Flying with kids and their bulky items can be troublesome. Strollers, baby capsules, car seats and travel portacots are heavy and may even cost you an excess luggage allowance penalty. Here are some family travel tips about what to expect if you are planning to arrive at the airport with more than just one suitcase and how to (almost) guarantee that it all arrives safely in one piece.
Bag It Whenever You Can
If you have a travel bag to store and transport your travel stroller or bulky item, use it before you hand it over to the airline. Airlines are not careful with expensive baby items and straps, clips and wheels can easily get snapped or broken off during transport. The safest way to ensure your oversized luggage for kids arrives in one piece is to use the official carrier bag created by the brand or to purchase something similar.
If you don’t have a bag, most airlines will provide a giant plastic bag for you. Sometimes it is even a requirement that you use the plastic bag but that doesn’t mean it will be provided free. Don’t be surprised if the airline still wants to charge you for the privilege.
If you have a very expensive stroller, it is worth double checking your family travel insurance policy to find out what will or will not be covered or otherwise purchasing a cheaper and more compact travel stroller that won’t be so missed if it is damaged or lost.
[For more travel tips on purchasing family travel insurance, see the suitcases&strollers story here.]
Before you say goodbye to your items, make sure any extraneous items (clip on toys, hoods, baskets) have been removed and that any straps are tucked in so they cannot get caught on anything in the transport process.
[For more travel tips on family-friendly airlines, see the suitcases&strollers story Family Friendly Airlines Compared.]
Don’t Check It In
This applies to strollers more than any other oversized luggage for kids, but if the airline will allow you to bring the stroller all the way to the gate, do it. It’s logical to assume that baggage handlers are more likely to treat your travel stroller with a little more care if you are standing right there looking at them versus the anonymity of throwing it on to a conveyor belt.
Taking your stroller right up to the gate also gives you a useful vehicle to wheel around the airport whether it be for naptimes, as an impromptude high chair during meals or just to push around all the carry on luggage.
Use Your Car Seat On Board
Airlines all have different policies about whether they will allow the use of car seats on the plane; not every airline allows it so check the official website before you plan around this. Not every type of car seat is suitable for plane journeys either; look for the sticker of approval on the seat itself or inside the manual.
Car seats on planes are certainly safer for children that relying on the lap belts provided (to read more about car seats for kids, see the suitcases&strollers interview with a car safety expert here).
However there are certain practicalities you should consider. Firstly, you will be required to purchase a seat for the child regardless of their age (most airlines do not require infants under 2 years old to have a seat) which can be a considerable extra cost.
Secondly, if you can manage to get the car seat onboard, you will still have to carry it around with you everywhere before and afterwards. Unless you buy a special car seat that also doubles as a stroller, this could be quite inconvenient especially as many airports do not have luggage trolleys inside security.
The flip side is that choosing not to check in your car seat means you will know exactly the condition it has been transported in. This minimises the risk of damage to this essential safety equipment.
Do Your Research About the Airline’s Luggage Allowances For Kids
Airlines are not required to allow you to bring your travel stroller, car seat or other oversized baggage for kids on to the plane for free – it all depends on individual airline policies so do your research about what you are entiteld to before you leave home (usually even babies without a full fare will still get some sort of free luggage allowance).
As a general rule, most airlines are quite reasonable and will allow at least one piece of oversized luggage per child. This can be a car seat, stroller or any other piece of kiddy equipment you want. (We know families who have checked in baby walkers without any problem.) However if you want to check in a car seat and a stroller, this is where you might run into difficulty.
Budget airlines tend to be very pedantic about luggage allowances so the chances are you will have to pay a penalty if you want to check in two or more oversized items for kids. Mid tier and elite airlines can be more reasonable (for instance if you have two kids, two car seats and one stroller they might allow this without an excess luggage fee). Ultimately, it all depends on who you are lucky (or unlucky) enough to have at the check in counter that day as to what you can or cannot get away with.
Do note that some airlines will even consider a detachable baby capsule and it’s base to count as two separate items – and charge you a penalty as a result.