees that you won’t have compatibility issues of any kind with the purchase.
Reason #3: With a 2-in-1 baby stroller, there’s a high chance you might save a decent amount of change. Consider this: there are many standalone strollers out there that cost an arm and a leg. For example, the Cybex Priam4 Stroller sets parents back over $1, 000. I’ve even seen a stroller that costs over $4,000! It’s a luxury stroller and all that, but it costs nearly five grand.
On my list are sub-$150 car seat stroller combos that work satisfactorily. You end up with a stroller and a car seat at a combined price that’s way below what many single strollers out there cost.
Reason #4: A compatible and foldable travel system is a space-saving product for parents and other caregivers who live in small apartments or tiny homes.
Reason #5: With this kind of a stroller, you always have a stroller and a car seat wherever you go. The car seat stays on the backseat most of the time while the stroller side stays in the trunk. You’re looking at a super convenient choice here.
Reason #6: One great thing about a travel system stroller is that you can use it to haul baby around right from birth. With many regular sit-up baby strollers, carrying a newborn baby isn’t possible because the little passenger can’t hold their head up.
Well, some strollers work well for newborns. If you decide to go with a single stroller for whatever reason, that’s OK. A good newborn baby stroller is one that comes with a bassinet or lets you mount a bassinet, reclines completely flat, or lets you mount an infant car seat.
Travel System Alternatives
Some parents in the US and many parts of the world don’t ever use a stroller, and their little ones have survived and turned out OK in the end. Admittedly, a baby stroller isn’t an absolute must have baby gear. Besides, there are alternatives to baby strollers you may want to consider as well.
If you don’t want to purchase a travel system stroller, you can get any of the following 3 alternative products for your LO:
- A baby carrier
- A stroller frame
- A normal stroller that can be paired with a car seat (that is, a regular stroller that comes with an adapter for mounting a car seat)
Baby Carriers vs Strollers
A baby carrier is a fabric-constructed pouch that enables you carry baby close to your body. There are different types of baby carriers to choose from, and this article describes the various kinds you can buy.
For getting baby from the car to a stroller or to the house or for just walking about with your LO, you can choose an easy-to-wear baby wrap or soft-structured carrier. Get something you can quickly put on at a parking lot.
If you see yourself hiking quite a bit with your baby/toddler, get a good backpack baby carrier. And if you have a weak back, be sure to select a baby carrier that provides loads of lumbar support/lower back support. Here’s a list of the best baby carriers with lumbar support for moms and dads with problematic backs.
Some Parents Prefer Carriers Over Strollers
Many parents who prefer baby carriers over strollers love them because they’re super lightweight by design compared to a stroller. They’re also more convenient to use.
Picture a tired mom trying to pick her way through a crowds in densely populated city streets with baby strapped in a stroller versus the same mom wearing baby in a stylish, slim, lightweight baby carrier.
Also, carriers are easier to care for and maintain compared to strollers. Most are machine-washable and made from quick-drying fabrics.
If you plan on purchasing a regular toddler stroller once your LO is mature enough to hold up their neck on a stroller, consider buying a good newborn baby carrier to tote your baby in from birth to month 6.
Plus, carriers in general are cheaper than strollers. The best part? They encourage parent/child bonding, particular ring slings and baby wraps.
A Regular Stroller + a Car Seat Adapter
You can opt to go with a conventional baby stroller that converts into a car seat with the use of an adapter. In some cases, the adapter comes as part of the deal, but in many cases you’ll have to purchase the adapter separately. The vast majority of full-size strollers on the market today are car seat-friendly.
This is like owning a travel system that you build yourself as opposed to purchasing a complete option from the same brand. But you risk the car seat not being compatible with a stroller. And for the most part, you’ll spend more money versus buying the two products as a single, properly matched unit.
One reason parents go this route is that the best stroller isn’t always combined with the best car seat in stroller seat combos. You may find a stroller you like, but the car seat it comes with isn’t one you like.
Buying them separately allows you to get the best car seat for the money and combine it with the best stroller to make a piece of baby gear that works like a dream. If you value flexibility and are a die-hard do-it-yourselfer, consider this alternative.
A Stroller Frame
Some parents choose to buy a stroller frame instead of a travel system due to economic and lifestyle reasons. A stroller frame is basically what the name suggests: a basic stroller frame with wheels but without a seat pad.
