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in the Park
Tips and ideas for the traveling family
|Adrienne Krock, editor|
|I confess: I've never been a big fan of
stroller renting. But I figured that if I was going to write about the
topic, I'd better have some first hand experience to base it on. So in the
name of research, we paid the $7 rental fee to test out the strollers at
Disneyland (hey, maybe I can save this receipt for taxes.)
Armed with four stroller testers aged 20 months to 4 years, two dads, and one teenager, my buddy Exceptional Mom Mary and I spent a recent Sunday in the Park. Here's what we learned that day:
There are a couple of ways to get a stroller. You can pay inside the park at the rental locations or at the ticket booths outside the park when you buy your passports. There are 5 stroller rental locations inside the park: The Main Entrance Stroller Shop just in front of the east tunnel at the Main Gate, or at one of four stores -- the Star Trader, Gag Factory, Pooh Corner, or Westward Ho Trading Company.
When you pay outside of the park, you simply walk up to a stroller rental location and present your receipt to the CM distributing strollers. When you get your stroller, the CM writes your name on a sign to tuck into a plastic pocket on the back of the seat. Your receipt is stapled to a card with safety reminders.
If for some reason you lose your stroller during the day, you can present your receipt at one of the 4 stores to receive a replacement stroller. At the end of the day, as you leave the park, you can turn in your stroller at the Main Entrance Stroller Shop.
Carnation sponsors the strollers at Disneyland and provides these signs for identification purposes.
Disneyland has a large inventory of strollers from The Baby Jogger company, although on very crowded days I have seen some of the old blue strollers being used, too. Currently, there are two different models being rented but we were not given a choice which one we wanted. We were given The Twinkle. (The Baby Jogger website's Twinkle page was not showing a picture of the Twinkle as we went to press, but here is the link.) This is a jogging stroller with two wheels in back and two sets of double wheel sin front.
The other option is called The Baby Jogger II-12. This stroller has two 12 inch wheels in back, one in front, and a handbrake on the handlebar. The handlebar of the Baby Jogger II-12 is higher than the one on the Twinkle. Some of the Baby Jogger II-12 handlebars are padded.
Here's what we thought:
There are some things about the strollers that are nice. The plastic name pouch can hold other small goodies like Fast Pass Tickets, child swap passes, maps, etc. Don't store essentials there like passports (you would need your passport if you decided to leave the park and return later or to use Fast Pass) or your stroller receipt, lest you lose your stroller.
Sometimes cast members [CMs] move strollers around stroller parking areas to either efficiently organize them or to make room for oncoming parades or pedestrian traffic, so there are times when families may not be able to locate their strollers among the sea of identical green strollers. Surely other visitors would never take another family's stroller on purpose, but accidents do happen, so this is another way your stroller could be "lost."
Another advantage was that The Twinkle we had folded up when it was empty, so we could take it on the train if we wanted to get on at one station and off at another.
Here is the Twinkle in its folded position.
And then there's my list of things I wasn't crazy about:
The Safety Concern -- One thing we quickly noticed was the construction of the canopy: it popped out of its notches easily. So I wasn't surprised when I read a warning at the Baby Jogger website advising parents that Twinkle strollers made before November 1, 1999 need a kit to fix a design flaw. (The Baby Jogger URL was provided on a sticker on the rental stroller.) Some of Disneyland's Twinkle strollers have been fixed but not all of them.
The Basket Concern -- When Matthew or his friends sat in the stroller we rented, we could not access the basket. This was very inconvenient for me because I use the basket of my stroller often, even when Matthew is sleeping inside the stroller. The basket of the Baby Jogger II-12 model appears easier to access than the Twinkle's.
You can see that with Matthew in the stroller, I can't get anything in or out of the basket of the Twinkle.
