Some might say that having a baby is the biggest, most important decision of your life, but those people probably never had to wade though the shark-infested waters known as the Bugaboo-era stroller industry. Choosing the right stroller at a time when the options are endless and prices are sky-high is enough to make any parent-to-be question their life choices. Of course, we don’t like to see anyone suffer, so we’ve laid out some essential questions to help you narrow down the search so you don’t go home with some stroller that you never should have even considered in the first place.
1. Where will I put my coffee?
Face it, you’re going to be tired, so chances are you’re going to become very well acquainted with your fancy new coffee machine that one of your more experienced parent friends gifted you at your shower. So when you’re testing strollers, bring your favourite travel mug and make sure it fits in the (typically) optional cup holder. No cup holder option at all? Keep looking. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
2. Can I fit my diaper bag and my purse in the basket?
As far as strollers are concerned, the most important feature is that it safely fits your baby, but a close second is the size of the basket underneath. There is no such thing as a too-big basket, and don’t let any store clerk tell you otherwise. So make sure yours can handle all that you’ll be needing to bring with you – like six changes of clothing, since no one is safe from baby’s explosive diarrhea.
3. What about groceries?
Along with size of the basket, is strength of the basket. Is it just a mesh bag disguising itself as an actual storage compartment? Make sure it looks sturdy enough to hold your heaviest pantry items, like canned beans, cartons of milk, and those bottles of wine that you’ll be needing to get you through the next 18+ years.
4. Should my babies be side by side or behind each other?
Whether you have twins, or a newborn and a slightly-less newborn (may the force be with you), you’re going to need a stroller that fits both of them. You need to decide how you want them configured. Side by side is fantastic for interaction between the two, but less great for navigating busy sidewalks and fitting through narrow doors. Unless of course you consider parenting an extreme-sport (it kind of is), then by all means go for the double wide and never look back.
5. Can I push it fully loaded with only one hand?
If there is one test you simply must perform on any stroller you’re considering, it’s this one. Walk into your favourite baby store looking like a crazy bag lady and load that puppy up with weight. Even the crappiest stroller will move smoothly with nothing in it, but you want to know how it’ll spin with a toddler and load of groceries in it. If you can manoeuvre it at max weight with just one hand, never let that stroller go!
6. Can I fold/unfold it with one hand?
This is always the step that confuses the hell out of non-parents. “I pushed the red button, it still won’t unfold!” Since every stroller has different mechanisms, make sure you test the fold/unfold function on every one you’re considering because the last thing you want to do is lay your baby on the roof of your car while you go head-to-head with your newly minted “death trap.”
7. Does it stand up while folded?
Ok, so you’ve mastered folding and unfolding, but what about balancing it against a wall or your car when your arms are full of baby, and diaper bag. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, but wheels move. When you’re trying to hold onto everything you just took out of the there, the last thing you want to do is try to catch a runaway stroller with your one free foot.
8. Is it compatible with my car seat?
For the most part, all strollers are, but some are more compatible than others. What we mean is, some are compatible with certain brands, but make you purchase an extra adapter for other brands. Same yourself time and money by coordinating the two like you do your shoes and purse. Or, at least like you did before you had kids.
9. What if my older kid gets tired and wants to ride too?
If your older child is six or under, this situation will definitely present itself. And no, sadly, the newborn can’t just sit on his lap. However, some fancy schmancy strollers these days come with nifty ride-along platforms for older kids. Some come standard, some don’t, and some don’t have the option at all.
10. What do the handlebars feel like?
You’re going to have a solid grip on these for a few years at least, so make sure they feel nice in your hands. Some are plastic, some are foam, and some are leather (oh, you fancy huh?), and unless you are committed to making “stroller gloves” a thing, you should pick whichever one you like best.
11. Will the fabric show every stain?
This is more about colour than actual material, since most strollers are made with similar washable fabrics. Of course, you’re kidding yourself if you think you’re going to clean that thing more than once in a blue moon, so pick a fabric that will best camouflage spit up and ground-up goldfish crackers. Actually, camouflage would do well here. This is not a time to choose white. We repeat. Do not under any circumstance buy a white stroller. Unless of course you’re Puff Daddy.