Stroller frames enable you to mount an infant car seat so that you don’t have to carry baby and a heavy infant car seat in the crook of your arm all the time. Carrying a car seat this way can be both strenuous and unsafe. Here’s how to carry a car seat without killing your back in the process.
Who is a stroller frame for? Stroller frames are for folks who move a lot in and out of the car with baby. They’re lightweight yet sturdy and foldable and let you do short walks away from the car with baby. You can use this option right from birth with an infant car seat until year 1.
Here’s one advantage a travel system has over a stroller frame/infant car seat comb. Once baby outgrows the infant car seat, you can simply transition them to the stroller side of things and …problem solved.
How to Choose the Right Cheap Travel System (A Buying Guide)
How do you select a cheap-but-not-crappy travel system when money is tight? I wrote a detailed guide to help you along as you shop around the web or wherever. Once you understand what to look for in a budget travel system, you’ll tremendously increase the chances of bagging a product the both of you will love.
What Kind of Terrain Will the Travel System Roll On?
Think about all the places you see the days ahead taking you and your little one. Consider what the terrain looks like and choose a travel system design to tackle those kinds of surfaces.
If you’ll mostly push the stroller on smooth sidewalks and city streets and other high-quality paved terrain, a city-style stroller will do the job. You can choose a travel system with foam tires (they never go flat) because these wheels work well on smooth surfaces.
What if you’re a jogging fanatic and see yourself and baby rolling down bumpy dirt trails? Get a jogging stroller. This stroller style features massive pneumatic rubber tires that defeat every kind of challenging terrain you throw at them.
Related: Budget All-terrain baby strollers
And if you envision strolls that traverse both smooth and rough terrain, an all-terrain travel system would probably be the best choice. An all-terrain stroller isn’t a jogging stroller. It’s a regular everyday-use stroller that works well on a variety of surfaces. Some all-terrain options will even handle snow.
Related: Best Canadian-snow Baby Strollers
Buy a Complete System or Build Your Own Travel System?
There are pros and cons of choosing either route. If you buy a “complete” travel system from a brand, there’s no chance that the stroller and car seat may be incompatible.
People who know what they’re doing handpick the stroller and match it with a fitting car seat. These units tend to be cheaper than self-assembled travel systems. However, you’re not always sure that both sides of the unit ooze quality.
Expect to save anywhere from $70 to well over $100 if you buy a single unit. You’d save way more if you ended up building your own travel system using a luxury stroller and a matching car seat.
Since you’re interested to get a low-cost travel system because saving money is a priority for you, go with a factory-built option. It’ll save you not only time but also money.
Travel System Weight: How Heavy is Too Heavy?
If you’re a city mom living in an apartment on the third floor, get an easy-to-carry travel system stroller. The same goes for parents who’ll get into and out of cabs, trains, and buses a lot. Get something whose constituent parts (stroller and car seat) are not too heavy. It also needs to fold down quickly and safely and compact enough to store in the trunk.
That said, most travel systems are pretty heavy since they consist of a car seat, a base for the car seat (stays in the car), and a baby stroller. Travel systems weigh anywhere between 25-40 pounds. See, they’re heavy. The Chicco Bravo Trio Travel System weighs 32.6 pounds. Be sure to check the specs to learn the weight of the car seat and stroller individually.
But before you decide you don’t want this thing, consider this: you won’t need to lift both at the same time, at least not most of the time. For example, you might leave the car seat in the vehicle and wheel baby to the house on the stroller.
The car seat needs to meet all the stroller safety requirements required by the NTHSA. If the car seat and stroller are safety-certified, then the travel system is certified. ALL car seats sold in the US market are deemed to be properly certified and should be safe for use.
But be careful when buying a travel system online because it’s been found (by Consumer Reports) that some sellers online have been selling non-certified car seats and strollers. Here’s a simple rule to help you avoid travel systems of questionable safety credentials: buy from well-known and trusted brands, and check to make sure that the product’s not been the subject of a recall due to safety concerns.
Car Seat Stroller Compatibility
You don’t need to worry about this at all if you opt to purchase a stroller and car seat together. The manufacturer does the pairing for you and all you need to do is pick what makes the most sense for your needs and the budget you have.
Ease of Use and Care/Maintenance
Choose an easy to fold and unfold travel system. Get something whose stroller and car seat smoothly and whose safety harness is certified and adjusts easily.
