Join Date: Jan 2009
Location: Burlington, Vermont
Bikes: '09 Surly Big Dummy, '08 Surly LHT touring bike, '96 Fisher Mt. Tam MTB/icebike, '54 Schwinn Tiger cruiser
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I agree, there's not a perfect solution, only trade-offs.
A Burley-type trailer is great for carrying a kid or two, plus it has the trunk to carry a couple of bags of groceries, picnic stuff, or kid gear. It's even more useful if you get the stroller attachment for those times when biking isn't an option. But the kid's not especially engaged in the activity as s/he is on a trail-a-bike--in fact whenever I ride with my Burley more than 20 minutes, my kids fall asleep. And you reach the upper limit of space by age 6, depending on how big your kid is.
The trail-a-bike is fun for the kid, but doesn't have the hauling potential if you use it for errands/taking kids to daycare, etc. (unless you have panniers on your own bike). If you did a trail-a-bike, get the back rest; my three year has fallen off the back before when he's not paying close attention.
I'm dropping hints to my wife about how I now want an X-tra cycle, which has the kid sitting up somewhat like trail-a-bike (without pedals) AND the hauling potential. But even that's not the perfect solution since the kid is still more of a passenger than an active participant.