Rental Strolling Through the Parks, Or Not

by Adrienne Krock, staff writer
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Families with young children often use strollers at the Disney theme parks. Some bring their strollers from home, others rent strollers on-site from Disney, and while some rent strollers from an off-site company. This week, we asked the Parenting Panel. Do you rent or bring your own strollers on your Disney theme park vacations?

MousePlanet columnist Chris Barry, his wife, Diane, Samantha (15), and twins Casey and Alex (12), live on Long Island and are all major Disney and Walt Disney World fans. Chris writes:

There are many sides to all of the discussions we have here on the Parenting Panel. I’m pretty open to all of the different opinions. However, there are a few things that I’ve grown pretty adamant about when it comes to visiting the Walt Disney World Resort. One of them is the absolute need for a stroller for young children. I’ll take it one step further, and specifically and strongly recommend a Disney rental stroller. Now, because our kids went to Disney for the first time when they were 4 years old, I can’t speak to visiting the parks with an infant or small toddler, which might be a whole different discussion. My experience with the Disney strollers takes place between the ages of 4 and 7.

I like to tell the story of my visit with Lou, my oldest and dearest friend. It was his first visit to Walt Disney World with kids. We had been there several times already with our brood. My twin boys were probably 6, which put his “Irish twin” boys about a year or so younger. Obviously, all of our sons were well out of their strollers at home. We got to the Magic Kingdom that first morning and, after crossing through the turnstiles, we made straight for the stroller rental. He scoffed. “No way…my guys aren’t in a stroller anymore. They can walk!” Needless to say, by the time we walked straight back to Fantasyland, he made an about-face, high-tailed it back to the train station, and rented a double stroller for the week. It became painfully obvious to him that Disney was not home, and the stroller was indeed a necessity.


In their younger years, Chris’s sons Casey and Alex conveniently relaxed (and even napped) in the Disney rental strollers during their park visits, while their parents never needed to deal with the strollers on Walt Disney World transportation or in their hotel rooms. Photo by Chris Barry.

We always went with a Disney rental. We had no interest in dealing with our own cumbersome stroller on buses, Monorails and boats. At those times, they had no issues walking on their own. Because of the strollers, they didn’t walk that much through the parks, so their energy was conserved. They were rested enough to walk from the gate to the bus and from the bus to the hotel room or vice versa. It was never an issue with us. Yes, we absolutely did carry our kids from the bus back to the room many times, especially at night after a long day. But, it was never so much a burden that I wished I had a stroller with me at all times. To be honest, I kind of miss that now that they’re older.

To be perfectly honest, the last trip my daughter was in a Disney double stroller, she was 7. That sounds crazy, a 7-year-old in a stroller, but let’s consider a few things. First, the Disney strollers are pretty large. They can easily accommodate an older child. Second, Orlando can be downright swelteringly hot. And third, the average guest walks about 10-12 miles a day on a Walt Disney World visit. Combine those three elements together and you can see just how important a stroller is. Take my word for it when I say this: the big, comfy, shaded Disney strollers saved our vacations on many occasions. They were well worth the added expense. They carried shopping bags and snacks and little portable fans to keep the kids cool. They became little rolling sanctuaries for our little ones, and we were just fine with that. The kids certainly cherished them, but, truth be told, nowhere near as much as the parents did.


Disneyland offers Baby Jogger Q-Series Strollers for rent at their theme parks. Of note, the rental models lack several features of the standard models. Briefly, the strollers do not fold, they do not recline, they have no canopy nor parent console and they lack storage features available on consumer models. Disneyland only rents single strollers, but Walt Disney World offers single and double double strollers. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.


