An essential part of traveling with a baby is figuring out how to carry all the baby gear that comes along with your little one. Your stroller is no doubt your biggest piece of baby gear and many questions may be entering your mind. To begin with: “Can I bring my stroller on an airplane?” The answer is – yes. You certainly can. You may then also be wondering: “How do I coordinate a stroller, car seat, diaper bag, my own bag AND my baby through airport security, getting from point A to B in the terminal and actually boarding the plane itself?”
My answer for you is – it can be easier and smoother than you think. I’ve laid out my recommendations on how to travel with a stroller below along with a breakdown of how to navigate each step of the air travel process with your stroller and your baby.
What Makes a Travel Friendly Baby Stroller?
There are so many strollers on the market its really overwhelming to know which one you should choose. If you know you will be traveling by plane even just 2 or 3 times a year I can’t recommend a Travel System enough. Travel systems allow you to easily attach and remove your car seat from the stroller. Before your baby can sit with their head up they simply stay in the car seat and are attached to the stroller.
Even after your baby is sitting and holding their own head up in the stroller themselves, the travel system allows you to combine the car seat and stroller into one piece and not have to carry two big items separately. I often put my 12 month old baby in the car seat and attach to the stroller to walk through the airport rather than carrying the car seat separately.
The second key factor in choosing travel friendly strollers is the ease of which you can collapse and expand them. When you’re traveling with your baby, especially if you’re doing so alone you will need all the extra hands you can get. There are strollers that allow you to collapse and expand it with one hand with just the pull of a lever or a press of a button. Your other hand can then be used to carry your most precious piece of cargo – your baby!
My recommendation is the BabyJogger Travel System which combines the BabyJogger Citi Mini GT Stroller and the Baby Jogger Infant car seat pictured below. The City Mini GT Stroller is the most light weight and easily collapsable stroller for its durability that exists in the market.
The Airport Security Stroller Dance
Airport Security is the worst part of traveling with a stroller. It’s where you really understand the importance of a travel system and easy to collapse and expand stroller. Yes, you have to collapse and put your stroller directly through the x-ray machine. I’ve gone through airport security many times alone with my baby and after a lot of trial and error, some bruises and tears, I can confidently tell you how to do it smoothly and relatively quickly:
Going through Security
1. Park your stroller and put your diaper bag and your other carry on (if you have one) in the trays.
2. Take out your bag of liquids, take off your shoes, give your formula or breast milk directly to the TSA officer
3. With your baby still in the car seat – detach the car seat from your stroller and put it on the ground
4. Collapse your stroller and using both hands lift onto the belt next to your other things. The TSA officer will remove the wheel for you if its necessary.
5. Put the car seat with your baby still strapped in onto the belt and then take your baby out.
6. Carry your baby through the X-Ray machine. (note: you do not go through the full body scanners when you’re traveling with your baby)
Side Note: Having a baby carrier already on your body to put your baby into to free up both hands can make things even easier. There is a separate post on baby carriers
Retrieving your items on the other side:
1. Grab the car seat first – take it off the belt and strap your baby into it. Leave it sit on the ground.
2. Lift the stroller off the belt, fold back out and put the break on. Attach the car seat back to the stroller with your baby strapped in.
3. Collect and repack all of your other items easily.
Mama Hack: Your Stroller also becomes Extra Storage
The best part about traveling with a stroller is you sort of get an extra carry on. You can never have enough room for all your baby gear and if you have the right travel friendly stroller you’ll have significant storage underneath to toss in things such as; disposable diaper changers, a portable diaper changer, blankets, extra wipes, or whatever you’d like.
Depending on how long the flight is my diaper bag is packed full with diapers, extra clothes and bottles (I pumped and now formula feed), but there is so much else that’s really great to have with you in your travel destination. I’m a big fan of portable diaper changes as you never know which states or which countries will have diaper changers (or clean ones) in bathrooms or if you will need to change your baby on the go with no facilities nearby.
When I hand off my stroller as I board the plane I don’t even empty out the storage. It collapses and stays put. Just remember to take out anything you don’t want to get dirty.
Boarding and Gate Checking your Stroller
The boarding process can vary slightly depending on the airline and if the airline is domestic or international. International airlines especially Asian carriers such as Cathay Pacific, China Eastern, Korean Air and Japan Air can be much more helpful than US Domestic airlines. No matter who you’re flying with you will be able to check your stroller at the gate to be picked up as you are deplaning the aircraft. If you’re using the Travel System, you need to visit the gate agent ahead of boarding and ask for two gate valet tags – one for the stroller and one for the car seat. If you’re only using the stroller you just need one gate valet tag. Either you will attach them yourself or the gate agent will do this for you.
Some people choose to bring a plastic bag to put their stroller inside upon gate checking to keep it from getting dirty. I’ve never found it necessary to do, but this is of course is down to your preference. Certain airlines will provide durable plastic bags and put the stroller inside for you.
These days fewer airlines are giving preferential boarding to those traveling with babies or small children. If you’re flying with one of these airlines I recommend boarding last. This gives you plenty of time and you don’t feel rushed with a long line of people waiting behind you. Navigate your stroller down the jet bridge as if you were boarding normally with your gate valet tags attached and follow these steps:
1. Just like in airport security detach the car seat with your baby strapped inside and set on the floor
2. Collapse your stroller and lean against the wall for the attendants to pick up and load onto the plane
3. Take your baby out of the car seat and set the car seat next to your stroller.
4. Board with your baby and bags
Deplaning and Picking up your Stroller
You’ve arrived at your destination!
Deplane the aircraft and wait right at the end of the jet bridge next to the aircraft doors. The attendants will be unloading all gate checked items right there. When your stroller and car seat is returned to you, with your baby in one hand and stroller in the other – unfold your stroller one handed and put the break on. Still, using the same hand as you’re holding your baby, pick up your car seat and attach back to the stroller.
Now you’re all set! Get your baby situated, relax and enjoy the destination you’ve just arrived in.