Searching For “The Perfect Stroller”
By the time my daughter was 14 months old, we had owned (at least temporarily) 7 strollers! Yes, it is a bit nuts, but I freely admit I am picky and was looking for “the perfect stroller.”
Before you jump to the conclusion that I must not have done my research first, allow me assure you otherwise. My husband and I read review after review after review… As first time parents, it is exhausting trying to make sure we have the best of everything for our daughter. The problem with customer reviews is that they are most often written at the initial product arrival or trial. Rarely do customers wait a year to really “test drive” a product before review, but frankly babies change so quickly that what works for an infant will be annoying in a month.
Perhaps my stroller saga can help you pin-point features you need in a stroller, while coming to the conclusion there is no one perfect stroller.
Stroller 1 – the Chicco Cortina Travel System. [Amazon Link] As first time parents, the baby registry was a frightening experience with all these new things we would suddenly need and need to understand. We were swayed into the tunnel vision of believing a travel system was the only sensible way to go. So, without fully understanding our other options we researched the heck out of travel systems. When we were sure there was only one good option for us, we registered for it.
Chicco Cortina Travel System – the reality. The car seat for our travel system was amazing (top-rated); it was everything I hoped it would be and more. As long as I was happy lugging the car seat in and out of the car, the stroller worked well with the car seat. It was fine, but it wasn’t a perfect solution – too bulky, and how would I fly with this thing? Then one day, I spotted my answer in the mall. I rushed up to the mom and had to ask her about her simple frame stroller cradling her daughter’s car seat.
Stroller 2 – the Baby Trend Snap N’ Go. [Amazon Link] Suddenly I was in love. This simple frame filled all my needs for only $60! Why did I spend so much on the other one!
Snap N’ Go – the reality. From the first day I used this stroller I was hooked. I even insisted my friend borrow my Snap N’ Go for her new baby once my daughter out grew it. Next baby, it is Snap N’ Go for me from day one! What do I love; it’s small, easy to maneuver, parent cup holder and parent compartment, nice sized basket on the bottom, works will different car seats, good height, the price, lightweight, easy to fold… The list goes on.
Stroller 3 – Mia Moda Cielo Evolution. [Amazon Link] Once our daughter was big enough to ride in a real stroller (in other words, not in a car seat, sitting forward), I hated the travel system even more. It was so big and bulky, heavy and a pain to deal with. Blah… So, we searched for a small folding everyday stroller for our girl. Again, the one we picked had great reviews and seemed like a cool ride.
Mia Moda Cielo Evolution – the reality. How do I fold this thing again? Juggling a baby, diaper bag and more while trying to fold this sucker – what was I thinking? Not to mention a small sun shade didn’t cover my daughter from the glaring Florida sun. That said – the husband loves this thing. So, this stroller lives full-time in hubby’s car for him to use when he takes our girl out for daddy-daughter time. More power to him.
Stroller 4 – Zooper Twist. [Amazon Link] By now I was starting to learn a few things about what I like and don’t like, I was “sure” this would be the one. But apparently I hadn’t learned enough yet.
Zooper Twist – the reality. Stroller test drove great around the house, but one “real walk” and this stroller went back to the store. I am 5’6” and each step I took I kicked the wheels of this thing. The wheels were FAR too close together, I couldn’t want like a normal person, and that wouldn’t fly. Back to the drawing board.
Stroller 5 – the cheap umbrella stroller from Babies R Us. Purchased as an extra stroller we only so could take to the beach.
Cheap umbrella – the reality. We used this $12 stroller once (so far). It now lives at Mimi’s house in case she ever needs a stroller. It does the job, not everyday equipment by any means, but nice for a stroll with Mimi. Hey, I really didn’t expect much more for $12!
Stroller 6 – Maclaren Quest Sport. [Amazon Link] I resisted this stroller from the beginning because of its annoying habit of falling over if unbalanced. But with all its rave reviews (including my sister in law), maybe they knew something I didn’t…
Maclaren Quest Sport – the reality. Mixed opinions on this one. It is the stroller I have used the most, but it still disappoints… I hate that it falls over every time I take my daughter out. I miss having a parent tray, taking my daughter in and out is a pain, no storage. It’s an umbrella stroller, it serves its purpose, but I am still not happy.
Stroller 7 – the Baby Jogger City Mini. This stroller is on the upper cusp of my price range, it was a stretch. But after all of my research and experience it seemed to have the things I knew I wanted; stability (three wheels), parent cup holder, child tray, storage, easy fold, lightweight, bigger wheels for rough terrain, etc. So, I bargain hunted and got a great deal on it.
