Travel System Stroller or Other Smaller?- Suggestions for Air Travel with Baby

Updated on March 31, 2008
H.J. asks from Austin, TX
14 answers

I have 3 trips planned while my daughter is between the ages of 5-6 months. I will be travelling on my own and am very nervous about travelling with an infant.
She does not have her own seat.

- Should I still try and bring her car seat onboard and gate check it? How does it work if there is an extra seat availble? Who do you ask about this?

- What is the best size stoller to bring? Is a large travel system stoller alright in the airport and to be gate checked or is it too big to go through security? Has anyone evry used the large Travel system stollers in the airport before?

- What is the best way to travel through the airport with a stoller, car seat and baby, plus diaper bag?

- Is it safe to check your car seat from the beginning? I am worried about damage to the car seat.

- Is a Window or ailse seat better?

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answers from Austin on

H. -
My daughter took 7 plane trips in her first year of life (all our family is out of state), so I have LOTS of advice! Feel free to pick and choose:

I always traveled with my travel system stroller and car seat. They go through security fine, and every airline I have flown have no problem gate checking both stroller and car seat. Pack sanitizing wipes to wipe down everything on the plane!

Checking in:
If there are extra seats on the plane, the airline will let you take your car seat on, even if you did not purchase a ticket. (In my experience, we got to take the extra seat about 60% of the time.) When you travel with an infant you have to go through the line to check in, you can't just print out your boarding pass at the kiosk. You can ask the attendent when you check in if there are extra seats, and they will tell you. Don't feel bad about asking, my experience is that they are very happy to accomodate you, whether or not you bought the extra seat. Have some proof of your child's age - they will take birth certificate or vaccine records. They usually don't start asking until the child is over a year old, but I did have one airline (Southwest) ask for my 6 month old.

Many airports will actually let you go to the front of the line if you have a stroller (Austin is NOT one of them), so look for a sign that will mark a seperate line for infants and wheelchairs. Going through is hectic, just remember to stay calm and don't get rushed. You will have to carry your baby through the metal dectector. Often the checkers will help set your stroller back up for you on the other side. You can bring as much baby food and formula you need, if you use it, but the bottles will have to be made ahead of time (you can't bring in bottled water for bottles). If you do bring it, just tell the bag checker that you have baby food in the bag.

On the plane:
You will need to stop at the gate and get check tags for your stroller and car seat. Then you just leave them right outside the plane door and they will bring them back up to you at your destination. Ususally the stroller is already out and ready for me when I get off the plane. Make sure you use the airport bathroom before you board. I didn't once, and realized in the air that I either had to hand my baby to a stranger to watch, or take her into the bathroom on the plane - not a good choice! If you do get an extra seat, the car seat has to go backwards in the seat next to the window. Otherwise it blocks people from getting out. If you do not have an extra seat I still like to seat next to the window, so if the baby is asleep I don't have to get up and down with her a lot. I have not found a preference on front or back of the plane. I try to sit next to people that appear to be traveling for pleasure, not business. The airline will not let you seat in rows with other lap babies, as there are not enough oxygen masks. Try to have your baby sucking on something during take off and landing, it helps with their ears. Bring lots of distracting devices, and if she takes a pacifier, bring multiple ones, as one will always fall on the floor.

I have tons more advice if you have any other questions - feel free to contact me!

Good luck, and congratulations on the little one!




answers from Austin on

I have traveled with my infant son too. I googled and researched it before hand. Go to they have some great tips. I would say definetly take a stroller and the car seat. Take a backpack so that your hands are free. I also learned how to properly strap in the car seat in an airline seat after looking online. Also tell the airline people at the gate that you would like to board first (with the older people). If you do this you have more time to get arranged. Good luck! :)



