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Vote of the week: Bring the stroller, or rent one?

By Robert Niles
Published: December 2, 2010 at 9:16 PM
This time of year, between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the seasonal theme parks are closed and even the year-round parks are welcoming fewer out-of-town visitors than at most any other time of the year. So these are days devoted to planning the next Big Theme Park Trip.

This week's vote is for the parents, planning a family theme park vacation - especially the ones with toddlers (or whose children were toddlers not all that long ago).

When you're thinking about how you're going to get your toddlers around the park (or how you did, back in the day), will you plan to bring your own stroller, or rent one at the park?

Stroller at Epcot

The pros of renting the stroller: You don't have to lug it with you in the car (or on the plane!) If you someone grabs it in the park - or your child fouls it beyond your capacity to stand it any longer - you just get a replacement. Park strollers also tend to be larger and sturdier that then folding "umbrella" strollers many families bring to the parks, making it easier for schlepping kids and gear.

The pros of bringing your own: You've got your own stroller for getting your child to and from your car (or hotel room). You've two fewer lines to wait in, at the beginning and end of your day. And, of course, you save on the rental fee.

I should note that some parents choose a third option, especially ones flying to a family vacation, such as at Walt Disney World. They leave their stroller at home, but buy a cheap folding one at their destination, and bring it to the park. That saves the hassle of checking and transporting a stroller, but allows for the benefits of having one's own at the parks. Buying a stroller can cost less than daily rentals on a multi-day theme park trip, too.

So, what will it be? If you're one of those third-choice parents, who buys a stroller at your destination, pick the "bring your own" option, since it is, technically, your stroller that you bring into the parks. And if you don't have kids, just sit this one out.


I'd love to hear your favorite stroller tips for other parents visiting theme parks, in the comments. And thanks again for reading Theme Park Insider!

Readers' Opinions

From Anthony Murphy on December 2, 2010 at 10:54 PM
My parents brought one from home when I was little and thats when they were really big and heavy. Not sure exactly why. I will ask them!


Perhaps the next question should be about Wheelchair/EVC rentals. I have noticed more and more outside EVC rentals

From rick stevens on December 3, 2010 at 1:10 AM
The ones that should be left at home are the "Jogging" strollers. They are way too big and cannot be easily folded. I remember way back when you could not bring your own in to Disney. You were forced to rent their uncomfortable, un-maneuverable monstrosities. I think the only ones that are made for the parks are the umbrella strollers. Might just be me, but they seem the most manageable. I know that many families use their strollers as gigantic shopping carts, more power to them, but sometimes it gets ridiculous.
From Tim W on December 3, 2010 at 6:04 AM
The uber big strollers should be left at home if you want one of those. Its aggravating for everybody on the planes and on busses! Just rent one if you want one that size. A nice, compact and small stroller irritates less people.
From James Koehl on December 3, 2010 at 7:09 AM
Will you post the results after the poll closes? I'm curious, but can't vote since my kids are 12 and 15. I tried to get my son to ride in a stroller the last time we went to WDW, but he was 9 and wouldn't stay in it ;+)
From 72.248.119.98 on December 3, 2010 at 7:18 AM
We brought one when my oldest child was little, but since that first time, we've always rented one (been back 4 times in 6 years). The umbrella stroller was never an option either since my little ones typically fell asleep at some point, and I hate looking at them all hunched over. We decided that with all the drama of lugging our Graco stroller back and forth, it's just a whole lot easier getting one at the park and using an umbrella stroller for times outside the park (dinner, visit to the store, airport, etc.). I say rent it and save yourself the aggravation.
From Betty Rohrer on December 3, 2010 at 7:40 AM
we bring from home. size depends on age of child. small folding does not work well with infant, yes we bring infants. also need from home for outside the parks. not sure which one we are taking to Dollywood end of month.
From 205.128.224.6 on December 3, 2010 at 8:22 AM
So far, we've always brought either our running or umbrella stroller from home. We really don't use them that much (occasional naps, the need to get somewhere fast or if we end up in the park late and need a place to crash)to justify the rental cost. If we're planning a long park day and need to nap in the park, we'll bring the running stroller since it's way more comfortable. If we're able to get back to the room in the afternoon, the umbrella will do just fine. I don't think we'll ever rent a stroller. It's too easy to bring one from home and eventually the only time we'll use it will be if we're in the park late and don't want to carry a tired little one to the bus. In fact, there are days we go to the park with no stroller - our two year old is way more interested in walking and it's a great way to expend some energy.
From Mike Gallagher on December 3, 2010 at 8:25 AM
Robert said, " And if you don't have kids, just sit this one out."