If the thing has complex mechanisms that you have to battle each time you want to use the travel system, don’t buy it. Reading travel system stroller reviews should help you know which options to stay away from.
Additionally, you want a choice that’s easy to clean. If the seat pad and canopy of the travel system are removable and machine washable, that’s really nice.
Related: How to Clean a Stroller
I’ve seen strollers with a non-detachable seat pad and stroller canopy, and they’re not the easiest to clean since you have to clean them manually/spot clean the stroller.
Features and Accessories: Sun Canopy, Cup Holders, Storage Pockets, Snack Trays, foot-muff etc
The best options offer nice extras such as has cup holders, snack trays, a few storage pockets for stuff such as keys, m0bile phone, credit cards, and whatnot. Most budget strollers have foam handles while pricier options have leather handles.
Foam handles are OK. As long as they’re grippy, they’re OK, but they tend to get dirty and soiled pretty fast. Leather handles aren’t typically found on budget travel systems, and leather has been know to cause blisters in some cases.
A sun canopy on a travel system is an absolute must. Get a stroller with a UPF50+ sunshade, and the shade shouldn’t be too skimpy that it doesn’t do much for baby on those sweltering hot summer days.
A peekaboo window so you can keep an eye on the tyke underneath would be a nice idea, but most budget strollers of any kind don’t have this feature.
How Much Does a Budget Car Seat Stroller Combo Cost?
Aim to spend somewhere in the $150-$200 range. These may not be the best of the best in terms of component quality, but they do the job. Some may be somewhat flimsy and may not last very long, but that’s to be expected of budget products of any kind. Also, some cheap strollers have been known to tip over, spilling stuff and putting the little passenger’s well-being at risk. Fortunately, there’s a simple stroller hack that can help stabilize that low-cost stroller: use ankle weights.
If you’re looking for the best travel system under $500, you’re at the right place. Because none of the recommendations here cost a dime more than $500 at this writing.
Best Travel System Brands?
If you prefer buying from brands many parents know and trust, stick with Chicco, Enflo, Nuna, Maxi Cosi, Graco, Baby Trend, Baby Jogger, Britax, Safety 1st, and others. I’m not saying that every travel system from these stroller/car seat brands is flawless.
5 Top Car Seat Stroller Combos
Let’s get this out of the way already: my top pick isn’t a budget option. So, why did I include it? Because it’s probably the best travel system that can be had at that price point. But don’t worry. I included a couple of truly low-cost travel systems for parents on a tight budget.
1.Chicco Quick-fold Bravo 3-in-1 Trio Travel System: Best Travel System for the Money
The Chicco Bravo Trio isn’t the cheapest travel system, but I included it anyway. It’s a perfect balance between product quality and cost. It’s one of the best travel systems you can get at that price point.
In case you change your mind and decide you want the best travel system for the money rather than the cheapest one, consider the Chicco Bravo Trio.
So why do I and many parents think that the Chicco Bravo Trio travel system is worth the money?
One look at the Chicco Bravo Trio, and you form the impression it’s a well-made travel system that’ll last years. The smooth round lines of the system make for a nice and slim silhouette and the subtle prints on the fabric lends itself to fashion-conscious parents.
And yes, this choice is available in all sorts of neutral and bold colors to suit every style. Additionally, this fabric is soft and machine-washable as is the fabric on the Chicco KeyFit 30 infant car seat.
Installing the car base of the Chicco KeyFit 30 Infant Car Seat is pretty easy, especially when using the LATCH system. And when installing the infant seat on the stroller, a clicking sound lets you rest in the comfort that the install has completed correctly and securely.
This car seat weighs just 9.5 pounds while the base weighs about 8 pounds. While not the lightest car seat, many parents use it as a portable carrier. You can use this car seat until your kiddo grows to 30″. Once you transition the kiddo to the stroller (weight limit: 50 pounds), you can use it until they outgrow it. Put differently, this is a newborn-to-toddler travel system.
Its 5-point harness offers adjustability around the shoulders, which easily takes care of growth spurts. The crotch strap doesn’t adjust at all, though, but I find this to be the case with most similar stroller car seat combos.
A bubble level on the car seat makes sure you never install it incorrectly. Plus there’s a recline-level indicator. And the padding on the car seat is plush so that each ride can be as comfortable as possible. The same goes for the removable and machine washable seat pad on the stroller and on the leg rest.
