Travelling with two toddlers: single or double stroller?

When we had our first child we bought a Baby Jogger City Mini GT stroller. And we loved it. Then when our second child came along just 18 months later we invested in almost the double version, the Baby Jogger City Mini double stroller (no GT - some small differences but basically the non-GT suited us fine and was both a) more available and b) less expensive). And we loved it even more - me especially, as it was when I was on my own with my two little darlings that I most appreciated being able to contain them both in one space! Seriously though, it meant I could take them both out for long walks (longer than I could comfortably manage with the baby permanently in the carrier); if my older one did want to walk for a bit I could always quickly strap him into the buggy around busy roads; and if they ever both fell asleep at the same time it meant I could park them up and enjoy a bit of hands-free time (and take some cute photos!).

baby jogger city mini double stroller napping toddlers


baby jogger city mini double stroller napping toddlers


We chose a side-by-side stroller after talking to some other mums who'd bought either this type or a front-and-back one, and the consensus was that side-by-sides are often easier to manoeuvre, plus they allow the children to interact a bit. Though, full disclosure here: that isn't always a good thing - such as when the younger one decided she was sufficiently established on solid food that she could try to nick her brother's haircut reward lollipop...

baby jogger city mini double stroller toddler stealing lollipop


Mostly, however, they enjoyed being beside each other. Our kids were both born in Australia, where we lived for six years before we took off on our family gap year last year, and it gets surprisingly cold in the winter in Sydney. But, all cosy in their hats and bodywarmers off we would march up to playgroup, or a park playdate, or simply out for a stroll, and they would always climb up into their respective seats with a joy akin to puppies being told they're being taken out for walkies.

baby jogger city mini double stroller toddler winter walk


But then when we planned our first big trip, spending six months travelling on the west coast of the United States and Canada, we had a real quandary. Should we take the double? By this point our son was 2 years and 9 months, and whatever we didn't take with us would be going into storage for at least a year, so we debated right up until the day the movers came. Surely the single and the carrier would be more sensible? What about all those times we still used the single - especially given we would mostly be together as a family unit, so there would be one adult per child, making the double less essential? What about trams and buses, which are possible with the single and might feature a fair bit on our travels? But our son really loved the buggy - whenever he fell in the playground he would curl up in his seat until he stopped crying and felt better. And surely there would be times that we might be one adult with two children: in an unfamiliar place a double would make walking around far less stressful if both kids could merrily take their seats and snack away should a mummy-I-want-a-banana emergency arise.

So what did we do? We took both. (AND the baby carrier.)

It was a bit of a last-minute decision. We realised we had the allowance with the airline to take one stroller per child, and we thought there could well be circumstances when we would want one over the other. So, one year on, I thought I'd write this post to help any other fellow family travellers decide when to go single, or double, or even, like us, both.

When did we use the single buggy?

Principally, we used the single stroller when we didn't anticipate walking very far, but when we needed a bit of assistance ferrying either a child or stuff from the car somewhere. For example, this shot was taken at Alouette Lake near Vancouver, a picturesque spot we discovered by glorious accident after our original plans for the day had been thwarted. That day the single buggy was just right to transfer a sleepy little lady from the car and then made a useful trolley to take all the wet towels etc. back to the car park at the end of the afternoon.

Baby Jogger City Mini GT single buggy travelling

Speaking of sleepy children: another time the single used to come in very handy was whenever our 1-year-old needed to be taken for a sleepwalk, as I call it. Our kids aren't great at napping unless they're in a car or the buggy, so sometimes one of us would take little Miss H out for a stroll to help her nod off. The single is undoubtedly a far easier vehicle to negotiate round suburban streets and laneways so for these missions it was the obvious choice.

And in San Francisco we took the trolley into the city once or twice but feared it would be too much walking for our little ones once we were there, so on those occasions we took the single buggy along with the baby carrier. Both strollers collapse very easily but we worried that there might not be quite enough space at the back of the trolley for the double, so the single was the sensible option those days.

