Options when checking your stroller and car seat on an airplane

 In Travel Tips

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.

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.

Checking-a-stroller-and-carseat-at-the-airport

Airport crowd image via ShutterStock.com

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Showing 9 comments
  • Marisa Rothstein
    Reply

    Re: Gate checking your stroller. We always gate check so we can use the stroller throughout the airport, and then don’t have to wait for it at security. However, the flight crew is far from gentle with the strollers: 2 out of my last 4 flights have resulted in some sort of stroller damage. Most airlines give you 4 hours from the end of the flight to report property damage. So either make sure you have good trip insurance or immediately report the stroller damage once it happens!

    • Keryn Means
      Reply

      I hear you. We once checked out stroller at the gate in Paris and when we got home the handle bars were bent at a 90 degree angle. The customer service people looked at us like “isn’t it supposed to look like that.” We filed a claim with Delta, but did we ever see our $30 for the stroller? Nope! That’s by I only travel with cheap strollers.

  • Natalie
    Reply

    Strollers – a necessary evil at an airport! I always gate checked mine and we never, ever flew without a car seat. I was so thankful when the kids got big enough to use the kids fly safe CAREs harnesses – talk about easy! They are a God send!! Keeping kiddos strapped in safely makes me feel so much better. 🙂

    • Keryn Means
      Reply

      I remember the first time I didn’t fly with my kids. I was like “wait, what is going to carry my bag now?” I normally threw everything on the stroller. Sure changed the way I packed when I flew solo after that!

  • Taylor
    Reply

    If you get a gate tag and check at the gate, does your flight have to be non-stop? We will have to change planes during our trip, and I want the stroller and car seat to also change planes. How does that work?

    • Keryn Means
      Reply

      You will simply pick up your car seat and stroller on the jet way after each flight. You will also have to gate check your car seat and stroller before every flight, whether it is a connecting flight or not. The only time this might not be able to happen is when you fly international. Sometimes they make you gate check your items all the way through. Check with the airline ahead of time so you are prepared.

  • Passang
    Reply

    Hi there, I will be travelling with my 9 month. Can I hate check both my stroller and car seat? Someone told me that I can either carry car seat or stroller not both. Is that true? We r flying emirates

  • Karen Nazzy
    Reply

    I’m having all these anxieties about traveling with my 3 y/o so this article definitely helped me decide that we are going to bring a small stroller to gate check. Thank you!

    • Keryn Means
      Reply

      I’m so glad it helped!!! Sometimes having that stroller, even to just hold all your carry-on bags, is helpful so you have hands free to run after the toddler. I know I cried last year when we finally gave up the umbrella stroller. It was our trusted sherpa throughout the world!

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