We’ve been using the Doona Car Seat & Stroller for almost eight months now — so, this review has been in the works for a while. I wanted to really put the Doona through its paces before offering my opinion.
It is, after all, not a small investment. The Doona travel system is a cool $550 to $650 depending on the exact model — more if you add any of the optional accessories. And at a time when you’re already being pitched all the pricey baby things, well, it’d be a nice amount not to shell out if the product wasn’t really worth it.
Doona Car Seat & Stroller Pros & Cons (+ Tips!)
So, the question is, of course: Is the Doona Car Seat & Stroller worth it? The short answer is yes. A pretty big ol’ yes from me, in fact — but there are some caveats. Not at all when it comes to the Doona’s design or operation; both are mostly well executed. But it’s clearly more suited to some lifestyles and environments than others.
Keep reading for the full scoop.
What is the Doona Car Seat & Stroller?
The Doona Car Seat & Stroller is basically a car seat with collapsible wheels and a telescoping handle that allow it to become a compact stroller, in and of itself. It’s rated for babies 4-35 lbs (worth noting, this is the same as our Britax B-Safe) and weighs just over 17 lbs, which is 5-6 lbs more than your average car seat, and even 10+ lbs more than the Nuna PIPA Lite.
It’s got all the safety ratings you could hope for in a car seat, with side impact protection comparable to other leading car seat brands and a 5-star safety rating in frontal collision tests. It arrives fully assembled with a (somewhat flimsy, but effective) seat protector and a LATCH car seat base that works with all standard car seat anchors.
Other Doona accessories, including a rain cover, a snap-on storage bag, and more are all sold separately.
The Doona Car Seat & Stroller is $550; the Midnight Edition (all-black frame and canopy) and Gold Limited Edition (partially gold frame and gold-splattered canopy) are $650, but they also include a Handlebar Cover (valued at $30) and Essentials Bag (valued at $60). We have the Midnight Edition (also at Amazon).
Not sure if I even need to mention this, but first and foremost, the whole Doona getup is chic. We have the Midnight Edition, and it almost feels like a neutral accessory. I’ve never felt less clunky with a babe at my side.
Aside from the stylish design, the obvious main benefit of this travel system is convenience.
Do I Want A Car Seat That’s Also A Stroller? Yes, For Naps & Travel.
When Eleanor was very small, especially, and was napping on and off all the day long, it was extremely handy to be able to pop her in and out of the car while sleeping and stroll about town without having to transfer her or transfer the car seat to a separate stroller base.
Even so, disconnecting the car seat from the base takes some serious practice (more on that in a minute) – and since the car seat is on the bulkier side, it gets bumped around quite a bit trying to maneuver it in and out of the car. (We have an SUV and I’m not the tallest, so it might be a smoother operation for someone taller. Or with a shorter vehicle. Or both. Ha.) This is all to say, it’s enough jostling that, now that Eleanor is older, she’s not as likely to sleep through the clunky transfer.
Compared to our Britax car seat, which we used with our older daughter and had on hand as a second car seat for Eleanor, the Doona is both heavier (by almost 6 lbs!) and bulkier. But, like, it’s also a freaking stroller, so of course it’s packing around a lot more hardware. And because it’s a stroller, there are far fewer instances where you’re actually lugging the thing around awkwardly in the crook of your arm, so the only time you really notice the weight is when you’re lifting it in and out of a vehicle or taking the stairs.
And the fact that you can literally go from a car seat to a very compact stroller within seconds makes it a clear winner for travel. We’ve yet to fly with Eleanor, but it would make getting around an airport a breeze, and we did quite a few road trips this summer where not having to pack a separate stroller freed up a fair amount of valuable space in the car. When we went to Bend, OR, it was ideal for walking downtown from our airbnb and for pulling up alongside a brewery picnic table (or three). It was equally great for a couple of summer trips to Truckee, CA (read: no snow on the ground). I think in wintry conditions there are certainly all-terrain strollers that would be better suited to the job.
