As a former nanny who pushed the latest and greatest strollers for many years, I am a definite stroller snob. Things that are important in every stroller:
#1- a smooth, solid push. This has a lot to do with the type of wheels (read on and I'll give you the specifics on those...).
#2- an easy and/or compact fold. Strollers are getting better and better every year, so you can actually find quite a few strollers that can be folded up quite small using just one hand! Eight years ago when I was looking for a compact folding stroller, the smallest one on the market was the Quinny Zapp. While it does fold compactly (small enough to fit in an overhead cabin on an airplane, in fact!), there's a definite learning curve involved in figuring out how to fold it up. Now you don't need to pick and choose between having an easy OR a compact fold—you can have both! 🙂
Because I'm a self-declared stroller expert, my friends and family frequently ask me, "what's the best stroller?" Well..... there's no easy answer for that, because everyone has different needs. What I consider "the perfect stroller", someone else might not even like. Evaluate how you'll be using your stroller, and then consider these factors:
Does it recline, and if so, how far?To accommodate a newborn, it should recline nearly fully. If your child will be sitting in the stroller for extended amounts of time (for instance, a full day at Disney World) then at leasta semi-recline should be on your "must-have" list so when naptime rolls around, his neck won't roll forward sitting erect in a straight-backed stroller seat.
Does it accommodate an infant car seat?If you'll be using your stroller with a newborn AND you have an infant car seat, this might be an important factor for you. This makes travelling (especially on aircraft) soooo much easier. But if you're buying a stroller to be used with a toddler—this is obviously not an important factor. Don't let the lack of this feature be a deal-breaker if it's not a feature you'll need; Maclaren strollers, for instance, are high-end umbrella strollers that have both a solid push AND easy, compact folds... but they do NOT accommodate infant car seats (yet!).
Does the stroller have a worthwhile sun canopy? Do you need one? If you'll be spending a lot of time outside, then yes. If most of your time walking is inside, then no. But let's be honest—a wimpy sun canopy will just add unnecessary bulk to your stroller and won't actually block sunlight from your baby's eyes. A worthwhile sun canopy will pull down not just over your child's head, but also in front of him to block those rays coming toward you. If you're just looking for a quick stroller for a run into the mall or children's museum, then a sun canopy won't be used anyhow. If the stroller does have a sun canopy, is there a peek-a-boo window on it so you can keep an eye on your child? Most windows have velcro or magnetic closures; I prefer magnetic because they don't snag and you're able to open and close them silently.
Is the basket large enough to accommodate the things I need, and is it easily accessible? My jogging stroller has a tiny basket, just large enough to hold the rain cover for unexpected downpours on our long walks. This perfectly meets our needs for my daily 4-mile workout. My standard double stroller that I take on our all-day excursions, on the other hand, has a large basket which I need to hold our snacks and gear for the day. And my umbrella stroller has no basket at all, which is fine since I only use it for quick trips. What are your needs??
What kind of wheels will suit your lifestyle the best?Where will you be walking with the stroller most often? On cement? On gravel or grass? Are you planning to put some serious miles on your stroller, or will it primarily be used for shorter walks? It's helpful to know the benefits of the different types of wheels so you can pick the one that will accommodate your lifestyle the best.
-Pneumatic or Air Filled tires are generally what you'll find on jogging strollers, such as the BOB Revolution. These are like bike tires—reinforced rubber and filled with compressed air. These tires are PERFECT for long walks or runs, but in my experience, they are irritating to travel with. Their large size takes up a significant portion of your trunk. And I've had my pneumatic tires pop or begin losing air after airplane trips. Searching for a pump (or new tube) when you're away from home is stressful. I LOVE my BOB stroller (in fact, I walk several miles a day with it!), but we never, ever, ever travel with it. These give the smoothest ride, but require the most maintenance (maintaining air pressure, patching holes, replacing tubes, etc).
Air Wheel with Sealed Ball Bearingsare usually found on more upscale strollers, such as the Baby Jogger City Select. They yield a smooth ride, and work well on most terrains. I like that these are durable (they don't get scuffed up on concrete like standard rubber coated plastic wheels do), and they never need to be refilled with air.
Standard Rubber wheels are essentially plastic, coated with rubber. They're on almost every inexpensive umbrella stroller, but also show up on some pricier strollers, like the UppaBaby Cruz. These wheels are good for pushing around inside stores... not for long outdoor strolls. They're noisier pushing down the street than air tires, and I feel that these wheels "show" their wear with scuffing. Hard Rubber wheels are less commonly found, but can yield an amazing push and don't wear out nearly as quickly as the standard rubber. The Quinny Zapp, for example, has hard rubber wheels.
Does the seat face forwards AND backwards?Many strollers have the capability of changing the direction of the seat. But many do not have this feature. Honestly, most babies prefer facing forward and seeing the world as it goes by. But one of my babies was super clingy and refused to sit in his stroller unless he could keep his eye on me. For this reason, it's a fantastic option. But not having this capability shouldn't necessarily be a deal breaker either. It's all about personal preference for you and your baby!
What is the cost?Strollers cost anywhere from $15 all the way up to over $1,200! Oftentimes you'll get what you pay for. You simply cannot compare a cheap stroller to a pricey stroller and expect to find the same quality and features. BUT... my sister-in-law LOVES her $15 umbrella stroller, because the cost means it is easily replaceable and she never stresses with how banged up or dirty it gets when they travel; and it does the basic necessary job—provide a place for her baby to sit and be transported. I prefer strollers in the mid-range (although $500 is definitely a chunk of change!). I walk long distances at a fast pace over varying terrains. An umbrella stroller wouldn't be able to keep up with the demands I have. My advice is to narrow down your price range based on how often you will be using your stroller. A $15 stroller for casual use will probably suit you fine! But if you're using your stroller in lieu of buying a gym membership, like I do, will mean you'd benefit from a higher-end stroller.
Purchasing a stroller is a very personal decision. Don't let friends or family persuade you to buy THEIR favorite. Prioritize your needs and wants, and then narrow down your choices. It's not always possible to get ALL your needs fulfilled from a single stroller. While a BOB jogging stroller works great on your runs, many people consider it cumbersome to travel with (the smaller basket, the larger fold, filling the tires with air, etc). I've convinced my husband that I need no fewer than three strollers at all times, and I use every.single.one. Happy shopping!!