Travel strollers are meant for—you guessed it—travel. When I started testing strollers, I assumed I would just ignore this category for any purpose besides long-haul trips or flights. Travel strollers, also called lightweight or umbrella strollers, have fewer features, since they focus on being as easy to carry as possible. For as small as they are, they weren't as cheap as I expected. Some were even pricier than strollers designed for everyday use.
I ended up testing two lightweight strollers side by side: the Nuna TRVL, a $500 travel stroller, and the Joovy Kooper, a $250 lightweight stroller. The Joovy came with more features for half the price, including a place for me to put my water and keys, which almost no stroller I tested had.
So why can't I stop using the Nuna TRVL? After all the strollers I tested, I realized that only one feature really mattered to me: How easy it was to fold.
Stroller Shopping Strife
There are tons of stroller types out there. There's jogging strollers, traditional strollers, city strollers, double strollers, wagons, and even trike strollers. Last but not least, there's the travel or lightweight stroller category.
Every category promises different things, forcing you to navigate the question of how you walk around with your child. Do you have to go through a lot of subway turnstiles? Find a stroller with a slim profile. Looking to haul a lot of stuff? Get a wagon.
These questions make it sound simple, but it quickly devolves into comparing specs with a magnifying glass and also trying to predict what your life will look like in the coming months. This applies particularly if you're shopping while expecting—and especially if this is your first child.
What will your life look like with a newborn? How about a larger baby, or a toddler? Who will you be? What will you need?
When I was shopping for a stroller, I focused too much on what was compatible with my infant car seat, and whether it had infant options. I also wanted to spend as little as possible after also buying a crib, mattress, car seat, sound machine, and playpen. And then my baby grew out of the infant stroller after using it only a few times. Even as someone who compares products for a living, trying to navigate stroller shopping felt overwhelming.
The Power of Fold
My kid is a year old now. In that year, I've tried nearly every kind of stroller, and I discovered that the most important feature to me was how easy a stroller is to fold and carry.
There's a few reasons why this is the case for me (and might not be the case for you). I live in an apartment complex that has a short but steep staircase between myself and the ground level, with no accessible ramps. I also realized that I'm not that coordinated. The last thing I want to do while balancing my baby in the parking lot is bend over and unfold my stroller from the ground, or pick it up from the ground after folding it to drag it down a set of stairs.
Enter: the Nuna TRVL. My favorite thing is that this lightweight stroller practically folds itself—I push the handle buttons and give it a light push, and it folds itself forward into a standing fold. The handlebar that my son chews on sticks up, so I can have my baby in one arm and grab this stroller in the other. It weighs 13.6 pounds without the canopy or arm bar. I use both of those things, which makes it slightly heavier, but it's still easy to carry one-handed down the stairs.
The TRVL doesn't have any special features beyond its lightweight capability. It doesn't have the ability to turn the child to face backward. While it can work with Nuna's infant car seat without an adapter, Nuna doesn't sell adapters for any other car seats to work with the TRVL, so you can't use it with your Graco or Britax seat. It doesn't handle bumps well, and it only has undercarriage storage. It's twice the price of the Joovy, which has more storage options and more infant car seat compatibility.
If you have a garage or an accessible walkway, you might not find the TRVL to be as useful as I did. The Thule Shine (9/10, WIRED Recommends) is a better, well-rounded stroller that's only a few pounds (21.6 lbs) heavier than the Nuna TRVL, and it also folds standing up. But those few pounds really matter to me. The TRVL is uniquely well suited for my apartment living and dealing with staircases. Now that my son faces forward, it's all we need for errands or walks to the park.
The hardest part about first-time parenting is realizing what you don't know. Babies are only little for such a short time. If I could go back and talk to my pregnant self, I'd tell myself to worry less about an infant stroller, and to be ready with the Nuna TRVL once my son was ready to face forward.