The Pros and Cons of ‘Buggy Boards’

Is it a blessing, or a curse?

Is it a blessing, or a curse?

Despite my love note to our umbroller at the start of this London trip, a few weeks ago we invested in a proper “buggy” that was a) sturdy enough to handle cobblestone streets, b) big enough for both of our girls and c) capable of using with a rainshade that would keep the seated child dry.

Because we also wanted the flexibility of being able to shuttle both girls around at once, we bought the used Quinny Zapp (for 70 pounds) with an aftermarket peripheral named a “Buggy Board” (for an additional 10 pounds).

The BB, as we call it, is a cross between a scooter and a go-kart. Essentially, it’s a platform with two arms designed to connect to the pushchair. The thing also has two wheels on the bottom to support the weight of whichever child is standing on it. (For a good visual, just check out the picture that accompanies this post.)

The benefits of using the BB are obvious: It makes it easier to shuttle both kids across town when they both are too tired to walk. It also facilitates adult-speed travel (as opposed to slower speeds, which are common among kids L’s age).

The downsides are a bit more obtuse.

For starters, balance can be tricky, especially if R is in the seat and L leans backward while she’s on the board.

Also, because the board sticks out 4-5 inches beyond the handles of the buggy itself, pushing the buggy with the Buggy Board attached requires a bit of a hunchback impression—a contortion that hurts after about five minutes.

Finally, since the BB’s wheels are independent of the wheels on the buggy itself, sometimes they just don’t turn in the direction you want them to turn.

The bottom line: We use the Buggy Board religiously, and I’m not sure whether I love it or hate it.

Don’t get me wrong; I’d rather incorporate the BB than push around a double-stroller. Still, more often than not, I find myself removing the thing before long treks because I just don’t want to bother with it. This back-and-forth raises important questions about the right kind of equipment for urban travel with young kids. Unfortunately, I don’t have any answers. Do you?

What are your favorite pieces of equipment to use when traveling in cities with young kids?

An Open Letter to a Trusted Pram

Our stuff (and a girl), with Old Faithful

Our stuff (and a girl), with Old Faithful

Dear Mr. Umbroller:

I might as well come out and just say it: When we received you as a gift at my wife’s first baby shower, I was not impressed. Your fraying nylon seat made you seem flimsy and cheap. Your plastic wheels made you feel disposable.

Also, you came from Wal-Mart, and for some reason, back then, my wife and I were hoity-toity about only getting baby products at Target.

You and I didn’t get off to such a great start. The first time we used you—on our first family vacation to Hawaii—I caught my pinky in your locking mechanism and (after a string of expletives) wanted to smash you against a wall. Then there was the trip to Denver, during which L, the older daughter, got her foot stuck in that plastic strap your manufacturer likes to call a footrest. (Lucky for you, she wriggled it out when she did; I had an Exacto knife ready to roll.)

There was more drama after that. During the first trip England, during which we nearly left you behind in the overhead bin (in case you’ve forced yourself to forget, the gate agent didn’t think you were “substantial” enough to warrant a gate check).

And on the third trip to Hawaii, when we wheeled you to the beach, a surging tide nearly took you out to sea.

To be fair, our tumultuous relationship has normalized a bit since R, the baby, joined the pod. She digs the way you ride close to the ground, and enjoys pushing you when you’re empty. Yes, she generally is more agreeable than her sister. But I think she just genuinely likes you.

Because of this, over the course of her 2 years on Earth, R has insisted we take you everywhere, from the mall to the farmers market to the city and on hikes. R lobbied hard to get us to bring you with us this week to London. Initially, however, she lost the battle; and her mother declared it would be better to take the fancier, studier and more practical double-pram.

Then a funny thing happened: That big-ass double-stroller didn’t fit in the truck. In a rush to get out of the house and head to the airport, we grabbed you, assuming you wouldn’t last a week.

Once again, we were wrong.

Not only did you survive the check-in line at SFO, but you survived the Heathrow Hike, too—rolling nearly 1.3 miles from our gate to the arrivals show. Since then, you’ve strutted around London proper in the rain and sun, jumping from high-speed river bus to the sidewalks in front of Parliament, the paved walks of Tower Bridge to the cobblestones of East London.

In short, Mr. Umbroller, you have been a lifesaver, and I am truly sorry for ever doubting you at all.

The truth is that you have been as much a part of our family’s travel as washable crayons and goldfish crackers. We’ve relied on you time and time again. And every one of those times, you’ve come through. At a time when many strollers retail for upward of $400 (or more), the $29.99 our friends spent on you has proven to be a stellar investment. We’ll continue to get their money’s worth, as long as you’ll allow us to do so.

Someday, when you you finally do go to that Umbroller Heaven in the sky, I vow to have you gilded and hung in our garage. In this state, you will serve as a constant reminder that ordinary can be wonderful, and that one never should judge a stroller by the name on its cover.

Sincerely,
MJV

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