The rental stroller storage includes a small basket underneath the stroller seat and a mesh pocket behind the seat. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix

Sheena, also known as Mermaid, teaches first grade in Arizona where she lives with her husband and two children, Matthew (4) and Katie (3). She visits the Disneyland Resort as often as she can and has passed on her love of the parks to her little Mouseketeers. Sheena writes:

Like many families, we have owned our fair share of strollers. Our daily stroller is the Baby Jogger City Mini. It has a large sun shade that pulls all the way down and it folds with one hand. It is easy to push and stores flat. Basically, it rocks. Our double… doesn't. In effort to save money, we decided to not get the Baby Jogger City Mini double. That was a mistake. So, when it was time to go to the Disneyland resort with two stroller-aged kids, we were puzzled. Do we bring our double that is so hard to fold it has only been in our car three times? No way. Do we rent two singles from the parks? That seemed expensive and cumbersome to have to deal with two strollers. I turned to my friend Google and found City Stroller Rentals. And even better, they rent the Baby Jogger City Mini Double stroller! The price was right and they deliver to many local hotels, including but not limited to the Disney properties. We were sold.

I have rented from them on two occasions now and both times I have been very pleased with the process. The strollers were at Bell Services when we arrived at Disney's Grand Californian Hotel & Spa. There was a name placard on the stroller to make identification easy in the parks. One time we were given red and one time green, so it seems like they have a variety of colors. The strollers were clean and functioned perfectly, and a parent console (drink holder) was included for no charge. When we were done, we left the stroller with bell services. It was a very easy process and well worth the money.


Sheena rents strollers off-site when her family visits Disneyland. Unlike the on-site Disney rentals, this rented double stroller arrives with full features including a parent console, the ability to recline and fold, and the freedom to take the stroller beyond the theme park boundaries. Photo by Sheena Byerley.

Our stroller days are almost behind us, but I would recommend renting off site to anyone who can't or doesn't want to bring their own strollers. Disney strollers cannot be taken outside of the two parks and the esplanade, so even if I needed a single, I would still rent from an offsite company to keep the stroller with us to and from the hotel. Disneyland does not rent double strollers, so renting offsite was our only option and it turned out to be a great choice.


Disneyland also sells strollers for guests who would rather take something away from the parks. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.

Chris Salata, also known as GusMan, is a Disney-inspired author and photographer, and loves to help people get the most out of their Disney vacation. Chris writes:

If you have little ones, a stroller is pretty much a necessity for a Disney vacation. With the possibility of walking somewhere in the range of six to 10 miles a day for possibly several days, it is easy to see why you will need a bit of help for the kids. I did find out through direct experience that while you know you will need a stroller, you don't always know all your options. As I share my experiences, I would like to break this up into bringing your own stroller as well as renting strollers.

Since my son was born, we brought our stroller from home and it really wasn't an issue. It was a medium-sized unit that I could fold up rather easily. My son was very comfortable riding in it and it seemed to be the obvious choice. To our benefit, we were able to carry a few extra things in the bottom, and that made it very convenient. However, we soon found out that our favorite stroller did not have the stamina to go a dozen miles a day for 10 days without a few issues. For example, after about day three, it developed a very loud squeal that caused people to look at us when we strolled by. While I could say it was somewhat embarrassing, it also acted something as an early warning system as if I wanted to say “here we are…please make a path” without being so bold to say it out loud. It also was not the easiest to get on and off the bus, though I saw many other strollers have bigger issues than ours. The conclusion here was two-fold: How fast you can fold up the stroller once a bus comes and how compact the stroller might be in the folded state.

We did manage to downsize our next stroller, but it did not come close to making it through a whole trip. Lighter and cheaper does not always go well in a Disney park. However, once we got home, we found a stroller that was a bit smaller than our first and folded up in a way where I was able to sling it over my shoulder. It was an epic stroller, and gone were the days of worrying about if we could get on and off a bus easily. It somewhat made the case for really testing out strollers before you buy them and keeping in mind where they will be used. At the same time, if it survives a Disney trip—you have a winner!

As my son got older, we were not sure if he needed a stroller. Of course the mistake we made was that we thought he would be OK without one and went ahead and gave his stroller away to a family that needed one. Keeping my son in mind, we decided to rent one from a third party. We asked a lot of questions regarding size, how well it folded up, and what the wheel size was, in order to make sure that it would do well on the streets of Disney (smaller wheels are not always better). We also asked about insurance, how often the rentals were cleaned and satisfaction policies. As it turns out, we rented a stroller that was perfect for our son, for all but the first and last days of our trip. He was comfortable and yet the stroller size was still bus-friendly. It came to us clean and fresh and was a lot cheaper than the ones you can get at the parks. In this case, I know it is somewhat daunting to rent something you cant really see or touch first, but that is where references and asking a lot of questions comes into play. The more questions we asked, the more comfortable we felt with the company. It ended up being a great experience for what would be my son's last trip with a stroller.

