When travel systems reviews discuss performance, what they're really referring to is ease of use and passenger comfort. In other words, adults who wrangle with travel systems care about how easy it is to set up the car seat base; attach and then remove the seat from the base; and open, fold, and store the stroller. And while most caregivers don't expect off-road performance from the stroller, their travel systems reviews indicate that they do expect to easily negotiate suburban sidewalks, trips to the mall, and the occasional stretch of playground mulch. Moreover, they want the car ride and stroller ride to be comfortable for the passenger and the out-of-box assembly to proceed without hiccups.
For the most part, the best budget travel systems score high on all these measures. Travel systems reviews even extol the many gender-neutral patterns and colors currently available. Buried in the praise for the combo packages we researched, however, was some grousing about strollers that feel heavy and bulky and storage baskets that are too small and/or hard to access unless the seat is in its full upright position.
Our top-rated models -- the Chicco Cortina, Graco FastAction Fold, and Graco Stylus LX -- are lauded for their user-friendliness. Travel systems reviews at Baby Earth, for example, say each component in the Chicco Cortina is easy to use and the stroller a cinch to assemble. Users echo these comments on other review sites and further note that the car seat straps are simple to adjust, the stroller folds and unfolds without hassle and rolls smoothly. One travel systems review at Amazon tells of a parent pushing the stroller with one hand while holding the leash of a full-sized golden retriever with the other. Parents also seem content with the safety and comfort of the Chicco Cortina and several travel systems reviews mention the top safety rating for the KeyFit infant car seat. A few reviewers note, however, that the 22-pound weight and/or 29-inch limit of the car seat proved too confining too quickly and the material lining the car seat leaves babies hot and sweaty.
Both Graco models on our list score with reviewers for similar strengths. For starters, the FastAction Fold lives up to its marketing claims. That is, travel systems reviews at sites such as Toys R Us say the stroller closes in a flash with a light, one-handed pull and opens just as easily, a particular boon to anyone who travels on public transit with a child and all the necessary gear in tow. A couple of users report some tussles with the folding apparatus, though, and one travel systems review protests that the seat is left exposed in its folded state, thus rendering it unsanitary for young passengers. Still, users say the stroller is light and easy to maneuver, and the car seat snaps neatly and quickly into place. Reviewers also like the comfort and security of the well-cushioned car seat, with one noting the straps can be adjusted to hold even preemies snugly and safely.
Like its sibling stroller/car seat/base combo, the Graco Stylus LX stroller is easy to set up and maneuver. Although brawnier than the FastAction Fold, the Stylus LX also passes as a one-handed wonder, according to travel systems reviews at Amazon, where users praise its sturdy reliability and very small turning radius. Users also like the plush feel of the stroller and car seat fabric, as well as the gender neutral color schemes and patterns. The Graco Quattro Tour Deluxe also wins kudos for its performance although some grumble about its bulk. At Albee Baby one mother is thrilled that the SnugRide car seat still fits a 10-month old and says the stroller handles relatively well but is way too big for her comfort.
The Safety 1st Saunter Luxe system is liked well enough for its styling, light weight, passenger comfort, and easy-folding stroller but is dinged for car seat safety and other performance measures. Travel systems reviews at Toys R Us report the car seat only locks into the base on one side, an arrangement the manual says does not impair safety but nonetheless leaves parents a bit unsettled. One reviewer also says the car seat can't lock into the top of a shopping cart and others report struggling to get the seat out of its base and difficulty pushing the stroller on surfaces that are even slightly bumpy.