The Seat Concern -- The first concern here is that the seat has only one position and that is a slightly reclining one. Exceptional Mom Mary reported to me, "That's the part of the stroller design I most dislike." I don't know if I dislike it most, but it does annoy me especially due to the next problem I encountered with the stroller: the only way we could buckle Matthew in was if he was sitting up in the reclining seat. It looked uncomfortable and I confess, when it was naptime, I cheated and put Matthew back into his regular stroller so he could recline a bit and be buckled in.
For safety, kids need to be buckled in to their strollers. Some children are known to climb out of strollers when they aren't buckled in. In addition, accidents happen and a stroller can bump into something. If a kid is sitting a bit forward, they can fall out especially considering the lack of a bar across the front of this stroller. To protect the innocent, I won't site specific examples, but trust me, such incidents can and have happened!
Matthew belted into the Twinkle and its set reclining position.
The Handlebar Concern -- I'm petite (5' 3".) But the Twinkle handlebar was uncomfortably low for me! Also, Exceptional Mom Mary and I disliked that the metal handlebar was unpadded. It's hot when it's been sitting in the sun for awhile, besides being uncomfortable in your hands for pushing.
The Size Concern -- Matthew is 34 inches tall and approximately 30 lbs. He looked just about the "right" size for these strollers. Exceptional Mom Mary's son is 40 lbs and 40 inches tall, which, according to the sticker on the Twinkle, exceeds the recommended height limit of 38 inches. I know, I know, this is a minor difference, but Evan's only 4 years old! When he sat in the stroller, he definitely looked too big and uncomfortable. He actually wanted out of the stroller to get back to his more comfortable stroller from home.
For visitors who come to Disneyland with slightly older children and find themselves renting a stroller later in the day to assist a tiring youngster, this may be a problem. I've often seen children squeezed into these strollers and it's not a choice I would make. The Twinkle sticker listed the maximum recommended weight was 50 lbs, while the Disneyland safety checklist is slightly more cautious advising: "Stroller may not be used by children weighing over 45 lbs."
Here's what Matthew looked like in the Twinkle with the canopy down. Matthew is about 30 lb and 34 inches tall.
Another size concern relates to the overall safety factor of Jogging Strollers for babies younger than six months old. Babies this young need head support which these strollers do not provide.
The Construction Concern -- The first problem is just ugly. Several strollers we saw are fraying badly at the seams. Hopefully the seams won't come loose while a child is in them. The second problem is ironic: the strollers are very lightweight, which makes them easy to maneuver. Enter the teenaged big brother.
Now, Casey is a polite and responsible lad who gets good grades. (He saves most of his unpleasant behaviors for home, I'm assured, but in public, he's a generally great guy.) However, Casey quickly found out how easy it is to "pop" stroller wheelies so to speak. I'm concerned that the lightweight feature makes it easy for kids pushing strollers to goof off with them, based on watching Casey experiment for a few minutes and observing other families in the Park.
In addition, Exceptional Mom Mary noticed another flaw with the design of the seat. In their sturdier strollers from home, Exceptional Mom Mary's kids often stand on the seats to better view shows, parades, and fireworks. The rental strollers are not sturdy enough for this.
And finally, the biggie for me:
The Accessibility Concern -- Disneyland's Rental Strollers cannot leave the park. When we took the Monorail to the Hotel, we had to leave our rental stroller behind. By the end of our Sunday, our four kids under four were wearing down. All four reclined in their respective stroller seats and enjoyed the fireworks show (and it was Great, by the way!)
After the show, Exceptional Mom Mary and crew were able to walk back to their Harbor Blvd motel pushing three preschoolers in their strollers while the strollers carried their assorted bags. We dropped off our rental stroller at the Main Entrance, but since we had also brought our own stroller from home, we were able to roll our stroller full of jackets, bags and souvenirs out to the tram. We only had to take Matthew out for the ride to the Pinocchio parking lot. Other parents who rented were not so fortunate.
After our Sunday with a rental stroller, here's my conclusion: I still say, bring your own stroller from home, but now, I think I appreciate it even more.
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