City Mini – the reality. At last, I have found stroller love. This stroller rides like a dream and the one-handed, single-step fold is amazing. I love having a child tray (which is extra). I never strap my daughter in, I just slip her in and she is set. (Don’t tell the manufacturer, they recommend strapping in each time, but let’s be real…) I have a wonderful cup holder for me (also extra), decent storage, and the stroller doesn’t fall over when I take my daughter out — even when it is loaded down with a diaper bag and shopping bags. While the stroller is bigger than my umbrella stroller in my trunk, it has replaced my expensive umbrella stroller as my everyday stroller. I think I will be selling my fancy umbrella soon. (Oh, and they tell me this stroller has the ability to hold a car seat, we were past this when I found this stroller, but next baby I will defiantly try it!)
For 14 months I searched and I stressed over strollers, finally my dream arrived and I learn that two of my mom buddies already own this stroller! How did I miss this – they had my perfect stroller all along. I read review after review, but I forgot to use the best resource available — my own friends. Maybe I had to find my stroller on my own, but maybe I could have saved some time and money by asking those around me. I’ll never know, but next time I will defiantly ask around first!
In my search, I learned the details make or break a stroller. Every mom is different and has different requirements, so pick and choose what you must have, but here is a list of things to look for:
1) Car seat compatible. A stroller to hold your car seat – this is a must for newborns, but travel systems aren’t the only option.
2) Size. Some moms love the big stroller; others (like me) prefer something small and nimble. I want to maneuver through sales racks! Think about how you will use it – and consider your trunk space.
3) Price. You don’t have to have the most expensive stroller on the market; there are plenty of mid-priced strollers that have everything you need and more. Even on the upper cusp of my price range, the City Mini clocks in at about $230, it’s a far cry from the $500 options. And shop wisely – I didn’t pay $230 for mine!
4) Height and width. Check the height of the handles and the width of the wheels. Can you walk comfortably behind it at a slow pace and a brisk walk?
5) Parent tray and/or parent cup holder. Do you have to have one? No, but it is handy to have a place to toss your keys, wallet or a drink. My perfect stroller, just a cup holder and that works for me.
6) Kid tray. Buckling in and out gets old – especially at theme parks and the zoo. Once your child is sitting comfortably, a child tray makes it easy to just slip your kid in and go. (Note – my daughter was 14 months when I started this, you can’t do this until they are old enough to be stable.)
7) Fold. You will have your hands full. Can you fold the stroller holding a squirming baby, juggling a diaper bag and who knows what else? (I love the one-hand fold with the City Mini!)
8) Weight. Can you pick up the stroller comfortably?
9) Wheels. I took my fancy umbrella to the zoo over a mulch walkway, it was a nightmare. The small wheels need a smooth ride; bigger wheels can handle a rough terrain. But it isn’t about the biggest wheels. Remember trunk space.
10) Storage. How much stuff do you lug around? Where are you going to put it?
11) Sun shade. If you plan to be outside in the sun a lot, you’ll want good coverage. A big sun shade that has multiple positions is ideal. A small window through the sun shade is also a nice touch so you can peek in without waking a sleeping baby.
12) Seat. Does the seat look comfortable? Does it recline?
13) Moms know. Check out the strollers you see at the mall, ask other moms if they like their kid’s ride. As I have learned, there is nothing like living with a stroller to know its features and flaws. I would have never found the Snap N’ Go if I didn’t ask the mom in the mall.
14) Returns. Check the return policy of a stroller before you buy and don’t hesitate to return the stroller if it doesn’t work for you – even if it works for everyone else!
While this is not an exhaustive list of stroller details, but these are some things that were ultimately important to me — even if I didn’t realize they would be at first. Happy stroller hunting!
Mary R says
i totally agree! We have been through 4 strollers. I’m going to have to look into the one you have. It seems to meet all the needs of a mom. Great article!
Emily R says
We got the Joovy Kooper for Caden. I love it! It looks a lot like the City Mini. It’s hard to find one with a shade canopy that big! And it has pockets near the seat for toys.
Thank you so much for this review, super-helpful pointers and tips. I know I am looking at this a year and a half later but find this info very useful. I’d like to add that I am reading the Baby Bargains book right now (yes, we’re first time expectant parents too 🙂 and they give the City Mini top rating for suburban lifestyle as well in their April 2011 edition!! I am going to try to check this out in person at the store – there is no substitute for that I guess but I feel like a lot of “weeding out” of potential options is done. Thanks again!