Have you ever had the misfortune of steering a damaged stroller? Between it veering off course or interfering with your baby’s comfort, it can be quite stressful.
Now, picture getting off a plane while you are on a trip and being handed a damaged stroller yet it was perfectly fine when you gate-checked it. Sounds like a nightmare, doesn’t it?
To prevent it from turning into reality, it would be helpful to know how to protect stroller when flying. So, below, I share the gems I’ve learned from tons of reading and my own travel experiences.
- Tips on How to Protect Stroller When Flying
- FAQS On Safely Flying with Strollers
- Winding Up
Tips on How to Protect Stroller When Flying
While it may present its challenges, traveling with baby strollers can be cheaper than renting one when you arrive at your destination. Plus, it is always reassuring when you use an item that both you and your baby are familiar with. However, as you go off on your adventures, remember to:
Check and Follow the Stroller Policies of Your Chosen Airline
Over the years, most airlines have made an effort to become more child-friendly. The catch is, every airline has unique policies when it comes to strollers. These policies seek to regulate issues such as:
- The weight of strollers that you can gate check versus weights that have to be checked at the ticket desk
- The dimensions of strollers that you can have as a carry on or that you may have to gate check
- How to gate check your stroller
- How many strollers you are allowed to gate check
It is best to confirm what policies your chosen airline has in place in advance. This would help you plan accordingly and possibly even determine whether you would like to use that particular airline.
For example, as you compare airlines, you may notice that most of them stipulate that you can check a stroller and a car seat for free. So, if you have multiples you may want to consider an airline that accommodates your needs such as:
- Spirit Airlines: Its stroller gate-check policy specifies that you can either check a stroller and a car seat or two strollers at no extra cost.
Other Factors to Consider:
- Curb side stroller collection is more convenient than baggage area collection
- Will you have access to your stroller(s) during layovers?
Use a Stroller Bag
Stroller storage bags are a must-have. They shield your stroller from dirt, scuffs, and even the breakage of its components when it is stored in the plane’s baggage area. The hygiene bit of this is particularly important as you may not have the time to thoroughly clean the stroller when you land.
Some strollers come with their own storage bag or stroller suitcase. If you have one of those, you need not shop for another bag. However, if yours had no such provision, here is what to look out for as you shop for a storage bag.
- A proper fit- most stroller manufacturers indicate the dimensions of their when they are collapsed. If you have a collapsible stroller, these would be dimensions to refer to as you shop for a stroller bag.
If your stroller is not fully foldable, measure it when it is retracted to get a suitable bag size estimate. Twin strollers will require a double stroller travel bag.
- A secure locking provision – locking your stroller bag can deter theft if that is something you are concerned about. However, locking the bag is important because luggage moves around slightly during a flight.
If your storage bag is unlocked, the stroller could easily slip out of it during turbulence and get damaged.
- Padding- an unpadded stroller storage bag may keep it safe from scuffing but it is unlikely to prevent the cracking or breakage of components.
A padded stroller travel bag, on the other hand, offers more reliable protection even if the package were to be dropped during handling. I would recommend the VolkGo Stroller Bag; it is spacious, properly padded, and has a durable fabric.
- Water protection- a sudden gush of rainfall during check-in or even accidental spills on board could leave your stroller wet or damaged.
A waterproof stroller storage bag is, therefore, always a safer option. I would vouch for the J.L. Childress Stroller Gate Check Bag any day. Its fabric is water-resistant and the bag is quite roomy.
Store Your Stroller as a Carry-On (If Possible)
Fully collapsible strollers for travel are lightweight and fold into very small packages. If you have this type of lightweight stroller, it may be safer and more convenient to bring your stroller on board as a carry-on.
Here too, airline policies will come into play. Some airlines do not allow strollers on board as a carry-on at all. This is understandable as it may not have been possible with older models. However, with the fully collapsible stroller designs, some airlines allow you to bring them on board if they meet the carry-on size and weight limit. United Airlines is leading from the front with this policy.
A great example of a collapsible stroller that you may be able to have as a carry-on is the UPPAbaby Minu Lightweight Stroller. It folds into a small compact package with a simple one-hand maneuver and weighs a paltry 14.5 lbs.
If you are uncertain if your stroller qualifies as a carry-on, you can inquire at the gate check station of the ticket desk.
Wrap Your Stroller for Protection
Wrapping your stroller is a superb alternative if you do not have a stroller storage bag. The plan here would be to wrap the entire stroller and keep it protected from dirt and other forms of minor damage.
