Strollers, strollers, strollers. We are virtually surrounded by infants and toddlers that are scooted from place to place in strollers but unless we have recently had an infant of our own or have been notified of one on the way these ingenious inventions of infant and family mobility tend to blend into the scenery causing us to hardly notice them.
In fact, we rarely pay attention to whether or not a mom is pushing junior around in a luxurious “travel system” stroller, a candy-cane handled umbrella stroller, or a three-wheeled jogging stroller. This becomes an issue because when the happy news is received of baby’s pending arrival we are all suppose to “just know” what is the best type of stroller to buy.
Obviously, you can’t just go out and buy a stroller that is cute and made by a well-known manufacturer as this is a recipe for disaster. Just because a company spends millions of dollars each year on marketing in an attempt to bring their brand to mind first when stroller buying decisions are thrust upon you doesn’t mean that the new loaded (sometimes overloaded) version that they are pushing at the time is the best choice for your family.
As mentioned before, strollers can be broken down these days into three main variations. The first group has come to be known as “travel systems” which are designed to securely accept an integrated infant car seat. This type of stroller tends to come in handy when baby is brand new but as it is bulky it often loses its appeal a few short months later. The second group consists of strollers designed to be used when walking, running, or jogging with baby. They tend to have large, bicycle-style wheels and often come equipped with full enclosures to keep little ones from being overexposed to sun, wind, and rain. The last group is known as umbrella strollers which consist of a series of lightweight designs that fold up, are easily deployed, and can effectively handle most parent’s stroller tasks from the time baby is 8 months all the way to the point where baby is ready to graduate from his stroller completely.
The Umbrella Stroller is the most versatile of the three variants which is why it is still the #1 selling stroller design worldwide. For a number of years it’s deign remained unchanged, but recently a flood of new models equipped with new features have flooded the market. With an overload of choices calling for your attention we’ll attempt to inject some sanity into this madness by giving you a few tips that will help you pick the right umbrella stroller for your unique situation.
#1. Consider Who You’re Buying For
This may seem overly simplistic, but the truth is that who you’re buying the stroller for has a big impact on what type of stroller you should buy! If you are buying the stroller to be kept at Grandma and Grandpa’s house, then it might make sense to buy the most inexpensive model you can find as it may only get used a few times each year.
However, if you are buying the umbrella stroller as a baby show gift and you know that your friends tend to be the kind of family that enjoy the outdoors and visit state and national parks then you can reasonably assume that the stroller will be challenging plenty of gravel paths and other minor outdoor obstacles. It would make sense to go with a model that has more aggressively treaded wheels and possibly some type of integrated suspension system in this type of situation.
These are just two quick examples of why you need to give a bit of thought as to what the best type of stroller might be and not make a purchase based solely on the fact that a particular model comes across to you as “cute” or not.
#2. Consider How It Will Be Used
We’ve just seen an example of how the type of use a particular family will subject their umbrella stroller to has a significant impact on the type of model you should go with. Let’s cover a few other points you’ll want to consider.
If you know for a fact that the stroller is going to be used by mom and dad on a daily basis for basic tasks like going to the grocery store then probably the best choice is going to be a cheap Kolcraft Cloud Plus Lightweight Stroller. These stripped down versions are the definition of functionality and as they can be found for less than $70 online, they are extremely affordable. Daily trips to drop off and pick up older siblings from school, frequent trips to the movie store, the grocery store, the drug store, or the corner store (but not the liquor store) will mean that the stroller is going to be stowed and deployed hundreds and hundreds of times each year.
Due in part to the large amount of use, these lightweight strollers are going to receive a fair amount of abuse. You’re going to see juice cups spilled on it as well as food ground, spread, and smashed into it over time. It’s good to know that if baby is sick and experiences an unusually large accident that permanently soils the umbrella stroller and renders it unusable, it’s not a big issue to just throw it away and replace it.
If however the stroller is going to be used when mom meets up with friends at the park once a week, then a higher quality umbrella stroller might be in order. This may come across as sounding a bit snobbish, but the truth is that the higher end strollers by Mountain Buggy, Summer Infant, and Chicco are in fact made of sterner stuff, are more comfortable, and come better equipped for tasks such as allowing baby to sleep while reclining or shielding the little one from the sun. (The fact that these strollers are often very stylish has been known to ward off a bad case of stroller envy on the part of mommy as well)
#3. Refocus Your Budget
Many people, especially Americans, do not realize that versatile, high quality umbrella strollers exist. The mental image conjured up when talking about one defaults to an image of a “cheap” stroller in the minds of most parents, family, and friends.
This can often cause a bit of sticker shock when parents start shopping for their new stroller and find price tags well beyond the $50 range that many think would be the max price of a stroller in this category. It’s important to look closer at what you are getting as many of these strollers are loaded with features such as hand-brakes, a high-strength aluminum frame, and even built-in suspension systems.
If you find a stroller that you want to buy and feel that it’s a bit pricey then you need to determine if the extra features justify the extra price. It’s all about value in the long run and if you don’t feel that you need a stroller with built-in suspension then it might not be the right stroller for your family.
#4. Team up to Buy
Once you realized that a good umbrella stroller is probably going to cost more than you originally thought you might find it best to “team up” with someone to make the purchase. This applies double if choosing a different make or model is not an option as when the stroller has been preselected and added to a baby shower registry.
If you ARE buying one of these lightweight strollers as a baby shower gift then it might make sense to seek out a friend that you know will be attending the shower as well and ask if they would like to team up on the purchase in order to split the cost between the two of you.