I should mention however that one day the carrier back-up didn't quite work as planned: young Master H had had enough of being dragged round a few shops and so was initiating a sit-down protest on the pavement (naturally this happened when I was out on my own buying a birthday card for Mr H), but Miss H was adamant that she was NOT going to be ousted from her chariot, so I ended up with my 13kg toddler in the baby carrier and my teeny 8kg one in the buggy! Needless to say my son found the whole experience of being right up in my face as I marched us slowly but steadily back to our Airbnb quite hilarious, so his giggles and silly songs helped us all make it back in one (continuous) piece. Phew - I'm puffed just remembering it!

And when did we use the double buggy?

SO much of the time. I was leaning towards just taking the single before we made our final decision, but I am so glad we finally took the double. On most of our trip we either needed no wheels (e.g. hiking in Vancouver) or where we were going could easily accommodate full wheels (e.g. strolling along all the piers in San Francisco). We also found it allowed us to stay out later into the evenings, as coming back from restaurants the tired little legs could all get a nice rest while we adults could meander slowly back to the hotel and snap some gorgeous photos of Victoria harbour on Vancouver Island in the dark along the way.

Baby Jogger City Mini double buggy Vancouver Island by night

Vancouver Island by night


As Miss H got bigger, she enjoyed being in the buggy more and more, and Master H was showing no signs of growing out of it - especially when it came to going up steep hills! We used the trusty double to get up into the heights of San Francisco to see Grace Cathedral.

Baby Jogger City Mini double stroller San Francisco


We also employed it to explore the boardwalk all the way along Hermosa and Manhattan Beach in LA. Sometimes the kiddies ran along beside the empty buggy, but the safety net of it being there meant we were able to do the full length and back again knowing they could have a rest at any time.

Baby Jogger City Mini double stroller LA


Sure, there were times we ended up pushing an empty buggy, like this day in Muir Woods (with a little help from our littlest friend). As an aside: Muir Woods is one of my top spots to take toddlers when in San Francisco - see some sunnier photos from my blog post which includes our first visit to Muir Woods.

Baby Jogger City Mini double buggy Muir Woods


And a couple of months later, after having spent the worst of the winter back in the UK, we undertook a second big trip, first stop Boston, and some days Master H just wanted to run ahead most of the time.

Baby Jogger City Mini double stroller Boston

Baby Jogger City Mini double stroller Boston


But then we'd revert to the single and this would happen!

Baby Jogger City Mini GT single buggy two children


I should note, however, that even an empty buggy has its uses (over and above carrying stuff). In this post about our time in Toronto I recalled how one day we told Master H if he ever couldn't find us in a big public place he should always look for the buggy and wait there. The very next day he got lost in Toronto Aquarium and he did just that: when we realised he suddenly wasn't with us Mr H made a beeline for the buggy which we'd parked up out of the way, and there holding on tightly was our little chap. Thanks buggy!

And now we're back from that second trip? The double is still the winner. We took it up to Scotland recently when we visited my family, and as we toured round Drumlanrig Castle we noticed the stitching underneath the seat where our son usually sits has come away so the board that supports the seat falls out. It's hardly surprising, really, the force with which the kids barrel into the buggy every time! 

Baby Jogger City Mini Double stroller Scotland


I don't think it's something that can be fixed, sadly (we lost the net basket somewhere in North America, incidentally - there was one there originally but we heaved stuff in and out so often it gave up the ghost a while back!). The stroller is very well made - I've taken the seats out to wash the cover several times now - and I can see the stitching is so tightly done I've got no hope of mending it to anywhere near the strength it needs to be. However, we've found a way round it: as little Miss is still quite teeny for her age we've simply swapped the kiddies round, so Master H can continue to enjoy his beloved stroller, just from the other side now!

Baby Jogger City Mini Double stroller toddler

What about those special small travel strollers? Or a buggy board?