There are multiple wrapping options you can work with based on what you find best.
- Use tape for the stroller handle– stroller handles are made using soft materials to ensure that you are comfortable as you steer. This makes them fragile and prone to breakage. Always wrap handles using tape or pool noodles before bubble/plastic wrapping.
- Use bubble wrap– you can order this and bring it along to the airport. As you wait to board, wrap the entire stroller preferably in 2 or so layers of bubble wrap. Secure each layer with adhesive tape to ensure it does not slip off during handling.
- Use the plastic wrap service at the airport– most airports today have a plastic wrap section where passengers can have their items draped in multiple layers of plastic for protection. This service is provided at a fee but may be more convenient than DIY wrapping while minding your baby and luggage all at once.
Some airports offer courtesy strollers that can be helpful after you have wrapped your stroller.
When you collapse your stroller into a neat little bundle, they are not always guaranteed to stay that way. Some jostling may result in what I like to call ‘the umbrella effect’. This is a situation where movement causes a folded stroller to partially unfold.
Some stroller models have a lock system that prevents this from happening. If yours does not, do not fret. After you have collapsed/retracted the stroller, secure its folded structure with zip ties and it will stay put throughout the flight.
Alternatively, for a collapsible stroller, you could choose to bring along the box it came in and pack it in that before you board. This could actually be a win-win as you may now not require a storage bag. Perhaps the only challenge is that boxes are more prone to tears and they are waterproof.
Invest in a Cheaper Stroller for Travel
If you went all out and invested in a premium stroller, the thought of it getting damaged may feel like a kick in the stomach. It may, therefore, be safer to invest in a cheaper stroller for travel. Think of it like leaving your Ferrari at home and driving the Jeep instead because you are headed into unpredictable terrain.
Second-hand/preloved strollers are more affordable than new ones and can be an easy way to find a cheaper stroller option for travel. Still, be keen to ensure that the stroller is in good condition and safe for your baby. Try and have it thoroughly cleaned as well.
Another solution would be to buy older models of a stroller. Often, when a stroller brand launches a newer version of a stroller model, the prices of older models fall because they are no longer the in-thing.
I would also suggest looking out for sales and generally affordable, value-for-money strollers like the Jogger City Mini 2 Stroller. It is lightweight, folds easily, and has an overall sturdy quality build.
Remove Detachable Stroller Accessories
Detachable stroller accessories like cup holders can easily fall off and get damaged in transit or during baggage handling. Consequently, it is advisable to remove such components before folding and packing your stroller.
Do strollers get damaged often on airplanes?
Airlines understand that frequent stroller damage could result in poor ratings and thus some level of care is exercised when handling baby items. So much so that KLM, for example, requires all checked strollers to have a protective cover.
Nonetheless, even with utmost precaution, sometimes accidents are simply inevitable.
Can you take a stroller through airport security?
Yes, you can.
However, according to TSA regulations, your stroller and any other items on it will have to undergo X-ray screening.
How do I keep the stroller clean during air travel?
Keep your stroller stored in a stroller travel bag or the box it came in. If you happen to forget your stroller bag, some airlines and airport stores have airport stroller bags for sale. The third option is to have the stroller plastic-wrapped at the airport or bubble wrap it yourself.
Should I gate-check my stroller?
This depends entirely on the size and weight of your stroller. For most airlines, if your stroller weighs below 50lbs, you are allowed to gate check it. If it is heavier, you may need to check it at the ticketing desk.
In contrast, a lightweight full collapsible stroller, say umbrella stroller, may qualify for you to bring it on board as a carry-on.
Do the airlines take responsibility for the damaged stroller?
Most airlines do.
However, you have to follow the airline’s stipulated damage claim procedure. This often includes reporting the damage immediately because delayed claims are hard to verify. If the claim is ascertained, the airline may compensate you.
If you are found to have been negligent, the claim may be unsuccessful. Examples of negligence would be improperly folding the stroller or not placing it in a storage bag despite the airline clearly stating so in its terms and conditions.
With the right guidance and information, flying with a stroller is a breeze. Just be sure to:
- Choose an airline with baby-friendly policies
- Read and adhere to the airline stroller policies
- Always check your stroller when it is wrapped in plastic/bubble wrap, packed in a box, or a good quality padded or waterproof stroller travel bag
- Invest in a lightweight, compact travel-friendly stroller
- Invest in a cheaper travel stroller and leave your pricier one at home
What has been your experience flying with a stroller? Got any other tips you would like to share? Let me know in the comments.