Monday, April 13, 2009

Baby Show worth entry price for first-timers

In this week’s baby bargainista column, Rebecca Atkinson shares her experience at the Baby Time show.

As per my previous post, my husband and I went to the 11th Annual Spring Baby Time Show the weekend before last.

First, let me say that if you are truly prepared and have shopped around at all the different baby stores time and time again, created your registry, and generally read every book or checked every baby website (or are on your third child), then this may not be the show for you. However, for anyone like us, (semi-researched, but completely clueless first-timers without a registry) I’d recommend paying the $15 entry fee.

Overall, we were really pleased with the show, but learned some valuable tips that would definitely have made the experience that much better in the future.

The show was held at the
International Centre, which is not great when there are several other shows running in the other exhibit halls. Parking is not exactly abundant if you don’t arrive when the doors first open. I wonder how many other pregnant woman raised an eyebrow and complained when told the main and secondary lots were full and that our best bet was the lot down the street next to the Go Station (read 15-minute walk.) With a baby on my sciatic nerve and a day on my feet ahead of me, schlepping to and from another parking lot wasn’t exactly high on my priority list. With a point at my ever-expanding belly by my husband, we were eventually waved through to find that there were indeed many parking spots still available.

Once inside, I realized my second mistake: I didn’t dress accordingly for the weather. Put that many pregnant women in one building (without visible coat checks) and you get a sauna! Having not been at the show for more than five minutes, Mark and I were already overwhelmed, and I was hot and cranky. Not a good start. Note to the organizers if you’re reading this: think about a bigger space for next year and lowering the heat a few degrees.

However, tuning out the crowds (did I mention I’d never seen so many pregnant women and babies all in one place!?), we were able to make use of the show. We filled our loot bags with goodies when the lines weren’t too long, pre-registered at The Bay (I’ll explain in another post, but it ended up being a waste of time) and attended some seminars.

The educational aspect was where we found the most value for our dollar. My last CPR re-training was nearing eight years ago so I was looking forward to a refresher course during The Learn to Rescue your Baby in 60 seconds from Choking and CPR seminar by 2Health. Instead, I got a wake up call. The seminar was an hour long, and those of us who attended were in agreement: this one seminar was worth the entire cost of admission for both Mark and I… and then some!

We left the show having only bought one item (a Silver Cross Micro that will make an excellent secondary stroller and was on sale for half price), but definitely more knowledgeable, loaded up with free samples and tons of information. We could wallpaper the nursery using the sheer number of pamphlets, cards and handouts we received, and we were being conservative!

Lessons Learned
Go early – especially to avoid the long line ups for free samples or discounted baby clothes

Pack a lunch and/or snacks – the food choices were limited, of dubious quality and very expensive

Dress appropriately – Bring a backpack and dress in layers to avoid carrying bulky coats and overheating

Spend time researching the seminars and info sessions – and plan your day accordingly. Not all shows are repeated each day of the show, so be sure to recheck which ones you want to take in.

Re-admission is possible for free – if you want to see a few shows one day and then some more the next day, you can – readmission was free if you stopped by the booth on the way out the door. It might help break up feeling overwhelmed and allow you to visit different booths at different days/times to avoid line-ups.

Sales are few and far between – as is the ability to buy everything you could need. While there were a few places to buy items and some decent sales, we didn’t find the kind of bargain shopping Mecca we’d expected.

Cameras and recording equipment are not allowed – So don’t plan to go taking pictures of things you want to buy so you can compare (or remember) them. Bring a pad of paper and a pen instead.

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