Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Real World Test

So far so good!

UPS brought my stroller 2 days later than Kmart said they would (thanks a lot Kmart!). It arrived in a humungous box, which we dragged into the living room to start assembly. My 2 yr old proceeded to try to climb into the stroller and ask for a ride the whole time I was trying to put it together, and when he wasn't doing that, he was “helping” by handing me wheels and parts (so cute!). He was even more excited about the new stroller than I was.

It took about 30, maybe 40 minutes for me to put together by myself. The most difficult part was screwing the screws into the handle with a screwdriver. Instructions were fine, but wish they'd put the Spanish in a separate section for legibility (that's the graphic designer in me coming out).

Once assembled, I realized the “iPod” dock is a little plastic case with a speaker attached to it that you plug your iPod into and slip the whole thing into the pouch on one of the canopies. That means, you can't mess with the tunes without stopping and taking it out of the pouch. This doesn't bother me, since I don't even own an iPod, but something to consider if you thought the iPod dock was a selling point.

The first thing you notice is that, yes, it is definitely long and heavy. Longer and heavier than a single stroller without a doubt (no surprise there). It really is two strollers in one. My husband likened it to pushing a boat, but just like the huge cars from the 70s, the ride is very nice. I pushed it over the grass, bumps and funky-shaped curbs--no problem. Even manages a wheelie to go up a step. The back of the owner's manual recommends a little lubrication on the wheels from time to time to maintain the smooth ride (well, duh). I feel like I am pushing around some fancy piece of equipment rather than a high chair with casters.

The canopies are height adjustable by way of just sort of sliding them up and down. I'm glad I paid extra for the Tandem II model for this feature. In spite of his height, my 2 yr old wanted to have it lowered; I suppose he felt like he was in a tent. He is not too tall for the back rest either (woohoo!). If he scooches his bottom down on the seat a bit, he could nap if he wanted. Reclining the seat requires just one hand (I changed my son's pull-up with him reclined in the seat). The foot rests have several positions you can angle them at; you will need two hands for this.

The basket is pretty long: you could stash quite a bit in there—more if you have the seats reclined. You might need to access the basket from both ends to get everything in and out. Unfortunately I don't see a way to completely remove the basket. It is pinned onto the front axle. They parent tray is easily removable for washing (top rack safe). Cup holders and parent tray are about twice as deep as the ones on my old Graco stroller. The child cup holders do sort of get in the way if you have to stash these seats in a tight spot, but they snap off, if needed.

I put this stroller in the back of my Honda Fit (a subcompact hatchback) by removing both seats, standing the seats on either side of the trunk, and putting the base between them. The handle did extend a bit over the back seat of my Honda Fit. This would be a problem if you have someone sitting in the center (which I assume you won't if you bought this stroller, since you'd have two little kids in car seats!) I stashed my groceries in and around the stroller pieces, and that worked okay. The other configuration I've used is to remove the belly bars, and put the base in the trunk with the rear seat still attached to the stroller. Then I stand the second seat on top of the whole mess. This allows for more space in my trunk, but poorer driver visibility.

The fabric is decidedly gray, even on the picture on the box. It is unclear to me why the online photos and even the model name are “tan”. The fabric is not super-soft, so if that is something you're looking for, you might want to reconsider or look for a seat liner. You might find a seat liner on Etsy! Look →


or http://www.etsy.com/shop/littlewrappers?ref=seller_info

In summary this will be a great double stroller for walks in the park, trips to the mall, fair etc. It is not the greatest for doing a lot of quick errands due to the weight and extra time it takes to load in/out of the car. It would not be ideal if you have to store it inside a second-story apartment. Compared to other double strollers, this stroller fits through doorways, works well across multiple terrains and is good for either twins or children of different ages. Attractive, versatile, and easy to use (with some practice). A great value compared to similar strollers on the market.

