If you’re ever really bored and want to have a bit of fun, you should try logging on to a Disney discussion forum and asking, “I am going on a trip to Disneyland with my child who is X years of age, should I bring a stroller?” It’s pretty much guaranteed that you will get immediate responses, equally divided into “kids these days are spoiled and lazy, I never used a stroller when my kid was X years old and they sucked it up and did just fine, I hate the way strollers clog up the walkways, you’re a terrible parent for even asking” camp and the “walking is so hard on those poor little legs, do whatever makes it easier for you and your family, I”M the MOM and NO ONE has the right to judge whether I use a stroller with MY children” camp. This will happen no matter what age X is, whether it’s two or twelve.
While I’m not nearly as opinionated as some, in everyday life I probably lean a little more towards the first camp. We ditched the strollers when the kids were about three and rarely use them when we’re out and about. I still keep one in the car in case I need it, but it only comes out on rare occasions, such as when my four year old son has fallen asleep and is impossible to rouse. It just seems a bit silly to me to strap a kid that’s perfectly capable of walking into a stroller just to save a few minutes here and there. I also find it hard to interact with my kids when they’re riding along several feet in front of me; it’s much nicer to walk along side by side.
But travel is a different matter. We are active travelers and tend to put on a lot of miles when we’re on the road and I think it’s just too much for the kids to keep up. In New York City we walked from the Metropolitan Museum of Art to Times Square one day and from City Hall back to Times Square the next. There’s no way we could have done that without a stroller. We brought two strollers up until our last Disney trip when the kids were three and four and we’ve brought one stroller along on each of our other trips. We’ll probably bring one along on our Epic Italian Trip this summer with a four and a five year old, but we feel like we’re right on the cusp of being a completely stroller free family.
So how does a parent of young children decide whether a stroller will be a help or a hindrance on a family trip? Well, unlike the car seat question, which is mostly decided by local laws, there are no hard and fast rules about when it’s time to ditch the stroller when you travel as a family. So here are a few considerations to think about when deciding if you should bring a stroller on your next family trip.
How much walking will we do?
On our Disney trips and our New York trip we walked pretty much all day, every day. On our Hawaii trip we parked the stroller in the entrance of the condo when we arrived and didn’t touch it until the day we left. In Hawaii we mostly drove from sight to sight and got out for an hour or two at each place. In New York we were on our feet all day. You will put on many more miles at a theme park than at a beach resort.
How will I transport the stroller?
I sometimes look at the enormous strollers that people are pushing in the mall or in a theme park and just wonder, “how on earth did you even get that thing here?” Giant cushioned seats and SUV sized tires may make for a comfortable ride, but they would be a huge hassle in an airport. If you’re driving your own car, transport really isn’t an issue, but for most travelers you need to make arrangements for transporting your stroller if you want to bring it along. One exception is that in airports a stroller can be a great, free luggage cart that you can roll right up to the gate. We always make the kids walk in the airport and use the stroller to haul our stuff to the plane. That’s one thing I’ll miss when we finally ditch the stroller for good.
What kind of stroller should we bring?
If you haven’t already guessed, I’m really not a fan of the big wheeled, jogging type strollers when traveling. If you jog, I’m sure they’re great, otherwise I just don’t see the point. When traveling, I find that smaller is better. We started traveling with a very basic Graco stroller that we called Pedro. It was flimsy and worn and one wheel always looked like it was about to fall off, but it was comfy, had a large basket and could carry a surprisingly heavy load. When Pedro finally gave up the ghost we invested what we hoped would be our last stroller, a lightweight umbrella fold model with a small basket and hood and very few extra features. It’s sturdy enough to carry 80 lb of kids across the length of Manhattan, yet light enough for a wimp like me to carry up several flights of stairs or put into the trunk of a car with one hand. A Maclaren Volo or another similar brand would be my top choice for a travel stroller.
Single or double?
Unless you have more stroller aged kids than adults in your family on your trip, a double stroller will probably be a liability. I used a double stroller for a while out of necessity, when my kids were about four months and twenty months old until they were about one and a half and almost three. I had one of the smallest and lightest doubles you can buy and yet it still always felt cumbersome and awkward. Two adults with two strollers can manoeuvre so much more easily in crowds. And here’s a little secret. With a little ingenuity, any stroller can be a double stroller. When she was a toddler, my oldest was more than happy to hop into Pedro’s basket for a ride home from the park when she got tired. She’s now very skilled at riding on the back of her brother’s stroller, standing on the back bar with her upper body between her daddy’s arms. If you think you’ll only need a second stroller occasionally there may be a way to make the single stroller work. If you have more than two, however, you may need to get creative.
And finally, there’s the zoo test.
Here’s the best way to decide if you need a stroller. For a theme park trip you can use a local zoo. For a city trip you can take public transit to the nearest city centre. Basically, pack up the kids and spend a day doing what you would be doing on your vacation. Start in the morning and go all day without access to your home or car. If your kids can walk around a zoo, or a local theme park or fair all day long without complaining about being tired or not being able to walk any further, you could probably manage Disney without one. If your kids can trek all over your home city for a full day, then they can probably manage in another one. If you find yourself wishing you’d brought a stroller by about noon, you’ll probably wish you brought one on your trip as well.