Friday, July 20, 2012

My Guide to Buying Strollers for Multiple Children

It can be an overwhelming experience to set out and buy a single stroller never mind trying to find a great stroller to fit your needs when you have more than one child. Whether you are looking for a stroller for children minutes apart or months apart following these guidelines should get you started looking in the right direction.
 

I have been through quite a few strollers in the past 34 months and my best advice is do not buy a stroller without physically seeing it in person. Seeing the stroller in person is the only way to see how the stroller folds up, how heavy the stroller is and how the stroller will fit in your trunk. In my opinion these are the three key factors in purchasing a stroller.





Foldability
The stroller could look good but if it takes ten minutes to fold it up it might not be the best choice. Also, consider how compact does the stroller fold up? Will it fit into your trunk once you get the stroller folded?

Weight
Some strollers are heavier than others. Consider how much weight you can handle and be able to conveniently get it in and out of the car. The stroller might seem lightweight when pushing it around the store but you need to be able to lift it up and put it into the trunk of your car without pulling any muscles.  Also, remember there is a big difference when pushing a stroller with 2 or 3 babies versus 1 or no babies.  For me, I feel a huge difference if I am only pushing 1 or 2 of my children versus all 3.

Tandem v. Side by Side
Most side by side strollers are made to fit through standard doorways these days. However, I have found that many department stores, mall stores and grocery store checkouts are not conducive to having a side by side stroller. I don't always use my stroller at the grocery store but on occasion the triple cart at my local grocery store is not always available and I am forced to use my side by side stroller. I love my stroller (see below) but it is frustrating when I have to find a way to pay for my groceries and get my children out of the store.  Also, I have found mall stores and other specialty shops cram in so much merchandise I often get stuck on the racks or my kids are grabbing tags on the clothing and we wind up in a tangled mess.  I think the biggest disadvantage to the tandem stroller is its length.  When you get over two children it can be very long and hard to maneuver.  The latest twin tandem strollers on the market have taken this issue into consideration and are now shorter and easier to maneuver. (See City Select below). 

Car Seat Attachments
If you are buying your stroller for one or more infants another factor to consider is the car seat attachment.  Not all car seat attachments take all car seats.  You may find the perfect stroller but if it cannot hold the car seat you want or have you will have to take the baby in and out of the car seat each time you use the stroller or buy a different car seat.  I remember researching strollers when I was pregnant and my options were extremely limited for a triple stroller that could accommodate infant car seats.  In fact, I believe Peg Perego has the market cornered and for me those car seats were too pricey.  My husband and I determined that the Baby Trend Flex Loc car seat was the one for us because of its affordability and size.  As a result we decided to buy a double stroller with the car seat attachments and the snap and go stroller frame for the third seat.  It worked for us because we used the double stroller in conjunction with a baby carrier if we were to ever go out by ourselves. 

My Picks on Strollers: the Good and the Bad

Valco Twin Tri-Mode
My top pick for any parent looking for a stroller if you have children close in age is the Valco Twin Tri-Mode with the Joey seat attachment.  I will not lie it is a pricey stroller but it is a great alternative if you have triplets and do not want to buy a tandem stroller that is impossible to maneuver.  I stumbled across the Twin Tri-Mode when I was looking for a used triple jogging stroller.  I had recently started staying home with my kids and wanted to start walking with them a few times a week.  The boys were 1 and 1/2 and a baby carrier was no longer an option for us.  I was also not looking to break the bank on a triple jogging stroller because I knew it would never fit into any building, store etc. and could only be used on the jogging trail or maybe the zoo.  I cannot say enough good things about this stroller including that it is well made, durable and easy to clean.  We even sprung a leak in one of the inner tubes and we had the replacement tube within one day of ordering.  You can also buy a hood attachment for the Joey seat so your third child is not left in the sun on a nice day.  I will miss this stroller when my boys get too big!         