Elizabeth, who posts on our MousePad message board as eabaldwin, has been a Disneyland Annual Passholder since 2010. She and her husband have three little ones: two daughters and a son. Elizabeth writes:

I think that having a stroller with young children at a Disney park is very helpful. With so much to do and see and so far to walk, it is great to have somewhere for them to sit and relax. Whether to rent or bring your own really depends on the needs of the family.

When we were Disneyland Annual Passholders, we brought our own. It was just easy enough for us to throw one of ours in the trunk, since it was a short drive for us. We usually used our single BOB, or our Chariot, which is a double. I was very happy to rent a stroller once at Disneyland when I had forgotten the front wheels for our Chariot, which made it unusable.Of course, I didn’t realize it until I was in the parking structure. Since it was quite last minute, I rented right there at Disneyland. While I appreciated the ability to rent one at the park, I think that one downside to renting there is that you don’t have a stroller beyond the security checkpoint, making it harder to explore Downtown Disney or get back to your hotel. Another negative for us is that these rental strollers do not recline, making it more difficult for our kids to nap.


Elizabeth’s double stroller, the Chariot, includes a sling for comfortably holding infants next to their older siblings.

During our visit to Walt Disney World, when our girls were 14 months and 3 years old, we rented a stroller from an off-site company. We chose to rent from an off-site company for several reasons. They delivered and picked up the stroller at our hotel, so we didn’t need to worry about picking it up or dropping it off. Another benefit was that we had the stroller to use outside the parks. This was convenient when walking from our hotel room to the bus, or walking around Downtown Disney. The stroller that we rented reclined very far back, which made it very easy for our girls to take a nap while we were walking around the parks. We were able to see and do more than if we had to go back to the hotel room for them to take a nap. Even though it was a brand that is different than any of the ones that we own, it was easy to fold and unfold and very easy to push. We rented a stroller so that we didn’t have to worry about checking ours on our flights to and from Orlando. The downside to renting a stroller is the added cost.

Our strollers don't just help transport our kids from one attraction to the next, they are helpful in other ways. Our children nap in the stroller, so it is important that we have a comfortable spot for them to fall asleep. We encourage them stay in it when we are trying to get from one attraction to another quickly. It also serves as a safe spot in big crowds. When it is particularly crowded or congested, it is helpful to have some place for them to be where they are out of the way. A stroller also carries a lot of our gear, including diapers/wipes, sweatshirts, snacks, water, etc. We couldn’t visit the parks without one.

It's your turn—keep the discussion flowing!

Visit the Parenting in the Parks forum on our MousePad discussion board, and share your opinions about this topic or many others, or send your suggestions via e-mail. Reader-submitted tips might be used in a future article, and you might be selected to participate in an upcoming panel discussion!

 

Comments

  1. By DisneyGator

    I can't imagine a visit to Disney without a stroller. I'm actually sad thinking about the day my family doesn't need one anymore. For years, we used a double side by side jogger when going to WDW. It rode smooth, turned easily, and folded up nice for bus rides back to the resort. These days, we're down to a single for the youngest and we take it to DL. It's nice to keep the little one contained in the stroller, plus being able to carry around extra clothes or sweaters underneath is a big plus.

    We never wanted to rent. First, our strollers are way more comfortable and user friendly. Second, whenever we'd get off the bus, there would be a huge line to rent a stroller. I figured it was one less line I had to stand in by bring our own.

  2. By Mermaid

    So mine will be 4 and 5.75 when we next go to DL. The stroller is an ongoing debate in our house. Our "issue" is my son. If we bring a stroller for my 4 year old, we will be battling the stroller fight between the kids. But, I really think she needs it still and my son can use it occasionally. He is tall, he just had his 5 year check yesterday and is 46", so conceivably he will by 47+ by June so kind of too tall for a double. Our current plan is go without and rent from Disney if needed, but I think we should bring the single Maclaren and leave it in the car (we sold our baby Jogger already). DH thinks out of sight out of mind, but I worry more about miserable kids!

