Buying a travel system can be a minefield of models, features and safety guidelines. But what should you look out for when buying one?
What is a travel system?
In short, a travel system is a type of buggy. It is made up of a chassis (wheels and base) that is compatible with a infant car seat, a toddler seat and, in some cases, a carrycot.
This means that you can transfer your child from buggy to car and vice versa without the hassle of taking them out of the car seat.
Almost all travel systems can be used with a newborn, however not all models come with a carrycot to lie your baby completely flat and you may need to buy additional adaptors to attach a separate car seat. Travel systems that come with a carrycot and a car seat are known as 3-in-1 travel systems.
Do I need a travel system?
Every parent’s preferences are different, but because travel systems can be bulky and expensive, it’s worth checking whether or not you actually need one. If you often travel by car, a travel system will save you time and energy when out and about with your baby.
They are particularly good for newborns as their carrycot attachment will have a flat recline option (double check this when it comes to the actual pushchair seat unit) and can be removed without you having to wake your baby.
If you rarely use a car, or if you know you’ll frequently be lugging your pushchair up and down flights of stairs, there are a number of lightweight buggies that are both lighter and cheaper than a traditional travel system.
It is worth noting, however, that not all buggies can become travel systems, but some lightweight pushchairs, such as the Babyzen Yoyo+, the Mumsnet Best Luxury Buggy 2019, are compatible with a car seat and can be used as a travel system, which may just give you the best of both worlds.
We’ve tested and reviewed the best pushchairs for newborns, so if weight and size are your concern, then one of these may be more suitable for your needs.
Need more advice? Check out our video below.
How to choose the right pushchair
How much do travel systems cost?
How much you choose to spend on a travel system is completely up to you. Prices range from £250 to over £1000, but bear in mind that even the most expensive model may not be suitable.
If you live in a city, a large off-road travel system will likely be too bulky and, while a huge shopping basket may be great for a trip to the supermarket, it may not be quite so useful when you’re cramming the pushchair into the boot of your car.
Once you’ve found the model and brand you like, shop around as there can be discounts or exclusive packages on offer. And while there’s nothing wrong with picking up a bargain, always buy from a trusted retailer.
Also look at what’s included in your chosen bundle – you might save money in the long-run if you don’t have to buy lots of things separately. More expensive options often come with extras, such as a footmuff, have a sleeker finish and usually offer customisable features.
You might also think about selling your travel system once your child has grown out of it and you can usually expect to get back at least half of its original price (depending on the model), although it’s worth mentioning that many parents won’t want a second-hand car seat due to potential safety risks.
Many travel systems will be compatible with a car seat and a carrycot. Others may have fewer options or certain limitations, such as a seat which is world-facing only.
So let’s break it down.
1. Car seat
With most travel systems, you can either buy a matching car seat along with the system or buy one separately. Buying them together will sometimes end up being cheaper as many manufacturers offer bundle deals, but buying them separately may mean you have more choice and flexibility. Just make sure the two are compatible before you spend any money.
If your travel system comes with a car seat, make sure it meets UK safety standards and is in the right car seat group for your child. If you have your own car seat or are buying one separately, check how it fits onto the travel system chassis.
Will you need separate adaptors, is it easy to fit on the chassis or will it be an added hassle? Most travel systems will require you to remove the original seat before clicking the car seat into place, but some will allow you to attach the seat on top.
You must use a rear-facing child car seat for a baby until they are at least nine months, but it is recommended that they rear-face for as long as possible. The car seat groups are as follows:
- Group 0 (rear-facing) – up to 10kg (birth to six or nine months)
- Group 0+ (rear-facing) – up to 13kg (birth to 12 or 15 months)
- i-Size (rear-facing) – by height from approximately 40 to 105 cm (birth to at least 15 months, but in some cases up to four years)
- Group 0+/1 (combination seat) – up to 18kg (birth to approximately three or four years)
- Group 1 (forward-facing) – 9 to 18kg (nine months to four years)
- Group 2 (high-backed booster seat) – 15 t0 25kg (four to six years)
- Group 3 (booster cushion) – 22 to 36kg (six to 11 years)
Questions to ask when buying a car seat
- Does the seat fit my child?
- Does the seat fit my car?
- Will this seat be compatible with my travel system?
- Does it adhere to all UK car seat safety regulations?
