Traveling with babies and children requires bringing a lot of extras — and one essential you simply can't travel without while the kids are little is a stroller. Deciding which stroller to buy may seem daunting, though.
Large strollers offer all the bells and whistles but may be too heavy, too large or just plain inconvenient to lug around an airport or onto a plane. Not to mention, they can be challenging to maneuver in your new destination.
Meanwhile, compact or umbrella strollers may work better for traveling, as they're often lightweight and small enough to fold up quickly and easily. However, the smaller design can make it tricky to find something comfortable enough for your child or baby to sit in for extended periods of time.
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To help you find the right stroller for your family, we've rounded up tips for shopping for the best travel stroller, plus recommendations for some of the top travel strollers on the market. From knowing what design features to look for to understanding what you need to know about flying with a stroller, our suggestions will have you picking the perfect stroller in no time.
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How to shop for the best travel stroller
Selecting the right travel stroller takes a bit of thought and preparation.
Will this stroller be an additional stroller or your main stroller? Will it come with all the extras, which you may want to have if you live in a busy city or a smaller apartment, condo or home?
When shopping for a travel stroller, there are a few details you'll want to consider:
The size of your travel stroller is especially important because it may be the difference between you checking it at the gate checking and carrying it on board your flight.
Knowing the dimensions of the stroller when it's both open and folded up can help you decide where to store it and whether it will suit the trips your planning on taking. Should you find yourself more likely to stay in a property that may have tiny elevators (like some in Europe) or rent a compact car while on vacation, having a travel stroller with smaller dimensions is probably your best bet.
Think about what you can feasibly handle carrying. This is especially important for anyone with younger babies or kids that can't yet walk. Can you carry or hold both your baby and the folded stroller at the same time, especially if you're traveling alone? If not, it may not be the right fit for you.
Airplane cabin approval
Certain travel strollers are already cabin approved, making them a great choice for anyone who prefers not to check or gate check their strollers. Each airline has its own rules about if your stroller counts in place of or in addition to your carry-on, so it's best to check directly with your airline to confirm.
Doing this before buying the stroller can help you make the right stroller purchase for your family, especially if you frequently fly one specific airline. (However, we'd be remiss not to mention that sometimes flight attendants are not aware that some compact strollers are allowed in the overhead bins, so there are never guarantees you can bring yours on board.)
As with all children's products, stroller safety is important.
Make sure your chosen stroller is up to standards laid out by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. You can also check for a JPMA seal from the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association. Some key things to look for are a suitable harness and secure latches, brakes and locks to ensure the stroller won't collapse or close with your child in it.
However, much of stroller safety comes down to proper use, like making sure to put the brakes on when necessary and always snapping your child in to avoid any accidents.
Strollers can be expensive, affordable and everything in between. Consider your budget and if your travel stroller will also be your main stroller or an additional one when deciding how much to spend. For a second stroller, there are options on this list that are less than $100. There are also products that cost up to $1,000, should you decide to splurge on a fancier model that comes with useful accessories like newborn inserts.
Think about how long you'll need to use this stroller for, how frequently you travel and how many other kids in your family may need to use it. It may be worth investing in a more durable and versatile travel stroller if you're constantly on the road or plan to use it for multiple kids.
This is when you should merge the weight and size specifics with your own personal travel situation at hand.
Will you be traveling alone with your child? Will your child need to be held while you fold up your stroller at Transportation Security Administration checkpoints or before boarding? How easy is this stroller to navigate through busy airports and down the jetway — and can you do it with only one hand?
Even if you do buy your travel stroller online, we recommend testing it out at a store first to make sure it's the right fit for you, your child and the rest of your family. Handlebar height can also be a factor, especially for taller moms and dads.
Before buying a travel stroller, think about where you plan on traveling. The type of travel stroller that works best in a crowded city with public transportation may not be the same one that's ideal for snowy destinations and national parks.
You may have specific needs when it comes to how compact it folds and how durable the wheels and frame are, so be sure to factor in the types of trips you plan on taking before you buy.
You'll find travel strollers that offer sun canopies, cup holders, car seat integration, storage space, footrests and more, so deciding which extras (if any) are important to you is essential. Think about both comfort and style, including color options and handlebar fabrics.
This may mean the difference between getting an umbrella stroller versus a more advanced travel stroller. Be sure to note which models come with some of these extras and which don't, and remember to factor them in to the total cost. For example, some of these products have newborn inserts that increase the price of the stroller by hundreds of dollars. If your child is already too old to use one, you can save a considerable amount of money by choosing a cheaper option without a newborn insert.
Don't forget to also pay attention to whether or not the stroller comes with car seat adapters, and make sure your car seat is compatible with the stroller you're interested in purchasing.
Related: The best trips to take with kids of every age
The difference between a travel stroller and an umbrella stroller
An umbrella stroller is a lightweight stroller that doesn't typically come with extras like storage pockets and cup holders. Many people who own umbrella strollers use them as secondary strollers. One important detail to keep in mind, though, is that umbrella strollers are not apt for newborns, as they often don't lay flat or provide the proper support for an infant.
Travel strollers (or compact strollers), however, often include extras or the option to purchase them. Additionally, they tend to provide better stability, be suitable for newborns and offer improved wheel maneuverability and suspension.
What to know about travel strollers when flying
Where and how to check it
Some airlines require you to check your stroller at the gate; others have rules about checking it at the ticket counter if it's greater than a certain weight.
