Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Great Stroller Debate

One of the most widely discussed topics about taking kids to Disney is deciding what to put them in. (The second most popular might be which diaper bag to use, which I will tackle in a future post.) It is my humble opinion that, unless you have a true superstar kid who regularly walks several miles a day, you will need some sort of stroller or carrier for kids 0-2(ish) and a stroller for kids 2(ish) to 5--perhaps up to ages 6 or 7. You may be able to go without one for a morning or an evening, but we find that it's good to have them with you for any trip longer than one day. Of course, you may wish you had a stroller for yourself... but you don't get one. Sorry.

So for the youngest set, stroller or carrier? Which is better?

In my opinion, this depends entirely on who is carrying the child and how large the child actually is. For those of you in good shape (runners, athletes, body builders, etc.), a carrier can be fabulous. You don't have to deal with parking a stroller and avoiding taking out innocent bystanders who cut you off without any consideration to the fact that you are desperately trying to be a polite driver. Nor do you have to be the recipient of dirty looks from those same innocent bystanders as you remove their feet from the ankles with the wheels of your bulldozer stroller. (Oh, and yes... there is a "stroller etiquette" post in our future.)

If you choose a carrier, here are a few tips:
  • Choose a back carrier, not a front pack. A hip carrier is also fine, and one that can do a switcheroo is even better. One that I have seen a lot at the parks is the ERGO Baby Carrier. It falls into the "switcheroo" category, and seems to be the most comfortable carrier on the market for both you and baby. I put forth this assertion based on reviews and personal interviews with people using them. I should disclose that I have not worn one myself.

  • Be sure more than one person in your party is willing to wear the baby for any length of time. I hearken back to a statement made here not so long ago... Don't sacrifice your tomorrow for today. Trade off so everyone's back gets a little baby time.

  • Don't forget you will still need a bag of some sort, and without the stroller, you will be carrying it. So even when you aren't toting a baby, you will very likely be toting baby's stuff. Diapers, bottles or sippy cups, wipes, extra clothes, snacks... it adds up. All stuff you didn't need before you had kids.
I encourage comments on these carrier tips, as I have only used one myself for short, around-town excursions. Both of us were way too out of shape to use one at Disney. That said, we chose to go the stroller route. We debated and shopped and observed and reached the following determination:

If you have enough adults in your party to allow it, bring one stroller per child.
So... two kids? With two parents? Two strollers.

Here's how we reached that decision:

There are plenty of lightweight, easy-ish strollers to pack on the market. You only need one stroller to have a basket of some kind, so get a Combi stroller like this one (or a more expensive brand if you can swing it) for one kid, and cheap umbrella strollers for the others. The Combi can be found for $99 and it folds twice, so it's easier to pack. Our umbrella stroller was free with purchase of a booster seat at Babies R Us. Check the store flyers... they frequently give them away. Both strollers fold easily and both weigh less than 12 pounds. The Combi has a small basket and a couple of pockets. If you have a cup holder on one... all the better. Mine don't, however, and we didn't miss them much. Water bottles go almost anywhere.

Many try to get one stroller thinking the kids will share. I've seen this fail far more often than I've seen it work. Most kids will not take turns in the stroller. In fact, they will most likely get a bit violent about NOT sharing. Just guessing, of course. You know your kids. But Murphy's Law will dictate that they will both be tired at the same time. You want to have space for all your individual children if possible, even if they aren't in the stroller the whole time. (Maybe they'll let you get in the stroller and push for a while... probably not).

Rental strollers are also available, both in the parks and from outside vendors. The ones in the park are expensive and a little awkward. They also look like all the other rental strollers, making them easy to lose. I've heard several people say they would rather rent the strollers because they are sturdier (trust me... they tip just as easily as any other stroller... maybe even more so) and because they don't want to be bothered with them on the plane/in the car/etc. The car argument may be more valid, as they do take up precious cargo space driving to and from Florida, but once you are there... no problems. AND if they fold easily, they aren't a bother on planes either. At my airport, we get to skip ahead in the security line when we have the stroller because the machines are upstairs and we have to take the elevator rather than the escalator. It's practically a perk! Then you gate-check them (the strollers, not the kids)... ba-da-bing... ba-da-boom... done!

I am not familiar with outside vendors for stroller rental at Disney so I'm not really comfortable talking about it here. Again, I welcome comments from those who have used these services and can offer advice.