The foam padding on the handle dampens push shocks. And since all 4 plastic foam wheels have suspension, steering feels nice and easy even on uneven surfaces. The front wheels have a 7″ diameter versus 9″ for the rear wheels.
The handle is height adjustable too. This makes it possible for short and tall parents to use the same stroller. Then there’s the parent console on the handle plus two deep cup holders. If you have a camera, sunglasses, or a drink, you have enough room for them.
I gave the Chicco Bravo Trio a test stroll to find out how good its puncture-free wheels would be on different terrain. On concrete sidewalks, these tires rolled like a dream. But when I tested them on a mulch-y garden path and cobblestone, I knew instantly they weren’t made for that kind of terrain.
Even though I haven’t noticed slipping, the treads on the wheels could be better. But to be fair, the treads are what you’d expect to find on any set of plastic stroller wheels.
Pull on a handle found on the bottom of the stroller seat pad, and the action automatically folds the Chicco Bravo Trio. You can activate the fold with one hand.
What’s more, you can use this handle to carry the folded stroller, which by the way folds small and compact and takes up very little trunk space.
Additionally, this system comes in a self-standing design and once folded, it stands on its own without tipping over. This ability isn’t unique to this system, but it makes for really easy storage.
Compared to many similar travel systems I know of, this option’s underneath storage basket is quite large. You can store every baby essential there and still have room to spare.
The canopy on the stroller comes down all the way, keeping your kiddo shielded from UV rays and bad weather. But if it ever rains when you’re out strolling, it won’t be much use. Be sure to get a proper rain cover.
And now the not-so-good: the brakes have a somewhat awkward placement, and they don’t engage instantly as is the case with some options. And while there’s a parent tray, there’s no snack tray for toddlers.
- A slim design that fits via narrow grocery store aisles and doorways
- A large storage basket and sun canopy + parent console
- Height-adjustable foam-padded handle
- Available in many bold and neutral colors
- All-wheel suspension that makes steering super easy
- Easy to fold, unfold, and store
- Easy to assemble stroller and car seat
- Works for newborns and toddlers as well
- No need to buy a car seat adapter
- Wheels not great for bumpy terrain
- Breaks could work better
- Not the lightest travel system
- No snack tray for older kids
2. Evenflo Pivot Modular Travel System: Best for Infant Travel System
The best stroller car seat combinations on the planet don’t come in at a sub-$300 price point. But when I found out that the sleek and chic Evenflo Pivot Modular Travel System costs under $300, I just had to try it out and see if it works as well as it looks.
This stroller is significantly cheaper than the Chicco Bravo Trio, but it works really well for the price. Which a growing number of parents think this is one of the best options to buy.
Compared to the Chicco Bravo, the Evenflo Pivot Modular Travel System is lighter. The car seat, base, and bassinet/toddler seat weigh about 38 pounds compared to 40 pounds with the pricier Chicco Bravo. It’s not a huge difference, but any weight difference is a good thing.
For $250 (it cost under $200 in 2017, but prices keep changing, you know), you get a toddler snack tray and a parent’s cup holder. I like that. I know of a few pricier options that don’t offer cup holders or tray holders of any kind. And parents have to spend more money to buy these accessories, which doesn’t seem fair at all.
What you get is a lightweight frame that’s also decently sturdy. This frame comes with a large-sized storage basket on the bottom so you can carry your baby stuff without problems.
If you can’t find any kind of stroller whose seat reclines all the way back to a flat position, your frustration ends now and near. Because this stroller car seat combination comes with a toddler car seat that converts into a nice comfy bassinet whenever needed.
This means you can carry an infant or newborn with this stroller. They may not be old enough to hold up their head, but they don’t need to do any of this since they can simply lie in the bassinet any time they like.
You get to haul your kiddo around in 6 different carrying modes with this stroller. You can install the bassinet so that the baby faces you or faces outwards.
Also, you can configure the stroller so that the infant car seat carries the baby parent-facing or world-facing. You don’t want to sit a baby under 6 months facing rearwards because that’s not a very safe carrying mode for them.
BTW, the infant car seat works for newborns up to 35 pounds (4-35 pounds). And the maximum forward-facing weight capacity hovers around 50 pounds.
