Checking your stroller or car seat on an airplane isn’t an easy decision when you are traveling with kids. If you have an infant, you may want that massive stroller system you are used to carrying around with you until you get to the gate. Or you may feel comfortable carrying the baby in your ErgoBaby carrier or carrier of choice so you can have your hands free to deal with other things at the airport.
Whatever you pick, you still need to know how to check your gear, especially if you want to gate check your car seat or stroller gate check on an airplane. You have three options. It’s up to you to decide which is best for your needs when traveling with kids.
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Check on the plane
The beauty of checking your gear at the same time you check your bags is that these items are no longer in your hands. You don’t have to keep track of your stroller or car seat. You can just trust that they will arrive.
Downside is, if they get lost, you are out of luck, although many airlines do have car seats you can grab if yours is lost in transit.
Strollers and car seats on an airplane are free to check with bags!
If you want to check your car seat I recommend placing it in a car seat bag. This not only protects your car seat on a plane, but it also gives you a little extra space to stash diapers, maybe a travel crib, and other odds and ends that didn’t fit in your suitcase.
Stick to light, non-bulky items whenever possible so you aren’t flagged by the ticketing agent.
If you want to check your stroller on a plane, you can put it in a large stroller storage bag. We have even used large garbage bags in the past. This is mostly just to keep the stroller clean. It will not protect it from damage.
Check at the gate
I have always preferred to gate check my stroller when it travels with us. It pulls triple duty as my pack mule, kid carrier and nap station in one. I know that when I leave my stroller at the gate it is getting on my plane, not someone else’s flight.
The same goes when you gate check a car seat on an airplane. If you want to make sure it gets to your final destination, it is better to bring it with you through the airport and check it at the gate.
However, dragging a heavy car seat across an airport is not fun. After we moved out of the infant stage we began to check our larger car seat with our luggage and just grabbed it from baggage claim when we landed at our final destination. We have yet to have a problem.
Get a Gate Tag
Just like when you are asked to check your rolling bag on a plane if the overhead is full, you will have to ask the gate agent for tags in order to take your stroller and car seat on a plane. Simply bring your tickets up to the gate agent (only one adult needs to go up, not the whole family), and tell the gate agent you need tags for your stroller and car seat. He or she will know what to do.
Once you are tagged, drop your items at the bottom of the jet way before you board the plane. You know that little door that the man comes up from to check on things? Yup. That’s where he will grab your gear from too and bring it directly to the cargo hold.
Pick your stroller and car seat up at the same place when you get off your plane at your destination.
Carry it on
Depending on the type of car seat you have, you may be able to carry on a car seat. Please check with the gate agent first and check all of your car seat documentation to make sure it is FAA compliant.
Keep in mind that carrying your car seat on a plane is only possible if you have bought your child a seat. If your child is ticketed as a lap child you will have to gate check your car seat no matter how many empty seats you think are on the flight. You will be asked to put your car seat in the window seat, so prepare any older children ahead of time.
In general, you cannot carry a stroller on to your flight. In theory, a tiny umbrella stroller will fit in the overhead compartment, but more often than not you will be asked to check your stroller at the gate.
Airport crowd image via ShutterStock.com