Did we think about those? We sure did. The Baby Jogger City Mini GT single stroller does have a board attachment which we borrowed from a friend to try before we left Australia, but unfortunately it didn't work well for us. The standing child's head is either right up inside the handlebar or else craning back at an angle to stay clear of it, so it wasn't comfortable for Master H at all. And these small travel strollers are very appealing, but we had the allowance to take both strollers in the hold, and most airports let you keep your buggy right up until you get to the gate (or they have courtesy umbrella strollers instead), plus we had enough carry-on luggage as it was so we didn't want to have to manage with another piece. But more importantly, we chose our Baby Joggers because they feel durable and comfortable for kiddies on long walks over variable terrain, and so those were the workhorses we wanted to have with us at all of our destinations. After all, our intention on this year out was to try to "live" in each place, not just "visit" it, so the buggies were always meant to help us get around our new home towns just as they did in Sydney.

Checklist for choosing between a single and a double stroller

The above outlines my own personal experience based on our gap year and our kids, and it really all comes down to a number of factors that will be different for every family AND every trip. However, if you're weighing up what's right for you I think the eight key things to consider are:

1. How much do you use your single / double at the moment?
2. Do you intend to do a lot of walking on your trip? If so, how long can your children typically walk for?
3. Does your double help you carry more than your single does? If so, would that be helpful?
4. Is your single / double more sunproof / rainproof than the other? Could either be quite important on your trip?
5. Are you going to have a hire car at any points? If so, will it be big enough to accommodate your chosen stroller in the boot?
6. Is the one you intend to take in reasonable condition? (You don't want it to fall apart after a few over-eager baggage handlers throw it on to the carousels!)
7. Does either buggy have any special parts that could be difficult to replace on your trip? (For example some strollers have air-filled tyres which could need replaced in the event of a puncture.)
8. Does either buggy have a useful function that you might miss - e.g. for us it's a safe place for our toddlers to calm down if they fall in a park, but for you perhaps one has a foot brake that's way easier to operate than a hand brake, or perhaps one has a tray table or a place to attach a favourite toy that the other doesn't have?

Obviously this is based on the assumption that you have the allowance and capacity for one stroller on your journey. If you can take two, like we could, you may wish to do the same as us and take both but in truth I wouldn't recommend it. The few occasions we used our single stroller weren't worth the hassle of transporting two buggies (and storing them both in our various Airbnbs), so if, like us, you use one significantly more than the other at the moment then that's the one to take. Even a year on, our kids are now 3 years 10 months and 2 years 4 months respectively, and the double is still the winner. We took it to Warwick Castle just last Monday - you can just see it peeking in at the corner of this family shot.

Baby Jogger City Mini double buggy Warwick Castle

I'll no doubt retire our two-seated friend in due course, and I look forward to the single buggy having a new lease of life at times when I'm only out with Miss H once Master H is off at school. But at this stage in our family life, I like my stroller as I like my gin: make mine a double. :)

Please note: these two links below will take you to Amazon pages. If you click through there is no extra cost to you, but Amazon will pay me a small amount on any purchases made.
If you'd like to see the strollers in detail on Amazon, you can check out their currently offered Baby Jogger City Mini GT single stroller. They usually have it in teal or black while ours was in red, but otherwise the models look pretty darn similar. And this is the Baby Jogger City Mini double stroller - sometimes Amazon's best offering is the GT version (and usually in black) but there are very few differences - personally I'd simply go for the one at the better price.

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Thanks for reading this post, my first reflective article about some of the practicalities of a family gap year with two toddlers. I've got a few more topics I'll be writing about over the coming weeks, but if there's anything in particular you'd like to know please shout! You can either leave me a comment, sign up to this blog and reply to the welcome email, or contact me directly on globetoddles@gmail.com. Whether you're on your family gap year already, in the midst of planning it, or just toying gently with the idea of a long holiday with your beloved ankle-biters in tow, I'd love to hear from you!

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