Traveling by airplane can be incredibly stressful, requiring checklists and pre-planning, and bringing a baby aboard may seem impossible. Gate checking a stroller is part of this process that appears terribly complicated, but preparing beforehand will ease the anxiety of traveling and smoothen the process.
Listed below are the benefits of gate checking a stroller, what to expect before gate checking, and other factors to consider during the process.
Any parent who’s traveled with children understands that time and energy are precious. Gate checking a stroller is practical because it allows the use of alternate security lines at certain airports. Using alternative security lines is a time-efficient way of checking your stroller, car seat, and luggage at the ticket stand all at once. Using alternative security lines also allows wheeling your child to the gate in their stroller, saving the hassle of unnecessarily hauling everything and everyone around.
Using the stroller at departure and arrival airports is another convenient benefit of gate checking. Parents may find this particularly useful when traveling with children who decide to hit the snooze button between stops. In severe weather conditions, however, this may be an unpleasant wait as it can take up to 10-15 minutes for your stroller to be delivered to the jet bridge.
Finding out if you can gate check a stroller starts by heading to the departure gate and asking the attendant working the counter. Depending on your airline, they may assign a claim tag to your stroller, which lets the ticket agent or flight attendant know where your stroller is intended to go. To obtain a claim tag, you must provide the required documentation.
You will receive a claim tag whether you are flying your stroller as checked baggage or simply boarding it onto the plane. Remember that two tags will be required for strollers that fold into two compartments – one for each part. After tagging, your stroller will be wheeled down the jetway and left at the door on the far end before boarding the plane.
Gate checking a car seat is done at the ticket counter where you’d typically check in. If you’re pressed for time, you may ask if families are permitted to enter the front of the line. The ticketing agent will ask about the luggage that needs to be checked. Once you state you have a baby item and would like your car seat checked, they’ll tag it so an agent can send it off with the rest of your luggage.
When checking a car seat at the ticket counter, the ticketing agent may request that you carry the car seat to an area designated for oversized luggage. All you need to do is present your boarding pass so it can be scanned, then an agent will take the car seat and direct you to security. After checking, it’s common for airlines to transfer car seats with other luggage onto the moving belt right then and there. You can head straight to the security checkpoint and your gate if this happens. More about traveling with car seat here.
In most cases, gate checked strollers are processed the same way as other checked luggage. Before arriving at your final destination, strollers are placed inside the plane’s cargo hold or storage bins. After landing, head to the baggage claim area to pick up your stroller the way you would with any other luggage. Double-check to ensure you haven’t picked up another stroller by accident and that it’s all in one piece.
Thankfully on most major airlines, gate checking a stroller and car seat is free. Among these airlines are low-budget carriers providing free gate checkings, such as Allegiant, Frontier, and Spirit. Traveling abroad with a child can put a tiring strain on parents, and airlines are more than willing to accommodate their customer’s needs.
Additionally, friends and family of airline employees should look into “non-revenue” passenger travel, depending on the airline’s policies and procedures. Full-out booking options and buddy passes are a few of the options major airlines have available. For example, qualifying employees of American Airlines, along with their registered guests and companions, are permitted to fly for free. Non-revenue travel also applies to retirees who pass the “65-point plan”.
Boarding policies of major airlines are quintessential information you should always research before traveling. This is especially the case when boarding a plane with children, as these policies may be complex and vary significantly for each airline. For example, JetBlue’s stroller gate-checking policy states the following:
“JetBlue will courtesy gate check any of the following: strollers, car seats, child carriers/backpack carriers, booster seats, wheelchairs, walkers, canes or crutches. If you chose to check any of these items (at the check-in counter or gate check), it will not count as one of your checked bags. There is no fee assessed. There is no limit to the number of assistive devices a customer may transport as carry-on or checked baggage, within reason.”
You might also want to familiarize yourself with American Airlines stroller policy if you fly frequently with them.
Keeping your stroller in your possession at all times while flying is one way to keep it protected. Bringing your stroller aboard an airplane is excellent if you’re particularly concerned about damage and would rather avoid gate checking it. You can even preserve your stroller’s foam handles by using bandages or duct tape to wrap around them.
Luggage not correctly secured is notorious for shifting around a lot during a flight, particularly during take-off. Purchasing a universal stroller travel bag helps prevent damage and has the extra benefit of safeguarding your stroller from germs and dirt, so keeping it clean won’t be a worry.