Finally, you can mount the toddler car seat (the one that converts to a bassinet) rear facing and forward facing. Nothing feels better than the freedom to transport your little one however you want. Note: You need to remove the belly bar/bumper bar when setting up the bassinet.
Both the bassinet/toddler car seat and infant car seat come with an extendable canopy that doesn’t wrinkle. And you can buy this item in a bunch of nice color palettes including salsa red, sandstone beige, promenade blue, dusty rose, black, and casual gray.
The brakes work well, but you have to step on two brake levers to activate them, which isn’t hard to do. As for the wheels, they’re rubber and plastic, and they work well on smooth to moderately rough surfaces.
But when I pushed this stroller through grass, I did notice a decent amount of resistance there. I concluded that this is a city mom’s stroller and not an all-terrain choice of any kind.
Opening this stroller is easy to do via a tab located on the side, but not as easy folding and opening the Chicco Bravo Trio. And it packs more compact than most, which is good news for parents without tons of trunk room.
You can collapse the Evenflo Pivot Modular Travel System with either bassinet or car seat still on, but the fold works better with either part detached.
- Toddler seat converts to a bassinet for carrying newborns and infants
- Carrier light enough for short carries
- Available in a decent variety of nice color palettes
- Parent and child accessories: trays and cup holders
- An extendable sun canopy that doesn’t wrinkle (both bassinet & infant car seat have a canopy)
- A good stroller car seat/bassinet stroller at a great price point
- 6 different carrying modes
- Wheels not great for demanding terrain or grass
- Folding the stroller can be tricky with the car seat or bassinet in
The Graco Modes Element Travel System is another feature-rich travel system that costs under $300. If you opt to pick up this thing, you’ll end up with a reasonably lightweight car seat stroller that allows for multiple seat configurations.
The infant car seat this comes with is the Graco SnugRide 35 Lite LX Infant Car Seat. The stroller itself (the stroller frame and the stroller/toddler seat) weighs 22.5 pounds, which makes it about as heavy as most strollers of this kind.
As for the infant car seat, it’s not too heavy, and it lets you carry babies right from 4 pounds all the way though 35 pounds/32″ (rear facing). That’s about the same longevity you out of the Evenflo and 31″ from the significantly costlier Bravo Trio.
If your baby is too small for the infant car seat (12 pounds or smaller), you can use the provided insert. And the head support could use a little more padding.
When I tried getting baby from the car in this car seat, it wasn’t an easy task at all. And the same applied to transferring baby from the stroller to the car seat. I’ve tested a bunch of travel systems where switching from the car to the stroller and back is a one-click business. But I can’t that’s the way it was with the Graco Modes Element.
I found that my baby woke up each time I tried yanking the infant car seat away from either the stroller or the car seat base. I had to fight with it and sort of wiggle it this way and that way to get it out, and this cut short baby’s nap time each time. It wasn’t a nice experience, but with time, I got better and better at it and stopped disturbing baby’s sleep during the transfers.
Whether using the toddler/stroller seat or infant car seat, you can carry baby facing the world or facing parent. Also, you can use the stroller seat as a bassinet. In other words, with a few adjustments, you can convert the toddler seat/stroller seat into a bassinet so baby can nap in it whenever they like. Plus the baby can look out at the world or face mom/dad while in the bassinet.
These seating configurations may not seem like such a big deal. But this isn’t something you can do with most budget strollers. It’s something you get only from top of the line options — options whose acquisition would set you back $600+.
The canopy on both the infant car seat or stroller seat are quite generous. When it gets too hot, just pull out the shade and block out the UV rays.
You could even install the stroller seat and infant car seat in a way that lets your baby get full coverage from both canopies, but this is something you can do with most modular strollers.
BTW, there’s a peekaboo window on the canopy that allows you to look in and connect with baby at all times. The window-covering flap isn’t magnetic, though, but that that’s no biggie.
The wheels aren’t cut out for rough, cobblestone sidewalks. They’re best suited for rolling over small smooth floorings and concrete. If you see yourself and baby transitioning from smooth to bumpy surfaces often, get an all-terrain or jogging stroll, not the Graco Modes Element LX.
Accessories: both parent and baby get a snack tray and cup holders. However, the cup holders are pretty shallow, like shallow-bowl shallow, and if you ever place your expensive iPhone in there, expect it to fall out any time you hit a bump. Not much of a deal breaker, but still something to note.
