picklesink

A mom, a dad, and two nutty kids.

phil&teds Excellent Adventure

Once upon a time, I bought the greatest stroller known to man, the phil&teds Explorer Sport with double attachment. Greatest. Stroller. Ever.

Phil&teds stroller with carseat attachment
©PicklesINK 2012

I loved that stroller. I took it everywhere and recommended it to everyone who would listen (at least those who asked me about it…I didn’t run up to random strangers like a crazy person and scream at them to buy this stroller. Much.).

Molly fast asleep in the stroller
after a long day at the zoo.
©PicklesINK 2012

When we planned our trip to Germany this summer, we originally planned to bring 2 cheap umbrella strollers to the airport but at the last minute decided to take the phil&teds instead, thinking that it would be more useful in our travels. Unfortunately, fate was not on our side and it came to pass that a terrible dragon, in the form of a careless baggage handler, wrecked it during the flight. Actually, my guess, judging from the type of damage, is that he – and I say he not out of sexism but because it was taken from me by 2 young men – dropped it to the tarmac while carrying it down the stairs before the flight ever began.

They snapped the handle clean off!
©PicklesINK 2012

At first I hoped to keep using the broken stroller, at least for the trip, and did managed to get a bit of use out if it in the first few days with packing tape holding the handle together.

It could still safely carry liquor!
©PicklesINK 2012

Unfortunately some new damage quickly came to light – I think the front wheel assembly must have been bent too so with continued use the tire popped. Despondent, I gave it up for lost, figuring that my kids were a bit older and I could probably get by with a cheap umbrella stroller until they outgrew strollers completely (see the October 2012 issue of Today’s Parent for a good debate on topic of strollering your toddler or preschooler), and I would be better off taking a cash settlement.

I even composed a haiku in its honour:

Careless baggage guys/dropped my stroller down the stairs/Condor owes me big.

After a fair bit of frustration and some back-and-forthing through social media and then email with Condor Airlines, it came down to a choice between a significantly depreciated cash value versus full reimbursement for a replacement stroller so I opted for the replacement – which means I was able to purchase the brand new just-released phil&teds Navigator in pretty robins-egg blue!

Things that I loved about my Explorer:

– SO maneuverable

– double stroller without the double width

– double attachment let Ben jump in and ride when he needed to and didn’t get in my way when he didn’t

– driveable in all seasons and on all terrains

Things that I loved less:

– stiff wire brake needed a lot of force to flip on or off with foot (and not doable in sandals – ouch!)

– deep fabric footwell caught crumbs and dirt and you had to flip stroller upside down and shake get them out

– long dangly tails on harness straps

– waist straps that you had to dig out from under your kid to buckle

– very small sunshade that didn’t really shade at all

– no clip to prevent stroller from opening when folded

– soft fabric back of seat was oh so tempting for kid in double attachment seat to kick or push, earning a “Hey!!” or just a wail as they woke up from the kid above

– permanently attached seat cover cannot be washed

Don’t get me wrong – these were all minor annoyances and certainly did not detract from this being the BEST STROLLER EVER MADE.

Until now.

With the Navigator, phil&teds have stared deep within my soul, discovered all of the things I found mildly irritating about the Explorer, and FIXED THEM. Every last one of them. The Navigator has a one-touch toggle brake; a firm plastic footwell with vents for the crumbs to fall through; a new tail-less harness system (I didn’t even know you could do that!); a harness system that while still having shoulder and waist restraints, only has 2 clips; a hard plastic back to minimize those “Hey!”s; and a detachable, machine-washable seat cover. They even fixed the bar that goes across the front – I took it off originally because my kids were biting chunks of foam off it, and apparently this issue was not unique to me because the new incarnation has a fabric sleeve.

It also has the biggest freaking sunshade I’ve ever seen (Ben and Molly like to pull it all the way down to enclose them in a kind of sunshade cocoon) – and again, since they either have secret video cameras recording my life or else someone in R&D is my creepy long-lost brain twin, they KNEW that I always put stuff like my keys or wallet on top of the sunshade while I walk around and I’ve lost a cell phone as a result, and built freaking POCKETS into the sides of the sunshade so that when things inevitably slide off, instead of falling to the ground they get caught in the pockets.

New stroller with double attachment.
Note the stuff on the sunshade –
No, I will never learn.
©PicklesINK 2012

Another really neat feature is that it assembles completely without tools – I took it out of the box, popped the wheels on, and was ready to go. It also handles like a dream, even more smoothly than the Explorer did, and all this at the exact same price I paid for my Explorer originally.

If I have one complaint, it’s the the colour is not as bright and the fabric slightly coarser than I expected, but since I ordered it online without seeing it in person, I can’t really blame phil&teds for that.

Ben and Molly heartily approve.
©PicklesINK 2012

Ben and Molly heartily approve of the new stroller, and if it has half the staying power of the last one (barring being dropped down a flight of stairs onto asphalt) it should last through a few more kids after mine. Thank you, thank you, thank you, phil&teds, for making my stroller dreams come true, and thank you Condor Airlines for making things right.

~ karyn

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Back on solid ground

Travel day has come and gone. Apparently some people pack a week in advance, which I think is just plane crazy (heheheh). Why would you stretch that kind of stress out over the course of a week when you could just concentrate it all into a 6 hour period and be done with it? In the end I only forgot one thing, Ian’s tripod, so well done me!

We checked in and checked our baggage and then met up with my family for a lovely, leisurely dinner near the airport…a little too leisurely, perhaps, as it was followed by a full-on run across the terminal to our gate interrupted by a brief interlude of pretended calm to clear security. But we made it before they had even finished pre-boarding and got shuttled right on, set the kids up with the iPad and Innotab and sat back and tried to catch our breath!

