If you haven’t flown with a stroller before it can be really intimidating, and you probably have a million questions. How do you navigate it through the airport procedures and on to the plane? Are there any specific regulations?
To put your mind at ease, its really quite a simple process. This article will guide you through the entire process, and answer any questions you might have about flying with a stroller.
Before heading to the airport, you need to ask yourself a couple of questions:
Should I take my stroller in the first place?
Navigating an airport with a stroller may seem a little daunting, but most airports have made it super convenient.
Overall, taking your stroller with you will ease up a lot of frustrations at the airport stage of your trip.
You have a place for your child to rest. You have extra storage, and you have that extra set of wheels to keep you from hauling your bags and a tired child. If you’re still not sure we have a guide to help you decide if it’s worth taking your stroller when you travel.
What is the standard airport policy for checking a stroller on the plane?
Most strollers will be considered checked luggage. You do not have to pay to check your stroller, and at baggage claim, you can tell the attendant how you want to store the stroller. You can opt to check it with your luggage, but I would highly recommend asking for a gate check because you could then use your stroller within the airport itself.
Some collapsible/umbrella-style strollers could be considered carry-on luggage and stored in an overhead bin. But honestly, gate-checking would be easier on everyone, and it’s a very simple process.
Step by step guide to flying with your stroller
Before you leave for the airport
1. Check Airline Policy
Double check with your airline to see the specific policy regarding strollers. More than likely, it will be straight-forward, but you don’t want to get to the airport and be surprised. Check out this post for some standard policies of popular airlines regarding strollers.
2. Label Your Stroller
Before you leave the house, be sure to label the stroller properly, like you would any piece of luggage. Include your name, address, and phone number on the tag. If your stroller breaks down into more than one piece, then label each piece separately.
3. Consider a Canvas Travel Bag to Protect Your Stroller
Many lightweight strollers have a canvas bag for easy storage, which would be a handy feature for labeling and dropping off at the jet bridge. The airport might have a plastic bag to use as well, but these are not necessary. For the most part, expect a little wear and tear in the cargo area of the plane, but don’t worry too much about it.
When you get to the airport
1. Checking in your stroller
The first thing you need to decide is if you want to check your stroller with your bags, or wait until you are boarding.
Using your stroller to get through the airport may be tempting, but I find putting them in a front pack is much easier and gives you more hands.
Tip – If you do decide to check your stroller, lots of airports will offer you a loan stroller to use until you board.
If you decide to check your stroller with your bags, you need to tell the person at baggage claim how many pieces the stroller packs down to, so the airline can tag it.
2. Getting your stroller through security
After dropping off your luggage, you will need to fold down the stroller to fit it through the scanner at the security check-in point, and you will walk with your child through the security line.
Some airports have a separate line for families. Even if they don’t one of the agents will often offer to assist you so you don’t feel stressed about holding everyone else up.
3. Checking your stroller at the gate
After walking through security, head to your departure gate, and try to arrive in time to take advantage of pre-boarding. (Pre-boarding is simply a convenient feature for boarding anyone who needs more time and attention getting on the plane.)
Walk up to the attendant at the gate, notify them of your pre-boarding status, and request a gate check. Do this first thing, so that you don’t hold up the boarding line later. You can see a complete guide to this along with step-by-step pictures over at One Mile at a Time.
You’ll be able to keep your stroller with you until pre-boarding time. You are only checking in to get the gate check tag. You will receive a tag to loop around the stroller.
4. Boarding the plane
When the attendants call up the passengers for pre-boarding, you will fold down and drop off your stroller in the gate check area, which is usually on the jet bridge on the way to boarding the plane.
Before dropping your stroller off, be sure to get any loose items from your storage compartments. Store your stroller in your canvas bag if you’d like.
5. Picking up your stroller
The flight crew will store your stroller in the plane’s cargo hold for the duration of the flight. After landing, usually, you will pick up the stroller in the same place where you dropped it off.
Double-check with your flight attendant if you have any questions. Some airports send these items down to baggage claim.
If you have a connecting flight, the first gate might add your gate check ticket for the connecting flight as well, so you can skip this step before connecting. If not, just take off the old tag and repeat the gate checking procedure for your stroller at your next flight gate. Easy peasy.
Lightweight strollers vs large strollers for airplane travel
You’re probably wondering if you need to buy a second travel stroller. Bringing your usual stroller is a tempting way to save money.
But most regular strollers make pretty terrible travel strollers.
A lightweight stroller can be a life-saver at the airport, especially if it still has storage bins for extra things like diapers and wipes.
I love the Chicco Capri Travel Stroller. It’s budget friendly, and it has handy storage underneath. It folds down easily, and it’s an ideal stroller for tall people.
A good travel stroller could rest your back and shoulders, hold extra stuff you need, and give your hands the freedom you need to handle the airport. However, a travel stroller could be inconvenient once you reach your destination (depending on the nature of your trip) or if you have more than one child.
If you will be traveling somewhere with lots of hiking or walking over uneven terrain, a stroller with inflatable tires would be a better option. Just remember to take an air pump and patch kit in case of a flat.
Of course, these types of strollers are more expensive than your standard travel strollers.
If you have more than one child, a light travel stroller might be more inconvenient than your favorite double stroller, simply because you might need the double stroller for containing your wiggly toddler along with your baby.
You could opt to bring your double stroller, or you could look into purchasing an attachable stroller stand for your bigger one to hitch a ride when legs get tired. See this list of other pros and cons before deciding on a travel stroller purchase.
Taking your own stroller vs renting
Lastly, you could also check your destination city about renting a stroller for the time you are on your trip, allowing you to avoid the extra time dealing with the stroller at the airport.
As Where Traveler explains:
In today’s age, you can now rent baby gear like bottle warmers, strollers, cribs, pack-n-plays, car seats, high chairs, baby monitors, even boxes of toys. Such rental businesses are now available in most large cities on all continents.
Consider how long you will be gone, how much your kids will need the stroller, and what other gear you need to bring with you. You will paying for a convenience fee of using this equipment, but this is definitely an option to explore before you leave.
Again, navigating the airport with small children in tow might sound exhausting and frustrating. But, just like anything else, knowledge of the process and taking a few extra preparation steps before you leave could save a ton of time and energy.
Remember to be kind towards those around you, fellow travelers and airline staff. And be sure to keep a positive attitude when the unpredictable happens. You are building memories with your family, and most people will applaud your efforts.
Be sure to share this information with anyone you know who might like to travel soon with their little ones. And head to the comments section to list out your favorite airport tricks when traveling with kids.