- What are the seat's crash test ratings?
- How easy is it to attach and detach from the travel system?
- How heavy is it?
For more essential tips on what to look out for buying a baby car seat, read our car seat buyer's guide.
If your travel system comes with a carrycot, check it feels secure and comfortable enough for your newborn to lie in. Does it detach and attach to the base easily?
You will be spending the first few months moving your baby around in it, so does it have a handle and is it light enough for you lift with ease? Check if your baby can nap in it or sleep in it overnight as this can be a useful feature to save you taking an additional newborn bed if you’re away for a night or two.
Most carrycots don’t have straps or a harness as they’re intended for babies who can’t yet sit up by themselves (newborn to five or six months). To make sure they’re snug and secure, you may wish to tuck them in with a blanket.
Questions to ask when buying a carrycot
- How easy is it to attach, detach and lift?
- Is my baby comfortable and secure?
- Can I use the carrycot as a newborn crib or travel cot replacement?
The carrycot for my travel system has been invaluable. I go into town with it everyday and use it as a Moses basket for naps.
3. Seat unit
It’s hard to imagine your newborn will ever be big enough to sit in an actual buggy seat, but they will, and they will also be desperately trying to escape too.
As soon as your child can sit up unaided, you can move them to the travel system's standard seat unit. The seat is the component that you will be using the most, and for the longest amount of time.
Some seats recline which can help with nap time, but also think about when your child reaches toddlerhood. Will the chair still be suitable? Like a carrycot, the seat will need to be comfortable and big enough for your child, so be sure to check that they’ll have enough room to grow.
Check the harnesses for fiddly connections and long straps that can get caught up or chewed on. Most are five-point harnesses which means your child is secured at the shoulders, around the waist and through the legs, with a fastening in the middle. We’d recommend having a practice with the harness in store so that you can iron out any kinks before you buy.
Also check whether you can still collapse the pushchair with the seat attached or if it needs to be detached each time. See whether the cover is detachable and easily washable as it will certainly be tested to the limit over the years with exploding nappies and half-chewed food.
Some seats are parent-facing while others a world-facing, but many can be switched between the two. Think about what you and your baby would prefer, but a changeable one is ultimately more flexible for both parties.
Questions to ask when looking at the seat
- Is it comfortable, safe and secure?
- What is the recline like? Are there a number of recline options?
- Will I need a seat with a lie-flat recline (if not intending to buy a carrycot)?
- Is it parent- or world-facing? Can this be altered?
Which travel system should I buy?
Take a look at our travel system reviews where we reveal the best travel systems on the market.
The ultimate buyer's guide checklist
What is the weight limit for the seat? Will I be able to use the pushchairs for as long as I need it?
What does the initial price include and what is my budget?
What are the seat recline options?
How easy is it to take off and attach a carrycot or car seat? Is it difficult to switch between parent-facing and world-facing? Is this possible?
Are the seats roomy enough?
What are the folded and unfolded dimensions? Is the pram easy to fold? Is it a one-handed or fast fold?
Will it fit into the boot of my car, through my front door or on public transport?
Is it light enough for me to carry/lug up and down stairs if necessary?
How easy is it to push and steer? What's the turning circle like?
Does it have an adjustable handle height for parents of different heights?
Does it come with added extras such as a rain cover, car seat adaptors and footmuff?
How big is the storage basket?
Will the sun hood provide enough protection? Is it extendable?
Can I convert it to a double buggy or fit a buggy board when my family grows?
How stable is it? Will it hold a changing bag off the handles with and without a passenger in the seat?
How easy is it to clean? Does it have removable covers for washing?
What are the aesthetics like? Does it come in colours I love? Will I (and my children) enjoy using it?
Safety advice from The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA)
- Always buy from a reputable shop or website. Don’t try to get a cheap deal as you don’t know if you’ll be buying the real branded item or a copy.
- Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to fit and use the travel system. If it’s not designed to have three five-kilo bags of potatoes hanging off the handles, then don’t do it.
- Remember – don’t leave your baby in the car seat for more than two hours (30 minutes if your child is a low birth weight or has medical problems). It can be tempting after a car journey to leave a baby in the car seat if they are asleep, or use the car seat to feed the baby in. This can cause fatalities.
Find out more about pushchair safety on the RoSPA website.
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