Strollers – Yes! Yes, and yes! The most common question I hear people debating is what stroller to use and when to check it. I know some people travel with the smallest, lightest, easiest umbrella stroller they can find. I’m not going to say this is a bad idea, it certainly does have some upsides; but it’s not the direction we have gone in. We started with a jogging stroller because we lived in the city and walked everywhere. We didn’t use a stroller for travel when she was very small. Once she got a little bigger though we needed something that could be easily put in and out of the car, (on the rare occasion we used the car), but mostly something that would be good for travel. We had thought an umbrella stroller would be the answer to this stroller quest but we moved away from that after doing some research. We went with a Baby Jogger City Mini; clearly bigger and heavier, but actually easier to fold then an umbrella stroller. It was the folding that sold us on it! The pluses that an umbrella stroller can’t give you are: a nearly flat recline, it’s basically a rolling bed, nap time can happen anywhere; and a massive canopy. It’s also a much more versatile stroller for uneven terrain or cobblestone and has a one handed push. Not to mention unlike an umbrella stroller it has a huge basket underneath for storage of everything. – In summary, I don’t recommend getting a new stroller for traveling if you already have a reasonable portable stroller. You should use what you are comfortable with. I just shared what worked for us so you know there are options other than the umbrella stroller.
Next issue, when to give the stroller up in the airport. As far as I’m concerned – at the last possible moment! Each airline is different so check the fine print, but strollers are usually free and can be checked at the baggage check or at the gate. Even in a small airport when it might be easier to check the stroller with baggage so you don’t have to go through security with it I recommend keeping it and this is why. What if you have a massive delay or are stuck overnight, would you want the stroller then? The 3 times I’ve been stuck in an airport overnight have been after our bags were checked; we were left with just our carry-ons for the night. In that case or even if it’s just a long delay I’m going to want to have that stroller to keep my toddler confined if need be, and hopefully to let them sleep in. – I always keep my stroller until the very last minute.
When we do eventually gate check we use a cheap generic “gate check bag” such as this for the baby jogger and this for our infant click and go umbrella stroller. It protects the stroller somewhat from handling, but mostly keeps it clean! Also, we have not encountered this, but the strollers do go outside from the jetway to the airplane and back, so in the event of rain it would help keep it dry. For the price is has been well worth it, we are on our 3rd so far and every time we get the stroller back with a rip in the bag I’m just happy we used the bag and didn’t have a rib in the stroller fabric.
Note: When flying domestically, after gate checking a stroller you usually pick it up on the jetway when exiting the plane. When flying internationally, you often times will not pick it up until baggage claim, and if you have a connecting flight there may be some other location you need to go to collect it. Policies about where strollers are retrieved after your flight are not based on the airline but normally are controlled by the airport itself – which can cause great confusion.
Next week carry-ons! Stay tune!