Flying with a Stroller: Complete Q&A Guide

Published September 13, 2020

Flying with a stroller and wondering what to do? This comprehensive, easy to read Q&A guide is here to help. Answers to all your important questions about flying with a stroller, including whether you need a stroller travel bag, if you can take a stroller on a plane, and what happens when you gate check your stroller.

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The first time flying with your stroller can be stressful, especially since it’s probably your first time flying with a baby, too. Sure, you’d like to keep your stroller with you, but can you really take a stroller on a plane? And if not, what are you supposed to do with it?

No worries, I’ve got you covered with this essential guide. Here you’ll find answers to your most important questions about flying with a stroller. Learn how to get your stroller through security, which airlines allow strollers on board, and how to gate check your stroller. After this, you’ll be flying with your stroller like a pro. Now all you have to do is figure out how to keep your baby happy on a plane.

Flying with a Stroller: Answers to 20+ Frequently Asked Questions

Safety and Security When Flying with a Stroller

Can I bring a stroller through airport security?

You can bring a stroller through airport security. Small strollers are screened via the X-ray machine and you must fold your stroller before placing it on the X-ray conveyor belt. TSA policy states that strollers too large to fit into the X-ray machine are set aside by security and examined by hand.

Do strollers get damaged on airplanes?

Strollers do get damaged on airplanes, though there are no statistics on how often this happens. Most strollers are carried in the luggage hold with passengers’ checked bags, so can be wedged between or crushed by heavier luggage. Possible damage to strollers includes scratches on the frame, tears or stains in the fabric and bent or broken frames and wheels.

Are airlines responsible for damage to strollers?

Per US Department of Transportation regulations, once an airline takes possession of a stroller, it’s responsible for any damages incurred. Whether you give the stroller to an airline employee or a baggage handler, once the airline has control of the stroller, the airline becomes responsible for damages.

However, airlines are legally allowed to exclude certain items from this liability. You’ll have to read your airline’s policy to see if strollers are excluded. For example, Southwest Airlines clearly states it’s not responsible for damage to strollers or car seats.

What do I do if my stroller is damaged?

For strollers damaged in transit, the first thing to do (if you haven’t already) is check your airline’s stroller policy. If the airline excludes liability for strollers, then there’s nothing you can do.

If your airline doesn’t exclude strollers, you can file a claim to be reimbursed for the damage. Policies on filing a claim vary by airline, but most want you to file right away.

How to file a claim for a damaged stroller

First, go to the airline’s office in the baggage claim area at your destination airport. There, you can fill out a form describing how your stroller was damaged. You may also be asked questions about the value of the stroller and whether the damage renders your stroller unusable.

Second, follow up on your claim. You should be given instructions on how to do this when you file your initial paperwork. Typically, you’ll need to fill out and submit more forms, as well as documentation. You may be asked to submit a receipt showing you actually bought and own the stroller, as well as proof you checked the stroller with the airline on the day you traveled. You may also be asked to submit photos of the damage.

Third, wait. It can take weeks, or even months, to hear if your claim for damages is approved or rejected. You can call the airline if it’s been a while, but you’ll really need to exercise some patience here.

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A padded stroller bag is the best way to protect your stroller when flying.

How do I protect my stroller when flying?

When you check your stroller, it becomes luggage in the eyes of the airline and the baggage handlers. So, the best way to protect your stroller when flying is to buy a stroller travel bag.

Features to look for in a stroller travel bag

I recommend a padded stroller bag with handles. In other words, a bag that looks like luggage, because that’s how it’ll be treated.

Many stroller bags are little more than big polyester sacks with a drawstring top. Those may keep your stroller from getting dirty, but won’t protect your stroller from getting damaged.

Instead, choose a stroller bag that looks like a soft-sided suitcase. Handles on the top and side are a great feature, since they make it easier for baggage handlers to grab and move your bag.

Many stroller manufacturers make travel bags specifically designed to fit their strollers. Those are great, but can be pricey. You can also find “universal” stroller bags that claim to fit multiple brands of strollers. These tend to be less expensive, but check the measurements to make sure your stroller will fit.

How to pack your stroller travel bag

Before you begin packing your stroller, first refer to the owner’s manuals for both your stroller and your travel bag. The manuals should state whether the wheels need to be removed before packing the stroller.

