When you’re traveling with kids, it’s not easy to decide whether to check your stroller or car seat. If you have an infant, you may want to keep that massive double stroller with you until you get to the gate. Or, you may feel comfortable carrying the baby in your ErgoBaby carrier and leaving your hands free to deal with other things at the airport.
Whichever option you pick, you still need to know how to gate check your car seat or stroller. 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 as 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.
The downside is, if they get lost, you are out of luck. However, many airlines have car seats you can grab if you lose yours in transit.
IT’S FREE TO CHECK Strollers and car seats at the airport with your bags!
If you want to check your car seat, I recommend placing it in a car seat bag. This protects your car seat on a plane and also gives you a little extra space. You can 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. I know that when I leave my stroller at the gate it is getting on my plane, not someone else’s.
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’s better to bring it through the airport and check it at the gate.
However, dragging a heavy car seat across an airport isn’t fun. After our kids were no longer in the infant stage, we started checking our larger car seat with our luggage. We simply grab it from baggage claim when we land at our final destination. We haven’t had a problem yet.
Get a Gate Tag
Just as you have to check your roller bag on a plane if the overhead is full, you’ll have to ask the gate agent for tags to take your stroller and car seat on a plane. Simply bring your tickets up to the gate agent to request your tags. He or she will know what to do.
Once your items are tagged, drop them at the bottom of the jetway before you board the plane. An airport worker will grab your gear and bring it directly to the cargo hold.
Pick your stroller and car seat up at the same place when you arrive at your destination.
Carry it on
Depending on the type of car seat you have, you may be able to carry your car seat on your plane. Please check with the gate agent first and make sure your car seat documentation is FAA compliant.
Keep in mind that carrying your car seat on a plane is only possible if you bought a seat for your child. If your child is a lap infant, you’ll have to gate check your car seat no matter how many empty seats you think are on the flight. You’ll be asked to put your car seat in the window seat, so prepare any older children ahead of time.
In general flight attendants will not let you carry a stroller onto your flight. In theory, a tiny umbrella stroller fits in the overhead compartment, but more often than not you’ll have to check your stroller at the gate.
Airport crowd image via ShutterStock.com