12. Are the tires air-filled? Why do I care?
Great question! Air filled tires give you a much smoother ride than plastic or rubber because they absorb most of the impact from bumps and cracks in the sidewalk. This means baby sleeps soundly and isn’t woken up every time you roll over a pebble. Believe us, you care about that.
13. Does tire size matter to me?
Yes and no. It depends on where you plan on taking that stroller. Are you a jogger? You need a big front wheel. Trail-hiker? Big wheels. Obstacle course enthusiast? Yup, big wheels. Of course, if you’re like most people who just need to get from point A to point B, then size doesn’t really matter. Oh but wait, we live in Canada where it snows half the year. If you want to push through slush with ease, you better go big or stay home.
14. Basic black, or bright and colorful?
We’ve already established that white isn’t an option, but let’s say that you aren’t worried about stains and are basing you colour choice solely on which one will match your wardrobe the best. Don’t act like you haven’t already thought about this. Of course, black goes with everything, but so does ketchup and you don’t see us mixing that into our baby’s bottle. All we’re saying is, don’t automatically default to black. If you found a stroller that meets every requirement on your list, and comes in an array of shades, take some time to think about it. Plus, pushing something bright orange up a steep hill might just keep you from falling asleep at the wheel during the first few months.
15. Do I need a bassinet?
If you want to keep your car seat strapped to your car as often as possible, then a bassinet is a no-brainer. It’s cozy, warm, and doubles as a bed for day trips to visit the grandparents. But if you plan on using your car seat as your new third arm, then a bassinet may just become a bulky extra that takes up too much room in your trunk.
16. Can it fit in the truck of my car?
If you own a car and plan to use it to move baby, this should probably should have been question No. 1. Not only does it need to fit in the trunk, it needs to fit in the trunk with everything else you put in there on a regular basis: you know, like dog food, groceries and wet-bags full of dirty cloth diapers that you forgot to bring inside. You might think strollers fold up into neat little packages, but those giant wheels you needed for our Canadian climate can really put a kink in your plans.
17. Which direction do I want my baby to face?
In the first few months you’ll probably want to ogle that little bundle as often as possible so facing you is the most likely answer. But, keep in mind that as baby grows, he or she will want to see more of the world around them, so facing outward is better at that point. Some strollers let you move the handle bars to either side so that you can change your mind on a whim. Of course, since most strollers aren’t four-wheel drive, that puts the non-steerable back wheels in front and puts you in a fiery rage when trying to navigate through all those oblivious people staring at their phones on the sidewalk. Some strollers let you move the seat itself rather than the handlebars, so keep that in mind if you’d like to preserve a little bit of your sanity.
Here are a few strollers that are definitely worth taking for a test-drive, now that you’re armed with all the right questions.
Bumbleride Indie 4
This brand spanking new stroller is already making waves in the stroller world thanks to its impressive list of accessories that come standard. Included bassinet and cup holder? Yes, please! Optional matching diaper bag and snack pack? Just take our money, ok? It’s also got large, air-filled wheels and comes in an array of stylish colours. The only major downside is that since it’s so new, there are no last-season models to purchase to save a few bucks.
This bad boy is quite possibly the most versatile stroller on the market. It easily expands to go from a single stroller to a double wide to grow with your family. Whether you’re expecting twins, or having your first with plans of a second shortly after, this stroller can cover all your needs. And of course, since it’s Bugaboo we’re talking about, the list of accessories is endless and bright and beautiful colour options abound. Having a boy and a girl? This stroller is fully customizable, so you can have one pink seat and one blue! It’s true!
Baby Jogger City Select
With 16 possible configurations, and very likely the biggest basket on any single stroller on the market, this beauty could be a perfect fit for almost any family. Baby Jogger wants to give parents the option of building the stroller of their dreams, so most accessories don’t come standard, but with options like adding a second seat in front that still allows both children to face each other, that seems like a small price to pay.
Now, go forth and conquer!