Why One Toronto Mom Started Traveling Munchkin: The Airbnb of Baby Gear

If you’ve ever traveled with small children, you know all about the hellish prospect of packing. A weekend trip out of town can require a ridiculous amount of stuff; car seats, strollers, cribs and more. Hauling it all around is not something you want to be dealing with when you’re already contending with motion-sickness, diaper blowouts and preschool meltdowns.

Enter Traveling Munchkin: think of it as a sort of Airbnb for baby equipment. Instead of bringing ALL THE STUFF with you, you rent what you need from parents in the city you’re visiting.

“Traveling families don’t want to pack all that “stuff” but know they need it on their trip,” says Traveling Munchkin founder Samantha Vlasceanu. “Local families have all this baby gear already – whether as spares, stored or currently in use. Our ‘Airbnb’ model allows traveling families to rent cribs, strollers, car seats, toys & more from local families who can now earn a side income on their invested inventory. We’re all about families helping families travel with ease.”

Traveling Munchkin has partnered with mobile CPSAC Child Passenger Safety Technicians (CPST) and will come to professionally install your car seat for you. All their baby gear has product damage insurance provided by Duuo.ca, and all host families (those renting out their items) goes through a screening process and interview to ensure they’re a good fit. Plus, they’ve partnered with Airbnb Hosts around Toronto so that gear can be set up and delivered before you arrive.  

We asked her about her biz this week.

SDTC: What was is that made you decide to start your business?

SV: It originally started when I went to Calgary with my son and sisters and their kids. We had four kids in total and two mini vans were packed like a clown car. We brought 3 strollers, 4 car seats, 2 travel cribs, 2 booster chairs, a bunch of toys–and this didn’t even include our suitcases. I couldn’t find a rental company that had either the brands we’re familiar with or were affordable (I mean, we already have the items at home, so there’s no point paying almost the same price as retail for rental). And then we were going out of city, so we couldn’t find one that would deliver outside the city.

Traveling Munchkin is for families who don’t want to pack their whole house, and who don’t want to overpay for car seat rental. But why peer to peer? Companies like Airbnb became a disrupter in the industry by demonstrating that the peer-to-peer marketplace can work! Forbes magazine projects that the peer-to-peer marketplace will grow from $15B in 2013 to $335B by 2025! Why? Because hosts have vacant products/homes/cars/services and buyers/renters need that service at a more convenient and/or affordable way.

Baby gear is the same. You have families that have baby equipment that are either not in use right now, rarely used right now, or using but wouldn’t mind renting out since they have other options. And then you have travelling families that require it. Bcause who wants to haul your entire house across the country?

Plus, the moment I’ve joined the exclusive club of ‘motherhood’, I was blown away. I was blown away by the generosity & support of mom communities (like @mamas_and_minis & @mommyconnectionscanada) where moms actually cared and helped whenever possible… and they didn’t even know each other! But what they did know was that the person asking for help was a mom just like them. So, I know a peer-to-peer marketplace would work, as this is another community of moms (and dads & grandparents, of course) who can help other moms travelling with little ones find the equipment they need.

When it comes to all the stuff, what has been the most annoying issue when traveling with babies?

It was the packing that really made me feel overwhelmed when traveling with kids. I spent so much time packing, loading the car, unpacking, then repacking again, reloading and then unpacking again! And it didn’t matter if you were only gone for the weekend with babies or for two weeks, it was still all the same stuff you need! If you think about how much stuff these tiny humans use on a day-to-day basis, it’s incredible! And they’re not exactly compact and light either. From car seats, to strollers, to high chairs, to cribs to toys, to sound machine, to black out blinds, to the tub.

We built this business to change how families travel and to make sure their vacation feels like home for their baby. We will still have all your necessary things you need, but let us do all the work and you focus on your vacation. We want all families to be able to pack less, and spend more time traveling.

What kinds of products can people rent from you?

All our host families have everything you need to make your vacation feel like home: cribs, car seats, strollers, high chairs, gates, bath tubs, black out blinds, toys, and more! Most of our host families are moms, so moms knows what moms want. We have top brands that moms love and trust (like UPPAbaby, Valco, Bugaboo, Peg Perego, Britax, Maxi Cosi and more) at an affordable price to rent from. All of our hosts will deliver to your vacation home, set up (excluding car seats) and pick up and clean after each rental. And we’ll try to deliver and set up before you even arrive, so that when you do arrive with your overtired baby, they can go straight to bed. Welcome home.

What has been a big discovery since you embarked on launching Tracking Munchkin?

Starting up a business and running it was not as easy as I expected. It’s so difficult starting and running a business while raising a family and working another job just to keep the lights on. Some days, you’ll want to quit and feel so overwhelmed with your task list. Some days you feel guilty not spending more time with your kids. And some days you won’t know when the next order will come in. That’s what it’s like. But you know what it’s also like? Feeling driven and passionate about what you’re doing again. Knowing you’re providing a service that’s really helping families. Empowering your kids to chase after their dreams. Showing them it won’t come easy, you’ll get criticized along the way, and you’ll face lots of obstacles, but you can overcome it. ⠀

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