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Stroller shopping checklist

Using our Baby Jogger City Select with our 3-year old twins

When my husband and I found out that I was pregnant with twins, we knew that we needed to buy a new stroller (among many other things!). Stroller shopping was overwhelming! There were so many different types of strollers on the market in all different price ranges. I talked to my dad about it and he reminded me of his system when making a large purchase.

I touched on his system in my blog post, "I love my stroller," but after a recent conversation with one of my girlfriends regarding stroller shopping, I thought it warranted its own post. Large purchases are often hard to make, especially when you start tying a lot of expectations to that purchase. It is easy to become paralyzed by the thought of buyer's remorse. Here is how my dad has always advised me to approach a large purchase and how I applied that to stroller shopping.

1. Take out a piece of paper and draw three columns. The first column is "Must Haves," the second "Would like to haves," and the third is "Deal breakers."

This is where you put some serious thought into how you will actually use your stroller. This is more of a reflection on your family's lifestyle and the types of things you actually do in your day to day life. This is not where you listen to anyone's nay-saying comments, "You won't be leaving the house for months! Why even buy a stroller?" or where you try to convince yourself that after the baby is born you are going to pick up jogging... This is where you realistically examine how you intend to use your stroller, how long you plan on keeping your stroller, if you want to buy one stroller to last from infancy to preschool or a stroller that works with infancy and then another stroller later once your little ones reach the toddler years. When and how are you actually going to use your stroller?

2. "Must Haves"
 
In this column write down all of the things that you must have in your stroller. This is your list and so these can be anything that you require for your own personal life. Here were a couple must haves for me:
  • My husband and I are both tall and so it had to be comfortable for us to push (no short strollers).
  • I wanted a stroller that would last from infancy to preschool (and will now work for our next baby after our twins!).
  • It had to be functional in our life. I wanted it to fit through doorways, to be able to be pushed over grass or gravel. I don't jog with our stroller, but I do go to the mall, do our family shopping, and take our kids outside a lot (parks, pumpkin patches, etc.).

3. "Would like to haves"

In this column write down all the things that would really be nice to have in your stroller, but that you are flexible on. This is where you really need to be honest with yourself because sometimes it is easy to get held up on these things, things that really don't matter in the long run and that often end up costing you more money because you classify them as "must haves," when really they aren't. Again, this is very subjective to you. This is your list. Here were some of my would like to haves:
  • For me, budget ended up in this category (not for my husband, but I was making the list!). I really wanted the stroller to stay under or around $1000. After doing some preliminary stroller shopping before writing my list, I could tell that a stroller that hit my checklist would cost about this much. (You can find the Baby Jogger City Select with a double seat for less than this now! Check out Amazon.)
  • I really did not want a side-by-side stroller. I felt that it would be too restricting. I liked the idea of the strollers that had removable seats; I felt they were more versatile. However, if we found the perfect stroller and it happened to be a side-by-side, I was open to it. When I made my list, I did not immediately eliminate any of the types of strollers (side-by-side, over/under, in-line strollers, stadium seats).
  • Maneuverability really mattered to me, but I was willing to compromise how this happened. I needed a solution for all three of our kids, since our oldest was 2.5 years old when our twins were born. I wanted to be able to push it with one hand. I didn't want it to be a really heavy or hard to manage stroller since heading out with infant twins and toddler was going to be enough of a challenge in itself, but I was open to how it happened, whether with a glider board or with some sort of hold-on handle
  • Another surprising thing that fell into this category for me was how easy it was to assemble, disassemble, and put in my vehicle. This was really important to me when I was shopping for a single stroller for our first child. After doing some research into the world of double strollers, especially double strollers that could accommodate 3 children (such as with a glider board), I realized that all double strollers are slightly awkward. I really wanted one that wasn't ridiculously heavy and that was slightly less awkward. For instance, taking the seats off my Baby Jogger City Select and then folding up the frame is a lot less cumbersome than folding up an entire in-line stroller and lifting that-- seats and all-- into the back of my van. I also realized, after putting some thought into it, that whatever stroller we decided on would eventually fall into our routine. After the first couple times of using our stroller, I was right. I have a bit of a system for assembling and disassembling the stroller in the back of our vehicle.

4. "Deal breakers"

This is the negative category. The must have category is also a deal breaker category, but it is about things that you really have to have in a stroller. This category is about things that will make you not want a stroller, if you have anything on that list. I didn't have a lot on this list because all I had really done was some small Google searching before I wrote down these categories and really wanted to approach stroller shopping with an open mind. Here were my only deal breakers:
  • Cup holders. From looking online, I could tell that the world of double strollers was very different than the world of simple single strollers. A lot of strollers don't come with the basic accessories you think of when you think of a stroller. For instance, my Baby Jogger City Select stroller didn't even come with the second seat; we bought it separately. All the accessories for our stroller were bought separately and this isn't uncommon at all for strollers like this. I noticed most of the strollers we were looking at only came with a stroller frame and one seat. I am a caffeine addict and my stroller had to at least have the option for me to buy a cup holder for it. No way I'm leaving the house with 3 kids with nowhere to put my coffee.
  • Somewhere to put my things. I needed room for my diaper bag, purse, and shopping. The basket really mattered to me. I didn't like the storage room in a lot of over/under strollers and I didn't want to have to hang my diaper bag from the handle of my stroller.
With this list in hand, I went about stroller shopping. It helped to have them actually written down because when my husband jumped on the stroller research with me, I could decisively tell him what I wanted/needed out of a stroller. Making this list requires serious thought. It is good to keep the points as open as possible and to approach them with an open mind. The solutions for the must-haves or the deal breakers may not be exactly what you were thinking and the would like to haves may work out in a surprising way as well.

