Gate checking strollers at the airport
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Gate Checking Strollers: What to Know to Avoid a Disaster

Flying with a baby or toddler who needs a stroller can be stressful due to the abundance of rules that can vary per airline, or even airport. I can honestly say that after taking over 200 flights (if not more) with my two kids ever since they newborns I learned everything you need to know about gate checking strollers.

There’s so much misinformation about gate checking strollers online, especially on reddit, with many people telling you that you can just easily gate check stroller and car seat.

I wish it was that simple, but not all strollers can be gate checked and definitely not on all airlines. It’s also not always possible to gate check anything at some airports.

What Is Gate Checking Strollers?

When you travel with a baby or toddler, you’re entitled to bring at least one kid item (some airlines allow two).

Most of the time you can bring a stroller and/or car seat all the way to the gate, instead of checking it with luggage. You can bring a stroller through security. That way, your baby can be seated safely and comfortably in the stroller until boarding.

Before boarding, ask the gate agent for a special tag for your stroller. Then, you handle the stroller to the attendant and voilà!

When you land, you can retrieve your stroller at the gate at most airports. Just to be aware, at smaller airports your stroller might go directly to the luggage belt.

Stroller wagons aren’t allowed to be gate checked on various airlines, including American Airlines

Gate Checking Strollers: Is It Always Free?

Remember, just because your friend flew once or twice it doesn’t mean that if you fly on a different airline and/or from a different airport the same rules will apply to you.

Either way, gate checking strollers when flying with a baby is always free.

However, you might be charged an oversized fee if flying with a stroller without a baby, even when pregnant. I was in this situation twice when I bought my stroller in the US while pregnant and then had to fly with it to Italy, then had to fly again for the birth of my son.

I know it’s not a common situation but can happen if your grandparents want to buy a stroller, or you’re moving while pregnant so keep this in mind. Once the check in agent was nice and managed to check it for free as part of our luggage allowance, but another time they had to charge me a fee.

What Strollers Can Be Gate Checked?

Can every stroller be gate checked at the airport? No. More importantly, you might not even get the stroller back at the gate or at all on your layover, as things truly vary.

Technically speaking, within the US the most restrictive airline for baby items is American Airlines. They only allow you to bring one item to gate check (stroller or car seat), and if you have another one it has to be checked at the counter.

American Airlines also doesn’t allow you to bring a double stroller to the gate and any wagons, even if they can fold smaller than a single stroller. You also cannot gate check a stroller if it weighs over 20 lbs – and that includes famous strollers like Uppababy Vista for example.

Other restrictive airlines include Emirates and Qatar. While they’re frequently named as top airlines to travel with babies or toddlers, I find them tough with kids, for a few reasons, such as: not getting your stroller back at the layover, strict weight limits of 7 kg only even including a diaper bag, and even stricter rules on which car seats can be used on board, and forbidden usage of any inflatable travel toddler bed or suitcases like Jetkids by Stokke.

The Number of Pieces of Folded Gate Checked Stroller Matter

IMPORTANT: Even if an airline doesn’t have any strict limits for gate checking a stroller, the maximum amount of pieces that a stroller folds into is 2.

It’s a little-known fact that often causes people a last-minute panic, but the staff will ask you how many pieces your stroller folds into. What does that mean?

For example, if your stroller folds with the seat attached then it’s 1 piece. However, if you’re gate checking a stroller with an attached car seat and this car seat has to be removed, then your stroller contains 2 pieces.

I know that Stokke double stroller and Bugaboo Donkey Duo in certain configurations will fold in 3 pieces and these aren’t allowed to be gate checked. They have to be checked at the check in counter, before security.

Apart from it being a rule, keep in mind that these days preboarding for families isn’t always offered, and when it is, you might be boarding along 100 people who are trying to squeeze their way but don’t truly need to preboard. You must be able to quickly fold the stroller at the gate.

Where Do You Pick Up the Stroller After Gate Checking?

Where you pick up the stroller after arrival will depend on the airport, NOT the airline. This often confuses people when for example, you can be told by the staff at Paris CDG airport that your stroller will be waiting by the plane door in Vienna. Yet, upon arrival, you find out that Vienna Airport always automatically sends strollers to the luggage belt (true story actually and one of many).

Some places will deliver it and bring it back to the jet bridge or leave it next to the stairs, while others will send it to baggage claim.

Gate Checking Strollers vs Strollers that Fit in the Overhead Bin

While gate checking strollers is free, many opt for bringing a stroller small enough that can be taken on board as it fits in the overhead bin, just like your hand luggage.

Some of the strollers that fit in the overhead compartment are:

Strollers like BabyJogger City Mini 2 and Joolz Aer will fit on bigger airlines, while Uppababy Minu for example will rarely fit, so keep it in mind.

Why does it have an advantage? Simply because of having to wait an extra time for your stroller to arrive (some airports take up to 30 minutes, which can be stressful during a layover), or more importantly: you can be assured that your stroller isn’t going to get destroyed.

Sadly, gate checked items like strollers or even wheelchairs get damaged or lost as well. Not all airlines take responsibility if they damage your stroller despite being forced to be official, per Department of Transportation rules. We stopped flying with a full-size stroller after our stroller arrived broken for the second time.

A stroller bag can be helpful to make sure that your stroller isn’t going to get wet or dirty, but it won’t necessarily stop it from being thrown and broken. Ironically, when my stroller was broken by the airline it was not only wrapped in airport plastic but also put in a bag.

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