answers from Austin on

My 18-month-old has been on at half a dozen plane trips, including one to Mexico, which also required cars, ferries and golf carts to reach our final destination. Most of the trips I traveled solo with her. Between 5 and 6 months is the IDEAL age for a baby on a plane, in my experience. Here are my recommendations regarding your questions:
1. I've never purchased an extra seat, and before my daughter started walking, she was content to ride in my lap during the flight. If there was an extra seat, I usually used it for overflow space -- for example, to put the diaper bag and even to change a diaper once when the line was too long for the bathroom.
2. The system that worked best for me when I traveled alone was this: Get out of cab and set up stroller. Put car seat (w/baby strapped in) in stroller. Make sure brakes are set. Put all small bags on stroller. Pay cabbie. Grab large roller suitcase with right hand, stroller with left hand and simultaneously push stroller and pull roller bag, making myself into a small caravan of stroller, human and suitcase. People tend to move out of your way when they see you driving a short train. At sky cap (preferably), take baby out of car seat, take seat out of stroller, and put baby in stroller. Curb check the car seat (the porter will usually wrap it up in a heavy-duty plastic bag for you), and the large roller suitcase. Now you are left with baby in stroller, small bags on stroller, and you. Going through security is a little tricky because they will want you to put the stroller through the X-ray machine (without the baby in it). My big stroller was too big for this, so I usually pulled out bags and put them on the belt, half-undressed myself (don't wear a belt, jacket or shoes that tie, if at all possible), handed the stroller to security personnel, who visually inspect it and roll it around the screening equipment, and walked through the gates carrying baby. The still-intact stroller is handed to you on the other side, you put baby in, and retrieve all your goods from the belt. Whew. Almost there. When you get to your gate, tell the desk clerk you are gate-checking a stroller. They will put a tag on it. Then hang out until you board. Just before boarding, I would strap on the Baby Bjorn, strap in baby, put diaper bag on back (a backpack style is handy), and purse on shoulder. Then I would roll the stroller down the jetway, fold it up, and hand it to the airline baggage handler. So, to recap the equipment list: car seat, stroller, Baby Bjorn plus diaper bag, purse and suitcase. Car seat and suitcase are checked in at sky cap or inside the terminal, stroller is checked at gate.
2. My car seat and stroller were never damaged, although the car seat didn't show up in baggage claim on one trip. I borrowed a seat from the airline and mine was delivered later that night.
3. if you renting a car, you may consider renting a seat with it. We did this on a ski trip, and it was nice not to have to deal with it and our extra luggage. The rented car seat will be a cheapie, but it will meet minimum safety requirements.
4. Window is better on a short trip, aisle is better on a long one. You will be the one getting up most often.
5. Don't forget to put all of the diaper bag liquids in a separate baggie for security check -- Motrin/Tylenol, diaper cream, Purell, saline spray, etc. Bottles with formula or milk are exceptions to this rule. Speaking of feeding, I always carried expressed milk in an insulated bag when I was nursing her, but I also carried travel-size packs of Enfamil formula for back-up. They are pre-measured to make 4 oz, and were very handy.
Good luck!



answers from Austin on

I have done a lot of travelling with infants and toddlers. If you don't have a seat for her, I would suggest using a sling or bjorn and an umbrella stroller - the smallest you can manage. The less stuff you have, the easier it is to travel! The travel system may work if you need the car seat on the other end, but you will probably have to check it. I would try to get someone on the other end to loan you one. It might be cheaper to buy a cheap car seat at your destinaion than to pay the $50-$75 per extra item for the stroller and car seat if you have to check them as extra baggage. You will have to check with your airline for specifications, but be prepared to pay extra for everything at the check-in counter - they seem to change the rules at ever opportunity! One other item of advice if you are new to travelling with an infant - try to time feeding her with take-off to help her adjust to the pressure changes and noise. This can help their ears and keep them from crying.



answers from Austin on

We traveled for the first time with our son when he was four months old and it was not nearly as bad as we thought it was going to be. :) I would definitely take the carseat and stroller and check it at the jetway like most of the ladies are saying here. If you did not purchase a ticket for your baby, check with the agent where you check your own luggage first and then follow up with the agent at the gate itself. Just ask if they happen to have an extra seat - they're accustomed to the question. :) They will accommodate you if they have one. Personally, I would purchase the extra seat to keep her safer and more relaxed in her own car seat and not take a chance on the flight being full. My son slept so well on the plane in his carseat!