Color options: Limited. Graco seems to think neutral gray works for everyone.
- Peekaboo window with a flap
- Seat pads and canopies removable and machine washable
- Large underneath basket
- Removable snack tray and cup holders for kid and parent
- Easy to set up, fold, and unfold
- Offers multiple seating configurations
- Toddler seat turns into a bassinet for when baby wants to nap
- Wheels not good for conquering tough riding situations
- Not expandable to a multi-kid stroller
- Limited color options
- Detaching car seat from stroller or base not super easy
- Cup holders could be deeper
- Bulky when folded down with stroller seat in
This combination includes the Baby Trend Nexton Baby Stroller and the Baby Trend Flex-Loc Infant Car Seat plus a base. The combo looks really nice, and you can get it in a whole spectrum of color combinations.
Most importantly, its price point is nearer $200 than $230, which is what got me curious about the thing. But is the Baby Trend Nexton Travel System worth it? Let’s see.At 35 pounds, this isn’t like the lightest travel system out there. But it’s not too heavy that you shouldn’t give it a chance. It’s tested to restrain babies as young as 5 pounds and as mature as 30 pounds. The maximum height limit is 30″.
What if your baby is too small and can’t use this car seat without an insert? Don’t worry because the deal includes a removable insert pad that makes it possible for smaller infants to use the car seat.
As for the stroller seat, its weight limit maxes out at 50 pounds, which is more or less what most travel systems offer. The seat pad is decently padded and removable, and you can toss it in a washing machine for a quick clean.
Assembling this stroller wasn’t too hard, but it took me longer to complete than I’d expected. At this price point, I didn’t expect a super sturdy stroller, but I was wrong. It felt really solid, and it’s held up to regular use pretty well so far.
The infant car seat installs safely and securely on the base and stroller, but setting it up wasn’t very easy. One thing I like about this seat is that the base allows you to make adjustments that prevent a newborn’s head from tilting forward.
The package includes a removable insert for newborns, but the car seat has no headrest/head support for older babies. That makes the seat a bit uncomfortable; perhaps that’s why this system is cheaper than many.
Be sure to check out the Baby Trend Flex-Loc Infant Car Seat installation video that the manufacturer put out. I found it helpful as did other parents who felt that the install was a tad tricky compared to others they’d done.
Note that this car seat is ONLY rear facing. If an older baby wants to ride world-facing, that won’t be possible with this car seat. But you can always use the toddler/stroller seat whose max weight capacity is 50 pounds.
The stroller’s canopy (and the car seat’s) pulls out to provide a decent amount of coverage from the sun. And there’s a mesh peekaboo window so you and baby can literally keep in touch throughout the ride. Not many budget strollers come with a mesh window, but this one does. I like that the lower part of sun shade has mesh that makes for better air circulation.
The child tray is removable, plus it comes with a removable white plastic cover. Getting the cover out can be somewhat difficult, but it’s doable. There’s also a parent tray, but it could be deeper. And there’s no place on the parent console that’s roomy enough to store a sizeable smartphone.
The basket storage is of a standard size, nothing out of the ordinary, but there’s enough space for baby stuff.
Its three wheel design steers well, and the double front wheels swivel. But this isn’t a jogging stroller of any kind and shouldn’t be used that way. The wheels plastic and rubber, and while they roll nicely on smooth sidewalks, they do a bad rolling job over grass and rocky or bumpy terrain.
Folding isn’t too hard, but it does take some getting used to. It’s definitely not an easy one-hand fold as described.
- Car seat base allows for adjustments that help keep the head up rather than tilted forward
- Cute patterns in a nice color palette on the inside of stroller
- Sizeable underneath storage
- Peekaboo window
- Uniquely shaped car seat handle for easier carrying
- Child and parent tray and cup holders
- A newborn to toddler travel system at a good price point
- Not as many seat configurations
- Wheel quality could be better
- No head support on the car seat
5. Baby Trend Expedition Jogger: Best Jogging Travel System
If you envision you and your baby jogging a good portion of your future time together, consider a jogging-style travel system. Now, jogging strollers aren’t cheap at all, but this one costs $200ish at time of writing. That’s a really nice price point for a real jogging stroller.
