Trailer Moms (and Dads) – A Survival Guide

Hi, my name is Carissa Sipp and I am a trailer parent. I admit it, I am addicted.

So what is a trailer parent you ask? Any parent who commutes or hauls little kids on bike rides and would rather do this than get in a car. We are a little lazy as the thought of buckling kids in and out of a car seat and scurrying little ones through busy parking lots safely exhausts us.

But on the flip side locking our bike up safely and all that jazz takes time but does not overwhelm us since we get to do this either right in front of our destination or pretty darn close. For me, being a trailer parent being a single car family and using the bike and trailer in its place. (NOTE: Our car is only used for Costco trips and anything over 30miles round trip)

Sunday afternoon exploring Tucson
Sunday afternoon exploring Tucson

So, how did I get here? Well, I love biking! Absolutely love it! The fresh air, the solitude on a long ride, the ability to commute without burning a fossil fuel, and just exploring new areas at a slower pace inspires me.

With 2 kids under 4 however, my biking lifestyle was adjusted to include a trailer and I enjoy biking even more now granted the rides are shorter and mostly include running errands or at least a stop or 2 at the park. But the excitement with each ride and the adventure we take together as a family helps bring a smile to my face.

Now, it is not always easy biking with kids however any parent knows, nothing is easy with kids! There are more breaks for ‘Mom, I need water’ or ‘Mom, Everest is hitting me’ or ‘Playground’ (followed by a lot of excited shrieks). There have been fights about helmets, buckles, Kindles, snacks and ‘she is on my side of the seat’. All of this chaos is generally followed by silence, singing, tickling and laughing.

A nice snack break and smile
A snack break and a smile

I am able to cover over 30 trips a week and almost 100 miles with the kids! I have a survival guide below now for hauling the kids around town to and from school, libraries, classes, zoo, stores and the playground. This is first in a series that will help get you and your kids on the road with your trailer!

  1. Initially do not store anything in the back with the kids. This may sound counter-intuitive but when you have kids in such a tight space start out each trip using the back storage area as extra space for them to get comfy.
  2. Use you pannier as a diaper bag/snack bag. If possible have a basket available for when/if the kids start throwing out their shoes, etc of the trailer to make more room. I have had the experience a time or two of actually having to circle back for a shoe after hearing “shoe, Mom, shoe…SHOE!” from my very vocal and rambunctious 20 month old.
  3. Mentally prepare to stop, whenever and wherever needed. You may even have to carry a crying toddler for a few blocks while rolling your bike down a street with the other kids in tow in the trailer. It happens and this is what a side street is for if you ever need to veer off the main path. This will frustrate you and if time is short stress you out. Try not to let it. Things happen and 15-20 minutes or even an hour extra is ok if your kids need it. No one is perfect and I am sure, in the bigger picture, the time with your kids will be more important than sticking to a schedule.
  4. Related to #3, don’t worry too much about a schedule or winning every battle. With kids there do not have a great handle on urgency. Of course you want to make the meeting on time or the class but give yourself slack, give in a little and it will enable everyone to enjoy the ride that much more.
  5. Buy a helmet and a bike for the kids to ride outside of hitching a ride with you. A balance bike, a tiny tricycle for those under 2, and even a scooter all encourage the use of helmets and safety. Once the kids start riding in a trailer with you they will want to mimic you (my older daughter yells ‘get in my trailer’ to her sister) and desire these items. This is the start of their lifelong love affair will biking that will bring a smile to your face.
  6. Water, milk, snacks, dinner…bring all this and then some when traveling. It will spill and leak so if the plan is to be running errands for over 2 hours bring enough as if you would be out for 4 hours. It may seem like overkill but it sure beats crying all the way home for 30mins because they ran out of milk or food and would eat you if they could- you may start to see visions of scenes from the living dead. If all else fails however, be prepared to stop for frozen yogurt or ice cream. This works every time but use with extreme caution or you will be swinging by U-Swirl daily (for your sanity).
  7. This is the last in the survival guide but not the least, bring a map or toy to entertain the kid(s). One is enough but something they enjoy for at least 5min at a time. My kids love to read maps and tell me where we are (in their minds) or where the merry go round at the zoo is located so I bring both a biking bike and a map of our local zoo for entertainment sometimes. You will know what to bring based on their mood that day. Sometimes all they need is Pandora streaming kid songs.
  8. Enjoy the ride. However far you can go. Take baby steps if you have too and never, ever give up…you may just be surprised.
Another fun stop at the zoo (more maps!)
Another fun stop at the zoo (more maps!)

Now most of above is trailer-centric and for us the trailer has worked beautifully. We have the Cadillac of trailers, a Burley d’Lite to be exact. I have the freedom to bike everywhere with my kids because of this but that does not mean this is the only option and works for all kids.

I am lucky to have kids so close in age as I imagine that is where things get tricky for parents. There will be an awkward stage where we have to have one kid riding and one still in the trailer somehow but we will figure this out. This will be a learning curve and, as parents know, there is nothing constant but change, compromise and adaptation when dealing with kids.

I would like to take this journey with you and help you learn from my mistakes. I did not have much advice to go on when we started on our journey and boy I wish we had…there will be days you want to sell your trailer or bike seat because no one wants to ride but in that moment of frustration remember to take a breath – this too shall pass :). The ultimate goal here is to help foster a love for biking that brings more generations to the road and fosters a healthier lifestyle for generations to come. You will win the war maybe just not the battle today 🙂 Happy riding!

Happy trails wherever the journey takes you!
Happy trails wherever the journey takes you!

Carissa Sipp bikes daily and loves living in Tucson, AZ with 3 kids (2 human and 1 furry) and her husband. Follow her on twitter at @BikingMommy.

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