Getting Around: Do I Really NEED a Stroller?

Before our son was born, my husband and I avoided much of the pre-baby purchasing craze. We purchased only a small percentage of those “must-have” toys, gadgets, and pieces of furniture and picked up the rest of what we actually needed when we discovered that we did, indeed, need it. Because we were prudent in our purchasing, we saved a lot of money and have less (comparatively) to store in the crawlspace until we decide it’s time for baby #2.

But, all prudence aside, there was one item that I obsessed about for months: a stroller.

Up until the point I actually purchased our stroller (a month or so after our son’s birth), I obsessed about which stroller to buy. I no longer noticed the cheery grins on the faces of babies in passing. Instead, I noticed only their stroller–the brand, the color, the style. And, I took mental notes of each stroller I’d actually seen in person, weighing the size and shape. And, of course, the price.

Some friends told me that a stroller was not a big deal: “Just get a cheap one; I barely use mine,” they said. For some, that might be true. If you only intend to use a stroller at the mall, or for the occasional walk to the park, it really doesn’t matter too much which stroller you get. But, for a parent who lives in a city and plans on walking a few miles a day, a stroller is a big deal. And because I didn’t have a thousand dollar stroller budget like some parents in Park Slope or LA, I couldn’t just order the latest hip-mamma stroller spotted in a magazine.

Like any niche market, the world of strollers is vast and becomes quickly overwhelming.

Things to consider:

Price– Is your budget $200 or $2000?

Age Range– Do you need a stroller that adapts to hold an infant carseat? Do you want a cot or full recline for a newborn? Do you want to be able to use it when your child is three years old? Do you need a stroller that can become a double stroller for the next child?

Size and Weight– Will it fit in your trunk? Can you lift it with your child in it if you need to navigate stairs? Can it maneuver on the sidewalk/between store aisles?

Other considerations– Is it practical for where you will use it? Where is it made? Are the tires better for flat surfaces or uneven surfaces? Does it fold up easily/quickly/with one hand? How well is it constructed? With what materials is it made? How large is the storage compartment? It the seat wide enough for your child? Does the seat seem comfortable for long walks? Does it have a warranty? Does it come with accessories or will you need to purchase other pieces separately? Can you use it with the infant carseat you’ve already purchased or registered for? Is the color scheme gender neutral to use with future children?

You may be thinking: Seriously? Does it really matter that much what stroller I purchase?

Take this into consideration: For the past 18 months, I’ve taken an average of 3 walks a week around downtown to run errands, grocery shop, visit the bank, etc. And if each of these walks averages about 3 miles, that’s roughly 700 miles I’ve logged on my stroller so far. And, I intend to use it up until we have another baby, which adds many more miles to its lifespan.

Basically, my stroller is a tool that I will have used almost every day for 2-3 years. So, I’m thankful that I took my time picking out a stroller that was exactly what I needed, for what I could afford to spend.

On a personal note:

I ended up purchasing the Baby Jogger City Mini stroller and the infant car seat adapter, which allows the stroller to hold many of the most popular infant car seats. (I found a Maxi Cosi car seat at a discounted price online because it was in a discontinued color!)

The stroller is everything I’d hoped for. It’s lightweight, sturdy, sleek, super easy to manuveur, and my whole “travel system” (stroller, adapter, car seat) only cost a total of $425. This might seem like a lot, but when you compare it to a moderately priced “travel system stroller” you can purchase at Babies R Us for $325, you’re only paying $100 more for something that is about a million pounds lighter and a million times easier to use and travel with. (And a lot more attractive, if you ask me.) I’d say I made a heck of a purchase, especially considering the stroller I was really lusting after would have set me back an easy $900 for the entire “travel system.”

For parents who don’t have $1000+ to spend on a fancy stroller, I highly recommend the Baby Jogger series. Baby Jogger makes everything from hip, urban fashion strollers like their City Select (starting at about $500), to bonafide jogging strollers like their Performance Jogger which runs about $450. Mine is their mid-priced urban-use stroller. They have recently released a Bassinet/Pram accessory and a Glider Board for an older sibling to ride along, giving their single strollers an extended life. Many of their strollers can be purchased as a double stroller, and their City Select is a multi-use stroller for infants or toddlers and can be adapted to be a double stroller.

One large caveat is that big-box baby stores like Babies R Us don’t sell many high-quality strollers, at least not in-store. So, in a Midwestern city like Cincinnati, it’s hard to find floor models to test drive. My advice: visit every high-end baby store you can find within a reasonable distance and look at everything. Seeing a $1200 stroller in-person will tell you whether or not it’s really worth your hard earned money. Likewise, test-driving a cheaper stroller that the manufacturer is trying to pass off as high-end may convince you that it’s worth paying the extra $100-200 for the better stroller. (Hint: 3-wheels does not equal high quality.)

When you can’t find floor models, you can make up the difference by doing a lot of online research. Read reviews. Read parenting blogs. And don’t be embarrassed to stop a parent on the street and ask about their stroller. Chances are, if you see a parent using a high-end stroller, they would be happy to tell you about it and give a quick review.

In short, if you are not going to use your stroller a lot, then maybe a $100 stroller is a good idea.

But, if you live in the city and would rather enjoy your walks downtown, maybe reconsidering your priorities is a good idea. For us, it was a choice between purchasing “baby furniture” or a nice, attractive, high-functioning stroller.

I am very glad I chose the stroller.

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