Setting up this travel system isn’t hard at all. You won’t need help or special tools to handle the task. Unlike most strollers, this off-road option boasts a high-quality rubbery handle that makes sure you keep a firm grip on the stroller.
And the safety strap on the handlebar prevents stroller from running off with baby strapped in! Finally, the brakes behind each tire seem solid and do a good job of stopping the stroller. With these security features, you can be sure each ride will be nice and safe for baby.
It’s the typical 3-wheel design that characterizes jogging strollers. The wheels are large and are pretty much bicycle-style tires. But how large are the wheels? The rear wheels have a diameter of 16″ while the front wheel’s diameter is 12″. This is about as big a jogger’s wheels get.
It’s hard for me to imagine of any kind of obstacle on regular sidewalks and dirt trails that’d be too tough for these wheels. In case you’re wondering, these tires are from Kenda, and anyone who’s ridden bikes knows that Kenda tires are known for their great ride quality and longevity. Be sure to air up the tires before the first ride since they don’t come inflated.
The front wheel locks to a forward position, allowing you to jog without worrying about sudden, uncontrolled turning that can lead to a bad crash. You may want to pour in some slime/bike tire sealant into those wheels or they’ll keep getting pierced by thorns and things like that.
Pushing this jogging travel system feels way easier compared to pushing any of the other options in these cheap travel system reviews. That’s because the front wheel is large (12″) and swivels 360 degrees.
If your kiddo is younger than 6 months, DO NOT jog with them. Because stroller safety experts warn against doing this. Kids younger than 6 months have weak necks and have trouble keep the head up.
Fortunately, the provided rear-facing infant car seat (the Ez-Flex Lock Infant Car Seat) allows you to haul around newborns from 4 up 30 pounds or 30″ whichever comes first. The LATCH-equipped car seat installs easily and also detaches from the base without a fight.
This car seat is lightweight, lighter than car seats that come with most travel systems. The ergonomically designed handle makes transferring baby from car to stroller or house or grocery store a breeze.
You’ll have to buy a newborn head support cushion though as this isn’t in the box. The padding on the car seat is a relatively thin, flat affair meant to support newborn noggins, but you’ll most likely want to purchase that’s comfier than that.
Once your kiddo outgrows the car seat, transition them to the rear-facing stroller seat. This seat serves toddlers up to 50 pounds or roughly 42″.
When fitting the infant car seat in the stroller, you MUST turn the little knobs just below the folding triggers on the sides of the frame. Also, make sure to hook the plastic tab on the left of the stroller (as viewed from the handles) into the seatbelt strap holder of the car seat. You MUST perform these two actions to make the car seat attach securely on the stroller.
At over 36 pounds, this is on the heavier side of the weight spectrum. But then it’s supposed to be a rugged stroller for doing runs with baby outdoors. Part of the reason it’s heavier than many is that the frame is steel rather than aluminum. While a steel stroller frame bumps up the weight significantly, it makes for a heavy-duty stroller frame that’ll last years.
This jogging travel system’s design has the handle sticking out too far compared to all the other options on this list. It might seem like a design flaw, but there being tons of room between the person pushing the stroller and the wheel axles makes sure the legs don’t keep hitting the axle.
Folding this jogger isn’t hard, but it can be if you don’t push the rear axle with one foot to hold the stroller after pulling the two folding triggers on the side. Once folded, the handle stays down near the ground, and the stroller stands upright. I like that the stroller self-stands, but the idea of touching a germ-ridden handle… I don’t like it very much!
Finally, the basket is generously sized, the canopy is large and extendable, plus it has a peek a boo window. What’s more, the both parent and passenger get snack tray and cup holders.
And now the bad: the newborn insert that comes with the stroller isn’t great quality and may let baby’s head lean into the chest. Not a safe thing at all on or off the car seat. Investing in a softer, better padded insert offers a better fit though.
Aside from that, the crotch strap could be wider, and shoulder straps could be softer. Also, the recline-adjusting toggle on the stroller seat causes it to shift awkwardly to one side. This causes the back of the seat to be and stay uneven. As a result, the little passenger’s head tends to sit at an angle relative to the side of the stroller.