©PicklesINK 2012

©PicklesINK 2012

Ben and Molly were absolutely amazing on the plane. Ben fell fast asleep within about 10 minutes of take-off. Molly held out for a while longer but eventually succumbed to sleep as well. Ben slept soundly until they turned the lights back on for breakfast. Molly was a little more fitful (and by “a little” I of course mean “a lot”) – she wound up sleeping for a couple of hours in my lap in various positions that were I’m sure very comfortable for her although not so much for me! She woke up after a few hours but was mostly content to snuggle and stare until “morning.”

When the kids woke up, they discovered that they could both fit in one seat and spent the next couple of hours watching shows on the iPad.

©PicklesINK 2012

As I mentioned in my last post, I was fully prepared with a backpack full of activities to keep the kids going through the whole flight if necessary. So here’s the summary of what we actually used:

©PicklesINK 2012

So yes, perhaps it was overkill, but I think it was still worth the backache for the peace of mind!

Finally, one important piece of advice that I picked up for traveling with young kids: Don’t be afraid to take a good stroller – it will be a great help getting through the airport and you can check it conveniently at the gate. Make sure you bring luggage straps, specifically bought for the purpose, so you can fold it and then secure it tightly:

All wrapped up in a nice, neat little package! ©PicklesINK 2012

That way all the baggage handlers have to do is pick it up and carry it to the hold and there’s no chance that anything could possibly go wrong and damage it. Then when you arrive at your destination, they will just bring it right back to you at the gate so you can pop it back open and use it right away!

😀 😀 😀 LOLZ J/K!!! 😀 😀 😀

Okay, for REALZ now! Make sure you use an el cheapo $20 job and don’t bother with the luggage strap crap since the airline will rip it off and leave it behind on the baggage cart anyway (which you know because you can see it through the plane window) and crush your very favourite phil&teds double stroller to a pulp and then send it into the “bulky items” baggage claim for you to pick up only after you wrangle your 2 exhausted and hyper kids plus 5 carry-on bags through immigration and customs on foot!

Snapped clean off. How did that even happen? It’s not a flimsy stroller! ©PicklesINK 2012

Squashed metal frame. The frame is also bent out of shape so that the seat back no longer lies flat. ©PicklesINK 2012

But we made it through relatively unscathed (except for my stroller…sniff), Tetrised the luggage into the car, and made the 4-hour drive from the airport to the house and settled in with some lovely European-style pizza (mmmmm…) and some German pilsner…

…and a good night’s sleep. More on that later.

~ karyn

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Come fly with me

We are in the midst of preparations for our first plane trip with two kids. Ben is very excited for both the flight and the trip (to Germany to visit Ian’s family). Molly is extremely excited for the trip but is telling everyone that we are travelling by school bus, so the airplane might come as a bit of a shock.

I’m a little trepedatious since our last flying-with-child experience was an unmitigated disaster. Ben was about 1 ½. The trouble started at Heathrow when we went through security and the guy, who I’m pretty sure was modeling his look off of Ringo Starr circa 1964, told me that of course I was allowed to bring all of the baby food, milk, juice, etc. ON the plane; I just had to taste it first.

“Taste it?” said I. “Taste it,” said Ringo. “All of it?” said I. “Everything you want to bring on the plane,” said Ringo. “Bottoms up,” said I as I took a slug of lukewarm milk and chased it with a spoonful each from assorted jars of English baby foods, then bid a sad farewell to the junior-sized juice boxes and the shelf-stable tetrapaks of formula that I had counted myself so lucky to find at that Boots in Windsor (“Won’t these be perfect for the flight?” I had said happily.) “You don’t have to throw them out!” cried my obviously childless friend Ringo before I explained the physics of the opened tetrapak.

Having gained an appreciation for the surprisingly tasty quality of English baby food, we continued on to the gate where we gave Ben a dose each of Children’s Benadryl and ibuprofen (*on-the-paeditrician’s-orders-don’t-judge-me) and boarded the plane.

Once on board, we carefully secured Ben’s carseat in the seat between us, buckled him in, and watched his eyes droop as he finished his bottle and the rest of the passengers settled in around us. We (and by we I mean everyone who had realized that they were stuck on a plane with a baby for the next 7 hours) breathed a collective sigh of relief and sat back to enjoy a peaceful flight.

Then the flight attendant said those fateful words: “You have to move that.” “Move…the…carseat?” “Yes. The baby seat has to go in the window seat.” “Uh…why?” “You might not be able to get by in an emergency.” “Listen, my friend, if there’s an emergency, I’ll be taking the baby with me.” *shrug* “You have to move it.”

Well, it was all downhill from there. Ben woke up when we moved the carseat and did not sleep for the rest of the flight, in large part because it took me an hour to track down our favourite flight attendant to ask her to fill Ben’s bottle. *deep sigh* “I’ll have to see if we have enough milk.” By the time we landed I was pretty sure the rest of the passengers were plotting to toss us out the window, led by the angry nun who had the misfortune to be seated right behind us.

So this time around we’re going to be prepared for anything. We fly out around 9:30PM so in an ideal world Ben and Molly should sleep the whole time, but we are also bringing a selection of activities to keep two kids (and their parents) distracted for at least 7 hours. Or possibly 7 days.

©PicklesINK 2012

Overkill? Maybe. Or just enough kill… I guess we’ll find out.

On further reflection, maybe I should pack a whole lot of chocolates and tiny liquor bottles to pass out to the other passengers as necessary. They’re under 100mL, right?

~ karyn

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