If either of the manuals suggests removing the wheels, you should. Yes, I know it’s a hassle. But a sure way to bust the zipper on your stroller bag is to stuff the stroller into the bag with the wheels on, when they’re supposed to be removed first.

Then you should remove anything else that may prevent the stroller from folding properly and fitting in the bag. This includes cup holders, snack trays, parent organizers that hang from the handlebar, and stroller hooks.

Now you can fold the stroller and place it in the bag. Next, pack the wheels and any accessories, if they fit. You may want to wrap these in plastic bags to prevent them from rubbing up against the stroller frame and leaving scuff marks.

If you have additional room in your stroller bag, you should add some extra padding. Use items you plan to take on your trip, like a stroller blanket, stuffed animals or coats. Not only does this better protect your stroller, but it makes some extra room in your other luggage.

Airline Policies on Flying with a Stroller

Can I take a stroller on a plane?

Yes, you can take a stroller on an airplane. To be carried aboard a plane, most airlines require strollers fold small enough to meet carry-on size requirements. You can find a table of airline stroller policies and carry-on requirements later in this post.

As shown in the table, stroller policies vary, so always check with your particular airline first. While most airlines don’t outright prohibit strollers on board, many discourage the practice, to save space in overhead bins for passenger luggage.

What size stroller can I take on a plane?

If your airline allows it, you can bring a stroller with folded dimensions of no more than 22″x14″x9″ onto the plane. That’s the typical carry-on size limit for US domestic airlines. This ensures your stroller will fit in the plane’s overhead bin.

Most strollers don’t fold compactly enough to meet the carry-on size requirement. In my research, I found only United Airlines has a list of compact folding strollers approved for carry-on use.

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Check your airline’s carry on policy before flying with a stroller.

Does a stroller count as a carry-on?

Most airlines will count your stroller as a carry-on. However, there’s no common policy on this, so you really need to check with your airline.

For example, American Airlines and United Airlines don’t count strollers against your carry-on allowance, provided the stroller meets the airline’s carry-on size requirements.

On the other hand, Hawaiian Airlines specifically states that strollers meeting carry-on size requirements brought aboard the plane will count towards your carry-on limit.

And Delta states that strollers meeting carry-on size requirements brought on the plane will not be charged a fee, but doesn’t state whether the stroller will count toward the passenger’s carry-on bag allowance.

Do airlines charge for strollers?

Airlines typically don’t charge for strollers. All major US domestic airlines allow you to check your stroller for free.

Some airlines allow you to check one stroller per ticketed passenger, while others allow you to check one stroller per child traveling with you. The airline policies summary table below states which airlines follow the per passenger and per child rules.

A few airlines, like Allegiant and Frontier, allow passengers to bring only one personal item on the plane. If you want to bring a carry-on bag, you have to pay a fee. You can check your stroller for free with each airline, but will likely be charged the carry-on fee to bring your stroller aboard.

Stroller Policies for 10 Popular Domestic Airlines

(current as of September 2020, but always check with your airline first)

