Best Overall Travel System: Graco Modes

We pick the Graco Modes Travel System as the Best Travel System Overall. The Modes Travel System includes the SnugRide SnugLock 35 infant car seat and the Modes stroller. Here’s a quick look at both parts:

The SnugRide SnugLock 35 has an adjustable base with four recline positions and can be used by infants as small as four pounds with the included head and body support cushions. There is also a canopy and level indicator. It features Graco’s Click Connect, which allows easy attachment to the base and the stroller.

The Graco Modes stroller is 23.3 lbs. (not exactly light weight but not as heavy as other travel system strollers) and features a reversible seat, one-hand standing fold and removable child tray. With the infant seat or included toddler seat, the Modes stroller converts into ten different configurations—example: having baby face you when newborn, then out as a toddler.

Parents we interviewed praised the parent console with covered storage and two cup holders.

What we like

• Excellent car seat. This travel system’s infant car seat, the Graco SnugRide SnugLock 35, is one of our favorites.  Key features we liked include good crash protection, EPS foam lining, adjustable base and a tight fit in most vehicles.

•  Quick installation of the infant seat. The SnugLock part of the infant seat name refers to a newer, three-step installation process using either the vehicle seat belt or the LATCH—this makes for an easier install compared to older SnugRides without SnugLock, based on our testing.

• Stroller converts to 10 different modes. We especially like that you can reverse either the infant car seat or the included toddler seat so you can look at your baby or she can face out and see the world.

• The toddler seat converts to a lay flat bassinet. This is great for younger babies—you don’t see this with many other travel systems.

Flaws we can live with

• The car seat, while excellent, lacks some of the features of Graco’s latest models—for example, there’s no extended leg rest for extended rear-facing use (seen in Graco’s Extend2Fit version of the infant seat).

• Cheap plastic stroller wheels. Lots of parents we interviewed complained the stroller wheels wore out quickly. It would be nice if Graco had another sturdier wheel option.

• Bulky when folded. If you have a small car, this may not be the stroller for you: it folds to a size of 39″ x 23.5″ x 14″. Yes, that is over THREE FEET in folded length.

Despite these drawbacks, we think the Graco Modes Travel System is a great system for most parents. Based on our testing and reader feedback, we pick this model as the best travel system overall.

Best Budget-Friendly Travel System: Graco FastAction Fold

The Graco FastAction Fold travel system includes a Graco SnugRide 30 infant car seat and a FastAction Fold stroller.

The car seat included with this system is a bare bones model without front harness adjustment or an adjustable base. The weight range is 4 to 30 lbs. and can be attached to the stroller or base with one hand. What’s missing? If you read the above pick, the Graco Modes, its included car seat works up to 35 lbs. (vs. 30) and has the SnugLock easier install. So there’s the trade-off.

The Fast Action stroller offers a “one-second one-hand fold” to a standing position. There is a parent console with two cup holders and a pivoting child’s tray as well. The stroller seat has a multi-position recline and the overall weight is less than most other travel system strollers.

What we like

• Price. This is one of the least expensive travel systems available with a quality car seat, based on our testing. Yes, you don’t get some of the bells and whistles with fancier car seats or strollers, but you may not need or want that.

• Great fold. The FastAction fold is quick and only requires one hand. Not multiple levers or latches to release.

• Decent storage. With the stroller’s parent console, kid’s tray and large basket, the FastAction Fold scored high in our storage tests.

Flaws we can live with

• Bare bones car seat. This basic SnugRide seat only goes up to 30 lbs., has a rear harness adjustment, and basic canopy. Nothing fancy here. The base doesn’t adjust. Now, that doesn’t make the car seat unsafe—it is just takes more effort to install and adjust.

• Basic fabric and lots of plastic. Nope, you won’t fool anyone thinking this is a posh upper-end stroller. But it’s functional and does its job.

Bottom line: with travel systems creeping into the high three figures, it’s nice to have an affordable option with a safe and sound infant car seats. We think the Graco FastAction Fold is the best solution for budget-conscious parents.

Best Travel System Splurge: Chicco Bravo Trio

Our top pick for best splurge on a travel system is the Chicco Bravo Trio. This system includes our top pick for best infant car seat, the Keyfit 30, as well as the impressive Bravo Trio stroller.

Just about everything on this travel system has pizazz: Italian-styling and excellent quality are the hallmarks of Chicco’s travel system. The KeyFit 30 infant seat has a leveling foot, bubble level indicator and SuperCinch LATCH tightener. Extra side impact protection and newborn insert round out its features.

In our testing, we loved the Bravo Trio stroller’s simple, self standing, one-hand fold. There is a child tray as well as a parent console. The handle adjusts and the storage basket is impressive. Finally, we liked the large ventilated canopy.

What we like

• Excellent crash protection. EPS foam and side impact protection make the KeyFit 30 infant seat score at the top of car seat crash tests done by third-parties.

• Stylish and plush fabrics. A soft and comfy ride on the upholstery.

• Easy car seat installation. Set up was simple too—we liked the SuperCinch LATCH tightener better than the competition.

• Stroller has quick, one-handed fold. No multiple latches or levers to push when folding.

Flaws we can live with

• Lacks a no-rethread harness on the infant car seat. This means it’s a bit more of a pain to move the harness as your baby grows.

 • Infant seat is rather heavy. At 9.4 lbs. it’s a haul, especially when you add in a 10 lb. baby!

• Some parents complain KeyFit’s fabric doesn’t breathe, so the seat can get hot in warm weather.

• Have to remove the stroller’s kid tray to use with the infant car seat. That makes it easier to lose!

• Pricey. All this Italian goodness and car seat engineering comes at a price.

Bottom line: the Chicco Bravo Trio travel system is a great splurge. We love the car seat (it’s our top rated infant seat) and the stroller hits all the right notes. If you have the extra cash or the relatives/friends who want to spoil you, this is the travel system to pick.

Best Travel System For Babies Close in Age: Evenflo Pivot Xpand travel system

If your children are close in age and need the comfort of a double stroller, consider the Evenflo Pivot Xpand’s travel system.

This moderately affordable modular single-to-double stroller includes an Evenflo SafeMax infant car seat and a stroller frame/toddler seat for older babies. The infant seat includes a base with built-in rebound bar, an infant insert, high end fabrics and more.

What we like

• Anti-rebound bar on infant car seat base. This feature is typically seen on much more expensive seats.

• Easy to use. With an easy front harness adjustment and premium LATCH attachments, the SafeMax was easy to install in our testing.

• The stroller frame extends to fit two kiddos in 22 different configurations. No tools are required to expand the stroller frame. Babies can face toward the parent or out. The flexibility of adding a second child is where this stroller shines.

• The basket expands with the stroller frame. More kids, more storage!

Flaws we can live with

• Not the best option for twins. While the stroller frame can accommodate two infant car seats, it’s difficult to get the second car seat installed in the lower position. Consider a traditional tandem or side by side twin stroller instead.

• Bulky when folded. You’ll need some serious trunk space for this stroller.

• Toddler seat needs to be larger. Many parents we interviewed noted that their older kids (two and half to four year olds) had trouble fitting in the smallish toddler seat. Some removed the canopy, but still had issues and then had no sun shade.

• Durability issues. Evenflo is a good stroller brand, but long-term durability isn’t a strong suit. While most folks liked this model during the first few months, by year two, we see more complaints about squeaky wheels and other quality issues.

Despite these drawbacks, we recommend the Evenflo Pivot Xpand travel system. The stroller’s flexibility to expand the frame and add a second seat for older kids is a winner. And with many single-to-double strollers pushing the high three figures amount, this choice is affordable.

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