I've only been a mom for six months, and I'm already exhausted by my two-piece travel system, in which I have to laboriously maneuver a bulky car seat and a separate hard-to-fold stroller every time I go anywhere with my baby. Just getting out the door requires multiple trips and an unplanned upper-body cardio workout — time and energy I'd rather spend with my daughter. So when I heard a company called Simple Parenting had created a game-changing car seat that unfolds into a stroller, I had to get my tired hands on it. The company sent over the Doona ($499), which just hit the market last month, so that I could give it a test-drive. Here's what I discovered.
Who is this product designed for? Ideal for families on the go, the Doona is an infant car seat that, with the push of a lever, transitions into a compact stroller.
Is it practical? Doona's entire purpose is practicality. If you've ever had to awkwardly carry a car seat across a parking lot or through a crowded city street, the easy release of wheels makes those treks less painful. Lifting is limited to putting it in and taking it out of the car. And for those who've opted for travel systems to lessen the times they have to carry a car seat, you still have to endure the agonizing routine of getting the stroller out of the car, unfolding it, and then getting the car seat out and locking it into the stroller. With the all-in-one Doona, however, it's a few seconds before you are out of the car and ready to roll. (Interestingly, the Doona is heavier than most car seats because of the wheel apparatus, but I didn't notice it for weeks because I so rarely had to carry it.)
Perfect for those with busy lives and lots of errands to run, it not only makes the experience less frustrating, but it also saves time. I noticed that it shaved several minutes off of every pit stop I made, which added up quickly over the course of a single day.
Because the Doona meets all the FAA standards, it's also an ideal option for airline travel — it's approved on-board planes, there's less gear to wrangle, and you don't have to worry about gate-checking a stroller.
What sets it apart? Aside from its major selling point, which hasn't yet been seen elsewhere on the market, the first thing I noticed was the space-saving benefits. I no longer had to reserve half of my car's trunk space for a stroller, and my cramped city apartment felt less so with just this one piece of baby gear in the entryway.
I also noticed that when in stroller mode, it was ridiculously easy to maneuver. The Doona could be steered one-handed — something I didn't consider a big deal until I tried to take my first sip of coffee while pushing my original stroller. Because of its low-profile design, it can turn tight corners and fit into smaller spaces. As a city dweller, this made tooling around with it on foot, without any need for a car, completely worthwhile.
What could be better? For something this revolutionary, it comes at a cost. The $500 price tag is steep for a system you can only use until your baby hits 35 pounds, at which point you'll have to buy a new car seat and stroller. Plus, because the Doona is primarily a car seat, when in stroller mode, there are some accessories you'd be wise to purchase (more on that below) that might seem superfluous with any other travel system.
Like many never-before-seen products, one of them always has to be first. For better or worse, this is the first car seat that doubles as a stroller, and the Doona is also the very first car seat ever created by Simple Parenting. If you are a parent who prefers to buy based on brand awareness and a decades-long reputation, it will be hard to convince you to use a virtually unknown model with your baby, despite it meeting the highest safety and quality standards.
Did it make baby happy? Without a doubt, yes. For those moments when she was still napping after a car ride, I was able to keep her asleep with the smooth transition provided by the Doona. No more being jolted awake from me carrying the car seat and thus knocking it — and her — back and forth with every step. Also, because the stroller mode has a more open-air feel to it, my baby seemed to enjoy her surroundings more than she does in her traditional stroller, where she's more embedded, with less of a view of the world around her.
Would I buy it? Based on price, I'm sticking with my current system for now. But if money was less of a concern, I wouldn't hesitate to get the Doona as an alternative for flights and weekend errand-running. Never mind the ease of getting in and out of a car with it, just getting in and out of my apartment has been made infinitely simpler because of Doona's minimalistic design. If you can afford it and if time is a premium in your life (with a baby, how could it not be?), consider it. At the very least, keep tabs on the company for future developments. If they somehow figure out how to extend the Doona's usefulness and make a convertible car seat, you'll find that it's the smartest invention you wish you'd thought of first.