(Epic) Stroller Buying Advice from a Parent in the Trenches
I love talking to people who are about to have their first baby. They know their lives are going to be changed forever, but they don't KNOW. You know? It's like watching videos of people who are about to bungee jump, or rappel down a mountain - you want to warn them to take all the precautions, but in the end all you can do is stand back and watch them go.
I have a morbid curiosity, though, in what people buy to prepare for their first child. I want to know what they've stocked up on, what they still need to get and where they are planning to shop. Part of me wants to know what's considered (baby on the)hip or (old s)cool these days, but more specifically, I want to know if they are unprepared as I was. And I want to help. I want to guide. I really do! But I have to bite my tongue, because, as I've found, people don't really want advice. They may think they do, but they most often don't.
The thing I'm most curious about, though, is what stroller people are planning to get. So far, I've found that people either have no idea what to get (to which I think you really should do some reasearch. Really.). Or, they invariable say "Oh, I'm getting a Bugaboo. Everyone says that they are the best." (to which I think Hmm, yes and no.) If they ask my advice, they regret it, because I have a lot to say about strollers. A LOT. I have to watch them and make sure I stop talking when their eyes start to glaze over and they look like they're going to go out and buy a stroller right that minute just so I will SHUT UP.
So, if you are a parent and are actually looking for advice on buying a stroller, if you feel as lost as I did when trying to choose the right stroller, and if you want to avoid having Stroller Graveyard in your back shed like I do, you may wish to read this. And please, if you are a parent who has bought and loved (or hated) a particular stroller, please add your two cents to the comment section. I'd love to hear any advice you have. Cause I feel the need to purge the information from my brain so that I can stop putting people to sleep at baby showers. And perhaps move on with my life.
Really think about how you are going to use your stroller. This is the hardest part, in my opinion, especially if you are going to buy the stroller before the baby arrives (as most do). I bought my first stroller - a Peg Perego Atlantico - because my sister-in-law had that stroller and loved it, and I didn't know any better. My SIL and I do not have the same life and we are not the same person. She liked walking around in malls with the baby. I liked walking in High Park on the trails. While that stroller was fine on flat surfaces, it did not like any kind of rough terrain, or snow deeper than a few centimetres. I trashed that stroller with my extreme strolling, and even lost a wheel at one point. Still don't know where it is.
Size matters. Wheels, storage, and overall size. In this one respect, you get what you pay for. Generally cheaper strollers are larger and bulkier. They also often have small, hard wheels. If you plan to only use your stroller in the mall or on large suburban streets, then it doesn't matter if you have a great big, stroller. If you are using it in the GTA, for example, you're screwed. There will be shops you can't go into (unless you offload the kid every single time), and you will even find it hard to navigate the city sidewalks with all the signs and flower pots. There are MANY people who don't want "SUV-type strollers" in their stores and go out of their way to make them inaccessible (Stupid, that, because who is spending the money during the weekday but parents at home with children? Others are probably working, not shopping.) Don't even get me started on taking a large stroller on the subway... Also, storage is essential - unless you like pushing a stroller while juggling groceries, diaper bags, jackets, snacks and sand toys. (Have fun with that.) And something I didn't know? The larger the wheel (the inflatable, bicycle-type wheel), the better it goes through the snow. VERY IMPORTANT in Canada.
Strollers to consider:
Bugaboo. Yes, I want one. Yes, I have stroller-envy. But yes, I realize now that this would never have been the best option for me. They are cute, light, easy to manoeuvre and totally what all the cool parents are buying. (Yup, still jealous. Just checking.) But they are not right for everyone. Plus they cost $1300! I consider them like Porsches. No one can deny that they are great (and expensive!) cars, but are they right for every lifestyle? No. Would you go off-roading in a Porsche? No. Would you go camping with a Porsche? No. A friend of mine has one, and she doesn't think that the tires don't go through snow very well at all. You can buy snow tires (at an additional cost, of course), but then the tires lock and the whole "easy to manoeuvre" aspect is gone. My main problem is the cost. Not only is it insanely expensive, but what happens if you have a second child? Yes, you can attach a "boogie board", but you better hope your kid is old enough and responsible enough to hang on. And, I doubt this feature is terribly useful in snow. (Note. Peg Perego's Skate is a cheap knock-off of this stroller, minus the storage. Who doesn't want storage?)
