When my husband and I were looking for a stroller, we wasted a lot of time and energy finding the "right" one before we realized we had neglected one key qualifier: our limited trunk space. Once we realized car size was something we needed to be more cognizant of, we wound up basing our decision solely on that and later regretted our decision.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER
Will the stroller fit in my car trunk?
We have a small car and quickly realized our favorite strollers wouldn’t fit. Side Note: Props to the staff at Buy Buy Baby for letting us try so many. Their assistance was of truly heroic proportions, and we highly recommend a visit to their store (there's almost always some sort of coupon to help make car seat/stroller purchases less painful).
What sort of surface will we use the stroller on?
Is your home surrounded by a gravel pit? How bumpy are your sidewalks? How OK are you with seeing your newborn child’s head bouncing up and down as you attempt a leisurely stroll? Point is: if you anticipate mostly smooth surfaces, you can choose pretty much any stroller. If the road to your home is lined with chunky gravel and uneven sidewalks, you might want to limit your search to strollers with inflatable tires – and ignore all of those hard plastic “wheels.” Inflatable tires can go flat if you run over a nail, sure, but they handle bumps far more smoothly. Those hard plastic wheels, on the other hand, are a first-time (i.e. worrywart) parent’s nightmare.
Once the car seat is installed in the backseat, do we still have legroom in the front seat?
The answer to this question, for us, was a resounding “no.” And I say again: get thee to a Buy Buy Baby or comparable store. The people there are amazing, and will assist as you try out car seat after car seat.
Does your diaper bag fit into the stroller's storage compartment? How about groceries?
Some strollers have ample storage. Others: not so much. But whether you’re just trying to get in some steps or run a series of errands, a large storage compartment can come in handy. Unless your diaper bag is made out of clouds, do you really want it draped over your shoulder for a 45-minute walk?
What are the safety ratings for the car seat?
You can find out here. Keep in mind, too, that car seats expire (typically within five years of its manufacture date). If you're buying a car seat second hand, make sure it isn't set to expire before you're done using it.
Do I want to jog with my stroller?
If the answer is "yes," that will definitely impact the type of stroller you get. Keep in mind, though, that you shouldn't jog with your baby until they can hold their head up. Restrictions will vary by model, so you'll want to pay close attention to those before jogging with your baby in tow.
WHAT WE GOT
We have a Chicco Bravo Trio Travel System along with the optional tray (why you have to purchase the tray separately is beyond me). The car seat was great (we got it primarily because of the safety ratings). The stroller we weren’t as happy with. It has a nice-sized compartment for your diaper bag, groceries, etc. And it’s one of few strollers that we could fit in our trunk. But the hard plastic wheels aren’t so great on gravel, sand and bumpy/patchy sidewalks. Our driveway is gravel, so just getting our newborn to a sidewalk was a pain those first couple months (I kept imagining her underdeveloped brain rattling up against her skull with every bump). Sadly, we weren’t thinking about driveway surfaces, sidewalk conditions and mushy brains when we decided on a stroller. Please: learn from our mistake.
IF WE COULD DO IT ALL OVER AGAIN, WHAT WOULD WE GET?
In hindsight, we wish we’d gotten just the Chicco KeyFit 30 Car Seat, a Bumbleride Indie stroller and a car seat adapter (Bumbleride was one of few highly-rated systems with inflatable tires that was rumored to fit into our Matchbox car). But Bumbleride was out of our price range, which is why we decided against it (a decision we regretted from the very first moment we attempted to take our baby for a walk). If you won’t encounter much gravel, the entire Chicco Bravo Trio Travel System is decent for the price. And the car seat, if memory serves me, is one of the best rated.
ALL SET? SKIP AHEAD TO WHICHEVER SECTION OF THIS GUIDE WILL HELP YOU BUILD THE REGISTRY OF YOUR DREAMS.