    Don't even get me started about this same internal debate for WDW next summer when they are almost 7 and 5.5ish!

  3. By bumblebeeonarose

    Quote Originally Posted by Mermaid View Post
    So mine will be 4 and 5.75 when we next go to DL. The stroller is an ongoing debate in our house. Our "issue" is my son. If we bring a stroller for my 4 year old, we will be battling the stroller fight between the kids. But, I really think she needs it still and my son can use it occasionally. He is tall, he just had his 5 year check yesterday and is 46", so conceivably he will by 47+ by June so kind of too tall for a double. Our current plan is go without and rent from Disney if needed, but I think we should bring the single Maclaren and leave it in the car (we sold our baby Jogger already). DH thinks out of sight out of mind, but I worry more about miserable kids!

    Don't even get me started about this same internal debate for WDW next summer when they are almost 7 and 5.5ish!

    It's hard because your kids are pretty close in age. When we went last May I had told our almost 5 y/o daughter that she would not be riding in the stroller. We still have the double (good thing since we just had a baby), but it's a bigger pain to push through the parks than the single. I told her in advance that she was big enough to walk. We brought our single for our 2 y/o son and it wasn't much of an issue. She never once complained about having to walk. She was also over 46" during the trip. Got her first ride on Indy.

  4. By Drince88

    I did notice on my last trip that there seemed to be fewer strollers in use. My theory is that it was because of Disney's increase in rental prices (especially for those who didn't want to hassle with a stroller outside the parks or didn't know about offsite rentals). But seeing the current design, vs the old one shown with Chris Barry's boys sleeping, I wonder if they're also not as comfy for the bigger kids. (Or maybe going in early November with fewer kids in general had something to do with it )

    When I went with my then 3 year old nephew (definitely closer to 3 yrs than 4 yrs) I kept asking my sister about bringing a stroller/renting one in the parks/renting one from offsite/ etc etc. To the point she almost got mad at me about continuing to bring it up. We ended up never renting one (though I fully expected to!) and N did great. We took a decent sized break in the middle of the day, but we were also park storming at rope drop and to park close. He got carried a few times, but not too often. He was not one of those kids that's built really solidly, so it wasn't too hard for (mostly) Daddy to carry him when needed. Oh, it was also only 3 days in the parks, so I know that probably helped, too. We could NOT have kept up the schedule for more than another day or two. If it had been one of my brother's boys - no WAY could we have done that - his kids were built SOLID!

    Just had to share that as a YMMV situation.

  5. By Mermaid

    That's good to hear! M is generally a good walker but bumblebee nailed it. They don't really have a sense of older and younger as far as these things go.

    Both trips we will basically do two days on, one day "off." My kids wake too early, so we tend to go rope drop through dinner. They are terrible stroller nappers, even at DL, so naps aren't really on my radar. It is more whiney/crabby kids that worry me- and create a whiney/crabby Mommy. We have a loose plan to do a TS lunch and see a show or parade each day as a way to do a midday rest. We might try a hotel rest one day to see Paint the Night, but that has not worked in the past. They are DONE at like 6:00!

  6. By 3Princesses1Prince

    my youngest two are 18 months apart and when we got to the point where neither were in a stroller at home but we still used them in the park we brought a single and they traded off. We would also park it in a land and go to the surrounding rides so it was less in and out of the stroller and more riding when we did the longer walks between areas. Whichever one was lighter and easier to carry would ride on the way to the park and then would ride on shoulders or piggyback on the way back to the hotel if needed while the other got the stroller.

  7. By ArielsEric

    I might add a reminder for those with strollers to be mindful of and courteous to others as well. Our children are all grown up now, but my wife and I visited DLR a couple months ago by ourselves. Each day we were there, we adroitly dodged many a stroller and patiently walked (and stopped) behind those trying to maneuver their strollers. While I was standing outside of the Golden Horseshoe waiting for my wife, I didn't happen to see a mother pushing her stroller and attempting to go around me. She literally yelled at me, "Excuse me!"

