Thursday, December 18, 2008

Baby Products and Registries: Strollers

First off, I just want to say thanks to my readers and commenters for commenting on yesterday's post about carseats.  To me, the reader comments are what are going to make these entries worthwhile.  Eventually, I am going to post my personal recomendations for each product, but for now, I'm more talking about how to decide in what direction you're going for each piece of equipment.

Today?  Strollers!  Strollers are possibly the most varied of all baby products out there.  They range in price from a cheap $15 bucks to over $1000. For all intents and purposes of this entry, the strollers I'm going to suggest and talk about are single strollers.

To decide on what kind of stroller you should get, there are some questions you should ask yourself:

1.  What kind of terrain are you going to be frequenting the most often?  Bumpy grass and trails?  Smooth mall tiles?  Walking trails in a local park? 

2.  What size car do you drive?  The smaller the car, the smaller the stroller needs to be.  Technically you can fit a large stroller into a hatch back, but you're not going to get anything else in there. 

3.  What are must have features in your book?  Snack holders?  Big baskets?  Small footprint?  One-hand steering?  There are a million of features for every stroller, and often, strollers can be customized with add-ons, so don't nix every stroller that doesn't have the feature you're dying for without some investigation. 

There are four main types of single strollers on the market:

The Travel System:   This stroller system actually combines the bucket carseat with the stroller itself.  The bucket seat clicks soundly into the stroller allowing you to transport your kid from the car to the stroller effortlessly.  Bonus for my A-type friends:  The patterns of your stroller and carseat match, thus allowing you to breathe easy.  (And yes, yes, that appeals to me as well).  These strollers also happen to have a lot of the bells and whistles:  Snack trays, cup holders for the adult, one handed steering, ample storage, one hand folding, etc.  Once your child outgrows the bucket seat, they can sit facing the world in the stroller itself.  Most of these have five point harnesses, deep padding, and large canopies.    But with all the features comes a lot of weight.  These babies are BIG.  But they're super popular and that's for a reason.

The Stroller Frame:  A stroller frame isn't necessarily a technical stroller.  Instead, this converts your bucket seat into a stroller by adding wheels and a basket.  These are inexpensive, lightweight, and easy to manuver.  Downside is that you have to purchase another stroller for when your child outgrows the infant seat. But they allow you to stroll around with your little one facing you, which when they're little, is the best thing for them when they have to be in a stroller.  Many other strollers don't give this option. 

The "Umbrella" Stroller - These are the lighweight cousins of the travel systems.  Generally, they don't hold the infant seat, which makes them great graduation strollers from the frames.  These often have the biggest price difference.  At the bare minimum, the cheap umbrella strollers have absolutely no bells and whistles, and are often the best strollers for quick jaunts into the store or to the post office.  These cheap strollers are great for bigger toddlers in times where they need a place to rest their legs, but you don't need a giant stroller to haul around.  The higher end umbrella strollers often have storage baskets, canopies, and five point harnesses.  Combi actually makes a travel system which I think is the best of both worlds.  It has the ability to hold the bucket seat but has the portability of a lightweight stroller.  Umbrella strollers are great for anyone, but the higher end versions are great specifically for city dwellers who need the lightweight portability of a stroller they can haul up and down steps or into stores without sacrificing the features. 

The Jogging Stroller - The bohemoth of the stroller world.  If you have intentions to jog or do trail walking, these are the strollers that should appeal to you.  Many of them accommodate the bucket seat if you chose to go that route, but sometimes you have to purchase an adapter kit.  There are many strollers that are built to look like jogging strollers, but are not recommended to actually take... jogging.  Definitely check on that. 

So, pros and cons?

The Travel System - Tons of bells and whistles, often very easy to use, offers complete compatibility with the carseat, allows you to purchase both pieces of equipment at the same time, fairly cost effective.

The Stroller Frame - Lightweight, portable, cheap, and easy to use.  Often has a super large storage basket and cup holders. 

The Umbrella Stroller - Lightweight, portable, and very versitile.  Offer many of the features that a travel system does, except in a smaller frame.  Can be relatively cheap.  Very small footprint, which allows for maneuvering in small spaces. 

The Jogging Stroller - VERY sturdy, smooth riding.  They often have big baskets and very easy steering.  Allows for strolling over varied terrains. 

The Travel System - Bulky and heavy.  All of those bells and whistles weigh a LOT.  Larger footprint, which makes maneuvering in small spaces relatively difficult. 