The stroller is nice to have in the airports to help carry other bags/purses as well. We've traveled once without the stroller and it made a huge difference in our own comfort level. When I've traveled alone with him, I do not take a carry on suitcase for myself. I just use whatever will fit in the stroller compartments because it makes things like going to the restroom and keeping up with everything so much easier.

As far as seat placement, some airlines (and I believe the FAA as well) have restrictions on which seat position the baby can sit in, so just ask when you get there. But you'll need an aisle for yourself as the other mom suggested.

Another bit of unsolicited advice -- give yourself PLENTY of time for error at the airport. If you think you need to be there an hour and a half early, make it two. Just having the extra time to get through security with your stroller, etc., will make it more bearable if you're not racing against the clock!

Good luck!



answers from Austin on

I have traveled alone several times with my infant. I don't have a travel system so I can't help there. Here is how I have handled it so far (she is 9 months) I use a large backpack as a diaper bag/purse, carry her in her carseat until security and then take her out to go through screening. If she is not fussy, I will put her back in the carseat. If she is then I just carry her and the carseat. I usually purchase a seat for her because the flights we take are about 5 hours and she is so wiggly and won't sleep if I hold her. When my DH flew with us he thought we could hold her so we did not purchase a ticket. We planned on gate checking the carseat. When we got to the GATE we asked if there were any available seats that we could put the carseat in. They were very nice and we were able to get a seat. If you end up getting a seat the carseat goes against the window (FAA regulations). I would put the seat in myself because most of the attendants I have come in contact with did not know how. They were very nice and were not offended when I corrected them. You CAN rear-face your carseat on an airplane. I would also suggest sitting in the back, you are closer to the bathrooms and galley if you need any hot water for a bottle. You also get to board first so it is not an issue getting on the plane. Remeber to have LO either nursing, drinking a bottle, or sucking on a pacifier on take-off and landing. It will really help with their ears. I have always had pleasant flights and it seems that everyone is so nice when you are traveling alone. Stay calm and have fun!



answers from Austin on

I travelled with my son a few times around the same age as well and was a little nervous at first, but it turned out to not be a big deal. I wore him in a sling or the Ergo Baby Carrier and that made it very simple, and would suggest it (but you have to take it off on the plane)

. We checked his carseat with Southwest and ExpressJet and had no problems with damage. They have large plastic bags to put them in, which is nice. I never travelled with a stroller, so I'm not sure about checking them. You might consider getting an inexpensive umbrella stroller that will fold up small.

I think an aisle seat might be better just because you'll have more elbow room and can get out of your seat easily. If the baby starts to cry, it can get claustrophobic pretty quick!

Most airlines preboard you if you have an infant, and they flight attendants have always been accomadating. If there were extra seats, we had free reign.



answers from Austin on

My husband and I traveled with our twins when they were 5 months, and I traveled solo with them when they were 17 months. The big stroller definitely helped with getting around. If you gate check it, they have it waiting for you at the gate when you land. When they were tiny, we just held them. But last time I bought tickets and it was great---they napped the whole time.

The flight attendants were very helpful and most people were understanding.

One thing---Southwest no longer lets families board first. You have to have an A boarding pass and board with the other passengers.



answers from Austin on

Hi H.,

I did a lot of traveling with my daughter when she was little. I would recommend you take the full-size stroller and the car seat with you through security and check them at the gate. That way you don't have to carry your little one and you can tote all you need with you. If there is an empty seat on the plane, at least you'll have your carseat with you to take advantage.

It's a bit of a juggle getting through security, but not impossible. Just go slow and stay calm.

The large strollers go through the x-ray machine just fine. Be sure to put it wheels up. Then, take baby out of carseat, put it face down on belt, and walk through the machine with her. FYI -- If you put shoes on your daughter, they'll make you take them off too (can you believe that?!?!)