No! You can't make me! I don't WANNA sit this one out!!!

:)

From Andy Guinigundo on December 3, 2010 at 8:27 AM
It's a pain to fold up on the buses at WDW. But, there is a lot of up side.

1. I already paid for the thing - why pay the astronomical prices at the park?

2. Use in the airport, Downtown Disney, outlets malls where there aren't necessarily rentals available.

3. I don't have to wait in yet another line for the park's stroller.

4. Did I mention the astronomical prices?

Now, if every place were like Holiday World where you can rent a wagon for $7 or double stroller for $10 ($31 at WDW), I'd leave my gear at home.

From 216.36.8.13 on December 3, 2010 at 9:15 AM
We always brought ours since we could load it up with our bags, snacks, drinks ... however a frugal friend of mine had a different approach when her youngest was little. Since they didn't have a need for a stroller until later in the day when the little one was too tired to walk herself they would go by the return area and "acquire" one. So many people just abandon them nearby and don't stand in the line to return them that she could always get one. Always worked for her.
From Gary Knackstedt on December 3, 2010 at 9:57 AM
We did it both ways back in the day, but which ever way you go, rent or use own, bring a light weight bike chain lock and lock your stroller to a rail in the park while you are away. I learned that lesson the hard way at Disneyland many years ago.
From 64.196.210.113 on December 3, 2010 at 11:01 AM
We've always used an umbrella stroller. We bought a Chicco that's small but has a nice basket underneath for ponchos, etc. It folds quickly and the seat moves back a bit for naps. MUCH cheaper than renting and keeps a child strapped in for places like the airport. We also bought cup holders that easily attach for the parks.
From 69.237.156.186 on December 3, 2010 at 12:35 PM
I ultimately decided that bringing our own was our best option. My daughter is 1 year old and frequents Disneyland. I need something she can nap in and a snack tray. Storage helps too. Since the strollers cost as much as parking, it's cost effective for me to bring my own stroller. There is always a huge line for the elevators upon leaving the park, so that's one downside, unless you want to take the baby out of the stroller and hike it up the escalator, which is what we typically do. Also, if your stroller doesn't fold tightly, you need to ride in the back of the tram, which takes 1 - 2 tram waits longer than usual, but we're not typically in a hurry. I have a compact jogger type that's easy to push, but I'm looking for an umbrella stroller with a good snack tray that folds better exclusively for Disneyland.
From Anthony Murphy on December 3, 2010 at 5:20 PM
Just thought of another reason to bring your own: you can find it faster because it doesn't look like a zillion other strollers (ok, this thought is more in theory)
From 184.32.203.206 on December 3, 2010 at 6:22 PM
It's more convenient to rent a stroller than to carry one.
From Amanda Jenkins on December 3, 2010 at 6:47 PM
We just buy a stroller on the property. It is a lot cheaper than renting, and we then don't have to worry about carrying it on the plane (except on the way home). Our boys were really lazy on our last trip in September to Walt Disney World. They took turns riding either in the stroller or on their father's shoulders.
From Roxanne Price on December 3, 2010 at 7:26 PM
Cheap umbrella stroller - light, easier to roll in compact areas, and folds quickly.

But...if you choose a popular model, especially from a discount retailer such as Walmart or Target, you'll want to find a way to personalize it. Years ago we had to figure out which of three Winnie-the-Pooh umbrella strollers were ours (the strollers had been organized and put into rows). We nearly walked off with someone else's and their small souvenir bag before we snapped.

We chose bright purple duct tape on the handles. Worked like a charm.

