This is one of the big questions people ask all the time. Should I bring a stroller to Disney World? Once they begin to think of that, other questions pop up. Should I bring a stroller with me or rent one? If I bring one, what kind should I bring?
Before you can decide, you have to ask yourself a few practical questions.
Does my child need a stroller?
This is not just an age issue. Older special needs children who are capable of walking may still need a stroller at Disney. Younger non-special needs kids may as well. A cousin of ours with a pre-teen special needs child recently took him on a Make-A-Wish trip. Though they didn’t use the stroller much, it was handy for having a spot for him to get out of the crowds as well as a place to carry all the supplies they needed. In addition, kids who have sensory issues often benefit from strollers.
Reasons to bring a stroller:
- Child is not used to walking 8+ miles in a day. (it is not uncommon to walk 18K+ steps in a day at Disney. That is 8.5 miles)
- Child has sensory issues – do they get uncomfortable with loud noises, flashing lights, or crowds? Maybe they need a safe spot to decompress.
- Child is not used to being in the hot sun all day (who is really?)
- Child still naps (this is part of the “to leave the park for nap time or stay” debate)
- Family has a ton of stuff and doesn’t want to put it in a locker.
- Parents don’t want to end up having to carry the child all day (even baby wearers often resort to a stroller)
- Having a covered spot for the child to sit while eating at quick service
- Protection in case of rain
Reasons to not bring a stroller:
- Those things are heavy and pain in the necks on the buses and trams.
- Worry over loss or theft.
- Worry that the kid won’t use it.
There are several solutions if you decide you want to have a stroller with you at the parks: 1. Bring your own, 2. Rent one from the park, 3. Rent one from a stroller rental agency.
Since 1. and 3. have similar pros and cons once you get to the park, I will just say this about rental agencies. Do your research. There are several reputable places and you can easily find reviews on them from the Disboards.com.
Should I rent a stroller from the park?
What kind of stroller should I bring?
Or, better known as…the umbrella stroller vs. the full-size stroller debate.
For me, the only benefit of the small umbrella style strollers are how light they are to carry on the buses. They are still pains to squeeze in the seats, but they certainly are smaller than a full-size stroller. That being said, they are terribly uncomfortable for the child for any length of time and they can’t carry squat. So let’s say you decided to bring a nicer stroller with you.
This is what we brought, a City Mini GT. Why did I want that stroller?
Top 10 benefits of having a full-size stroller:
- Giving your little one a chance to rest their feet and stretch out:
Check out how The Boy is enjoying his bare feet as Mike pushes him in the stroller. That is relaxation you can’t get without a full-size stroller. The full-size stroller has enough room for a little one to really relax while you’re rambling your way across a park or standing in an interminably long line. They can wiggle around and truly take a rest with some toys or just watching the sights in a way that a child crammed into an umbrella stroller just can’t.
- Nap time:
Many of the nicer strollers can lay down nearly flat. It made staying in the parks for nap time a breeze. We just let our son fall asleep and then we could push him around or park ourselves in a shady spot and relax. It saved tons of time with trying to fight crowds and transportation. It also gave me a chance to shop with him in the a/c and not have to constantly watch to make sure little hands had not grabbed something breakable off a shelf.
- In case of rain:
You can (and SHOULD) buy a rain cover designed for the model stroller you have that zips or Velcros onto it. I’ve seen people suggest using table cloths to cover strollers. I’ve seen people think they can get away with using the child’s rain poncho. These don’t work when the wind is blowing. It was amazing how many people we saw have their stuff ruined because they had a disposable table cloth draped over their stroller only to have a gust of wind blow it up and soak them and everything inside the stroller with rain. You can see in the above picture, we have our rain cover rolled up and Velcro’d out of the way. When it rained, we zipped that rain cover down on top of him. The canopy came down and gave him a nice window view of everything around him and he (and our stuff) stayed dry. When it was raining, he much preferred being in the stroller to being stuck in his hot poncho.
Though not a giant place to store things, the bottom of a full-size stroller can take a lot of stuff compared to the small amount you could hang off the back of an umbrella stroller. We could store diapers, clothes, bottled water, snacks, extra shoes, and other items we didn’t want to bother carrying around with us. It was very handy and it all stayed dry thanks to our rain cover.
- Guaranteed comfy spot for him to sit:
It is not always easy to find places to sit at Disney World. There were many times where we found small benches where only one or two could squeeze on, or metal chairs/benches at an outdoor quick service restaurant that just would not have been comfortable for The Boy to sit on. Having his stroller came in handy here.
- Handy spot to change a diaper – in the Baby Care Center or Bathrooms:
Please note: you should NOT change a child’s clothes or diaper outside of a Baby Care Center or a bathroom. That being said, when there is only one place to change a child in the bathroom and it’s already occupied, being able to pull up to a corner of the bathroom, lower the stroller into a reclined position and change your child from there is really handy. Especially if you’re concerned about how clean that public changing area is.
- A place to eat and drink while on the move:
Notice that first picture at the top of the page. The Boy has his water bottle (on a nice Velcro strap) and he can drink any time he gets thirsty. That was great. Whenever he got thirsty and whenever we reminded him, he would be able to get a nice drink even while we were busy walking. When I thought he was getting peckish, I could pull out one of his snacks and he could lay them out on the tray to eat while we were walking around. You can’t do that with an umbrella stroller.
- Adjustable handle bar:
I’m a fairly tall woman. Most of the umbrella strollers I’ve tried make me feel like I’m hunching over to push them. Now, imagine how the typical man must feel trying to push an umbrella stroller. Having an adjustable handle that lets you steer one-handed is a blessing.
- Canopy for sun:
We live in Tennessee. We are used to heat, but Florida sun is a whole ‘nother ball game. No amount of sunscreen can completely protect a baby’s skin from that blazing sun. Those puny umbrella strollers can not give a truly nice shady spot when the sun is beating down on the child. Notice the fan I have attached to The Boy’s stroller. That is no wimpy stroller fan. That is an O2 Cool 5″ battery operated clip fan. That thing takes four D-cell batteries and blows strong enough wind that it will whip your hair behind you. It was WONDERFUL. And, the batteries lasted me through a Tennessee summer AND that Disney trip before giving out. I was impressed. But it weighed a lot, so you need a heftier stroller to be able to use it.
- Canopy for peace:
Disney World is crowded. Even if your child is not normally sensitive to light or sound, the shear amount of input can be overwhelming at times for little ones. Having some place where they can be protected a bit from all the lights and sounds helps settle them down a bit.
There were other benefits to having the stroller, but I think you get the idea. For us, at that age (2.5 years old) it was the right decision. When we go back, it will depend on how old he is as to whether we bring a stroller. Mike felt like having to carry it was a BIG pain in the neck on buses, but the benefits after we got to the park outweighed the difficulty on the trams. I think if we were to go back next year (as I would love to for his 4th/1st birthday – he’s a Leap Year baby) we’d probably bring the stroller again since he’ll more than likely still be napping. But once he’s a bit bigger, I think strollers at Disney will be in the past for us. Why? They really are pains in the neck on the transportation and pre-kid, we always made sure to only carry what we could fit in our oh-so-fashionable fanny packs.
In my next post, I’ll address how to keep your stroller safe and make it easier to find amongst that sea of identical strollers. Stay tuned.