Strollers and car seats top the list for the most expensive items that parents must buy for a new baby – that is, unless you plan to jump straight to the crib instead of pausing first at a relatively low-cost bassinet. For that, plus a few other really good reasons, I opted for the Safety 1st Saunter Luxe travel system when my first son was born. That is, a system that includes a well-built stroller, complete with an infant car seat that attaches securely to the stroller. It even has adorable Winnie the Pooh print, though I’m sure this review works perfectly well for the same model with other fabrics.
We initially purchased this travel system online, which means no in-store assembly or other such nifty services. No problem, right? Look inside the box. A shower of assorted pieces leaves my dumbfounded then-husband with a, “What the heck is that for?” look on his face. They may say that men never read instructions, but even the most stubborn, masculine, independent-minded individual will likely have to concede defeat and actually use that little piece of paper tucked deftly into one corner.
With about a one-hour assembly investment, a stroller finally emerges from the mess. There were even extra pieces. Thankfully, close scrutiny revealed that these rogue bits of hardware are “for packing purposes only, dispose after assembly.” Maybe not the most environmentally friendly way to go about things (they were pretty heavy-duty pieces), but I’m sure there’s a good reason for it – these companies have a competitive bottom line, so I doubt they’d leave such pieces in for the fun of it.
True to car seat form, the Safety 1st Comfy Carry Elite car seat that’s included with the Saunter Luxe system features a funky 5-point harness that does come with a learning curve. The chest clip is pretty straightforward – it just slides together right below baby’s armpits. With the bottom clip, you have to hold two pieces of buckle together just so and push them in together at the same time. In fairness, it looks like more recent versions may have gone to separate latches for each side of the bottom clip – if this is so, then it’s a definite improvement.
Car seats come in all shapes and sizes. Unlucky for anyone driving a cramped vehicle – I was switching between a 1998 Ford Taurus and an extended cab F-150 at the time – this Comfy Carry has a little larger footprint. It was a great seat for my son, who was just shy of nine pounds at birth, but sadly not so much for those vehicles. It ended up being about 2” too long for the back seat of the extended cab, and the slanted frame of the Taurus made installation and maneuvering downright painful.
Obviously, one of the best features of this or any infant seat, in my humble opinion, is the inclusion of a hard plastic base that buckles into the car, allowing one-step car seat installation and removal. If you have more than one car and don’t want to switch back and forth, get an extra car seat base here.
The stroller has large double wheels on each corner; package specs say they’re 8″ wheels and the stroller’s stated weight is 25 pounds. There is a large red sliding button in the handle that collapses the stroller. It’s easy to fold and carry – as long as you’re not on weight restrictions – and I’ve never had issues with it trying to fold when it wasn’t supposed to. All wheels have a little brake lever. One word on the folding: Don’t get this stroller if you want a space saver. It’s fairly bulky and takes almost as much space as my Graco DuoGlider tandem stroller does (a later acquisition).
As the name suggests, the Saunter Luxe travel system isn’t a high-energy type of system, it’s more for…er, well…sauntering. The car seat snaps easily onto the car seat bar that goes across the stroller’s seat and is supported on the other end by the toddler drink tray. Once baby is old enough to hold his/her head up, then the car seat bar can be removed and baby can ride in the stroller itself until he or she reaches 50 pounds.
The stroller itself feels stiff and top-heavy with the car seat, and you’ll really feel like you’re driving a hot dog stand or something equally boxy around. That said, once all the wheels straighten themselves out, it glides beautifully over concrete, asphalt, and gravel. It also loses a lot of stiff boxiness once you take the car seat off. A nice feature is that you can use the car seat awning and the one on the stroller itself to create a nice shaded tent for little one, allowing for all sorts of naps in the breezy sunshine. The awning on the stroller has a nice little fold-back flap with a clear window underneath so you can still see baby.
The stroller harness is a basic three-point “lap belt,” which seems secure enough with the toddler drink tray on. I haven’t tried it without the tray, but it seems a wee bit precarious without it. Granted, my son has never fallen out, but having only a lap belt makes it possible for him to lean down and try to play with the wheels.
This stroller saw a year and a half of daily use at my hands before my son insisted on walking or riding his tricycle everywhere, and it never lost that lovely smooth glide. It never got stiff and balky, and was still in great shape to pass along to the next new parents who needed it.
The only true drawback is that the stroller handle is not adjustable. I lucked out — it’s a great height for my 5’6″, but anyone significantly taller or shorter will likely run into trouble. The car seat served us well even with our minor difficulties with the harness, it’s always operated smoothly, and it was also good to pass on to the next person who needed it. In short, this is a great travel system for anyone who likes to maintain a moderately active lifestyle with a brand new baby.