Who knew?! I never thought the world of stroller choosing would cause such stress. I mean it's just a freaking stroller, right?! I tend to research things a little too obsessively before making a major purchase and the only time I didn't we ended up with an awesome and cute digital camera. I chose it on a whim because it was cute, small and hot pink, but mainly because it is pink. Maybe I should change my shopping method for larger purchases....ha!
Before you continue I would like to warn you that this is a really long post JUST about strollers. It's more to purge everything from my mind so I can move on and sleep better. But feel free to share your views about strollers in the comments too!!!
So where do we start? Well even before we had Jake I started noticing strollers in the park near our house and I quickly realized that Maclaren is stroller of choice here in Tokyo. The most popular models are the Volo and the Quest. I thought they looked pretty boring to tell you the truth. I mean why would any company choose to make a stroller in different shades of gray!!! I also noticed that three wheelers are pretty much non-existent in Japan. When I asked Darin about his preference when it comes to a stroller, he said he wanted one with pump up tyres coz he hates the sound of those plastic stroller wheels going over the bumps in the park. I just wanted a lightweight stroller that I would be able to carry up and down the stairs at the train station and that I could take shopping etc.
Hmm, so I started the search for something that would fit into both of these categories.
After doing some research I discovered that pump up tyres and lightweight just don't go together and that there is NO perfect stroller for every single occasion. I also had a change of heart about what I think is important (for me) when purchasing a stroller.
So let's go through my research results.
My first choice was the Mountain Buggy Breeze.
A lightweight (7 kilos) three wheeler from New Zealand that reclines, seems really sturdy and is very easy to fold. It costs nearly $500 in Japan and even more in Australia so I didn't want to purchase it until I had seen it in person. My first mistake was not buying one on ebay australia for $100. When we got to Australia in December after Jake was born we went and tried this out at the baby store and the front wheel doesn't rotate, which is silly because this model isn't actually designed to be a jogging stroller as it is too light. Darin was fine with it as he usually pushes all strollers on the back two wheels anyway, but it bugged me no end. My sister (mother of two) also said no to it and that I would end up hating it. This might have been a good choice for a second stroller to use on rougher terrain. Like I said it would have been good if I had picked up the used one for $100 when I saw it because you don't get them for that price very often.
Next up was a very good decision I made and that was the purchase of a second hand Graco Snugride car seat and Snap n Go base for $40 total.
I would recommend this set up for any parents to be that haven't made their mind up about what kind of stroller they want to buy. It's not a long term solution but it buys you time and is really convenient especially if you drive. When I bought this I had no idea that car seat capsules could be used indoors as rockers - genius I tell you. Baby falls asleep in car seat, you pick up car seat drop it into base and off you go. Sweet. Another benefit is that the base will fit through the tickets gates at the train stations here in Tokyo. A con is that it is impossible to fold up this ensemble and carry it all by yourself anywhere. It has to go piece by piece. Another pro is that it is cheap even new and has a great parent tray, large storage basket (that you can actually use) and keeps baby nice and close even when you are at a restaurant. Jake didn't even ride in this stroller until he was about five weeks old. Until then we just carried him around in the Maya Wrap. That to me is the MOST convenient and fun way to carry around a newborn. Also great for discreet breastfeeding. Only downside is that you drop your food on them when at a restaurant and it's kind of hard to eat.
So the next stroller we used was my sister's Peg Perego Pliko something or other while we were in Australia. It is seven or eight years old and is going strong and is a cute blue and green tartan colour. Although both Darin and I are big proponents of baby wearing - it's much harder in the summer when both you and the babe get very hot. A stroller comes in handy then. The Peg was great and my only two complaints were trying to fold it down...it was a bit old so the folding mechanism kind of stuck (leading to one very embarrassing situation at a shopping centre in Brisbane) and my other complaint was that the handles were a bit low for us. We both felt like we had to hunch.
When we visited my parents house we uses my mum's laundry basket with a sheepskin. Jake seriously loved this!! Talk about cheap solutions.
As I said before when we were in Australia we went to a baby store and tried out a bunch of different strollers. I pushed the Maclaren Vogue and was really impressed with it - lightweight, super easy to push and fold down BUT I hated the colour - that model only came in GRAY! I also quite liked the Valco Navigator and it was cheap!
Well I couldn't write a post without mentioning the Bugaboo - the Louis Vuitton handbag of strollers.
This was never really an option for us - I could never justify spending that much on a stroller. These are not popular in Japan and the only time I ever saw one - it was being pushed by a foreign lady who more than likely drives a car around Tokyo because they have a very wide wheel base and are just not practical for the train and small Japanese shops. I like the concept of the Bugaboo and it's versatility, but I feel most people own one as a status symbol. I don't have much else to say about the bugaboo - I think I would only use one if someone gave it to me for free, but I could say that about most strollers. Oh I did read somewhere that someone thought the Bugaboo Bee looked like a wheelchair....
So let's move on to a stroller that I really don't like the look of (sorry if someone owns one of these - it's just my silly opinion after all) - the Stokke Xplory. Don't even get me started on that silly umbrella/sun parasol attachment.
