If you have a baby on the way, you need a safe and comfortable car seat from them. Because hospitals nowadays require parents to have a car seat for carrying the newborn home.
You can buy a travel system, an infant car seat, or even a stroller frame. In this post, I focus on the pros and cons of choosing either a complete travel system or buying a stroller frame instead. I dealt with infant car seats in earlier posts like this one, so I won’t dwell on them here.
Stroller Frame vs Travel System: Which to Choose?
A travel system is a good buy for many new parents because the parent never needs to figure out compatibility between stroller and infant car seat. But they’re pricier and tend to be heavier and harder to steer compared to stroller frames. They’re therefore less convenient to handle especially for parents who have busy and fast urban lifestyles. Stroller frames tend to be lighter, are typically cheaper, tend to steer better, and are more convenient to use.
I’ll now shine some light on the advantages and disadvantages of each stroller type in the hopes that you’ll find choosing between the two options easier. But before I get down to business, what’s a travel system? And what’s a stroller frame?
What is a Travel System?
A travel system is a type of baby gear that consists of a stroller and a rear-facing-only baby car seat. An adapter is used to attach the infant car seat to the stroller, creating a stroller/car seat combination called a travel system.
In most cases, a travel system allows you to attach a bassinet/pram. Also, the stroller seat often reclines to a near-flat position so you can safely carry a newborn.
Travel systems are a pretty popular stroller option, but it’s easy to end up with a purchase you regret down the road. For the most part, travel systems are big and bulky, and they’re not always easy to maneuver in tight spaces.
Related: Best Travel Systems for When Money is Tight
Plus, carrying some of these massive things up and down stairs can be a problem particularly for moms and dads who’re not Arnold-Schwarzenegger kind of strong.
But they’re not a bad choice at all if you know what to look for when shopping for a travel system.
11 Advantages of a Travel System vs. a Stroller Frame
Let’s dive right in.
1.No Stroller/Car Seat Compatibility Issues
When you choose a travel system instead of a stroller frame, there are no compatibility issues to tackle. The manufacturer or seller normally chooses the stroller for parents and matches it with a compatible infant car seat. And doing this completely takes guesswork out of the search for the best stroller/car seat combo.
2.Mounting a Bassinet/Pram/Carrycot
Most travel systems are designed to work with a bassinet/pram/carrycot. Call it whatever you want, but a bassinet lies completely flat and newborns really love snoozing in it.
3.The Seat Reclines to a Near-flat Position
Travel systems typically offer multiple recline positions. The best ones are designed to let you lower the backrest all the way down to create a sort of bassinet for accommodating napping newborns. Before you purchase a travel system of any kind, be sure to read several real reviews to learn which options work best for babies and infants.
4.Lots of Storage Space
If there’s one thing travel systems offer enough of, it’s under-seat storage space. Some choices have a storage basket and additional pockets that combined hold 20lbs+ of baby essentials and your stuff. This is the perfect stroller for grocery runs.
5.Carry Baby from Backseat to Stroller Without Rousing Them
This is a HUGE reason for choosing for a travel system as opposed to other kinds of strollers. If you want to walk around with your baby when outside of the car, you can use a good baby carrier. But in most cases, you have to rouse baby from nap-land so you can get them into the baby wrap, sling, or soft-structured carrier.
Alternatively, you can detach the infant car seat from its base, grip the handle, and get out of the car with your little one. The beauty of it is that you won’t wind up waking up the little snoozer.
6.They’re Feature-rich Buys
These strollers offers lots of features including cup holders, a large storage basket, lots of zippered pockets for storing small items such as keys, phone, and credit cards. Other features include flip-out snack trays and self-standing folds. Some may be easy to fold even with the car seat/bassinet still attached. Others can be be folded with one hand, but many tend to require two hands to close.
Most stroller brands out there offer a wide range of travel systems in all kinds of designs, colors, and patterns. If you can’t get the features and convenience you and your baby need, keep searching. It won’t be long before you “discover” an option that checks all the boxes for you.
8.A Higher Weight Limit vs. Infant Car Seats and Stroller Frames
When it comes to infant car seats, the minimum weight limit is 4-5 pounds while the maximum weight limit is 30-35 pounds. In some cases, an infant car seat can’t be used for longer than 9 months. And no matter how generous the stroller is in terms of max weight limit, most kids outgrow infant car seats between month 15 and 19.
The same goes for stroller frames. Since stroller frames are used to mount infant car seats, the maximum weight limit never exceeds that of the infant car seat.
In comparison, travel systems have a significantly higher weight limit. A good travel system offers up to 55 pounds and some options have even higher limits (up to 60lbs).
9. Lifespan: the Best Ones Last and Last
The best travel systems last a long time. And because most grow to accommodate the evolving needs of families, the majority of these strollers are a one and done purchase. People who buy the right model pleasantly find this is the only stroller their little ones will ever need.
10. Multiple Carrying Configurations With a Modular Travel System
If you order a modular travel system, you get a stroller that carries your little one/little ones in many different ways. You can carry your infant rear-facing while the older child rides rear-facing. With a modular travel system, you can remove the seat and rear-face or forward-face it depending on what carrying position your kiddo needs.
11. A Travel System Stroller for Every Budget
There are sub-$150 travel systems and $1000 ones. No matter the size of your budget, you should be able to find an option you can afford.
5 Disadvantages of a Travel System
Here they are:
1.They’re Heavy and Bulky
Some travel systems weigh up to 55 pounds, and this is pretty heavy. For me (and I guess for most moms), anything past 25 pounds is heavy. Do you see yourself hauling a 45-pound stroller up a flight of stairs? Me neither.
