Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Strollers: To Rent or Bring Your Own...Our Experience with Amusement Park Rentals

We returned from Walt Disney World about a week ago.  It was a great trip.  My girls are 4 and 6 and the little one has finally passed the magical 40 inch tall mark, allowing Minnie to try Soarin' and Star Tours.  She hated them both but that's another story.

Growing Up Disney, stroller rental at Disney World
My four plus my mom.  That's her own scooter but Amusement Park Rentals has similar models available for rent.

I knew we still needed a stroller for Walt Disney World.  Since I now have a preschooler and a first grader, we rarely use a stroller anymore.  The zoo here is huge and a great place for a picnic so I take a stroller with us on those outings to carry Minnie and our stuff but otherwise, my collection of strollers is parked and awaiting Craigslist.  I wear a Fitbit and my step count was over 100,000 for the week at Disney World without any dedicated exercise time.  That's a lot of walking for an adult and a ton for a child.  Yes, Tink is too old for a stroller at home but WDW is a whole different game.  

If you need a stroller for vacation, you have several options:
1. take your own
2. rent from Disney
3. rent offsite

Let's look at each of these options.  First, bringing your own stroller.  We have done this many times and it is nice when it works out.  On past trips, we have always packed our own stroller when driving.  When flying, I have lugged either a single or double stroller down the jetway for gate check (free.)  I don't want my strollers getting dirty under the plane so I always put them in a travel bag (sadly, another cost.)  And this works fine if you have enough connection time between flights since you have to wait for the stroller to be brought back up.

The second stroller option is renting from Disney however I don't really consider this a viable option in most cases.  The Disney strollers are hard plastic and expensive.  The current daily rates for Disney strollers are $15 for a single and $31 for a double.  If you pay in advance for a length of stay pass, then you save a few dollars per day.  At these rates, I can't see this being a good idea for more than one day.  I have a friend whose youngest children were 3 and 7 on their last trip.  The 7-year-old was a very independent boy who wanted nothing to do with a stroller and didn't need one for most of the trip.  However one day he was very tired and whiny and my friend said the rental fee at the park was totally worth it.  Disney strollers are available right inside each park and have to be returned before you leave that park so you'll have to carry your tired child back to the bus or parking lot.  If you park hop, you return the stroller as you exit park #1 and show your receipt to pick up a stroller at park #2.

The third option is renting a stroller from an offsite vendor.   You don't have to use space in your vehicle for a stroller or worry about the airlines damaging your stroller.  Rental is a great idea if you don't have a stroller anymore or if you need a larger one than you normally use.  The offsite rental companies also offer the models that work best at the parks.  I used one of my own on one trip and was ready to trash it by the time I walked down Main Street once.  It worked fine at home but wasn't a good choice at WDW.  I wished I had rented on that vacation.   Renting a stroller also means you don't have to haul a stroller around the airport or wait on it to come back to you.  On this last trip, we didn't have long layovers and our flight home out of Orlando was delayed.  We made our connecting flight but it was tight and we just might have missed it if we had to wait on a stroller.

I was given a free rental stroller from Amusement Park Rentals on this trip and it was fabulous.  They rent single and double City Mini GTs and BOB Revolution strollers.  We have taken our own double BOB to Disney before and it was great inside the parks.  It's bulky on the buses but a good option for RunDisney types or if you are driving to the parks.  I've used double City Minis in both GT and original models.  Of all these, the City Mini GT was our favorite.  It is the beefed up version of the original with a little more headroom, better tires and an adjustable handlebar.  My husband did most of the stroller pushing and carrying.  He was happy with how small the stroller folded for the bus, how easy it was to maneuver even when loaded with 90 pounds of little girls, and the adjustable handlebar was a really nice feature so he didn't have to bend over while pushing the stroller.  A parent console is included and provides a good place for a couple of cups and a storage spot for napkins, hand sanitizer, etc.  The oversized canopies were wonderful protection from sun and rain.  The seats have a nearly flat recline and my girls happily napped while we were out and about.
Silly husband plus tired girls leaving Magic Kingdom and heading for the bus.  The back of the seat is mesh for ventilation and has a pull-down cover if the weather calls for it.

Up late and happy at Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party.  Being able to have both girls corralled in the big crowds was wonderful.

children napping in a stroller at Disney World
The kiddos napped while I enjoyed some loaded mac n' cheese from the Food and Wine Festival. 

We had our stroller for a week.  A 7 day rental of a City Mini GT from Amusement Park Rentals is $80.00 and you can add insurance for $25.00 for a total of $105.00.  A 7 day length-of-stay rental of a stroller from Walt Disney World is $189.00.  So you save a bundle with an offsite rental and have a much more comfortable and convenient stroller.

Amusement Park Rental's website is easy to use and the CEO, James Zimbardi, prides himself on excellent customer service.  On the site you can rent single and double strollers as well as practically anything else you could need to outfit your hotel room or vacation home for taking care of a baby or small children.  They offer high chairs, cribs, pack and plays, car seats and more.  If you have someone in your group with a mobility issue, Amusement Park Rentals can help with a scooter or wheelchair during your stay.  They even have cornhole boards and volleyball nets if you are having a big gathering.  When you reserve whatever you need from their long list of items, you'll set a meeting time.  James or a member of his team will deliver your rented items and make sure you know how to use them.  The stroller we used was really clean and in good shape.  By the way, if you bring your own stroller and it gets really dirty, Amusement Park Rentals also offers a stroller cleaning service and you get one of their strollers while they clean yours.

City Mini Double, rental stroller at Disney

Disney stroller rental, City Mini Double folded
This stroller is so easy to fold.  Just take everything out and pull up on the handles in the seats.  This narrow fold works great on Disney transportation.

Amusement Park Rentals puts the family's name on the card on the basket as well as the tag hanging from the handle.  We add a yellow luggage handle cover to the stroller to help us spot it in stroller parking.

The stroller folds small enough to fit between the bed and the wall, saving on precious floor space.

I got a call from James the day before we arrived in Orlando to confirm our meeting time and he checked in with me on the morning of pick-up to make sure our estimated time worked with our Magical Express schedule.  He was very prompt and you can't miss the van.  I was glad to be able to meet James at the beginning of our trip and to say thank you at the end of the week.

Amusement Park Rentals van

I can definitely recommend Amusement Park Rentals for stroller rental during your Walt Disney World vacation.  I thank them for allowing us to use a stroller for the purposes of this review.  These are my honest thoughts on the stroller and the rental service.  Full Disclosure

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