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Baby and Toddler Travel System 2014 Reviews
Finding a Safe Baby Travel System
OK, I'll have to confess that when I was expecting my first baby, I didn't realize there was such a thing as a baby travel system. I thought car seats and strollers were bought independently of each other.
A travel system includes an infant car seat/carrier, a car seat base that stays in the car, and a stroller that can work both with and without the car seat. Part of the appeal of a travel system is how easy it is on you, as a parent.
Imagine this: you put your baby in his car seat/carrier, carry him out to the car, put the seat in the base, drive to the store, take the carrier (with baby inside, of course) out of the car, and attach the carrier to the stroller to go into the grocery store. Once you're done shopping, you do the same thing in reverse. In this scenario, you've done all of that without removing your baby from his carrier-imagine how nice that would be when the baby's asleep!
When you're shopping for a new baby travel system, the most important thing to keep in mind is your child's safety. Remember that the car seat is the most important part of the travel system-it's the part that will keep your baby secure in the car.
Luckily, every car seat that's sold in the United States has to meet tight government standards, but you'll still want to make sure that the seat's measurements will fit well in your car. Also, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, car seats with a 5-point harness and that are compatible with newer cars' LATCH systems are the most effective at keeping children safe. (LATCH is an acronym for Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children.)
You'll have a few other things to consider when shopping for a travel system, as well-most of which depend on your preference. For example, think about what kind of stroller would best fit your lifestyle.
Do you want a stroller that's lighter or bulkier? How big would you need the stroller's storage compartment to be? Do you want the travel system's colors to coordinate? (Hey, that's important to some parents.)
You'll also want to consider how much you're willing to spend for a travel system. Consumer Reports has found that many travel systems are more cost-effective than a separate car seat and stroller, partly because the stroller can often be used beyond the infant stage.
Baby Trend Expedition LX Travel System
This travel system's car seat is highly rated, and it comes with an EZ Flex-Loc base. The seat has a 5-point harness, which, as I've mentioned, is much safer for children than a 3-point harness. It fits infants weighing between 5-22 lbs. and up to 30" tall.
The Baby Trend Expedition LX Travel System is one of the few that use a jogging stroller, rather than a standard stroller. The stroller's frame is made of lightweight steel, and it sports all-terrain bicycle tires.
It can be used for children who weigh up to 50 lbs. and 42" in height-like many travel systems, the stroller can be used as your child grows. Its storage basket is large, which is nice for carrying everything you and your baby need for long, outdoor outings.
The stroller also features a padded, ergonomic handle that is extra wide. If you want to use the stroller without the infant carrier, the stroller's seat is padded, and the seat back reclines to several positions.
For your convenience, this stroller has two cup holders near the handle for the parent (although why you'd need two beverages at one time is a mystery to me-the stroller's tray has cup holders for your child). An added bonus is the reflector on the stroller's footrest, which provides nice visibility to oncoming evening traffic.
It is also certified by the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association.
Evenflo Journey 300 Stroller with Embrace 35 Car Seat
Personally, my favorite thing about the Evenflo Journey 300 Stroller with Embrace 35 Car Seat, Marianna travel system is that it comes in such cute fabric patterns. Silly, I know. But it's a good choice for other reasons, too.
For one, the car seat harness can be adjusted from the front of the seat-that can be a huge time saver and a major convenience. The seat has also been side-impact tested, so your child will be safe in the event of a side collision.
It meets all of the federal standards for car seat safety-and it even exceeds some of them. And it has a level indicator on both sides of the car seat, so you can tell whether you've installed it in your car correctly. It can hold a child who weighs from 4-35 lbs.
The stroller has plenty of nice features, too. It has ample cargo space under the seat for a diaper bag and whatever else you might need to carry with you. The rear brakes are foot-activated, so you won't have to bend over to engage them. The front wheel can also lock, for added safety.
It has Evenflo's trademarked "Stand Hold and Fold" technology, which means the stroller can be folded with one hand and can also stand on its own when folded up. (Yes, they really trademarked that phrase.) The stroller has front and rear suspension on the wheels, so your baby's ride will be extra-smooth. It can fit a child up to 40 lbs.
Graco Spree Travel System
The best thing about the Graco Spree Travel System, Barcelona Bluegrass is that it includes the top-rated, super-popular Graco SnugRide car seat. The SnugRide has every car seat safety feature you've ever heard of.
Its liner is made with energy-absorbing foam, it's been crash-tested and safety-tested to meet or exceed all of the relevant federal safety standards, it has a five-point safety harness, and it has earned high marks from publications like Consumer Reports.
The seat snaps into the base securely, but it's also easy for a parent to snap it back out. And, for convenience, the seat cover can be removed and washed. It holds children up to 22 lbs. and 29" long.
The stroller has a 5-point harness that can be converted to a 3-point harness as your child grows-it can carry a child up to 50 lbs., so you can use it for considerably longer than the car seat. The front wheels are lockable, and they also feature suspension for a smooth ride.
The stroller has a good-sized storage area under the seat, and the seat is padded and can be reclined in multiple positions. It can also be folded with one hand, and it stands on its own when folded. The infant's cup holder tray swings open easily, and there's a similar tray and cup holder for you near the handle.
Chicco Cortina KeyFit 30 Travel System
The car seat for the Chicco Cortina KeyFit 30 Travel System in Adventure is a little more versatile than most-it fits infants up to 30 lbs., whereas most infant seats can only be used up to 22 lbs. It's lined with energy-absorbing foam, like some of the other models I've mentioned here.
The car seat base for this travel system can be adjusted with an easy-to-use, spring-loaded foot; it also has bubble level guides so you can make sure the car seat is installed correctly. It's compatible with LATCH systems and can be adjusted with one pull.
If your vehicle doesn't have a LATCH system, the base includes a seat-belt-locking system. The straps on the seat can also be easily adjusted with one pull from the front.
The stroller for this system has a light, aluminum frame. The stroller's seat (if you want to use the stroller without the infant seat attached) has a 5-point harness and Chicco's Memory Recline system-it "remembers" in what position the seat was reclined the last time you used it.
When the seat is fully reclined, you can still access the storage basket. Its rear brakes are linked, which makes them simple to engage quickly. My favorite feature on the stroller is the adjustable handle-it can be moved up or down to fit your height.
Graco Dynamo Lite Travel System
This travel system comes with the ever-popular Graco SnugRide car seat-you can see details about the car seat above, under Graco Travel Spree. I like that the Graco Dynamo Lite Travel System is so highly safety-rated.
As long as you've installed the seat into your car correctly, you can rest assured that your baby will be comfortable and will be as safe as possible.
The stroller that comes with this system is very light, as far as travel systems go. That's a big plus--the weight of travel systems in general is a common complaint from parents.
The stroller seat reclines to multiple positions, and it's also able to lie flat. The storage basket is fairly large; it has plenty of room for your baby's travel essentials. There are also plenty of cup holders included, and the child's tray in the front swings open easily.
A small window in the stroller's sun canopy lets you see your child while you walk. It can hold a child weighing up to 50 lbs.