09 March 2009

Strollers / prams / pushers

We recently saw a family on holidays with their whacking great padded four-wheel-drive pram. Not surprisingly, they were having trouble getting it on and off a tram! We bought a $30 umbrella stroller and took it with us on two holidays (UK and US) and used it for two years between, and for a long time after before it finally fell apart. Thankfully for our most recent holiday, our children were old enough not to need one.

For very young children a stroller is a must. (Though some people may prefer backpack type carriers for babies and young toddlers.) If you take one, you can sometimes have it with you right up to the door of the aircraft, and then it will be stowed in the luggage area during the flight. By taking an umbrella stroller overseas, we discovered a host of great reasons to go with them rather than the hefty 4WD variety:
  • Umbrella strollers are lightweight. When you have luggage and kids in tow, light weight is seriously important. You would also be surprised how many stairs and escalators you'll have to negotiate - especially on public transport. On our trip to the UK we did not travel light with our luggage, and couldn't imagine how we'd have coped with a great big stroller as well as the super-sized check-in bags. Remember who will be pushing the stroller (you!), and that every gram it weighs will be more you will have to push. The world's great sights are not always found with lovely flat approaches, and I'm glad it wasn't me who pushed a shopping trolley sized monster-stroller up to, and inside, Edinburgh Castle.

  • They are relatively small, both when open and folded up. This means that they are good for getting into hire cars, onto buses, trains etc. and they can be tucked away underneath seats if required. If you use the hop-on hop-off bus services in many cities then you'll be carrying the thing up and down a lot. Their small size means you can more easily negotiate narrow passageways found in shops, markets and the like.

  • They are often cheap. If the stroller fell apart or was damaged by baggage handlers it wasn't a great loss. They can also suffer increased wear and tear from surfaces like 'cogglestones' (our youngest daughter's word for cobblestones).

  • It could be picked up easily. Sometimes I found myself hoisting the whole stroller with the child still into it to negotiate an obstacle (e.g. stairs). When folded up, umbrella strollers can be carried in one hand while the other hand has a firm grip on the child.
We try to practice walking before the holidays too, to get them used to walking long distances, and quickly. The stroller was a convenient backup for when they got tired. You could try walking your child to school, preschool or to the shops as practise. (This is good for your health too...!) We practised “walking to the Eiffel Tower before it opens” on our way to school, and “walking quickly to get to the Alhambra”. It gave the kids a sense of expectation of what was to come on our holiday too.

A stroller is a great convenience to have for young children. When considering which one to take, just bear in mind that it is you who will have to manage it, often in tandem with other luggage and definitely in unfamiliar surroundings. We're convinced that a cheap umbrella stroller is the way to go.

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