Efficiently utilizing your space is practical, especially when carrying a family-sized luggage load. This also applies if you’re boarding planes at total capacity, where bin compartments may be stuffed with other people’s belongings. Investing in a compact stroller that folds underneath your seat is optimal. However, boarding a compact stroller still comes down to airline policy, so it’s best to ensure it is approved by your airline’s carry-on bag size guidelines.
Lugging around a jogging stroller isn’t recommended, as many airlines impose weight limits on strollers permitted for gate checking. Transporting a bulky stroller will also be problematic in rental cars, buses, and trains between flights. One product type to be particularly wary of is “travel systems,” which are strollers meant to accommodate a child’s car seat on top of it.
Accidents aren’t entirely foolproof, but you can rest easy knowing that airlines are obligated to compensate you for damaged, delayed, or lost in transit luggage. Wheel, handle, strap damage, and other stroller components are among this list of requirements. Unfortunately, resolving this issue is time consuming and may require back and forth communication.
This coverage, however, does not include damage from improper packing or wear and tear over prolonged use. Therefore, taking diligent measures with a protective stroller bag should still be done to lessen the likelihood of an accident.
It should be no surprise that airport policies vary by country, and gate checking a stroller or car seat is no exception. Gate agents may collect all strollers and pile them up at the door. Then a crew member will take the strollers down ahead of time. Alternatively, at the request of an agent, you may have to drop off your stroller at the jetway instead.
Language barriers are also something to consider when traveling to a foreign country. You must rely on body language if basic English isn’t enough to convey your intentions. Do this by making eye contact with the gate agent, gesturing to the stroller and the plane, and giving the gate agent a shrug. In most cases, they will understand your request and start the process of gate checking.
It’s incredibly easy to misplace or forget items in a stroller, especially while distracted or tired. If you travel with toddlers, they might grab something (maybe your keys?) when they ran around and leave it at their stroller. Therefore, before gate checking a stroller, you should thoroughly examine it to ensure all items and accessories are removed. Make sure nothing gets dropped or misplaced before gate checking your stroller.
To be on the safe side, it also helps to keep an inventory list of all your belongings. Essential documents and cards should never be placed in a stroller, especially if your child would have easy access to them. A tote bag with adequate space and compartments to keep your belongings secure is a great accessory to stay organized in a busy airport.
Taking a stroller through airport security is necessary for gate checking, but it isn’t as nerve-wracking as it sounds. An easy way of smoothing the process is making sure your child is awake beforehand. This will save time since they’ll already be out of the stroller before the security check, and you won’t have to bother waking them up.
If you have a travel car seat, now would be a great time to use it. Children aren’t permitted to roll through security in a stroller, so using an alternative means of transport during this time is advised. If you don’t have one, you should look into the best travel car seats for a child’s comfort before boarding a long flight.
Whether or not this happens depends on your stroller’s size. Compact strollers that are foldable enough will be X-ray scanned along with all other luggage. Manual inspection will be required for strollers too bulky to be X-rayed.
You can make your judgment call by eyeballing the stroller’s size yourself. An airport agent will alert you if the stroller doesn’t fit; otherwise, you can fold it up and send it through the screening area. Strollers too large to be X-rayed must remain unfolded so the agent can conduct a manual inspection before returning it to you on the opposite side of security.
For expecting Moms who are planning in advance, or those raising an infant at home, a multifunctional car seat is a must-have. For gate checking and navigating through an airport, it’s best to use a multifunctional car seat that converts into a stroller. Additionally, this car seat makes flying on a plane a breeze and ensures your child’s security in a cab, rental car, or bus.
Strolling through an airport with your child secured makes navigating to your gate much less chaotic. This is particularly helpful when airports are crowded, and you’re having trouble finding your way around. While navigating the airport, you can keep your belongings within reach by hanging your tote bag on the stroller. If you have a hyper child, it’s best to let them burn off some energy before reaching the gate so they’ll sleep soundly on the plane.
Traveling abroad is one of the most adventurous experiences anyone can enjoy, and bringing children along should never be a hindrance. In fact, experiencing the world at a young age encourages children to be curious about new environments and cultures. Knowing what to expect while gate checking a stroller also improves parents’ ability to plan ahead for future trips. Adequate planning also eases the stress of being a parent, ensuring more energy to enjoy the thrill of traveling with family.