As a side note, I did discover another stroller that allows for the same seating options as the Contours Options. Its called the “Duette” made by Peg Perego. There are several problems with this stroller. While it is more cushion-y, it is just as heavy and bulky as the Contours Options. It only accepts Peg Perego brand car seats. The basket is almost impossible to access. It has a steering wheel which allows for awesome maneuverability, unless it breaks (which happened to 2 of the 4 people who reviewed this stroller in “moka” on Amazoncom) making the stroller inoperable. Price Tag: around $700!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Why I am purchasing the Contours Options Tandem II stroller (and summary of online parent reviews)

The Research Process

When I found out we were pregnant with our second child, I had it in my head that I wanted to find a side-by-side jogging stroller that I could have my kids facing me or facing outward. I wanted a jogger, because the larger wheels would be easier to push through the snow in the parking lots (we get snow five months out of the year where we're living now). After looking around on the internet, I was not seeing any jogging stroller that had this capability (not anything close to my price range) and many parents mentioned in their jogging stroller reviews how tough it is to push any side-by-side through a standard doorway. That's fine if you're just outside, but we use strollers indoors a lot. Even if you're just using it outside, a lot of sidewalks aren't that wide, and what if another pedestrian or cyclist needs to pass you? Side-by-sides can also veer to one side if you are pushing two children of different weights.

So I realized I would need to reconsider what I was looking for. I started looking for a tandem stroller with larger wheels that would push smoothly that I could have my children face me or face outward. There are few strollers out there that fit this description, and in most cases only one child can face and you have to use an infant car seat in order for the child to face you.

I discovered two strollers with large-ish wheels that allow for multiple configurations without the use of the infant car seats: the Baby Jogger City Select and Kolcraft Contours Options Tandem.

Here's the breakdown on the difference

The Contours stroller comes in three models:

Contours Options Tandem: first model they came out with, red in color, retails for around $200

Contours Options Tandem II: second model, gray with orange, canopies are adjustable in height, deeper seats, child cup holders, iPod dock and speaker, retails for around $240

and Contours Optima (yeah, Optima like the Kia Sedan?): improved frame weight with use of aluminum, comes in black/red combo or brown/green combo, no toddler handles, no toddler instep, no iPod dock and speaker, retails for around $290

Baby Jogger City Select: lighter weight frame, comes in red, black, white or purple, larger wheels, retails for about $400-$600. Second seat sold separately for around $140. Belly bar sold separately for $25 each/$50 for two. Child cup holder sold separately for $20 each/$40 for two. Parent console with cup holder and mp3 dock & speaker sold separately for around $50. While its possible that Baby Jogger makes a high quality stroller, totaling a minimum of ~$680 to match Contours Options II isn't something most parents can swing.

*Prices do not include tax or shipping

Making the Choice

For some it seems like a no-brainer at this point.

While $240 + tax + shipping is a LOT of money for the Hyde family to spend on a stroller, I managed to get a Contours Options II cheaper than Amazoncom on sale at Kmart.com plus used a coupon to save almost $60 (off the total...bringing the total to $248 [Allstate Motor Club members find a coupon online to get Kmart discount. Occasionally you can find these strollers on eBay as well]). We usually try to find pricier items like furniture etc. at second-hand stores and yard sales for a fraction of the price, but once in a while I decide I would like to have something brand new that I picked out to suit my own taste and will be durable. Besides, I did find fully 100—yes one hundred—single strollers on BabiesRus.com that cost more than this one. That's not even counting the double strollers that are even more costly.

Our current stroller is so old I haven't even been able to find any information about it on the internet (such as recall info or used one on eBay). It always veers to the right. It is completely blue (from the parent tray to the wheels), which is one of my husband's favorite colors and just fine for most people with little boys, but its actually my least favorite color! The canopy is missing the center piece, so it sags in the center and sometimes the screws that hold the canopy on come out. Only the left brake works; the right brake is broken off. Sometimes when we are collapsing/opening the stroller the fabric gets caught in the hinges making the whole thing inoperable. It only reclines to a completely flat position and the harness only goes around the baby's waist, so while I was waiting on my little guy to gain ability to sit up, there was always a chance we'd go up a curb & he could fall out the back head first! (And I won't talk about the times he fell forward) The belt is so difficult to adjust, we've only done it twice—and he's 2 years old! The seat dos not “cradle” the baby at all, so with my little guy having very low muscle tone, he was 9 months or so before the seat seemed really appropriate for him. As a young baby, he couldn't turn his head to see me either, which always left him thinking Mommy was gone. He would cry every time I put him in there, because he thought I left him. I think the stroller originally came with a tray for the baby's snacks/toys, but it was gone by the time the stroller came to me.