I find that double strollers (two seats or even one seat with one "stand/sit" platform) are too heavy to push around the park all day. Especially when they contain two 30+ lb. children. We tried our double stroller at the zoo when my son was 7 months and my daughter was 3 1/2 years. By the end of the day, my back was killing me and my hands had blisters. Granted, our zoo has more hills than WDW, but still... We also have friends with the same kind of stroller we have and they took it to Disney when we all traveled together. We found no advantages to having the double stroller there. Having two was just as easy or difficult, and the larger the stroller, the harder it is to transport in a folded position. Our double stroller was taller than me when folded, and I qualify for runway modeling (height-wise anyway).

If you don't have a stroller or carrier, your child will tire quicker, and although you don't need to go from dawn til dusk with a wee one, you also don't want to barely get to the park before you are turning around to head back to the room because little Joey can't possibly take another step on his own. Keep the kid comfortable or else it won't seem like the Happiest Place on Earth to you for long.

So there's what I've found works in the parks. Now it's your turn. Leave us your comments and advice on strollers and carriers in the parks!


Raelynn said...

I have been going back and forth on whether we should bring one...after all son is almost 7.

I would hate to have to rent one because of the cost!

So I have weighed the pros and cons:
Umbrella stroller very compact
Won't have to listen to and be irriated by "I'm tired"
Can walk at an adult pace instead of a kid-style stroll
Have a place to put the backpack/bags if he wants to walk

Have to lug stroller around
Umbrella stroller is too short for DH to push comfortably

Basically, it goes back to my favorite advice [I]"Know Thy Child"[/I]
Lots of kids his age refuse to ride in a stroller anymore. My little lazy bones
will gladly ride. So we are bringing the stroller. I thought about buying a new one with the extended arms, but I couldn't justify the cost. So we will bring our almost 7 year old one...and if we lose it or it breaks, we won't care as much.

The 999th Ghost said...

I have taken lots of kids to the parks, and first, a stroller is essential to enjoying the park. Every point in the article is great, but remember one important thing, if there is no stroller then you are carrying everything. A stroller makes a great "home base" for all of the items you are going to have with you at the park. If you bring a camera, food and drinks, purchases, places to put your cup or water bottle while walking etc.

Our four year old still strolls, but my other children routinely used the stroller as long as it was available (especially when we would rent the double stroller at the parks. With the increase in park rentals and the shrunken stroller size we decided to buy a consignment stroller just for the parks.) However our park strategy hasn't changed much. We tend to stroll to an area of the park then find a good shaded spot for the stroller and fan out to the attractions from there. Also, a stroller is a great tool for keeping people from crowding your parade or fireworks seat.

I have also had 5 different baby backpack and holders. The only one I found successful was one that converted to a stroller. The problem with many of the backpack holders is the difficulty for a single person to easily get them up on your back. Further, with the heat of the park often bearing down on us while there, the poor kid in the backpack was often hotter due to our mutual body heat. Being able to take it off and push for a while was great.

Unknown said...

We are headed to WDW in September and are renting from Orlando Stroller Rentals. They are less expensive than WDW and will deliver the stroller directly to your resort before you arrive. When checking out, the stroller is left at the resort for them to pick up. I hope it works as well as we expect.

If I remember, I will post a follow up when we return.

Karen said...

We live local to WDW and always take a stroller. We use a double since for our 3yo & 18mo.
I like the double better instead of a single...only if one parent is riding and you have to push both strollers it's a bit difficult!
Also remember when you arrive in the parking lot you have to be able to fold your stroller to ride the tram. Or If you want to take the railroad @ MK and want to take the stroller with you. You need to fold it up.

Anonymous said...

Just a warning on umbrella strollers...

Just be sure that both adults are comfortable pushing it while bending forward...

These strollers are so small that both of us swore not to use them again at the parks becuase you have to bend forward to reach the handles. Walking this way for a week is veeery tyring and uncomfortable... plus I'm sure it can't be good for your back.

This year we are taking an ebayed jooby ultralight caboose for our 7 and 4 yo's

Elizabeth said...

Good point on the height of strollers. It is possible to buy handle extenders and they do work well. Might still see a cost savings by doing that rather than investing in nicer strollers. We are also fairly tall and we switch off on our umbrella stroller.

Tim Hubbard said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
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