Does a Stroller Count as a Carry-On? And Other Questions About Traveling With a Baby

If you haven’t already learned, babies come with a lot of baggage. Diapers, wipes, toys, clothes, bottles, baby carrier, baby stroller and car seat – it’s like a never-ending packing list if you’re traveling with a baby. Thankfully, airlines understand that flying with kids is hard, which is why they try their best to accommodate families. As such, they allow parents to bring the most necessary baby items along with them – many even for free! 

So if you’ve been wondering if strollers and other baby gear count as carry-ons or if you can bring formula on the plane, here are the answers to those and other commonly asked questions about flying with a baby.

Does a stroller count as a carry-on? 

Strollers are considered special items or assistive devices, so they typically don’t count toward your carry-on baggage allowance and fly for free.

 

Airline Count as a carry-on? Free or fee? Where can it be checked? Does size or type matter?
Air Canada No Free Ticket counter or boarding gate Recommends collapsible umbrella strollers. Large strollers may not be taken if aircraft space is limited.
Alaska Airlines No Free Ticket counter or boarding gate No
American Airlines No Free >20 lbs. checked at ticket counter; other strollers checked at gate No
Delta No Free Curbside, ticket counter or boarding gate No
Frontier No Free Boarding gate No
JetBlue No Free Ticket counter or boarding gate No
Southwest No Free Curbside, ticket counter or boarding gate No
United Airlines No Free Compact folding strollers that meet size guidelines allowed on board; others checked at ticket counter or boarding gate No

Air Canada

Air Canada lets you bring one stroller for each child you’re traveling with in addition to your carry-on and checked luggage allowance for free. This airline does highly recommend small, collapsible umbrella strollers – with a maximum collapsed diameter of 10 in. and a maximum length of 36 in. – that you can check at the baggage counter or boarding gate. Large, heavy strollers have to be checked at the baggage counter, and their website states that if space is limited, the aircraft may not be able to accommodate your stroller.

Alaska Airlines

You can check a stroller and child restraint system for free as part of your checked baggage at the ticket counter or at the gate.

American Airlines

Each ticketed passenger can bring one stroller and one car seat to be checked for free. However, you can’t check a car seat and a stroller at the gate. One will have to be checked at the ticket counter. Strollers weighing more than 20 lbs. must be checked at the ticket counter. All other strollers can be checked at the gate.

Delta

Children’s strollers and safety seats aren’t counted as standard baggage. You can check both for free before you go through security at the curbside or ticket counter, or you can check them at the gate.

Frontier

A stroller and a car seat can be checked for free with Frontier. You can check both at the ticket counter or gate.

JetBlue

Strollers and car seats don’t count as a carry-on or checked bag allowance. JetBlue lets you check them for free right when you get to the airport or at the gate at the jet bridge. According to JetBlue’s website, “strollers are not covered for damage if checked. JetBlue assumes no liability for loss, damage or delay per theJetBlue Airways Contract of Carriage Section 19.” 

Southwest

You can check one stroller and one child restraint system for free along with the regular free baggage allowance on Southwest flights. Any type of stroller can be checked at the gate, ticket counter or curb. You can also buy a reusable car seat/stroller bag at one of their ticket counters. Southwest’s website states that it doesn’t assume liability for damage to strollers or car seats.

United 

United Airlines accepts one stroller or folding wagon free of charge along with a car seat on domestic flights and infants traveling internationally on 10% of an adult’s ticket fare. Small strollers can be checked at the gate, but large, non-collapsible strollers and non-folding wagons must be checked at the ticket counter. If you bring a compact folding stroller that meets United’s size guidelines, you can bring it on board in addition to your carry-on bag and personal item, but you can’t open it on the plane.

 

EXPLORE BABY STROLLERS

 

Can you take a stroller on a plane?

Most airlines require you to check your stroller at the ticket counter or gate. United is an exception. United lets you bring a small compact folding stroller on board as long as it meets their size guidelines. United does ask that you collapse the stroller before boarding, don’t open it while on board and place it in the overhead compartment or under the seat in front of you. 

 

If your stroller is small enough and the flight isn’t full, the airline may let you bring it on the plane. All you have to do is ask.

How do you protect your stroller when flying? 

Protecting a stroller when flying is no easy task, especially if you’re checking it at the ticket counter. You have no control over the baggage handlers, weather or other checked luggage. But there are some things you can do to help protect your stroller:

    • Buy a stroller bag. Get one that’s durable and easy to carry. We have a stroller carrying case for our own Metro+ stroller.
    • Wrap it up. Wrap the entire stroller in bubble wrap and tape, or just wrap the handlebars and frame with pool noodles or self-adhesive bandage wrap.
    • Remove stroller accessories. If you can fit them in your carry-on, take off the stroller’s hood, cup holders and tray to keep them safe.
    • Check it at the gate. If you can check the stroller at the gate, do it. That way you can use the stroller through the airport, and it’s less likely to get damaged or lost.

 

Explore Stroller Accessories

 

How do you take a stroller through security?

According to the TSA website, strollers have to be screened by X-ray. If you have a small compact folding stroller, first take your baby out and then take out anything else and place them in your carry-on or a bin on the X-ray belt. Next, fold up the stroller and place it on the belt to be screened. Strollers that won’t fit through the X-ray machine have to be visually and physically inspected by a TSA agent. 

In my experience, going through airport security alone with a baby and a stroller can be more stressful than the actual flight. But you don’t have to go at it totally alone. If you have questions or need help, just ask the nearest TSA agent.

Does a diaper bag count as a carry-on? 

In most cases, a diaper bag is considered a personal item and therefore will count toward your carry-on limit and must meet the size requirements laid out by the airline. There are some exceptions. United doesn’t count a diaper bag as your carry-on or personal item, Frontier lets you carry on a diaper bag free of charge and American Airlines allows one carry-on diaper bag per child. Airline policies can change, so it doesn’t hurt to ask the airline you’re flying before your trip.

What can you take on a plane for your baby?

Can you bring water for baby formula on a plane? Can you take milk for your baby on the plane? Can you bring a breast pump? It’s a lot for you to remember to pack everything you need when traveling with a baby and knowing exactly what you can take while flying.

According to the TSA, formula, breast milk, juice and water for babies “are permitted in reasonable quantities through the security checkpoint.” Let the TSA agent know if you have any of these items in excess of more than 3.4 oz. as well as any baby food, ice packs and gel, or liquid teethers. These baby items will have to be screened separately from your other belongings. Sometimes they are simply screened by X-ray and other times they have to go through other screening procedures.

Most airlines also allow other baby items that don’t count as a carry-on, which can include a car seat, bassinet, breast pump and cooler bag for breast milk. Ask the airline beforehand so you know exactly what you can take on board for your baby. You can also review TSA’s What Can I Bring? List before traveling.

Please note that policies vary from airline to airline and policies can change. It’s a good idea to double-check with the airline before your trip to know their current policies for traveling with a baby.

Kirsten Metcalf is a writer, editor and mother to a hilarious but very strong-willed toddler and a beautiful baby girl. She started writing short stories in elementary school and years later became a sports reporter and editor. Now, she mainly writes marketing, religious and parenting-related blog posts. Even before she knew she wanted to be a writer, Kirsten knew she wanted to be a mom. She knows being a mom is one of the most rewarding but hardest jobs out there, which is why she loves being able to share parenting knowledge and support to other moms through her writing. When she actually wins negotiations with her toddler, Kirsten likes to reward herself by watching KU basketball, eating cheesecake, or going on a Target run by herself.

September 7, 2021

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