Once you have your list assembled, you move on to the next steps:

5. Research

Spend a lot of time researching. Research online. If you are out and see someone with a stroller that you really like or haven't seen before, ask them about it. You will hear the best reviews from someone who actually uses the product, not from the sales people who can tell you all the good points about any of the strollers on their sales floor. If you have a stroller that you think might work for you and happen to bump into someone pushing that stroller in public, ask them specific questions. "Do you like how it handles? Is it easy to push at the park? Do you have a hard time disassembling it? Is there room for a diaper bag underneath?" Whatever specific questions you can think of, ask them! Most people are quite open to discussing theses things, especially when you ask nicely. Moms get how hard it is to decide on a stroller and love helping other moms out. I discovered the Baby Jogger City Select after a trip to Target where I saw someone pushing the Kolcraft Contours stroller. I didn't know there were strollers like that on the market. That mom told me the things she liked about her stroller which led me to more Google searching which led me to the City Select.

6. Try it out!

This is very important. Something can read really well on paper, but not work out at all like you think it will when you actually handle the product. I didn't like how long the Kolcraft Contours stroller was when I actually tried pushing it, but I did like that it had more options than, say, the Chicco Cortina Together stroller. I also learned that a lot of the over/under strollers were irritating for me to push, that I didn't like how the seats got in the way of my stride. This step is all about you, the person who will be dealing with this stroller every day. How comfortable is it for you to push this stroller? How do you like how it feels? How easy is it for you to navigate? The other thing to remember when pushing a double stroller, especially if you plan on using it from infancy to preschool, is that eventually you will have a lot of added weight in there. How easy will this be to navigate with 30 lbs of children added? 50 lbs? 90 lbs?

The one thing I will caution on this step is that assembly and disassembly of a stroller is confusing the first couple times. Some strollers you can tell will not be the right stroller at all for you. For instance, I have a very petite friend and many of the strollers they shopped for were literally taller than her when she folded them and far too heavy for her to lift into the back of a van. There were strollers that I found very heavy to lift when disassembled, especially the double strollers that the seats were not removable, but when I took my husband with me to the store he initially complained that there was a lot to take apart with the strollers that have removable seats. I hear often from people that it must be obnoxious for me to take the seats off and on each time I take our stroller in and out of the van. My husband and I are both in agreement that it is not cumbersome; 3 years later we have done it so many times it is literally second nature to us. We also love that our stroller completely disassembles-- you can take off the wheels, seats, accessories, everything-- which makes it very compact for travel. So be cautious when judging the double strollers on how easy or difficult they are to assemble and disassemble when you are trying them out the first time in the store. Try folding a wide variety of double strollers for comparison. Double strollers are not single strollers and will not fold like a single stroller, so try not to compare them to folding single strollers.

Note: A lot of the big box stores will only have popular models of best selling strollers. If you are looking for a specific stroller or want to go somewhere to compare strollers side by side, often times a local baby boutique will be your best option. They tend to carry more of the European/high end/fashionable strollers over the standard double strollers. Call around and ask if there are floor models available to handle if you have a specific stroller in mind. It is very informative to find somewhere that has several of the models in store that you can actually compare side by side instead of driving from one store to the next to view different strollers. Also, if you find a stroller that you think you would like that isn't available in the United States, such as the ABC Adventure Buggy, contact your local twin group/mommy group. There is a good chance someone there has your stroller and wouldn't mind you stopping by to check it out!

7. Shop around

This last step is how we found the best deal on our Baby Jogger City Select. While the big box stores run sales, name brands, such as Baby Jogger, are often left out of promotions, coupons, and sales. I did some shopping around and found a local baby boutique that sold our stroller for the same price as the big box store. However, the baby boutique offered a customer loyalty program where if we spent x-amount we received x-amount of store credit. We bought our stroller and all the accessories through them and received a sizable discount from them where we would have been paying full price at a big box store. Also, check for last year's models. Unbeknownst to us, our stroller was at the tail end of the year and about to be marked down by Baby Jogger. Weeks after we bought the stroller, the baby boutique contacted us and refunded us the difference in the sale price (gotta love local stores!). There are also deals on websites like Amazon. Doing some shopping around before running out and buying the stroller can help save some money when investing in a stroller.