I've seen about three or four of these around Tokyo and I think they look silly. Someone tried to fit theirs into the corner of a restaurant the other day and it stuck out like a sore thumb. Their kid who would have been old enough to sit at the table with a high chair couldn't even face the table directly. Buy a travel highchair for goodness sakes - I think they are a GREAT idea.
So after returning to Japan I decided I would just buy a cute lightweight stroller that was not a Maclaren. I was fed up with the research and my brain hurt so I bought a Graco Citisport EDT DLX.
I thought it looked pretty cute and had most of the attributes I was looking for - lightweight, adjustable handlebar that could be pushed with one hand, decent sized shopping basket, a shoulder strap to carry when folded and it can also be folded very easily with one hand and one foot. It also reclines to a nearly flat level so can be used for a baby from one month old and of course it weighs only five kilos. This is a model they only sell in Asia.
The stroller arrived and I was excited. I opened the box and played around with it and used it the next day. The result......
I HATED IT!
I wish I had never taken it out of the house so I could have sent it back. Why did I hate it so much. The seat was narrow and Jake at three and a half months old made it look small and they say you can use this thing until the kid is FOUR??!! The shoulder straps were short and hard to adjust. The backrest is made out of plastic cardboard!!! Oh and when I walked with it my feet kicked the wheels. I also wanted to use a lambskin liner that I bought in Australia but the stroller was even more squishy when I tried to attach the liner as well.
I guess the stroller has some good points. It really is light, super easy to close, stands upright alone and carry up and down stairs even with baby and bags as well.....that's about it though.
Live and learn I guess - never buy a stroller sight unseen unless it's second hand and doesn't cost much. So this will be put up for auction in Japan as soon as I can be bothered.
So this is when I had a change of heart. Instead of just thinking about getting a stroller that was easy for me to handle I also wanted to get something that would actually be comfortable for baby too. Lightweight rules in Japan but I see so many kids literally squashed into their strollers with their feet nearly dragging on the ground.
Next up for consideration was the Air Buggy. A three wheeler made in England pretty much exclusively for the Japanese market. Their latest model is the Air Buggy Mimi.
They certainly aren't lightweight compared to umbrella strollers but for a three wheeler they are not bad coming in at 9 kilos. The best thing about this stroller is that you can visit the Air Buggy store in Yoyogi and rent one for the day for $5 and see how you like it before you fork out $600. So that's what we did. It's a nice ride and good quality for sure and it comes with a bunch of accessories like a rain cover, sun shade, mosquito net, bottle holder etc. It's a little big for city use in Japan but would be good for the park. Here's Jake riding in a pink one.
We didn't end up purchasing one of these but I am looking for secondhand ones on Yahoo auction.
You may be getting sick of hearing about strollers by about now, so I'm assuming that if you are still reading it's because you've been through the same experience and totally identify. The saga does not end there and the research continued.
The Air Buggy store in Yoyogi also carries the Quinny Buzz and Quinny Zapp - cute colourful strollers from the Netherlands.
I saw a lady the other day on the train with a Quinny Buzz with the maxi cosi car seat snapped in and to tell you the truth, it looked really out of place in Japan with it's super wide wheel base. Hope she didn't get off where I live because there are no elevators to get you off the platform and people in Japan don't offer to help you carry strollers down the stairs. I kind of felt a little smug carrying Jake in the Ergo because I knew I could hop off the train anywhere with no trouble.
A better option would be the Quinny Zapp. I've seen a few Zapps around and they come in some really cute colours. I never really considered one of these as they don't recline and the wheel base is still pretty wide. You can use it with a maxi cosi car seat so you could really use the car seat until your babe can sit upright. It is also touted as the world's smallest stroller when folded. It's not super lightweight though (about 7.5 kilos I think).
So people if you are still with me, I'm tiring myself out thinking about all of this. These are not the only type of strollers I've researched but are the ones that I could obtain easily in Japan or try out for real before buying. We also looked at the Micralite, Silver Cross....and the list goes on.
Do you want to know what we finally ended up with???!!
A Maclaren - yes the good ol' frumpy Maclaren. I only decided on the Maclaren finally because I found a shop here that imports the European version of the Techno XLR in navy. They are not available in Japan yet. I could have bought an XT but I just couldn't buy a gray stroller.
Do I like it?
Yes - thank god.
* smells expensive - love the suede liner...although we use a lambskin.
* great quality materials all round
* SO easy to maneuver around the shops
* LOVE the zip down hood that basically shades all of baby - no more pegging sheets to the hood
* spacious for baby
* tall height adjustable handles
* comes with a boot cover thing to protect baby's legs in winter
* easy to fold and carry with handle
* the back wheels kind of squeak and this sound drives me insane - will be writing to Maclaren about this
* the wheels in general are a little big when folded
* doesn't stand upright but I'm over this and we've found a sweet little corner for it to live
* hard to access basket while in the recline position - good to prevent me from doing too much shopping so this could be a pro
* a little dull and boring looking
We actually also bought the matching Recaro car seat so we could use this as a travel system although I think it looks really silly. It still might be useful IF we have a second child.
Another stroller I would have considered is the Peg Perego Pliko Lite which is very similar in size to the Techno XLR but stands alone when folded and comes with a drink holder!! It's cheaper too....just.