...But I remind myself they don't have strollers in third world countries...they just strap the baby on their back (I strapped the little guy on my chest on a regular basis when he was a little smaller, and it was a lifesaver). I am thankful that I have a stroller at all. The bright side of all of this is having used this stroller for two years has set my expectations so low that anything with a fully-functional canopy would be an improvement.

Details about Contours Options Tandem II

The coolest thing about this stroller is in the name: options. There are 7 seating options with this stroller. Your kids can #1 both face you, #2 both face forward, #3 face each other, or #4 face away from each other. #5 With the car seat adapter, you can put most models of infant seats on the stroller in place of one of the seats. #6 The car seat can go in either spot (but its easier to push with the heaviest child in rear). #7 A second car seat adapter is sold separately if you have twins (but I think only a couple models of infant seat work with this configuration). You can only face the infant seat toward the parent.

The biggest drawback to this stroller is that you must remove one or both seats each time you fold it down, in order to get the most compact fold. While most parents reported that the seats easily click on and off, for some it was a deal-breaker.

The stroller weighs quite a bit at 44.4 lb according to the manufacturer, but its worth keeping in mind that when you set it up, you are lifting at least one piece of it separately; its not quite that much. Many parents reported it wasn't really a problem to them, since most double strollers weigh A LOT. If that is the only deal-breaker for you, you could go for the Optima model, which weighs almost 8 lb less. (Hey, I need to do some strength-training anyway to prepare for breastfeeding and soothing a new baby!)

It is freestanding in the folded position, so it will not flop onto the dirty parking lot as soon as you let go. This could really come in handy when we find ourselves in a restaurant, which is unavoidable anywhere that we walk from our car to the restaurant (places like big cities, the mall, or an amusement park). Parking our stroller in a cramped restaurant is annoying to everyone. Our current model won't fold down without flopping to the ground, thus becoming even more of a tripping hazard.

The belly bars are kind of an added safety feature, as well as a place to hang toys, pouches of stuff, and a spot to hang onto for your toddler. They have a double-action hinge that swivels both out and down. I guess if they really bug you, you don't have to put them on. If you're using a blanket to keep the sun/rain/wind off, the belly bar will help keep the blanket out of baby's face. The extra big canopies help with this, too.

Yes, this is a tandem stroller, and yes, it is looong. But most parents reported it is easy to maneuver compared to other tandem strollers. You can push it with one finger. Turning works just fine as long as you're not in the clothing racks at WalMart. Its shorter than some other tandem strollers on the market.

The canopies are adjustable in height, so you can lower them to keep sun out of a younger baby's eyes, or raise them for your taller toddler. They're pretty big compared to many strollers. They have peek-a-boo screens that roll back or Velcro down for protection from the sun. The canopies have pouches for the iPod speakers, but parents reported this only works for one canopy at a time, which seems a little unfair. One random thing that is neat (but that I probably won't use) is the iPod dock and speakers. There is a dock that you can attach—and remove—from the parent tray that apparently feeds music to somewhere in the stroller. Take the dock off and use the little stand to stand your iPod on a table. It also has an adapter insert for iPod mini.

The foot rests are reportedly adjustable, but I don't have the stroller yet to check how this works.

The basket on this thing is huge. The long frame accommodates a large, easily-accessible basket, which is especially easy to access if you're using the car seat adapter or your children are facing each other. If you remove one seat to use this as a single stroller, you can use the extra space to stash groceries, purchases at the mall, or winter coats etc.

