Baby gear that's easy to stow on summer road trips

Consumer Reports News: July 01, 2013 01:08 PM

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Back in the day, car trunks were a lot bigger and babies seemed to have a lot less stuff. Still, when you're taking a family trip it's nice to have baby gear that folds compactly and is lightweight enough so you don't wrench your back loading and unloading the car. Consumer Reports took a look at some of the strollers, high chairs and play yards we've tested to find some that are easy to stow when you hit the road this summer.

Strolling around town. Little kids need wheels and compact, easy-to-fold strollers are just the thing for around town or on the road. If you just want to get your baby from here to there in an infant car seat, consider a car seat-carrier frame. Top-performing across the board, and the smallest when folded, is the Baby Trend Snap N Go, $60. Among umbrella-style strollers (the lightest-weight after carrier frames), the new Chicco Liteway Plus, $180, also accommodates an infant car seat, making it a versatile travel option. It felt sturdy and solid in our tests though, like other umbrella models, it was hard to push over uneven terrain.

Among top-rated traditional strollers that accommodate car seats, the Graco Quattro Tour Sport, $200, folded the smallest, scoring excellent for ease of use and maneuverability. It also converts to a carriage. But despite its small size, it was heavier than most in our tests. The smallest folding double side-by-side stroller in our tests was the Maclaren Twin Triumph, $265. But it's not suitable for babies younger than six months old because it doesn't convert to a carriage or accept infant car seats.

Eating in style. Most restaurants have high chairs, but if you're visiting family or renting a house for an extended time, you may want to bring your own. In our recent tests of high chairs, the Mia Moda Alto, $120, was very easy to fold, not too heavy and an excellent performer in our ease-of-use and safety tests. A comparable high chair but at a higher price is the Chicco Polly Magic, $160, which was also very easy to fold, though it weighed more and had a larger footprint when unfolded than the Mia Moda Alto.

Sleeping comfortably. Unless your hosts have invested in a crib for your baby, you'll want to take along a portable play yard, which is a safe option. The Chicco Lullaby LX play yard, $160, was our top-performer, though it was not the lightest model in our play yard tests. For a bare-bones model at a lower price, consider the Cosco Funsport Travel Play Yard, $45, which performed similarly, weighs about the same as the Chicco Lullaby LX but lacks a bassinet and changing table, nice extras that you don't need. To keep your baby safe, use a fitted sheet made specifically for use with that play yard. Don't be tempted to add extra bedding or padding as they can pose a suffocation hazard. As at home, bare beds are best.

If your family is willing to buy a crib for your visits, the Graco Lauren Signature, $190, was excellent for safety, construction, and ease of assembly, and is among the least expensive of our recommended cribs.

Artemis DiBenedetto

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