If you are making this purchase as a parent, perhaps once you’ve outgrown your infatuation with baby’s cushy “travel system” stroller, then grandparents will often be happy to help take the blow to your pocketbook if asked politely in a creative manner.
Many grandparents are eager to find significant ways to “invest” in their grandchildren’s upbringing and consider it a privilege to do so. Both a straightforward request and a more gentle leading of an open conversation to a predetermined outcome are acceptable ways to suggest the idea to them. You just need to determine for yourself what type of approach would work best based on your knowledge of their personalities… and make sure you don’t play mind games on yourself insinuating in your own thoughts that you are imposing on them. Failure to give them the chance to be a part of their grandchild’s life is not an act of kindness on your part, but giving them the opportunity to do so is.
#5. Double-Check for a Warranty
Whenever a high-end product comes out that becomes popular there always seems to be cheap imitations that follow shortly after. This is easily observed when considering how quickly generic “MP3 players” flooded the market after the “iPod” took the world by storm.
The same type of thing applies to umbrella strollers. Feature-rich models made by top companies like Maclaren are often setup next to cheaper versions that seem to share a lot of the look-n-feel of the name brands but in truth lacks the durability standards that the higher quality model may hold to.
This situation can be very deceptive as stroller displays in stores can often cause confusion as to whether or not you are truly getting what you think you are.
That being the case, it’s always best to double-check the packaging of the stroller you are buying before sending it through the checkout register. If you are buying online, make sure you verify that it comes with a good warranty either by checking to make sure it’s displayed on the site you are buying from or by reviewing the manufacturer’s homepage.
#6. Consider Buying Used
A significant discount (sometimes 50%+) can often be earned by buying the type of stroller you really want that has been previously used by another family.
While it’s always fun to get something new, to take it out of the box and throw away all the polybag packaging and put it together… you should take a step back and reconsider whether or not you “need” to buy new.
If you are moving your baby out of their “travel system” and into an umbrella stroller, go ahead and take a deep breath, look at the old stroller and think about how long it took for the “newness” to wear off. If you are honest with yourself you’ll probably admit that it didn’t take long.
The same thing will happen a few weeks after you buy your umbrella stroller. Once the sparkle fades, it’s important to have the best stroller for your family and if you can purchase a used one that has been well kept for half the price… then you need to give serious consideration to doing so.
Used umbrella strollers can be found on Amazon or Craig’s List at a significant discount every day of the week and many come with free shipping. Buying a used stroller on Craig’s List is pretty easy as you are usually able to inspect the actual model before buying it. Buying used on Amazon or at other places like eBay can be tricky though so make sure you take a good look at all pictures and don’t hesitate to contact the seller with any questions you might have about the particular item in question.
#7. Go with a Darker Color
It’s tempting to buy a stroller styled in light pastel hues (especially if yours is a baby girl) but remember that the umbrella stroller will most likely be used as a baby transportation workhorse. It will see a lot of wear and tear, spills, gunk, and goo. Light colors tend to spotlight dirt and stains quite a bit more than dark colors.
As these lightweight strollers come in so many different fabric styles it’s not likely that you’ll have any difficulty finding a darker color that looks good and will mesh well with your sense of style.
#8. Read Some Online Reviews
Nothing is worse than purchasing something that is made by a popular brand, has good packaging, has good product feature and benefits in the description and looks good overall only to find once you’ve bought and paid for it that the product is terrible once you’ve brought it home.
Just last week I purchased a Microsoft wireless headset that I wanted to use with my dictation software. The preview of the product looked great and I ended up getting a good deal on it on eBay after shopping around.
Unfortunately, I discovered that while it looked good from afar, the headset was far from good. The audio quality of both the playback and recording features of the headset was just terrible.
A quick check of a few review sites uncovered a constant theme that this particular product was junk. Had I read reviews prior to making my purchase I would never have bought it regardless of all the good looking info that Microsoft set up front and center.
The same applies to umbrella strollers. Make sure that you read a few reviews of the model that you are most interest in so that you don’t end up stuck with a trunk full of disappointment. There are a few good sites out there like BestBabyStrollerJudge.Com that do a good job of getting you the info you need in order to make an informed decision.
It goes without saying that you should double-check any and every product you buy for your baby to insure that it is safe. It no longer makes sense in this day and age to just “trust” that companies producing infant products are getting it right where safety is concerned once their product leaves the factory.
It makes sense to double check and ensure that there are no product recalls on the umbrella stroller you’re looking to buy before you commit to the purchase.
I don’t want to scare you into thinking that any of these companies are irresponsible in their manufacturing processes, but it never hurts to run a quick search online, and again, reading reviews might give you a deeper perspective of any safety concerns that may not have been documented and published yet by the umbrella stroller manufacturer.
#10. Let Mom Pick the Stroller
I know from experience that Dads are happy to delegate most baby gear and clothing purchase decision to mom… except when it comes to higher value items such as strollers and car seats.
Once one of these items shows up on the shopping list it’s strange to see many men transform into baby gear “experts” who want to dominate the purchase process.
Dads! Fight the urge to do this! 90% of the time it’s going to be mom that is using the stroller in the first place. If she’s the one that will be the primarily user of the product make sure she can pick the one that best meets her unique needs… that is unless you want to switch roles with her.
In conclusion I’d like to encourage you to go ahead and get ahold of your own umbrella stroller. My husband made the decision for us without my knowledge and started using it on our family outings. It only took me three months to realize the amazing benefits that came from this compact, lightweight stroller and looking back now I can’t imagine how we lived without it for so long.