Fortunately for you, this means I've done my homework on most baby travel-related items and I'm willing to share! If you don't anticipate using (or flying with) a stroller very often on your travels, then any umbrella-style stroller will probably suit your needs and you can stop reading this post right now. (But don't blame me if your umbrella stroller disintegrates en route and you end up spending your vacation looking for a baby gear store - I'm not beyond saying "I told you so!")
If you are planning a vacation that will include activities that require walking about for more than 20 minutes at a time, or any amount of waiting in an airport or train station, then you will want to read on...
Know Before You Go!
Most airlines have stroller policies, some of which (like Air Canada) state actual dimensions (none of which are the same, naturally -- so make sure you check your airline's website before departure), but generally speaking -- and for the purposes of this post -- a travel stroller is defined as any stroller that fully collapses and weighs less than 20 lbs.
Top 5 Things to Consider When Buying a Travel Stroller
1. Reclining Seat: This is the big differentiator between basic and "premium" umbrella strollers. If you don't want to be at your hotel for nap times, make sure you have a stroller that reclines at least partially, allowing your mini globetrotter to nap more comfortably (i.e. longer!).
2. Extended canopy: Most umbrella strollers have a very small sun shade, which barely covers a child's face. The premium strollers tend to have extendable canopies, saving that precious baby-soft skin from nasty sunburns.
3. Quality wheels: Cobblestones, gravel and sand don't make for easy strolling, so look for good, sturdy wheels. Not many umbrella strollers will offer the nice, big wheels that full-sized strollers offer, but you can usually get better quality wheels if you look for them. Our Guzzie + Guss travel stroller even has suspension and slightly bigger rear wheels - all four wheels are also wider than the average umbrella stroller, resulting in a much smoother ride.
4. Storage: Look for a stroller that has a decent-sized basket that is not obscured by any bars, straps, etc. Also look for extra pockets and nooks to carry those small items that you want easy access to (wallet, camera, etc.).
5. Folding mechanism: The constant in and out of cabs, trains and stores means that a simple folding mechanism is key. You don't want to waste your time fighting with the stroller as your mini globetrotter wanders off into the middle of a busy square. Our stroller has a strap that you yank to lift a latch then, with the press of a button, it collapses and the strap becomes a shoulder strap, allowing for easy handling when folded. Make sure you test this several times in the store to see if there are any catches or easily breakable parts.
Always, always, always test the stroller as much as you can in store -- especially if the store has a strict return policy.
If your stroller cannot be checked at the gate, be on the lookout for complimentary strollers in certain airports. Emirates offers this service at Dubai Airport, as does Singapore's Changi Airport - look for the cubbies housing strollers and wheelchairs as you exit the plane. We found it extremely handy as we were waiting for our own stroller to tumble down the luggage carousel!
Have you found a great stroller for your travels? Tell me about it! I'd love to add it to our Stroller Review page.