There are two deep cup holders for the parent, and a deep, rotating cup holder on each baby's seat. They have slits in them so gunk and liquid won't collect in there. There is no snack tray, so thumbs down on that. I'm hoping to get the Star Kids Snack and Play Travel Tray , so I can serve the kids meals in the stroller if needed & they can play with toys on it without them constantly falling to floor. Parents reported that the parent tray on the handle bar was very spacious. It can be removed and is top rack dishwasher safe!

The handle does not adjust in height, but most parents reported it was still comfortable for taller parents.

A lot of strollers have 6” or 4” wheels. This one has 8” wheels for easier pushing. The brakes are two individual locking foot brakes. Some strollers come with one bar across the bottom, which would have been nice here, but I think having the individual brakes accommodates parents with longer strides. I would have liked hand brakes, but haven't seen any strollers other than joggers that come with hand brakes.

Durable: nearly all parents reported this stroller being sturdy and durable. Comes with a one-year warranty. In a couple reviews I found, the wheels fell off and the company replaced the stroller, no problem. One person complained that she thought the tires were cheapo, but I would argue that this is the same sort of material nearly all standard stroller tires are made of.

Seats can either sit upright, partly reclined, or reclined to nearly flat. They adjust with the motion of one hand. A few parents complained that their 2 year old could not lay down to sleep in this stroller as the seat back is not high enough. Other parents who said they have a tall 2 year old said this wasn't a problem. I guess this part depends on your individual child and whether they'll be sleeping in it!

There are a few nice little extras on the Options II, that for some reason Kolcraft did away with when they came out with the Optima model. There are little handles for a toddler to hold onto if he is walking beside you in a crowded place. There are little “steps” on the sides for a toddler to climb into the stroller. (Kolcraft also did away with the iPod dock on the Optima model. I think they were trying to make the weight of the stroller look better on paper.)

Assembly: I didn't really find any complaints related to assembly, other than a parent who reported you must remove some pins that are meant to be place-holders only. You replace them with screws that are included in the box, but I guess some people didn't get the memo and it fell apart.

As for the styling on here, this is the most stylish, modern-looking double stroller in its price range. Looks similar to the pricier Baby Jogger. The gray/orange combo is not quite as appealing to me as the color combos on the other models of this stroller, but I like it and will probably do a little crafty embellishing of my own to “up” the cool factor. I looked at a lot of photos that showed the fabric being deceptively “tan”. Parents said that it is decidedly gray.

Babble editors chose not to include this stroller on their list of Top Double Strollers. I think it must be due the weight and the complication of removing a seat to fold the stroller compactly.

You can only purchase the additional car seat adapter with red accent to match the first model. Thumbs down there.

Check Back Later for the Real World Test

Is this stroller going to completely spoil me so I can never go back to using a regular Graco single stroller? Or will I be sorry I spent so much?

Marcia's Get Read for Baby List

Registry Suggestions...just my opinion

Moby Wrap or other baby carrier

(The single-shoulder type of carrier [such as a ringsling or hotsling] is easier to put on and take off, but I found it hurt my back to bear all the weight on one shoulder for a long time. You may want to switch shoulders periodically if you use this type. The Moby does the best job of distributing the baby's weight, but you'll need to practice tying it on a bit with a teddy bear or bag of sugar. You can buy items like these on Etsy.com and there are instuctional videos on youtube. If you are confident about tying it on, get a lightweight woven one for hot summer months. Clip-on ones such as the Snugli or Bjorn are fine, just not as comfortable.)


(I haven't tried many strollers, but my favorite feature of my stroller is that the seat reclines flat, so I can change Samson's diaper in the stroller instead of those dirty public restrooms. We got it used, so the food/cupholder tray for the baby is now missing, and I REALLY wish it was still there! It does have a cupholder for Mommy, which I LOVE! [but I will warn you NOT to put any beverage without a tight screw-on lid in there—especially hot coffee.] One of the biggest issues with strollers is that when the baby is reclined, you can't access the basket with your diaper bag without disturbing the baby. If you are on-the-go a lot, read parent reviews before you buy your stroller. You'll want one of those $10 lightweight strollers as well, but that can wait until the baby is older.)

