Pros and Cons of Stroller Frames vs. Travel System Strollers

Chicco Bravo Trio Travel System
2014, Chicco

Stroller frames and travel system strollers are two options that offer parents a way to carry an infant car seat easily when outside their vehicle. However, each option has advantages and disadvantages.

Before you choose, take a look at how a stroller frame or travel system might work in your lifestyle. That way, you'll have a better idea of which features you might want or need.

Travel System Pros and Cons

Travel systems are multi-piece sets, sold together as a package, that include a stroller and infant car seat. Some will include extra car seat bases and other accessories. Here's a closer look at the pros and cons of travel systems.

Pros
  • Widely available

  • Many styles, prices, and configurations

  • Comes as a set, so always compatible

  • Tend to have many extra features

  • Maximum weight of 40 to 55 lbs.

Cons
  • May be heavy

  • Tend to be large

  • Steering can be difficult

  • Individual components may lack quality

Pros

With so many options, it's pretty easy to find a travel system that you like. The infant car seat, and usually one stay-in-car base, is included with the travel system. This is helpful because you'll know the stroller and car seat will work well together.

Travel system strollers are usually feature-packed. You likely will not lack for bells and whistles like cupholders or storage space. Some travel systems have great convenience features such as one-hand folding, swing-out front trays, and fully reclining seats for newborns.

Cons

Those extra features add weight. Strollers that weigh more than 25 pounds are ultimately less convenient because they must be lifted in and out of the car.

Heavy strollers are especially inconvenient for parents who have to carry the stroller up and down stairs or onto public transportation.

Some of these strollers don't get a lot smaller, even if you fold them. This means your trunk space is likely to become stroller-only. The size and weight of a travel system can also mean that the steering on the stroller isn't great (wide turns are often necessary).

Sometimes, when companies try to reduce the price of the whole travel system, one component suffers in quality or convenience. For example, infant car seats with the harness adjusters on the back are included in some budget travel systems.

The inconvenience of adjusting the harness when it is behind and underneath the baby in the carrier means many parents just don't adjust the harness properly, which isn't safe. In other travel systems, an excellent car seat is paired with a stroller that is flimsy and may fall apart within a year or two.

With their size and history of durability issues, travel system strollers are one of the most common "regretted purchases" among new parents. There are some good travel systems out there, but there are also many that don't steer well, are heavy, and fall apart too soon.

Stroller Frame Pros and Cons

A stroller frame is just what it sounds like—a frame that you can snap your infant car seat on to form a stroller. Here is an overview of the pros and cons of the stroller frame.

Pros
  • Lightweight and compact

  • May steer more easily

  • Can be cheaper than a travel system

  • Some have extra features

Cons
  • Limited lifespan

  • As baby grows, lifting car seat can be heavy

  • Baby might be spending too much time in the car seat

Pros

Stroller frames are usually lighter in weight and more compact than regular strollers. Since the frames lack the seat mechanism and padding, manufacturers can shave off a few pounds from the total weight and make the whole thing fold a bit smaller.

Sometimes, the stroller's lighter weight translates into better steering, but that will depend on the overall quality of the stroller frame.

Travel system strollers also tend to be on the large side in terms of dimensions, though they're pared down from regular strollers.

Stroller frames are not without their perks. Most have at least a basket and some cupholders, and some have one-hand folding.

Depending on the brand, it can be cheaper to buy a stroller frame and infant car seat separately. Some infant car seat manufacturers make stroller frames to go with their car seats. Others don't make car seats but make stroller frames that fit a wide range of car seats. To find the best price, you might want to try a few combinations.

You might not know what, exactly, you want in a stroller. Buying a less expensive stroller frame to carry the infant car seat can be an economical way to have all of the convenience of the travel system without spending a lot of money on a heavy stroller that you may not like within a year.

Cons

A downside of a stroller frame is that is forces your baby to remain in the car seat when using the stroller. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that babies use the car seat as just the car seat—not as a stroller seat, a seat in a restaurant, as a feeding seat in the house, etc.

The AAP also recommends that parents limit the duration a baby spends in the car seat at any one time to 90 minutes. Then, they need to give them some time out of the car seat.

Stroller frames encourage parents to keep kids in car seats for a long time. Some travel system strollers can be used for a newborn without the car seat, while others cannot.

In terms of how long they'll last, the lack of a seat means the useful life of a stroller frame is limited.

When you're looking at the weight limit of your seat, keep in mind that your child is likely to grow too tall for their infant car seat before they reach its weight limit. Most kids are too tall for the infant seat around their first birthday (if not before).

Once your baby outgrows their infant car seat, you'll need to replace the stroller frame with a different stroller.

Your baby needs to be able to sit upright unsupported before you can safely use the stroller without the car seat.

Another big drawback is that the convenience of the stroller frame will depend on taking the infant car seat out of the car. Once your baby is over 20 pounds, moving the infant car seat around can get tiresome.

You may prefer to just take the baby out of the car instead of the car seat. For that, you will need a separate stroller.

Other Options to Consider

You have more than two options when it comes to fitting an infant car seat to a stroller.

  1. Buy a car seat and stroller from the same manufacturer, but not as a travel system. For example, instead of purchasing the Chicco travel system, parents could buy a Chicco infant seat and a separate Chicco stroller.
  2. Buy a car seat and stroller from different manufacturers. For example, parents can put a Clek Liing infant car seat on an UPPAbaby Vista stroller, a Chicco Fit2 car seat on a Bugaboo Fox...the pairing possibilities go on!
    1. There are more than 100 strollers that will accommodate an infant car seat made by a different manufacturer. Parents can often have the best of both worlds: the car seat that is best for their baby and car, plus the stroller that is best for their family's needs.
      1. Another benefit is that many strollers have bassinets, which are the best way for an infant to ride in a stroller (as they are laying flat and not in a car seat).
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  1. Durbin DR, Hoffman BD. Child Passenger SafetyPediatrics. 2018;142(5) doi:10.1542/peds.2018-2460