AirlineStroller PolicyCarry-on Policy
AlaskaStrollers fly free as checked baggage. You can check your stroller at the ticket counter or at the gate prior to boarding the plane.1 carry-on bag and one personal item (purse, briefcase or laptop bag) fly free. Carry-on bag must not exceed 22″x14″x9.”
AllegiantStrollers fly free as checked baggage, one stroller per fare-paying customer. Strollers can be checked at the ticket counter or at the gate prior to boarding.1 free personal item, not to exceed 7″x15″16.” One carry-on item for a fee. Carry-on item must not exceed 22″x9″x14.”
AmericanStrollers fly free as checked baggage, one stroller per fare-paying customer. Lightweight strollers can be checked at the ticket counter or at the gate prior to boarding. All strollers over 20 pounds must be checked at the ticket counter.1 personal item and one carry-on fly free. Personal item must not exceed 18″x14″x8.” Carry-on item should not exceed 22″x9″x14.” Strollers do not count against personal item or carry-on limits.
DeltaStrollers fly free as checked baggage. Strollers can be checked with a curbside agent, at the ticket counter, or at the gate prior to boarding. Strollers brought aboard fly free.1 personal item (purse, briefcase, small backpack, diaper bag) and on carry-on fly free. Carry-on item cannot exceed 22″x9″x14.”
FrontierStrollers fly free as checked baggage.1 personal item flies free. Personal item must not exceed 18″x14″x8.” 1 carry-on item for a fee. Carry-on must not exceed 24″x16″x10″ and weigh less than 35 pounds.
HawaiianStrollers fly free as checked baggage. Strollers can be checked at the ticket counter or at the gate prior to boarding. Strollers that meet the carry-on bag size requirements can be brought aboard the airplane and will count toward the carry-on allowance. Strollers that do not fold/collapse and/or that weigh more than 50 pounds must be checked.1 personal item and 1 carry-on fly free. Personal item must fit beneath the seat in front of you. Carry-on bag must not exceed 22’x14″x9″ and weigh less than 25 pounds.
JetBlueStrollers fly free and do not count toward checked bag or carry-on allowances. You can check strollers at the ticket counter or at the gate prior to boarding.1 free personal item and 1 free carry-on. Personal item must not exceed 17’x13″x8″ and carry-on bag must not exceed 22″x14″x9.”
SpiritOne stroller per child can be checked for free. Stroller can be checked at the counter or at the gate prior to boarding. In some cases, strollers can be carried aboard free of charge.1 free personal item, not exceed 18″x14x8.” 1 carry on bag, not to exceed 22″x18″x10,” for a fee.
SouthwestOne stroller per child can be checked for free. Stroller can be checked with a curbside agent, at the ticket counter, or at the gate prior to boarding. Southwest assumes no liability for strollers damaged in transit.1 free personal item and 1 free carry-on. Personal item must not exceed 18.5″x8.5″x13.5.” Carry-on must not exceed 10″x16″x24.”
UnitedStrollers fly free as checked baggage. Large strollers and non-folding strollers must be checked in at the ticket counter. Lightweight, folding strollers can be checked at the gate prior to boarding. Strollers that fold down enough meet carry-on size requirements can be brought aboard the airplane and do not count toward carry-on allowance.1 free personal item and 1 free carry-on bag. Personal item must not exceed 17″x10″x9.” Carry-on bag must not exceed 22″x14″x9.”

Do airlines allow double strollers?

Yes, airlines allow double strollers, but they have to be checked and stored in the luggage hold. That’s because no double stroller folds compactly enough to meet airline carry-on size requirements.

Can you put a stroller in checked luggage?

Yes, you can put a stroller in checked luggage. If you don’t have a stroller travel bag, you may want to pack your stroller in a suitcase to protect it during flight.

However, while all major airlines allow you to check strollers for free, airlines may treat a suitcase containing a stroller as regular checked luggage (since you’re checking the bag, not the stroller itself). So, the suitcase containing the stroller will count toward your checked bag allowance.

Some airlines allow you to check a certain number of bags for free, while others charge a fee for each checked bag. Understand your airline’s policy on checked bags.

If your airline is likely to charge for a stroller packed in a suitcase, a better option may be to gate check your stroller. All major US airlines allow you to gate check a stroller for free. You can learn more about gate checking a stroller later in this post.

Are strollers allowed on international flights?

In many cases, yes, strollers are allowed aboard international flights. However, some international airlines don’t allow strollers in the cabin at all, not even stored in the overhead bin.

For example, Aer Lingus and Air Canada both specifically state that strollers must be checked before boarding the aircraft. On the other hand, British Airways and Air France both have detailed explanations of which types of strollers can be carried on board.

The table below summarizes stroller policies for some popular international airlines. If you need to bring a stroller when traveling internationally, be sure to check with your airline about stroller policies.

Also know that some international airports don’t allow personal strollers to be taken to the airplane boarding door. These include London Heathrow, Copenhagen, and Rome, among others. In those cases, you’ll need to check your stroller with your other luggage when entering the airport. If you’re unsure, ask your airline if the airports you’ll be traveling through allow strollers.

