There is a questions that always comes up on social media and message boards about what kind of stroller you should bring with you to the Walt Disney World Resort.* There is no single answer that is right for every family, but as someone who has traveled with a myriad of family sizes, here are the pros and cons of different kinds of strollers and accessories.
There are two classifications of strollers that encompass all of your options: big and small. In the big category you have all your rigid, large strollers that don’t fold up well, have large reclining seats, lots of storage, and some include a platform for larger kids to stand on as you push. The small category is essentially your typical umbrella stroller that is easily folded up and carried from place to place.
Both of these categories can include strollers built for multiple children.
Travel Considerations: Air and Ground
If you’re like most people, you’re probably flying into Orlando and the size of your stroller is something to consider. Please check with your airline if there are any additional charges or fees, but for the most part travelling with a big or small stroller is really not that much different. You’re typically pushing the stroller up to the gate and getting it tagged and checked at the end of the gangway, so once you land it’ll be pulled up and waiting for you after you get off the plane.
Now that you’re in Orlando you’re typically going to be getting around via bus, whether it’s to and from the airport or to and from the parks to your resort. This is where a small stroller is something that clearly wins out. Every time you get on that bus you’ll have to fold the stroller up and find a place to store it on the bus. If the bus gets crowded this can become a challenging feat. Folding, carrying, or holding the stroller on the bus leaves you with one less hand for your kids or any other bags you may be carrying with you. If it’s standing room only, you might have to take the next bus! A small stroller is lightweight and can fold up into a smaller footprint, allowing easier ways to get off and on the bus.
Navigating the Parks
Let’s consider just moving through the parks — the physical act of pushing the stroller all day. There isn’t a clear winner here and there are pros and cons for each the big and the small category.
The big stroller is typically a smoother ride than the small stroller. You’ll have bigger wheels, a less flimsy structure and a wider base. This definitely allows for an easier time physically pushing the stroller. However, with how crowded the parks are these days, navigating through a large crowd with a physically bigger stroller is something that will slow you down.
Personally, I’m a tall, strong guy so I don’t have any issue with the physicality of pushing either stroller; however, I do like to move! For me, the clear winner is a small stroller.
Disney Dad Pro-Tip: If you are looking for a small stroller, one aspect to consider is it’s height. Nothing is worse than pushing a stroller you have to lean down to hold onto. Your back will thank me.
At the Resort
So what do you do with your stroller when you get back to your resort? The physical size of the stroller should be a consideration depending on the size of the room and how many people are in it. With the advent of some of the room refurbishments, you should be able to tuck a folded stroller, regardless of size, under any of the beds. Because of that there isn’t any clear winner of big vs. small.
On Board Storage
Storage on a stroller is very important, especially for the younger kids who require the accompaniment of a diaper bag. A big stroller will have storage built into place, leaving your shoulders unburdened and free. A small stroller will either have no storage or storage too small for a typical diaper bag. You can hang a bag from the grips, but often the bag will hang awkwardly hitting into your knees or unbalancing the stroller if there are no kids in it. The clear winner here is the big stroller.
Disney Dad Pro-Tip: I’ve got two for you here regarding storage. If you are bringing a diaper bag, bring a backpack, not a bag with a single shoulder strap. Your shoulder will thank me after about 5 hours. The second tip is if you are considering a simple umbrella stroller and you only need it for one child, buy a double umbrella stroller. You can typically find one on Amazon for under $80 and the second seat will become your storage bin. There is not much difference between a single and double stroller.
Double vs. Two Single Strollers
If you’re going with two stroller-age kids (I’m not going to debate what that age is here!), then you’re going to have to think about what kind of stroller you’re going to use. You can buy double strollers in both the big and small categories. A big double stroller is a monstrosity. There are some variations where a second seat is off the ground and above the other seat (I have one of these), and it makes getting the kids off and on a hassle throughout the day. In any case, a big double is massive and just compounds all the issues listed already. A double small stroller is pretty easy to fold up, lightweight and small, and that just makes it the clear winner.
Now the question of a double stroller or using two singles has come up from time to time. The simple answer is to always go with a double. Having two singles in some situations just makes it unwieldy and difficult. The prime example is if one parent runs off to get food or for a bathroom break and the other parent is left with two kids in two strollers. Moving two strollers, for whatever reason, at once is not fun and possibly impossible for you. Get a double.
To Recline or Not To Recline
One of the key planning aspects of a Disney vacation with young kids is planning your day around breaks. Having a stroller that can recline, especially for kids under the age of 2, is something that can easily facilitate naps. A good nap for your kid can give you the extra time at the parks you might not necessarily get otherwise due to meltdowns. If getting back to your resort wastes too much time, a quick nap in the stroller is invaluable.
Big strollers typically have the ability to recline much better than smaller ones. Some smaller strollers can’t recline at all, and those that do don’t go back very far. The clear winner here is the big stroller.
Cost and Loss of Property
Big strollers are expensive, costing hundreds if not thousands of dollars. You can buy a single umbrella stroller for under $30 and a double for under $80. One of the most underrated pros of an umbrella stroller is that if you lose it or it gets damaged you’re not out a lot of money. You can even throw it away after your vacation and it’s one less thing you have to lug to the airport. The big strollers are an everyday tool for moms and dads and there are a lot of different ways they can get lost or damaged. The smaller strollers are a great investment for a Disney vacation.
In the end, it’s the smaller umbrella stroller that really wins out the day. It’s more easily manageable on the buses and in the parks. They’re cheaper and less risk adverse for a big loss. You lose out on potential storage if you bring a lot of stuff to the parks, but that can be more easily managed with backpacks. Don’t bring your big stroller with you, those of us on the bus next to you will thank you.
Disney Dad Pro-Tip: One last tip or suggestion for you out there. Don’t bring your baby carrier. If you’ve got a baby with you at the parks, don’t bring the big stroller with the baby carrier attachment. It’s just too big and hard to get around. Instead, get a baby harness where your child can be snugly secure on your chest or back. This worked wonders with my 8-month-old son.
*Editor’s Note: Strollers may be rented or purchased at Walt Disney World theme parks, at Disney Springs, or from third-party vendors.