The Stroller Frame - You'll need to buy another stroller for when your child outgrows the bucket seat.  They don't have quite as many features as a travel system.

The Umbrella Stroller - Generally don't allow your child to face you.   If you don't buy one that can hold a bucket seat, your child is most likely not able to use it until they're about 6 months old.  (Most umbrella strollers recommend not being used until your child is 6 months old and sitting on their own...  I found that if the stroller reclined, you could put a 4 or 5 month old in one with no problem).  But alas.  It's a con, for sure.  They also don't generally come with a snack tray. 

The Jogging Stroller - HUGE AND BULKY.  The good ones are often expensive.  They weigh a ton and take up a lot of room in a car.  Child is often not able to use them until 6 months unless combined with an infant seat.  Child generally faces forward instead of backwards. 

Our Choice?
We registered for a stroller frame and a higher end umbrella stroller and found that to be an excellent solution.  The stroller frame served us well and because each of the strollers were so small, we were able to keep both in the trunk for the transitional period where she would be awake and wanting to sit up and see the world.  The umbrella stroller is a fantastic stroller to travel with.  We loved not having a huge bulky stroller in our trunk.  I really wish that our umbrella stroller had a snack tray, but otherwise,  we were extremely happy with our choice.

Tomorrow?  Highchairs and bathtubs (and maybe some other items if I feel motivated :)


  1. We had the same stroller solution - a frame for when she was little, then the $60 Jeep umbrella stroller. I was told by many smart moms to buy a stroller with a snack tray, and I can't agree more. We ended up with the Jeep because it was lightweight, pretty cheap, and had a snack tray/cup holder. Good to go!

  2. You should totally get paid for this... totally.

  3. We have a faux umbrella stroller. It's half way between that and the travel system stroller. An infant seat doesn't fit on it, but it reclines and has a clip-on stack tray. I love this stroller for cruising the mall because it's small and light, and best of all? The handles are at a good height! I find most cheap umbrella strollers slightly too short (I'm 5'7" and mostly leg). It's an Elfe.

    I also agree on the snack tray being super important. Most of all because it prevents the child from being able to lean out too far, which is super handy!

  4. We did the exact same thing :) the babies R us salesperson told us we couldn't have the carseat without the travel system...I couldn't even lift that huge monstrosity! I smiled and said, "Wanna bet!?" We bought the frame stroller and I couldn't be happier with that decision.

    That being said, we did buy a duo glider when #2 came along. We got it on craiglist for a STEAL. I've only used it a handful of times in 4 months, but since we paid next to nothing for a, what? $150 stroller? I'm fine with that, lol

    I usually push #1 in the umbrella stroller and wear #2 if I have them both with me.

    Thanks for your thoughts!!! :)

  5. We had SO many different kinds of strollers. My favorite? The Sit-and-Stand.

    Since the kids are a little older we've moved on. We're a wagon family now, although I do miss the stroller for the mall. It's a nice place for coats and packages.

  6. For my first baby, I really WANTED the stroller system, but in the end, I only used it for a few months because the stroller part was just soooo big and I (and my baby) preferred 'wearing' my son. We got the umbrella stroller at 9 months and I LOVED it especially for all the airline travel we do. We got the MacClaren Umbrella because it works for both me (5 foot 2) and my husband (6 foot 4). Now we are expecting our second child six years after the first and its like starting over. I saw that MacClaren has the stroller frame for the car seats so that actually helped me make the car seat decision....We will get a new infant carrier & the stroller frame and then use the convertible when we are ready to make the transition. I have to admit that I have been completely tempted to indulge in one of those $1200 stroller/infant carrier systems...I practically drool when I see one, but then, I realize that my wants & needs are two different things...I think! Rachel in Alaska

  7. We got a stroller frame first, and used it with the bucket seat while we got used to figuring out how we would actually use a stroller. Then, when we stopped using the bucket seat (We had a Safeseat, so we used it for 13 months--it would have lasted longer but we were moving so it was a good breaking point), we knew what we needed to look for in another stroller. We ended up with the Baby Jogger City Mini. The ONLY thing it has proved to not handle well is airplane flight. So I ended up with a cheap Chicco for taking on the plane.

    As for the snack tray "necessity"? Never had one. Not missed it either (at 18 months). Yesterday, my son held his snack trap so he could eat while we shopped. That was sufficient.


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