For us, a functional stroller was a must-have item. My husband is in the Navy and not always available. I needed the stroller so that I would be able to leave the house by myself with the kids. When we found out we were pregnant with twins, our families wanted to buy us all sorts of things and we told them a stroller was what we wanted. We registered for it and sometimes they bought us things that we had registered for and sometimes they just sent us a contribution. It was great that they got us a gift that we needed and still use and that made our lives so much easier!


So there is my best advice to keep in mind while stroller shopping. Why am I so passionate about stroller shopping? For me our stroller did exactly what I just said: it made my life easier. There is no way that I would have been able to take our oldest to his park and rec classes at the lake if we had a stroller that couldn't handle forest trails. We were able to continue our park trips, our long walks, our trips to local farms. I was able to take our twin infants to the doctor's office by myself. I was able to do our grocery shopping, get us out of the house, travel, because I had a stroller that was easy to use. The stroller gave me freedom and flexibility. I was so nervous about how I would manage a toddler and twins and having a stroller that suited our lifestyle helped make that much easier for me to handle on my own. I know that sounds really corny, but as a Navy family, it is difficult to live so far away from friends and family. When our twins were born, I did not have a large support network and was trying to figure out how I would manage everything on my own. I truly feel that for us, picking the right stroller made those first couple years with twins-- a busy time by all accounts-- easier.

I'm also excited that the stroller we bought for our twins will be the stroller we use with baby #4; I love that we aren't having to buy yet another stroller as so many people do! We plan on using a stroller seat for one of our twin toddlers, the infant carrier drop in for baby #4, and the glider board for our other twin toddler; our oldest will walk next to the stroller.

Here are the links to my other blog posts on our Baby Jogger City Select:
 


Comments

Spring said…
This is a great list! I wish there had been more options for triplets strollers. We had the peg Perego & it was awesome with infant seats but became very cumbersome once the boys outgrew them. I didn't use a stroller much after they turned one because of it & switched to a wagon. Your stroller looks amazing! :)
Lindsey said…
I wish I had been able to read this prior to having Evie. As much as I appreciated their generosity my in-laws bought my travel system without consulting me about what I wanted. Unfortunately, due to my highly active lifestyle that stroller just didn't cut it. After 6 months of use the front wheel bearing broke during a run and caused the front tire to shudder. After doing my research I decided the BOB was right for me. It has been awesome and I bought it in a gender neutral color so we can use it for baby #2. I would strongly suggest that anyone go on amazon and read reviews before making such a big purchase. Just about every person had the same issue with my first stroller.
These are great tips! We have the City Select too and I LOVE IT! We went to Buy Buy Baby near us, and there stroller section is like a car dealership for strollers! :-) So we "test drove" a bunch of them. It was hard for me to wrap my head around the price of the City Select, but I knew I wanted it. Fortunately, we were able to find one for sale on Craigslist, so I saved about $200 on it! I was so pumped about that deal! #HDYDILink-up
Katelyn said…
You always have such great advice!! I wish we would've done more research, but I didn't know what I was looking for when we bought our first stroller. Usually the major deciding factor is cost for us. Thankfully, we make do.
Kimber said…
Sorry for the delay in answering comments!!!

Spring, totally agree. Triplet strollers are intense. Very glad we were able to go with an option like the City Select with our twins and toddler.

Lindsey, we had a Chicco travel system with our first and it worked fine. I didn't love, didn't hate, didn't really like it, but it worked. I've LOVED this stroller. I'm not sure I would do things differently because I was never a big stroller person before I had twins (drove my mom crazy that I never used a stroller-- haha!). I made our oldest walk or ride in a cart as soon as possible. Once we had twins, it really changed things and I needed something that worked for us. I don't know if I would have discovered this stroller if our second was just one baby instead of two... that's a deep thought right there, lol! ;) Also, I've never used a stroller for jogging or running. I don't like doing that by myself let alone with a child in tow... haha! I am always amazed when I see mommas running!!! Keep up the good work!!!

Sarah, we did the same! LOL! I loved the test driving. It really put in perspective what I wanted in a stroller and how they handled.

Katelyn, this is my dad's advice! Don't tell him, but he's pretty smart. ;) Cost is a big factor for us too, but I knew I was going to push this on my family that wanted to get us baby gifts; I also knew I would never leave the house if I didn't have a stroller that worked for me! :P And, man, us mommas are good at making do, aren't we? I swear that is part of our job description. You are doing a great job!!!!
Liam Mark said…
As every parent comes to find out, a stroller or two is a necessity when it comes to having a baby. The proper stroller can make parents daily activities with a baby or small child much easier and less tiring. There are many types of strollers you can choose from.See more baby stroller reviews.
Marcel said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ellen said…
I often have my younger one on a tandem seat behind my son's tricycle (Kettler makes them - they're great). My 3 (almost 4) year old hasn't ridden in a stroller since he was 2, except for the jog stroller when I have both kids and I'm out on a run. By pre-K, I think that's too old even for the jog stroller and I'll have him ride his bike as I run.

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