Phil and Ted's. I'm biased, because this is the stroller we bought with Little G on the way. In my opinion this is the best option currently available for families planning to have two children close in age. You buy it as a single, and then you can add the second seat later when you have another child. You can lie the baby flat when newborn and put the additional seat in front for the older child. You can buy a Coccoon which slides right into the stroller so you can take the baby out with waking. It's the smallest double option available, lightweight, and most importantly - when your older child is walking consistently, you're not left with a double stroller that you can't use. Oh! And it's great in the snow. BUT. Because I do have this stroller, I know it's not perfect. I've had tire issues. I'm sure it's just me because I haven't heard of anyone else with this problem, but I've had to replace the inner tubes far too often. When you do this, you have to go to a stroller repair shop (not just "any bicycle shop", as the salespeople assured me), because they are the only ones that carry inner tubes with angled valves. If you don't have an angled valve, you can't pump up the tires when they deflate. Also, your kids either have to be very close in age or very delicate. My boys are 38 and 28 pounds respectively. The max weight is 88 lbs total, which we haven't reached yet, but I assure you that you will not be able to push a 26 lb stroller with 88 lbs of kid inside it. The total weight with my kids and stroller is over 90 lbs and I have now officially refused to push both of them. I am a fairly fit mother of two who works out 4 times a week, and I think I might have a heart attack if I have to push them both one more time.
Maclaren Umbrella Stroller. I love this stroller. It's light, packs easily and can manoeuvre shops and coffee joints like a dream. It's expensive for an umbrella stroller (you can get a usable umbrella stroller at any Zeller's type store for $20 or less and this one costs over $100 dollars), but it's worth it for the extra: it reclines, it has a sun hood and a rain shield. Also, their doubles version is probably the only realistic side-by-side stroller option for city life. But, because their wheels are small and hard, it's a lost cause using this in the snow. We have one, and I call it my "summer stroller" because I wouldn't even consider trying to go through snow with it.
Running Strollers. I am a runner. A devoted, long-distance, not going to give it up anytime soon kinda runner. For that reason, I have always wanted a running stroller. The reality is, I don't actually like to run with the stroller all that much. I always preferred to use that time as a break from the kids. It's my form of meditation, and I don't like it being interrupted by demands for snacks and constant whining. And now, with two kids, I can't imagine trying to push both of them. (Wow, that would be some kinda workout.) I think that a lot of people feel the same way, because I always see ads on Craigslist for running strollers that have barely been used. Either that, or people find that it's hard to run with a stroller. However, if we had extra cash and storage, I would buy either a BOB Ironman stroller or a Chariot Cougar or CX. The BOB is lightweight and supposed to be the best for handling the wear and tear of true running (ie. you could do a marathon with it. Not that you would.) and I think it would be double well as a regular city stroller. The Chariot is way too big for regular use, but if you are a devoted exerciser, it's great, because the pod-like shape means you don't have to fuss with rain shields while you're running, and toys won't fall out. Also, there's a great storage feature for all your exercise needs.
If I was going to buy a stroller for my first baby all over again, I'd probably buy the Phil and Ted's because of it's versatility. But, if you're only going to have one child, then it probably woudn't be my first choice. If I wasn't worried about using the stroller for a second child (if we were only going to have one, or if I had the cash and the storage space to buy as many strollers as I wanted to) I'd probably buy the BOB Ironman, the Quinny Buzz. I've also seen some UppaBabys and Zooper Zydecos that I thought looked worth trying. I haven't used any of these strollers personally, but I've watched them go by many times and thought "Damn, I wish I had that stroller."
Whoosh. If you made it this far, you are either:
a) About to become a parent and are doing research. (Good for you.)
b) A stroller freak like me. (It's a problem, isn't it?)
c) A good bloggy friend who stuck it out to the end eventhough I bored you to tears. (Thank you! I love you!!)
d) My husband. (Although he probably stopped reading ages ago. He's heard this before.)
Please, if you have stroller suggestions or banishments, leave them in the comments. My obsession continues.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
(Epic) Stroller Buying Advice from a Parent in the Trenches
I refuse to be labelled! OK, just this once: tmi
Made by Andrea Micheloni