From Robert Niles on December 3, 2010 at 7:33 PM
If your children are past stroller age, please pick the option you used when the were stroller-age.
From KJ Simpson on December 3, 2010 at 8:44 PM
Another crafty option: people who frequent the DisBoards (massively huge message boards for Disney fanatics) arrange "stroller swaps"- you post when you're arriving, and hook up with someone who's leaving that day and take their stroller (which they received from a family who left the day they arrived). You do the same for your departure date, it passes from family to family, and there's no cost involved. At some point, when a stroller is worn out, a bunch of people will chip in just a couple of dollars each, and get a new stroller to start the swap all over, to keep the "pixie dust" going. I'm not sure how they arrange the logistics of drop off & pick up, but they seem to have it down to a science- it's been going on for years.
From 98.21.96.115 on December 4, 2010 at 8:09 AM
This is why I don't have kids. They add cost to everything (pay to rent a stroller or pay to buy one?)...... lol. I feel for you guys that do though. I love kids, but they are expensive!

I'd say just go ahead and buy the stroller. Your gonna need it more than once anyway.

From 173.61.115.44 on December 4, 2010 at 8:22 AM
If you rent then someone, less fortunate, will walk away with your rental. It will be next to impossible to find it.

If you have your own, well, it's unlikely that will be stolen.

From Brian Afdahl on December 6, 2010 at 11:15 AM
Lets see. I have had a rental stolen from me at disneyland. Ive also had a cheap umbrella one stolen from me at sea world. Which it was my daughters favorite. So at 2 1/2 i had to deal with that on drive home. So since we live 3 miles from disneyland and always go later in the day. We just grab one near the ticket booths on way in. So we have had a different family name a bunch of times. lol
From Tony Duda on December 6, 2010 at 1:25 PM
Hey Robert, if I don't vote, how can I find out what the votes are?
From Tony Duda on December 7, 2010 at 2:52 PM
Oh, OK, wait for the poll to close. Thanks.
From 207.200.116.133 on December 8, 2010 at 12:04 AM
My daughter is now 5 and in the past we have brought her Graco to both Land and World for a total of 6 trips. (This will be our 8th this weekend)The 7th (as we will on the 8th) we rented. I like them both, but for us our daughter dictated. She was an infant on our first trip and in the infant carrier it was easier to attach to the graco. (WAY BETTER safety) After that, we continued with the graco because she is an AWESOME sleeper and will lay down and sleep where ever and whenever the need arises. She was very comfortable in her Graco and right up until our last trip with it, she would take 3 hour naps in it AT the parks, why mess with a good thing. At 4 (as she was in our last trip.) she was begining to get a little too big for the graco (40in) so since our last Jan. trip was a whirlwind, tag along on daddy's business trip, we decided to leave the graco behind and rent since we wouldn't be gone long. It worked like a charm! She still napped (though not as long) and she was PLENTY comfortable with room to spare. This upcoming trip will be 4 days and we will rent again, as I have officially retired the graco. She JUST turned 5 and is still to small to make it all day and umbrella strollers are NOT an option for us, she is too tall and my husband and I are too tall to push them (talk about a backache).
I should also mention that we ALWAYS fly in (we are up in Washington State and we travel A LOT) so flying with the Graco was a chore but well worth the hassle for the child who loved the comfort of her stroller. THIS will be our FIRST trip with neither the graco OR the britax marathon (code name: big monster) carseat. Getting through security will feel like we are missing something! LOL
From 155.91.45.231 on December 8, 2010 at 12:23 PM
It all depends on the situation. On our first trip to WDW, the boy was 3, we took my parents, and we stayed for 7 days. We brought our high-end umbrella stroller from home. It reclined a little, and had room to put stuff. We were glad to have it in the airport, at the resort and between the gate and the bus, but my parents were available to help push it.
On our second trip, the boy was 4, it was just the three of us, and we did a 4 night cruise then transferred to WDW for 3 more nights. This time, we rented from Disney. So he had to walk in the airport, on the ship, within the resort and from the gate to the bus (well, daddy carried him twice after a long day). But he was older and up to it, and since we had so many legs of travel, it was good not to have something extra to lug. Plus, we made him pull his own carry-on. ;-) He was perfectly happy and comfortable in the WDW rental, and the convenience of paying once for multiple days and just presenting the receipt when we needed a new one was great.
On our next trip, we'll bring a stroller from home for boy #2 (he'll be 1) and we'll make boy #1 (he'll be 5) push it for us! Use your children wisely, people.

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