Pros
  • It is a jogging stroller with actual tires and therefore goes over almost any terrain.  I am reluctant to say all terrain because I have not tried it. 
  • Lightweight.  The double stroller itself is about 25-30 pounds.  Easily able to lift into the trunk of the car.  (I drive a Honda Pilot and the stroller has no issues fitting in the back of my car, but I know that might not be the case for every car).
  • The front wheels are lockable if you want to use it as a jogging stroller but easily unlock for day to day use.
  • Seats recline (not the optional Joey seat attachment).
  • Fits through doorways.
  • Lots of accessories to buy!! We bought the Joey Seat Attachment.  If you have twins and an older child, three children close in age or triplets this is a perfect seat.  It can hold a child up to 45 lbs.
  • Adjustable handle bar.  The handle bar is easily adjusted for varying heights of caregivers or if one of your children feels like giving the stroller a push.
  • Removable pouches on the back of each seat.  There is a pouch on the back of each seat (not the Joey seat) that zips on and off to allow you to take personal belongings, snacks, keys etc. with you.
Cons
  • Price.  I was lucky enough to find it on craigslist barely used but buying it new can set you back.  Depending on the color/model the price range is typically $670 to $800
  • This is not a stroller you can find in a Toys R Us or a Target.  Rather it is something to hunt down online (I know breaking one of my rules) or in a specialty shop. 
  • The basket underneath the stroller cannot fit more than a jacket.
  • Does not fold up with the third seat easily and takes up a fair amount of room in your trunk. 
  • You can either fit one or two car seat attachments on the stroller OR the Joey Seat, not both.  U
UPDATE:  Valco has also added a new model capable of taking the "Joey Seat" attachment.  The 2013 Valco Zee.  I am not currently in the market for a new stroller as mine are starting to grow out of using one but this stroller is advertised as a simple fold and light weight.  It also appears that the basket is much roomier than the Twin Tri-Mode.  The Zee is available as a single or double with the option of buying the Joey seat to convert the stroller into a double or triple.  As a mother to multiples I love that more and more options are becoming available for parents of twins and triplets. 


Combi Twin Stroller
I used this stroller from when my boys were about six months old until 1 and 1/2.  What I love about this stroller is that it folds up to the size of a pack and play.  After putting the stroller in the trunk we were still able to fit suitcases and the gigantic pile of items you need when taking a road trip with three six month olds.  We also bought the single Combi stroller and would attach the two strollers with stroller connectors if we were out by ourselves.  Of course there were not many places that could accommodate such a wide stroller.  I still keep the single stroller in our second car in case we need it.

Pros
  • Foldability!  I could not believe how compact this stroller folds for a double.  It is also easy to fold by pressing a button on the handle bar. 
  • Price.  This is a double stroller that will not break the bank.
  • Lightweight.  The stroller is sturdy but still lightweight and easy to lift into a trunk or push along a sidewalk.
Cons
  • Only fits the Combi Shuttle Infant car seat. 
  • Can only fit two children.
  • Not great storage.
  • Basic stroller wheels and therefore does not maneuver well over rough terrain, like grass.  Smooth surfaces are best.
Baby Jogger City Select with Second Seat

I have not personally used this stroller because it did not exist at the time I was looking and it does not have a third seat.  However, I have spoken to people who do have it while out with my children and one of my friends also just bought this stroller to use for her toddler and newborn infant.  The City collection of strollers is a popular brand and well made.  What is nice about this stroller is that while it is a tandem stroller because they have almost stacked the seats rather than extending them outward, the stroller is not much longer than a typical single stroller and easy to maneuver.  The seats are removable and can be put into different configurations-facing you , facing out.  I would highly recommend this stroller if you have twins or an infant and toddler.  In writing this blog I have discovered you can even buy a highchair attachment to bring with you when you travel and attach the stroller seat to a table.  As a mom who has taken a ton of road trips with her kids I think doubling up on equipment is a fabulous idea!  Because I have not personally used the stroller I do not feel comfortable providing a pros and cons list but from what I have seen this stroller looks good to me.
 

Contours Tandem
UPDATE:  I just learned that certain models of this stroller have been RECALLED!  To make sure it is not your stroller please check here.

I bought this stroller when I was pregnant with my triplet boys.  I did not want to buy a triple stroller and I thought this was a great and affordable option to use not only with my car seats but also as a stroller for when my boys got older.  The seats could fully recline, they had good sun shades on them and they could be arranged in different positiions--facing you, facing out or facing each other.  Unfortunately it did not work out for us. 


The frame is extremely heavy and was hard for me to get in and out of my trunk.  Also, the stroller does not fold up very compactly and took up our entire trunk.  At least one of the seats had to be removed in order to fold it and it was just too cumbersome.  I liked using the stroller with the car seat attachments and I loved the under carriage storage but otherwise I would not recommend this stroller becuase there are better ones on the market.
Contours Tandem using Car Seat Attachments