And when it comes to folding down a travel system to store it in the trunk, it rarely collapses into the smallest, most compact stroller you’ve ever seen. If you have a small car with a small trunk, the only thing you’ll store in the trunk is that massive travel system.
They’re also large, which means maneuvering through crowded streets and sidewalks and parks as well as getting through narrow doorways can be difficult. Speaking of narrow doorways, consider getting a stroller that meets Disneyland size requirements.
2. Steering an Unwieldy Travel System is Rarely a One-handed Task
While some travel systems steer really nicely, many aren’t great in this respect. And if the wheels have no swivel feature and have a 4-wheel design, steering the stroller becomes even more challenging. For the most part, big bulky travel systems have wide turns, which is undesirable in tight spaces.
Related: 3-wheel vs. 4-wheel strollers
3. Quality Control Issues
Since the manufacturer or seller pick the stroller and the infant car seat that goes with it, you as the end user don’t have any control in the overall quality of the travel system.
Sometimes, the car seat is amazing while the stroller is meh. Other times, the stroller is terrific while the car seat is hard-to-use and generally flimsy. Either way you end up with a less-than-perfect travel system, and in some cases a stroller that begins to fall apart sooner than you expected.
4. Some Budget Travel Systems Have a Hard-to-use Harness
Some cheap travel systems have a harness that’s adjusted from the back, and a harness like this one can be really hard to use. Twisty harnesses that stay twisted even after you have strapped baby in can be a pain-in-the-you-know-where. Lightweight travel systems can be a tad flimsy, and it doesn’t take much for some to tip over with baby!
5. Parents Have Expressed Durability Concerns in Some Cases
If you look around the web a bit, you’ll soon learn that cheap travel systems often become regretted purchases down the road. The stroller falls apart within months of purchase, and this happens mostly because the manufactured cheaped out on some of the components. Or the overall quality of both portions (car seat and stroller) of the travel system is poor.
What is a Stroller Frame?
A stroller frame is a essentially a regular stroller frame without the usual padding and fabric found on a regular stroller. It’s basically metal (usually aluminum and other times steel alloy), wheels, and often a sizeable storage basket below where the stroller seat would be.
To create a stroller, all you need to do is get the infant car seat from the backseat of the car and mount it onto the frame. Some stroller frames come with a compatible car seat adapter, but with others you have to buy the adapter separately.
Many parents out there choose to walk the stroller frame path. And they have good reasons for this decision.
Advantages and Disadvantages of a Stroller Frame vs. a Travel System
Let’s start with the pros and do the cons afterward.
1.Stroller frames tend to be more lightweight.
The main reason stroller frames are lightweight is that there’s no padding and fabric. If you choose a lightweight infant car seat, chances are you’ll create a stroller frame/car seat combo that’s easy to carry and store.
2. Quality control: since you get to handpick the frame and infant car seat yourself, you can choose the best frame for the money and couple it with the best compatible car seat you can afford. This way, you won’t wind up with a nice-looking contraption that falls apart in a very short time.
3. Easier to fold and more compact than a travel system: Since there’s no seat padding and backrest on the frame, folding down a stroller frame tends to be easier than closing a travel system. What’s more, this kind of stroller collapses into a more compact fold, one that doesn’t take up as much room in the trunk.
4. Since this option tends to be more lightweight, it’s easier to maneuver in crowded situations. And in my experience, most strollers like this steer better than most travel systems.
5. A cheaper option: In most cases, you end up spending less if you choose this kind of stroller.
1.You Have to Figure Out Stroller/Car Seat Compatibility
Since a stroller frame is just that, a frame, it’s your job to decide which infant car seat to pair it with. If you make a mistake and order the right car seat but wrong adapter, your setup won’t work.
2. A frame stroller may have your infant or toddler seating in the car seat for longer than the American Academy of Pediatricians recommends. According to this source, the AAP doesn’t recommend kids staying strapped in a car seat for longer than 1.5 hours at a time.
3. Limited lifespan: You can only attach an infant car seat onto a stroller frame. Since you can only use an infant car seat for so long, a stroller frame is NEVER a one-and-done buy. You’ll have to graduate your toddler to a convertible car seat when they max out the listed upper weight limits.
2 Travel System and Stroller Frame Alternatives
You don’t have to be like everyone else and buy either a complete travel system or a stroller frame stroller. If you can’t find a travel system you like well enough and don’t find the limited lifespan of stroller frames exactly thrilling, I have an idea or two for you.
Idea #1: Get same-brand stroller and infant car seat from different manufacturers (but not a travel system). You may bump into a great infant car seat that’s sold together with a meh stroller. In this case, you can purchase the infant car seat but buy a different-brand stroller.
Be sure that the stroller from the other brand is actually compatible with the infant car seat you bought. Here’s a list of 22 strollers and the infant car seats they’re compatible with. In that list, you’ll also find 4 infant car seats and EVERY stroller they’re compatible with.
Idea #2: Get a stroller you like from one brand and connect it to an equally good infant car seat from the same brand (not a travel system). For instance, you may get a Graco stroller you really like and then couple it with an amazing Graco infant car seat.
Conclusion on Travel System vs. Stroller Frame
There are certain pros and cons that relate to purchasing a travel system as opposed to a stroller frame. A stroller frame is more lightweight, is more compact and easier to store, generally costs less, and tends to be easier to steer compared to a travel system.
A travel system is bigger and heavier and offers more features, plus it offers a longer lifespan than a stroller frame. But it’s harder to fold and steer in most cases, and even the smallest fold is often too much stroller for most trunks.
Which option would work better for you and your kiddo?