Swing or Vibrating bouncy seat or both

(Some babies are picky—Samson preferred the vibrating bouncer as a newborn)

Double-electric breast pump, Bottle cleaning brush, and a Bottle warmer

(I would really advise against a hand pump or single pump if you plan on returning to work. You're not allowed to microwave breast milk, and running it under warm water is such a chore—takes forever, so I really wish I had had a bottle warmer. You could also give it to them cold—it won't hurt them. You don't have to buy either item until a few weeks before returning to work, at which point you should introduce the bottle. Mine came with ice packs and insulated bag, which was nice.)

Cotton balls or cotton rounds

(We used these and some water for the first couple of weeks instead of wipes, because of newborns' delicate skin. Also use cotton swab and water to clean the cord stump.)

Infant Grooming/First Aid Kit

Many of the kits you buy include the following, but you can also purchase the items separately.

Thermometer—rectal temp is most accurate, so you also need petroleum jelly, or you can get an ear thermometer or 'temple touch'

Baby Nail clippers, nail scissors and file (you will want to file baby's nails immediately)

Nasal bulb (they gave me one at the hospital and it worked better than the store-bought one)

Gum massager/toothbrush


Medicine dropper/medicine spoon (I never used these, because they gave them to me at the pharmacy. I think I used the dropper for saline solution when he had a stuffy nose.)

Band-aids (though, I'm sure you already have these?)

Baby Monitor

(nice to have, not a necessity)

Newborn outfits with attached mittens

(They're called "mitten cuffs." Samson cut me up really bad while nursing with those newborn fingernails. People will probably give you some as gifts anyway)

Nursing Pillow (such as Boppy)



(running a fan in the room while the baby's sleeping helps reduce the risk of SIDS)


(I used Lansinoh brand – available in the infant feeding aisle with the breast pumps and pads. Put it on every time after you nurse.)

Nursing Pads

(I liked Avent or Johnson's with the breathable outer layer. I tried the reusable, but they did not hold enough liquid for someone like me with over-production problems)

LOTS of Burp cloths

Nursing bras/nursing tanks

(Don't want anything with an under-wire as this can cause plugged ducts in your breasts. I made the mistake of buying some medium size nursing tanks and later wished I had bought small for better support. They can run bigger than you think. Your size will change: buy these AFTER the baby is born if you can wait.)

Nursing Cover

(A blanket works, too, but I liked the security of the strap, and the cover was more breathable than a blanket. You can also use it to drape over the baby carrier or stroller to keep sun out of baby's eyes. My favorite was “The First Years” brand one, but lots of cool designs are available on Etsy.com).

Play mat with play gym

Changing mat

(One for at home and one for the diaper bag. If you have the money and the space, having a changing table is ideal. Our play yard came with an attached changing table, but only holds baby up to a certain weight, so he outgrew that quickly.)

Diaper Pail

Laundry bag/basket

(You'll need something small you can keep handy next to the changing area to toss dirty clothes in when baby has a diaper blowout.)

Wet bags

(I bought a couple of leak-proof “Wet Happened” brand bags, which can also be used for wet bathing suits. I keep them in the diaper bag for dirty diapers or when Samson spills all over his outfit etc. and reuse them a zillion times. You can just as easily stash some grocery bags in the diaper bag for such situations.)

Fitted crib sheets

(need several changes because poopies explode sometimes!)

BPA-free bottles and silicone nipples

(Nipples will need to be replaced periodically as they wear out. I used the “Nuk” bottles.)

Baby bath tub

(I wish I had one that fit in the sink. Recently, in anticipation of whenever another baby comes along, I purchased a bath cradle at Wal-Mart: fabric on a wire frame to hold the baby. You can use it in the sink OR big people tub and don't even have to buy a baby tub.)