- Not much padding on the included headrest
- A rugged stroller car seat choice that lends itself to regular outdoor use
- Main cushion and headrest for stroller and car seat washable
- Non-slip rubber handle, solid and easy-to-use foot brakes, and safety strap boost stroller security
- An attractive price point for a jogging travel system
- Available in a wide arrange of nice colorways
- Parent and child consoles
- Large air-filled wheels that traverse all kinds of terrain like a pro
- A nice distance between the “pusher” and the rear axle for pain-free pushing
- Front wheel lockable for safe runs
- A decent sized basket for baby’s things
- Air filled tires could get punctured by thorns
- Car seat could be better designed/better quality, but it’s safe
- 5-point harness’ straps not soft enough
- Crotch strap too narrow
Travel System Stroller FAQs
Let’s dive in!
What is a Travel System?
A travel system is a 2-in-1 stroller that consists of a car seat and a stroller. It also consists of a base that stays in the car. The car seat can be removed from the base with the baby still strapped in and clicked into the stroller, creating a travel system.
The point of a travel system it that helps you own a single item while enjoying the combined utility of two. In most cases, choosing a travel system has parents spending $100 or more less than they would have spent had they bought a stroller and a car seat individually to build their own travel system.
Are Travel Systems Safe for Kids?
Travel systems are safe for newborn babies as long as the constituent parts namely the stroller and car seat are safety certified, of which the majority are. If you use the system correctly and carry baby whose weight stays in the stated weight limit, your child should be safe and secure.
According to a pediatrician named Dr. Kelly Fradin, a child wheeling around on a travel system remains as safe as they’d be inside the car if the caregiver uses an approved stroller and the car seat’s attached as instructed.
Child car seat safety experts (healthychildren.org) advise parents not to use a car seat as a sleeping area for a kid outside of the car. If a baby falls asleep while sitting in a car seat, the caregiver should remove them and put them in a newborn bassinet or crib ASAP.
Do I Need a Travel System?
If you and your little one are always riding in a car (who doesn’t?) to some destination, consider investing in a good travel system. With this thing, you’re able to carry the child on the infant car seat for up to 6 months after which they can transition to the full-size stroller the travel system came with. You can remove baby from the car seat and put them onto a stroller without waking them. Kids 6 months and older can use the full-size stroller until they get mature enough to not need one. For many families, it’s the only stroller they’ll ever buy because they’re pretty solid and durable.
Do Budget Travel Systems Work?
Yes, they do. As long as you pick the best travel system for the money, preferably one that’s attracted many honest positive reviews from parents, it’ll do the job.
When Does One Need a Travel System?
Right from birth all the way through toddlerhood. Whether doing shorter or longer road trips with your child, you’ll need the car seat for safe car rides and a stroller for wheeling baby around once you arrive.
What Travel System is Best for Me?
The best travel system for you is what you can afford. Whether it’s a budget stroller or a luxury stroller car seat combo, make sure that the two parts that make it up are approved/safety certified. Did you like my top pick, the Chicco Bravo Trio Travel System? This may not be a budget stroller, but it’s received consistently good reviews over time.
Which is the Best Infant Car Seat and Stroller Combo?
Many parents and their babies particularly in the US and Canada really like the Chicco Bravo Trio Travel System. It’s not too heavy, the parts are well designed and made, and the system switches from car seat to stroller and vice versa fast and easily.
Which is the Lightest Baby Travel System?
At a combined weight of 27.6 pounds (car seat: + stroller:), the Evenflo Pivot Xpand Mondular is one of the lightest travel systems ever made. Many options out there weigh 33-36 pounds in comparison.
Which is the Best Travel System Under $500?
There are many good under-$500 travel systems, but the Chicco Bravo Trio seems to balance between price and construction quality, ease of use, care, looks, features, and comfort better than most.
I'm Esther Moni, a proud stay-at-home mom and a psychology graduate of the United States International University (USIU) . I hate it when anyone calls me a housewife, because what does housewife even mean? Being a mother of two babies and a pup, Bailey, as well as being Ricky's wife tires me to no end, but I still manage a smile at the end of it all. And when my boys aren't done doing mischief, I juggle writing a post on parenting or baby gear performance for this blog and running my little counselling office based out in Nairobi. <a href="https://www.facebook.com/esther.moni/">Visit my Facebook profile here</a>, and this is my <a href="https://ke.linkedin.com/in/esther-moni-3841b573/">LinkedIn profile</a>, and here's my <a href="https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCKcVb3NNDrURDH8C0KiAE1g/">nascent youtube channel.