When it comes to running errands, its compact size makes the Doona really shine. In smaller grocery stores, like Trader Joe’s, it’s particularly convenient.
Another unexpected bonus of the Doona’s small size? With the handle in the lower position, it’s the perfect size for my older daughter, Lana (age 7), to push herself. Would I trust her to navigate a full-on jogging stroller through a busy farmers market? I mean, maybe in a pinch. But she can actually get the Doona around with a fair amount of control, which is exceptionally helpful when my hands are full.
How Is The Doona’s Storage? Well…
This brings me to one of the biggest cons of this compact system: the lack of adequate, easily accessible storage. I say this knowing full well that the Doona doesn’t promise to replace your primary stroller, but it is something to consider if you’re hoping to use it often for grocery shopping or errand running.
I mentioned it’s great in Trader Joe’s, and it is – for small trips. Because there’s no storage, if you’re planning to push the Doona, you can only shop for what you can carry in a handbasket, whereas, when I use our jogging stroller, the cargo area in the stroller doubles as my cart. Most of the time, if I’m grocery shopping or running larger errands, I end up transferring Eleanor out of the Doona and into a baby carrier so I can push a cart. This is fine now that she’s older and she’s generally awake for such escapades, but when she was younger and I was trying to avoid having to transfer a sleeping babe, it made things a little tricky.
That said, the Doona does offer options for added storage.
The first, which came with our Midnight Edition, is the Essentials Bag. It’s a shoulder bag that can be clipped onto attachment points on the handle when the car seat is in stroller mode. The quality of this piece is great — it’s well-made and good-looking. But with a suggested 3 lb weight limit, it’s geared for, you guessed it, just the essentials. Diapers, wipes, an included changing pad, a bottle, my phone/small wallet/sunnies/lip gloss, maybe a snack. Adding an adult water bottle would probably push the weight limit. So while it’s not roomy enough to make it my full-time diaper bag, and it doesn’t help with shopping or errands, it’s nice to have.
Other options for adding storage to the Doona include the All Day Bag, which is a larger version of the Essentials Bag that attaches to the rear of the car seat when it’s in stroller mode, and the Snap-On Bag Storage, which adds a roomy zippered compartment to the backside of the car seat (again, can only be attached in stroller mode). Both larger bags have a weight limit of 6.6 lbs.
If there were some way to add an open, easily accessible sling-like cargo compartment to the Doona, it would be only too handy, but the low profile and compact size make that fairly improbable.
And again, the Doona isn’t really designed to replace a full-function stroller, so I’m just splitting hairs. Moving on.
Is It Easy To Use The Doona Travel System? Yes, With Practice.
Since this review is getting a little more in-depth than I intended (surprise, surprise!), let’s dig into a couple more facets of using the Doona Travel System that I wondered about before I got my hands on it: 1) the overall ease of use; and 2) the stroller’s suspension (or, in this case, the lack thereof).
Getting the Doona in and out of stroller mode is swift and easy. There’s a slight learning curve to making it a smooth transition that’s less jarring to the occupant, but I quickly became a pro and now find it to be a pretty dang slick operation. I find it easiest to sit the Doona on the ground and release the wheels as I’m raising the stroller, versus letting them swing down abruptly.
As for using the car seat with the included LATCH car seat base, things could be smoother. Connecting it is simple enough, if not a bit clunky. (Remember, we’re talking 17 lbs plus the weight of your babe, and the presence of wheels means you need ample space to navigate the car seat onto the base without scuffing or dirtying the back of the front seats).
It’s releasing the car seat from the LATCH base that is particularly goofy to me. This video kinda shows it. You have to have the handle in the upright position to lift the car seat in and out of the vehicle, and squeezing the triggers on both sides of the car seat handle can be awkward if you can’t fully reach the far side of the car seat (see above re: tall car/not-so-tall me). Then, once the handle is upright, you depress and push the release latch simultaneously while you lift the car seat up off the base.