Stroller Policies for 10 Popular International Airlines

(current as of September 2020, but always check with your airline first)

AirlineStroller Policy
Aer LingusOne stroller is allowed per child booking. Strollers cannot be brought aboard the aircraft. Strollers can be checked in at the ticket counter or at the gate prior to boarding, if airport rules allow.
Air CanadaOne stroller per child in the traveling party. Strollers fly free and do not count toward your checked bag allowance. Small strollers not exceeding 36″ in length and 10″ in diameter when folded can be checked at the baggage counter or at the gate prior to boarding, if airport rules allow. Large strollers must be checked at the baggage counter.
Air FranceSmall foldable strollers are allowed on board. Stroller size can’t exceed 5.9″x11.8″x39.4″. Strollers brought aboard must be in a carrying case that fully covers stroller. Larger strollers must be checked; there is no fee for checking a stroller.
British AirwaysSmall strollers are allowed as carry-ons if they meet carry-on bag size limits when folded (18″x14″x8″). Carry-on strollers must be placed in a case or bag. If you carry-on a stroller, it will count against your carry-on bag allowance.

Large strollers, double strollers and multi-piece strollers must be checked at either the baggage counter or at the gate prior to boarding, if airport rules allow.
EasyJetTwo baby gear items (stroller, car seat, booster seat, etc) per child in the traveling party. These items fly free, but must be checked. If airport rules allow, strollers can be used until just before boarding, when they will be placed in the luggage hold.
IberiaStrollers can be checked at the ticket counter or brought aboard the aircraft, if airport rules allow. If you take the stroller to the aircraft door, it must be brought on board – there is no gate checking. If there is not enough space on board for the stroller, airline staff will place it in the luggage hold. If this happens, the stroller may be treated as checked luggage, and will not be available for pickup at the gate upon landing.
LufthansaStrollers fly free and can be used until boarding the aircraft, if airport rules allow. Strollers will be gate checked at the aircraft door and placed in the luggage hold. They may be available for pickup at the gate after your flight or at the baggage claim, depending on airport rules.
KLMStrollers fly free and can be brought aboard the aircraft, provided they fold to no more than 6″x12″x39.” If there is no room for the stroller in the overhead bins, it will be placed in the luggage hold. At most airports, smaller strollers can be gate checked prior to boarding. Large strollers and double strollers must be checked at the ticket or baggage counter.
RyanAir2 free baby gear items (strollers, car seat, etc) per child in the traveling party. Strollers are not allowed on board and must be checked. Strollers can be checked at the ticket or baggage counter when entering the airport, or at the gate prior to boarding, if airport rules allow.
WestJetStrollers fly free of charge, but must be checked prior to boarding the aircraft. You can check your stroller at the ticket or baggage counter, or at your departure gate.

I admit, this list is very Europe focused. I’m located in the United States and European countries are the top destinations for US travelers. If you’re planning a family trip to Europe, you might want to check out my post on the best strollers for European travel. It features lightweight, easy to fold strollers well-suited for traveling.

Are baby strollers allowed in flight?

No. While you may take a stroller aboard a plane, it must stay stored in the overhead bin for the duration of your flight. Wheeling a fussy baby up and down the plane aisle may be tempting, but you won’t be allowed to use your stroller while the plane is airborne.

Gate Checking When Flying with a Stroller

What does it mean to gate check a stroller?

Gate checking a stroller means checking the stroller at your departure gate just before boarding the airplane, rather than at the ticket or baggage counter upon arrival at the airport.

Gate checking allows you to use your stroller throughout the airport, without having to worry about fitting it on board once your flight is ready to depart.

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Get ticket(s) to gate check your stroller at your departure gate.

How do you gate check a stroller?

To gate check a stroller, first go to your departure gate. There should be a desk or counter there. Depending on how early you arrive for your flight, the counter may not be staffed. If there are no airline staff at the counter, wait until closer to your departure time.

Once airline staff are available, tell them you’d like to gate check your stroller. They’ll give you a ticket to place on your stroller. The ticket may have space for you to write information like your name, your flight number and your destination airport. If so, you should fill this out.

Tip: It’s possible the gate agent will print out the ticket. If so, they’ll ask a few questions, such as your name and your final destination. They may also ask you to sign a waiver releasing the airline from liability if your stroller is damaged. Once they print the ticket, they’ll place it on the stroller for you.

The ticket will have stub that you can tear off. This stub contains the ticket number and is proof that you gate checked the stroller. Be sure to tear off this stub and keep it with you.

Once you’ve got your ticket, prep your stroller for gate checking. You should fold your stroller and lock it. If your stroller doesn’t lock when folded, you should wrap a luggage strap around the stroller to make sure it stays closed.

