A new alternative to schlepping gear on family trips

Schleppers no more

Schleppers no more

Ask any family traveler to describe the most annoying part of traveling with kids and he or she will tell you quickly: schlepping the gear.

Between strollers, high chairs, and Pack-N-Plays, moms and dads often exert more energy carrying baby accessories than they do carrying the babies themselves. Trust me when I tell you this, people: I’ve had the sore shoulders to prove it.

This is where Babierge comes in. The Albuquerque, N.M.-based company rents unwieldy gear of all shapes and sizes to parents in 22 different U.S. markets. Prices usually range from $6 to about $15 per item per day. In many cases, the Babierge people will even pick up and drop off items, and (when applicable) set up items that might be too confusing.

I learned of this great company during a recent chat with a local mom. Two weeks later, after chatting with the company founder and the two women who run the Babierge outpost in the northern San Francisco Bay Area, I wrote up this Q&A for AFAR.com (one of my recurring clients).

What struck me about the interviews was the breadth and depth of thought that has gone into the Babierge product offerings. Not only does the company offer “typical” items such as high chairs and BOB jogging strollers, but it also offers “toy packages” and “book packages,” which essentially are small (and customizable!) collections of toys or books for those families who don’t want to have to worry about bringing that stuff when they travel, either.

These real-world options indicate clearly that real-life moms and dads are the people behind this company. In an age where entrepreneurs often do anything to make a buck, the authenticity is refreshing. For that reason alone, I’m happy to try out the service on our next trip.

Great new tool for organizing family travel

This tool will change my traveling life.

This tool will change my traveling life.

Considering the chaos that is traveling with two (soon to be three!) kids under the age of 7, I’m a huge fan of tools that help organize family travel.

I’ve blogged about some of these tools previously. My new fave: The Qliplet.

Essentially, this tool is a carabiner on steroids. It’s a heavy-duty clip for consolidating bags or other items and holding them to larger objects. It also has a super-strong rotating hook that can be used for other stuff—everything from (more) totes to jackets to milk jugs (really) and more. The hook also can be used to support the carabiner.

The device went on sale at a discounted rate through an IndieGoGo campaign (from parent company, Lulabop) this week. I got to review device earlier this summer and found it useful, durable, and helpful, all at once.

I certainly put a prototype of the Qliplet through some paces. First I took it on a daytrip with the girls to our local children’s museum, and attached it to my backpack to carry L’s water. Next I clipped it to our jogging stroller and attached it to a different backpack while I took R on a run around the neighborhood. After that, just for fun, I hooked it to the back of our buggy and tried to see how much weight I could put on the carabiner part of the tool. I gave up after it easily handled 35 pounds.

The story behind Qliplet is pretty neat; the tool was invented by a mom and former professor of entrepreneurship as a way to manage the needs for lugging additional stuff after the birth of her first child. The inventor’s name is Mina Yoo. (You can learn more about her here.)

In all, the tool seems like a good investment. I’m sure I’ll be using mine frequently once we start schlepping a newborn everywhere later this year.

I’m looking forward to enjoying how much easier the tool makes my traveling life.

What are your favorite family travel tools and why?

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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