The person demoing this in the video makes it look like a breeze, but I don’t have the leverage to do it in one step, so I have to depress and push the latch while lifting the car seat only enough to release it and then use both hands to maneuver the freed seat out of the car. It adds maybe five seconds to the whole process, so again not a deal breaker, just…awkward.
Covering Mostly Urban & Suburban Terrain? The Doona Is For You.
As for the Doona stroller’s suspension, um, well, there isn’t any. But that may or may not make a difference for you.
Because the Doona’s stroller hardware is understandably compact, the small wheels and lack of suspension mean it performs best on smooth surfaces.
- Sidewalks, asphalt, tile, linoleum, paved trails? All great.
- Boardwalks? Doable, but be vigilant. (We’ve gotten hung up on the rogue raised board a time or two, and it brought us to an abrupt halt and almost upset the stroller.)
- Cobblestones, dirt and gravel paths? Nope. Skip.
This means just how much stroller use you can get out of the Doona comes down largely to where you live and how you intend to use it.
It’s perfectly adequate for getting around in urban and suburban settings. If you’re planning to push it through a developed neighborhood or down a city sidewalk — or through, let’s say, a mall or a museum — you’re golden. This is where the Doona excels.
Around here, where the majority of our local walks include some mix of dirt and paved trails, we find ourselves using a full-size stroller with real tires and suspension and reserving the Doona for in-town errands.
When Eleanor was a newborn who couldn’t yet fit into a conventional stroller seat, this meant having a separate infant car seat that could be used with a separate stroller system when we intended to cover rougher terrain. We had both on hand already, but if you were starting from scratch, it’d be worth considering whether you were willing to either invest in a second system or default to babywearing if you’re planning to cover uneven ground.
Ok, So Where Does That Leave Us? Final Thoughts…
Phew. So, where does this all net out? If you’re primarily looking for a car seat that you can roll rather than lug, look no further. Doona is aces.
It’s especially valuable when baby is very young and sleeping more sporadically on the go, like all those pediatrician appointments in the early days. And if you live in an area where most of your walking will be done on paved surfaces — or even metro systems, where you want a very small stroller footprint — I can’t imagine a better solution. Planning to travel frequently? Easily a win.
If you’re willing to do some combination of strolling + babywearing, it’s also super likely you could get away with a Doona for most needs.
If you plan to take babe out and about on more rugged terrain, or you frequently envision needing a cargo area for running errands or holding a full day’s worth of baby gear and accessories, you’ll probably benefit from having a separate stroller system, as well — or a different car seat and stroller solution, entirely.
For our uses, and considering the fact that we already had an alternate car seat and stroller system that we can turn to for more robust needs, the Doona has more than earned its keep as our primary car seat.
Making the Most of Your Doona Car Seat & Stroller
Before I go, we quickly learned a few things that make using our Doona even more convenient:
- As mentioned above, I like to set the car seat on the ground and raise it up as I release the wheels, so they extend in one smooth motion (versus pulling the release and letting them swiftly swing down, which can be a little jarring).
- We added a cup holder (under $10) for stashing coffee or a water bottle and a phone. We attach it to the non-telescoping part of the handle and adjust it so that the screw clamp doesn’t interfere with the canopy. Can’t recommend it enough.
- With both our car seats, we found a stretchy, jersey car seat cover to be invaluable for nap time or super stimulating environments, especially when Eleanor was itty bitty. (Note that we only use this cover out of the car.)
Where To Buy The Doona Travel System
The most obvious place to buy a Doona is right through the manufacturer’s website. They have the most comprehensive selection of colors and accessories. It’s also available at several other popular retailers, including Nordstrom, Amazon, Target, Pottery Barn, Dillard’s and buybuy Baby if you have gift cards to spend or loyalty program perks/points you’d want to accrue on the larger purchase.
Hope this was helpful, friends. If you have additional tips for using the Doona, feel free to drop them below. And if I missed anything and you have questions, ask away!
Thank you to Doona for generously gifting the convertible car seat/stroller featured in this post. I chose to put together this review on my own, and it includes my unbiased impressions of the product. Hope it was helpful!
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Photos by Carolyn Stockman.