What is a travel system?
A travel system is simply a buggy with a detachable car seat. The car seat attaches to the buggy by clicking or slotting it in, or attaching via special adaptors. The idea of a car seat is to make it easy to move your baby from car to buggy.
When it comes to buying a travel system there are two main options:
- Buying a complete package, where you buy the buggy and car seat together – these are usually made by the same manufacturer
- Creating your own travel system package, where you buy a travel-system-compatible buggy and a car seat separately. These may be the same or different brands. You may find this a more expensive option, but it gives you more choice
- Remember the 2-hour car seat rule. A safety recommendation endorsed by all manufacturers that you shouldn't have a child sitting in a car seat for more than 2 hours at a time. That's not only when your baby's in a car but also when they're in a travel system (pictured above) - a buggy chassis with a car seat attached.
Can all buggies become travel systems?
No, but you’ll find nearly all of the big brands of buggy are travel-system compatible (ie, you can buy a car seat that will fit on to the buggy).
Not all manufacturers produce both buggies and car seats. For example, Bugaboo only produces buggies, but these are compatible with other brands of car seats, including Maxi-Cosi.
If you want to buy a particular buggy and are keen to use it as a travel system, check first that it is travel-system compatible. Be aware that you may have to buy car seat adaptors in order to fit the seat to the chassis, if you buy a different branded car seat.
How much can you expect to pay?
There's a wide range of prices for travel systems. At the budget end, there are a number of travel system packages for under £250 from brands such as OBaby, Hauck, Graco, Petite Star and Baby Weavers. Mid-range is between £300-£500, where you'll find big brand names including Mamas & Papas, Britax, BabyStyle, Graco and Quinny. At the premium end, you'll find plenty of travel systems priced over £500, including Silver Cross, iCandy and Bugaboo, with some now breaking the £1000 barrier.
Which car seat do you choose?
Safety is a priority when transporting your baby around. So, rather than buying a buggy and then a car seat as a second thought, it’s best to think about the car seat first.
The world of car seats can be confusing and expensive. What you do need to know is that the law states that it is compulsory to use a car seat for children up to a height of 135cm (around 12 years).
So, you need a car seat for your newborn from the first time you take him out in a car.
Car seats are divided into age groups. The three main age ranges are:
When you buy a travel system, the car seat you’ll be choosing is one that is suitable from birth. This will either be a Group 0 (birth to around 11 months) or a Group 0+ (birth to around 15 months) car seat.
While car seats are vital safety tools for keeping your child secure when travelling in a vehicle, please remember it's made to be used in a car, not as a device where your child can sleep at home or on a shopping trip. You shouldn't keep him (or her) in the car seat for longer than 2 hours, with the exception being a lie-flat car seat. But if you're in any doubt contact your car seat manufacturer.
Firstly, if you’re buying a travel system, then you’re planning to be transferring your baby between car and pushchair. So think about the weight of your car seat. Some are feather light (around 4kg) but others are heavyweights (up to 14kg). And remember, that’s without your baby inside.
Another big consideration is how easy it is to fit the car seat into your car. Fiddling with a car seat can be a real hassle, so if you’re going to be taking your car seat in and out of your car a lot, you’ll want an easy-fit system. Most car seats can be secured in your car by routing the seatbelts through belt guides or attaching to it to an in-car base that stays in the car. Some use a system call ISOFIX that fixes the seat in the car without using the belts. An in-car base or ISOFIX base will be an additional cost and prices range from around £50 to upwards of £150.
Which buggy do you choose?
Firstly, if you’ve already chosen a car seat, you’ll need a buggy that’s compatible with that particular car seat.
When choosing a buggy, here are some of the main considerations to think about…
- Does it need to be forward and rear facing?
- Do you need swivel wheels?
- Do you need a one-handed or fast-fold?
- How big should the shopping basket be?
- How big is your car boot? Some pushchairs are so bulky when folded that you have to take the wheels off to get it in a car.
Do you need to buy a carrycot?
You will only be able to keep your baby in the car seat unit for a couple of hours at a time, so your buggy should either offer a lie-flat seat or a carrycot or pram unit. If not, then you will need a carrycot unit with your travel system for your baby’s first six months. Some travel systems include a separate carrycot in the package. Others feature a carrycot that cleverly converts into a seat unit.
Babies over six months don’t need a lie-flat seat or carrycot.
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