My best advice, however, would be to smile at everyone and not to let any dirty looks make you nervous. You should expect things to take a little longer and everyone else should give you a break. These days, though, there are lots of grumpy people in airports. Ignore them all.



answers from Austin on

Hi H. --

I'm a mom of 5-year-old twins & a 5 month old. When the twins were about your daughter's age, we took them to New York (and then to Paris when they were 9 months old). Depending on your destination, you may not need an infant car seat. We decided that since we weren't going to be in a car very much, we'd leave them at home. Instead, we just bought small, umbrella strollers. The best one I ever bought is a MacLaren that folds small & has a shoulder strap for carrying when it's collapsed. It's expensive, but SO WORTH IT! If you do need your infant car seat, check it with your luggage. Ask for a plastic bag to put it in so it doesn't get dirty (not all airlines have them, so you may want to bring your own).

Remember that since you're travelling alone, you'll want to limit what you have to carry. Combine your diaper bag, purse & carry on into one bag. I use a back pack so my arms are free.

Definitely aisle seat...makes for an easy get away when you need to go on a stroll or change a diaper.

A few more tips I learned along the way:

- Don't forget the Benadryl! Ask your pediatrician for the appropriate amount.
- Have a bottle on hand for take offs & landings. The swallowing helps the baby's ears "pop".
- Bring a change of clothes for your baby AND yourself. Never fails that a baby will throw up on your when you don't have extra clothes handy.
- Bring a pacifier, favorite toy, or whatever your baby uses to soothe herself.
- Bring an oversized diaper changing pad. I've been on one plane that had a changing station in the lavatory. The rest of the time I end up on the floor in the galley changing diapers.
- Bring warm water in a small thermos (I have the 16-oz kid that commuters use for coffee) to mix formula. You'd think it wouldn't be so hard to heat up a bottle on a plane, but trust me it is.

Good luck with your trip! And remember to ask for help along the'll always find someone who is willing to hold a baby while you open/close the stroller, etc.




answers from Austin on

Hi H.,

I have traveled with my kiddos when they were babies - I sucked it up and bought them seats - that way I could put them in their carseat. They were in a familiar chair, and safe (And I didnt have their little wiggly bottoms on me for the entire flight).

Have fun on your trips!




answers from Austin on

We live in Costa Rica, so we are travelling often with our baby. Definitely gate check the car seat and stroller--if you check it from the beginning it's much more likely to get damaged by rough handling. We took our travel system stroller & car seat this last time and had no trouble gate checking it, or if you have a "Snap 'n Go" frame for your car seat, it's smaller and easier to fold up. You can ask the gate agent if there are extra seats when you get to the gate. If there are, then you can take your car seat on the plane. Otherwise, you will gate check it when you get to the end of the jetway. I prefer an aisle seat in case I need to walk the baby around if he gets fussy. Best of luck to you!!!



answers from Austin on


My just now 2 year old and i have have over twenty trips, just teh two of us since she was 6 weeks old. she's a frequest flyer for sure!
a few tips;
at this age - no stroller in teh airport. too clumsy to put thru security. i always put her in a snuggly of baby bjorn and loved it. kept her close to me and kept my hands free, which is most important.
always check the car seat with luggage. get a car seat cover at babies R Us for $10. you can even store extra diapers or blankets in teh carseat cover bag - put inside another bag for cleanliness just in case.
if you can combine her diaper bag with your carry on that would be ideal. backpack works great.
again, the less you ahve to carry/handle while traveling teh better.
window preferred so she can rest undisturbed when she falls asleep - hopefully.
bring plenty of bottles/liquids.
make sure she has on for take off but watch for long taxis. don't let her finish the bottle before you actually take off. the sucking will pop her ears adn keep her from getting distressed.
bring extra water/joice/milk bottles. you need more than you think! same with food -
most important- you being calm is the best thing for her. make it a positive exciting adventure and she will do teh same.
good luck abnd enjoy!



answers from Austin on

Hi! I've traveled a ton with my baby and you check your carseat in normally bacause they are not going to give you a seat to put it on. We like to put a huge garbage bag around it so it doesn't get dirty. Then you want a small stroller you can fold up with one hand at the gate--I love my jeep fold up because it has better wheels than the really cheap ones but it's really light and easy to use. Another option is a baby carrier like the Baby Björn which I've also used because then your hands are free if you've got luggage to pull. Have tons of new and interesting toys she's never seen, random stuff from the dollar store works well for us! Good luck! Oh, you totally want an aisle seat as you'll want the option to walk the aisles.

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