Firm makes travelling with kids a breeze
Tamara Gignac, Calgary Herald
July 16, 2007 — To some parents, the very idea of a month spent trekking through a foreign locale with a one-year-old is akin to root canal or a tax audit.
Day upon day in the company of a squirmy and easily distracted toddler is hardly an ideal vacation, they protest – it’s a punishment they wouldn’t wish on their most loathed enemy.
But when Colleen Thorpe and her husband decided to embark on a four week holiday to Denmark and New Zealand with their young son, she enjoyed the trip of a lifetime – in no small part because she left her baby’s heavy hear at home in Calgary.
Rather than lug hockey bags laden with toys, car seats, strollers and other equipment, Thorpe opted to rent the items upon arriving at her destination.
It was easier, she thought, because her airline’s baggage policy prevented her from bringing many of the items she would need to enjoy a camping holiday.
It turned out to be the best decision she could have made. Not only did it make for a stress-free vacation, it was the catalyst behind the launch of her own baby equipment rental business back home.
“While I was over there, I suddenly realized that I could do the very same thing in Calgary. I don’t think I talked about much else the entire trip,” recalls Thorpe.
Her company, Little Traveller, caters to a mix of harried parents weary of carting the hard-to-pack necessities of modern parenting through airports, or doting baby boomers with visiting grandchildren.
They don’t want to spend the money on a new crib, baby swing or high chair, nor do they want their precious munchkins to lack any comfort of home for the duration of their stay. “If you’re a grandparent that’s downsized to a condo, you’re not going to have space for everything any more,” says Thorpe. “That’s where baby equipment rentals come into play.”
She’s partial to certain brands because the gear meets a list of specific criteria. It can’t be too posh that it’s impractical, but it must be safe and hold up well under repeated use.
“The fun part is walking into baby stores and looking for what I want. Equipment has to be practical, easy to pack and especially easy to clean – it can’t have a lot of hidden crevices,” says Thorpe. “If a mom sees something that’s not clean, she’s never going to do this again.”
Little Traveller offers the basics for baby – cribs, car seats and strollers are the most popular items- but also carries a number of ‘nice-t-have’ extras like boxes of toys, baby monitors, bug nets and clip chairs that fasten to picnic tables.
Cribs rent for $12 a day, a stroller costs $7. Parents can select a “pick me up mommy” package that includes a playpen, safety gate and high chair or booster seat for $11 a day.
The business – featured in the May edition of Mompreneur Magazine – has proven the ideal means for Thorpe, a former engineer, to stay at home with her children while still meeting her own creative needs.
But what started out as an experimental venture has become a passion for Thorpe, who would like to see Little Traveller eventually partner with local hotel chains, or even open locations in other cities.
The best part of the job, she says, is interacting with her customers, who are always happy because they’re either on vacation or welcoming friends and loved ones into their home.
“You don’t have grumpy people in this business - I don’t think I’ve come across one unhappy person.”
*An equipment rental service for children, specializing in short- or long-term needs for everything from car seats and strollers to Chariot carriers and bed rails.