Baby wash cloths

(or lots of soft adult-size wash cloths)

Car seat

(This is one you will definitely want to research if you haven't already purchased it. You must CAREFULLY install it properly—most parents think they did it correctly, but they did it wrong. This will save your baby's life in an accident. You can either get a convertible one that holds them from newborn up to 40 lb. or so, or you can get one for a little baby [which the hospital will probably give you] and a toddler one when he outgrows it. I have a few. The one I am using holds them from newborn up to like 60 lb., but you cannot remove it from the car and carry them around in it. Check NHTSA website for ease-of-use ratings and installation help.)

Play yard

(Nice to have, but not a necessity. Many come with changing hammock, which is also helpful.)

Shopping cart/high chair cover

(Not a necessity, you can also use a baby wipe to wipe the shopping cart down, or keep wiping baby's hands. I keep forgetting I have mine in the car, but it is nice to have.)

Some place to store all this stuff

(A dresser, a few plastic bins/drawers, and something to tote your diapering/nursing essentials around the house)

Savings account in your child's name

(People will give you money for the baby's “college” or whatever:)

Ivan's Additional Recommended Items:

[Thank you to my husband for these "inspired" baby registry suggestions :) ]


Turducken (eat a whole one twice a month)

6 Copies of Die Hard II

Toyota Corolla

Gun (revolver-type)

Parachute Pants (the sparklier the better)

For an older baby

Things you can definitely wait to buy

Feeding supplies

(Baby spoons, forks, bowls, tupperwares, sippy cups, snack cups)


(No one bought us many toys. I guess no one loves us. Whattoexpect.com or the baby books will tell you what toys to buy at what age.)

Toddler clothes:18 months, 24 months etc.

(Everyone will buy you the teeny tiny clothes that the baby will wear for one month and when they turn 1 year, suddenly they've outgrown everything you got at the baby shower!)

Booster chair or High chair

(You won't need one until the baby is 6 months. If you have a chair at your kitchen table you can spare, I think its much better to put a booster in it—way cheaper and way easier to put in storage. Plus you can bring the booster along if you're having dinner at a friend's house.)

Feeding Bibs

(I like the wipe-able ones that are like $5 at Wal-Mart)

You DON'T need to buy...

Dreft or other special laundry detergent

(Just stick to the laundry detergent you have. I thought for a bit that ours was giving Sammy a rash, but it turned out to be a sweat rash 'cus it was so dang warm).


(You'll probably get them as gifts, and you can decide if you/your baby prefers them. My parenting style was to figure out if there was another reason the baby might be crying. Samson didn't take the pacifiers anyway—I washed my hands and let him suck on my pinky. I toted them around though, and I liked having a pacifier caddy that attached to the diaper bag.)

Lots of clothes, bibs

(People will give you lots of clothes as gifts.)


(Too dangerous. Get an exersaucer, jumper or other stationary activity center. If you want to help your baby walk, get a push toy or ride-on toy. Too many kids fall in walkers even when the parent is right there.)


(Nice to have, because baby feels more secure as a newborn, but not necessary)

Baby wash, lotion and shampoo

(People will give you these as gifts anyway. By the way, you can interchange them. You can use the baby wash as shampoo and vice versa. No special lotion required, any gentle moisturizer such as Cetaphil will do.)

Baby food maker

(Nice to have, but you can do the same thing with your food processor, mixer or blender)

Diaper rash ointment

(People will give you this as a gift anyway.)

Sleep positioner

(Safety experts really advise against this.)

Drool bibs

(You might want them, but no need to buy them. People will buy these for you, whether you want them or not. For the longest time I did not know they were for collecting drool – I thought they were for feeding, and goodness they weren't big enough for feeding! We got by without it, 'cus Samson wasn't a huge drooler for long.)

There are also a lot of great lists out there to tell you what to bring to the hospital, but a lot of that is personal preference stuff, which you will figure out in birthing class. The hospital will provide pretty much everything you need. And if you forget something, you can send hubby or a friend to your house to get it. I liked it that my hospital sent me home with witch hazel pads and perinatal ice packs ('cus things were pretty swollen and sore down there.) The most important thing to have at the hospital for me, was my doula and my husband.