If you don’t have a stroller bag, then you should attach your gate check ticket to the stroller frame, somewhere it will be easy to see. If you do have a stroller bag, then pack your stroller and attach the gate check ticket to the handle of the bag.

Then, you’ll drop off your stroller at the end of the jet bridge just prior to boarding the plane. You’ll probably see other strollers in the drop off area, and possibly some wheelchairs and large luggage, too.

What happens when you gate check a stroller?

Once your stroller is ready and waiting in the drop off area, it’ll be picked up by a bag handler and stored in the luggage hold during your flight. It’ll be among the last items loaded into the luggage hold, so should be one of the first items unloaded when the plane lands.

Where do I pick up my gate checked stroller?

In the US, you can usually pick up a gate checked stroller just outside the airplane door, in the same area where you dropped it off prior to boarding.

If you’re one of the first people off the plane, you may have to wait for the stroller to be brought up from the luggage hold. Otherwise, it should be waiting there for you when you depart the plane.

If you’re flying internationally, you should ask airline staff where to pick up your stroller. Different airports have different procedures. At some airports, strollers are delivered to the arrival gate, so you collect your stroller when entering the airport. At others, all strollers are delivered to the baggage claim area, even if they were gate checked.

Do I need a bag to gate check my stroller?

You don’t need a bag to gate check a stroller. As mentioned earlier, a padded bag may prevent damage to your stroller in flight, especially if it ends up in the cargo hold. A lightweight sack may prevent your stroller from getting dirty or scuffed. Neither of these kinds of bags is required for gate checking a stroller, though.

Can you gate check a double stroller?

You can gate check a double stroller. If the stroller has multiple pieces, you will have to separate them and get a gate check tag for each piece.

For example, the Zoe XL+1 tandem stroller has a front seat that simply snaps onto the stroller frame. To gate check this stroller, you’d need to separate the seats and get a gate check tag for each one, since these are considered two separate items.

Tip: the same goes for multi-piece single strollers. Suppose your stroller fits a car seat. If you don’t plan to use the car seat on the plane, you’ll need to check both items. You should detach the car seat from the stroller and attach a unique gate check tag to each item.

Is it safe to gate check a stroller?

It’s safe to gate check a stroller. A gate checked stroller can get damaged while in the luggage hold, but that would be true if you had checked the stroller at the baggage counter, too. Packing the stroller in a good quality travel bag can help prevent this.

It’s very unlikely for a gate checked stroller to be lost, since gate checked items are loaded directly from the jet bridge into the luggage hold. If you can’t find your stroller when exiting the plane, ask if it was delivered to the arrival gate or baggage claim. It’s also possible another passenger may accidentally pick up your stroller instead of their own, but that situation is likely to be resolved quickly.

Should I gate check my stroller?

There are a lot of benefits to gate checking a stroller, the biggest being that you can use the stroller in the airport prior to your departure. At the same time, traveling with a stroller can also be a pain. You’ll have to fold and unfold your stroller a lot, plus worry about it getting lost, damaged or broken. You’ll have to weigh the pros and cons for yourself.

The truth is, you may not have much choice about gate checking your stroller. There are very few strollers on the market that fit in airplane overhead bins. And even if you buy one of these strollers, that’s no guarantee you’ll be able to take it on the plane. If the overhead bins are full, you’ll have to gate check the stroller, even though it meets carry-on size requirements.

If keeping your stroller with you is very important, then be sure to buy a compact stroller that can fold small enough to fit in the overhead bin or under the seat in front of you. Make sure you understand your airline’s carry-on policies to know whether the stroller counts toward your baggage allowance. And try to board the plane as early as possible, while there’s still plenty of space in the overhead bins.

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Don’t stress (much) about flying with a stroller. Focus on enjoying your trip.

Conclusion

I hope this Q&A guide to flying with a stroller has been helpful. Traveling with a baby can be stressful, particularly if it’s your first time traveling with baby gear, too.

I know this guide is long, but please don’t stress too much about flying with a stroller. Yes, your stroller can get damaged, but it’s rare that the damage renders a stroller unusable. It’s also rare that a stroller, especially when gate checked, gets lost.

As with any trip, once you leave home, you just have to roll with things. Do the best you can to protect your stroller when flying, then remember the most important thing is that everyone makes it to your destination safely.

Happy travels!