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Flying, in general, can be a complicated and frustrating activity, especially with so many TSA guidelines to follow and long lines to get through before you can even board your plane. When traveling with an infant or toddler, every difficulty can be heightened.
Not only do you have to pack a lot more essentials (from diapers and formula, to favorite toys, to half the medicine cabinet), but you also have to worry about feeding schedules coinciding with takeoff and/or landing, as well as simply getting through security checkpoints while juggling luggage and a child.
Then there is your stroller to consider. This convenient transportation for you baby, your diaper bag, snacks, and more is essential to any trip. However, it could trip you up at the airport if you fail to plan accordingly. Before you fly with a stroller, there are a few things you need to know.
In truth, you can take a stroller of any size, weight, and configuration to the airport with you. However, these specifications will determine how you can use your stroller once you get there. If you’re planning to check your stroller at the ticket counter, you can pretty much bring any model you like, from the full size Baby Jogger City Select LUX, to the lightweight Nuna Pepp Stroller, to the comprehensive Baby Jogger City Mini GT Travel System. The vast majority of airlines will check it at no cost, although it may count toward your checked bag limit.
Of course, this leaves you to make your way to the gate with your baby in your arms or in a carrier or sling of some sort, which can be a lot to manage if you’re also hauling other children, luggage, and so on. If you want to take your stroller with you to the plane, it should be a small, lightweight, collapsible model, like the versatile, all-terrain Bumbleride Indie.
Imaging it going through a TSA screening process – the agents want you to collapse it and put it on the belt. If this is not possible, they’ll find another way to screen it, but you could end up waiting as a result, and this is not ideal when you’re in a hurry to reach your gate.
Then there is the question of what to do with it when you reach the plane. Most airlines will gate check any folding stroller for you free of charge, but this means you have to get it back when your flight lands, and this could be problematic if you have a short layover before a connecting flight. If a flight isn’t very full, the crew may allow you to bring a small stroller on board and stow it overhead, but you should never count on this outcome, especially not on a full flight.
It’s always best to check with your airline on rules pertaining to strollers as they may vary from one airline to the next. You need to know which sizes/weights of strollers you must check at the ticket counter and which you can check at the gate so you can plan accordingly.
When deciding which stroller to bring on your trip, you need to consider several factors, such as where you are going and what activities you have planned. If you’re planning a lot of walking and hiking, for example, you might really want the heavier, more comfortable and supportive stroller for your child, like the Mamas & Papas Urbo2 or the Bugaboo Donkey2 Mono Complete. On the other hand, convenience may be more important to you, and a lightweight stroller that is easy to open and close, lift, and stow might serve you better when traveling.
As a side note on convenience, make sure to show up early enough to take advantage of pre-boarding procedures, where families with children are allowed to board early. This gives you time to gate check or stow your stroller and get your family situated before the flight is packed with people.
If your stroller isn’t collapsible or it’s particularly bulky and you have to check it at the ticket counter, you may be surprised when it doesn’t come out on the conveyor belt at the baggage claim with the rest of your luggage. Don’t fret – it may be considered an oversized item that is too large to place on the conveyor. You simply have to go to the oversized luggage area to claim it.
Most airlines explicitly state that they accept no liability for damaged strollers, whether you check them at the ticket counter or the gate. However, they may provide you with a protective plastic bag for your stroller, possibly for a small fee, at your request.