    We stroller- and non-stroller folk need to be able to coexist peacefully.

  8. By adriennek

    Quote Originally Posted by ArielsEric View Post
    I might add a reminder for those with strollers to be mindful of and courteous to others as well. Our children are all grown up now, but my wife and I visited DLR a couple months ago by ourselves. Each day we were there, we adroitly dodged many a stroller and patiently walked (and stopped) behind those trying to maneuver their strollers. While I was standing outside of the Golden Horseshoe waiting for my wife, I didn't happen to see a mother pushing her stroller and attempting to go around me. She literally yelled at me, "Excuse me!"

    We stroller- and non-stroller folk need to be able to coexist peacefully.

    Ahh, this age-old debate!

    I've been blissfully stroller-less for several years now and it goes both ways. I remember being cut-off so many times by people without strollers -and usually that meant, also, being cut off from my husband and older children ahead of me. One time I remember distinctly because it was probably one of the last times I had a stroller at Disneyland, a family cut me off and then slowed down. My husband was getting further away from me when I finally had to yell "Excuse me!" because they didn't hear me when I was quieter. I tried to defuse the situation by saying, as nicely as I could, "My husband's up there and I need to get through back to him."

    Likewise, strollers can't stop on a dime. Many times, I hit people, not because I wasn't paying attention but because I couldn't stop fast enough. And if I didn't follow at a close enough clip, see above - if you don't keep up with the crowds, you keep getting cut off.

  9. By jswtsang

    I'm torn, when we visited this summer we trained first by going to sea world and lego land without stroller. My 3 year old is a great walker and doesn't like the stroller. My baby doesn't like it either, preferring to be carried. So in the morning we'd take the stroller, the baby would fall asleep and I could do one or two rides with my niece or 3 year old ds while dh watched the stroller. We'd take a mid day break and at night we'd go in on foot with the baby in the ergo. My 3 year old was so happy to be at Disneyland he had no problems walking after a proper nap across the street at the Tropicana or Carousel. If I were alone I'd go without stroller, since managing it is often harder with two kids when no one wants to be in it, but if I have someone with me willing to push the stroller, it's nice to have a place to store stuff like extra clothes and a juice box.

  10. By GusMan

    Quote Originally Posted by jswtsang View Post
    If I were alone I'd go without stroller, since managing it is often harder with two kids when no one wants to be in it, but if I have someone with me willing to push the stroller, it's nice to have a place to store stuff like extra clothes and a juice box.

    Definitely a case of knowing your kids and how well they tour and what their energy level might be throughout the day. I think doing other trips like you mentioned can really give parents a good idea of what they may experience during a longer, more demanding, Disney trip. That data will help you plan your touring strategy.

  11. By 3Princesses1Prince

    I also take into account crowd levels. Sometimes I felt more comfortable knowing they were safe and sound in the stroller with massive crowds.

  12. By GusMan

    A super good point. I mean, if two adults can get easily separated, it is so much easier for a little one to get separated, even when holding their hand.

  13. By adriennek

    Not just to knowing where they are but so they don't get hurt- it's easier to see a stroller than a short person.

  14. By Mermaid

    We have decided to plan on renting one for my 4 year old on our full DCA day. This is our second full day in a row so we think that's the day she will lose steam quickly. We have a rest day after that so hopefully that will recharge her. I have a couple of questions about the DL rentals.
    What time does the rental place open?
    If we borrow a parent consol/cup holder thing from my sister, would that strap onto the Disney rental?
    Thank you!

  15. By Moms

    I can't answer your question Mermaid (sorry), but we just buy a $20 umbrella stroller at Target when we need one for a couple days. That might be an alternative you haven't thought of.... You could go in the store at home and see if the cup holder fits.

  16. By candles71

    I don't think a console thing would work. There isn't a lot of room between the canopy and the bar to push the stroller.
    My problem with umbrella strollers is it is hard to find one tall enough to not hurt my back trying to push it all day.
    As for hours, I'm not sure, we only rented once since they combined it into the esplanade rather than separately in each park. I'd say they would be open early enough for magic morning.

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