Ideally, taking your stroller with you to the gate is easier, as your little one can ride (or nap) in it until you board. If you prefer to check it earlier, though, you can do so at the ticket counter and use a baby sling, wearer or carrier to get your baby or toddler through the airport.
If you know you'll be in a rush upon landing, you may want to check your stroller at the ticket counter, as it can sometimes it take awhile for gate-checked luggage to be brought to the jetway. Long waits for a gate-checked stroller may cause you to get stuck at the back of customs or health form lines.
Before you get to the airport, make sure you check the regulations for the airline that you're flying so you're adequately prepared for what's to come. Some compact strollers are designed to fit in overhead bins, but whether or not they will be allowed on board depends on the stroller, the airline and the cabin crew working that day.
Related: Making family travel easier with car seats and strollers
When checking your stroller either at the gate or the ticket counter, it's best to take a few photos before traveling. That way, if the stroller arrives damaged, you may have an easier time filing a claim. To avoid damage before it happens, cover your stroller with a storage bag — which may come with your stroller when you purchase it, depending on which model you choose — when you check it.
Always have a backup plan at your destination in case your stroller is lost. This rarely happens, but strollers are occasionally lost en route. Know of a website for stroller rentals in your destination just in case you need to resort to plan B.
Getting through security
It's worth noting that you have to fold up the stroller and place it on the belt when going through TSA checkpoints. If your stroller is not foldable or won't fit on the belt, you probably shouldn't be traveling with it anyway, but security can do a visual or physical inspection of it when they deem it necessary
Related: Making family travel easier with car seats and strollers
12 best strollers for travel
When deciding on which travel stroller is the best fit for your family, note that the prices listed below are the base prices. Make sure to budget for additional equipment, such as newborn inserts, footmuffs, footrests, cup holders and any other key accessories you may want or need.
- Weight: 13.6 pounds.
- Size when folded: 20.5 inches by 17.3 inches by 7.1 inches.
- Price: $479.99 and up.
What we love: The Babyzen Yoyo2 is accepted by most airlines as cabin baggage when folded. Despite its small stature, this stroller is built for long-lasting use beyond just travel, making it especially apt for families living in small spaces in need of just one stroller for everything.
The stroller also has a newborn pack ($179.99 and up), meaning it can be used from birth to whenever your child reaches 48.5 pounds. With a substantial sun protection factor of 50-plus for its canopy, plus a gradual recline, an under-seat storage bag that supports up to 11 pounds, a zipper pocket and a padded shoulder strap for carrying the stroller when folded, the Yoyo2 is as durable and comfortable closed as it is open.
Cons: It's not cheap, and the extras increase the price significantly. Unless you purchase the newborn pack for babies ages 0 to 6 months, the stroller doesn't fully recline.
- Weight: Less than 12 pounds.
- Size when folded: 12 inches by 7 inches by 20 inches.
- Price: $179.99 and up.
What we love: The GB Pockit stroller made it into the Guinness Book of World Records in 2014 for being the world's smallest folding stroller, folding up in just two easy steps.
Although the Pockit doesn't come with all the extra fluff (this is why it folds up so easily), it does have a mini sun canopy, an adjustable harness and a tiny storage space underneath the seat. Even with its small size, it can still withstand heavier toddlers weighing up to 55 pounds.
Cons: The stroller is made for babies 6 months and up, so parents of newborns will have to wait to use this one.
ErgoBaby Metro+ Compact City Stroller
- Weight: 16.9 pounds.
- Size when folded: 21.3 inches by 17.3 inches by 9.8 inches.
- Cost: $299 and up.
What we love: The Ergobaby Metro+ is one of the most comfortable travel and city strollers on this list, as it comes with extra seat padding and a large handlebar. It can be used from birth until your toddler is 50 pounds, and there's an option to purchase an additional newborn kit for $129.
With a large, comprehensive sun canopy, puncture-free rubber tires and the ability to fully recline the seat, this stroller is ideal for toddlers who need to nap on the road. It also works in conjunction with car seats made by Cybex, Nuna, BeSafe, Maxi-Cosi, Graco and Chicco with the proper adapters.
Cons: The wheels are noisier than other strollers on this list, especially on cobblestones.
Colugo Compact Stroller
- Weight: 16 pounds.
- Size when folded: 17 inches by 24 inches by 10 inches.
- Cost: $295 and up.
What we love: Folding this Colugo stroller up can be done with one hand in just two seconds, so you definitely won't hold up any lines at TSA with this option. Although the stroller can be used from 6 months to 55 pounds, there is an infant kit ($95) you can purchase for newborns.
The lining, which comes in some funky patterns like leopard print, is washable, making it easy to clean after being in and out of airplane overhead bins. We love that the price includes a handy carry backpack and cup holder, too, as stroller extras can quickly add up. The storage basket is also sturdy and large, with the ability to hold up to 10 pounds, and the seat fully reclines, which is extra handy for naps on the go.
Cons: This stroller doesn't have any zipper pockets for additional storage.
Summer Infant 3Dlite
- Weight: 13 pounds.
- Size when folded: 14 inches by 10 inches by 42 inches.
- Cost: $99.99.
What we love: Travelers on a budget will love the price of the Summer Infant 3Dlite stroller — it's the most affordable one on this list. The 3Dlite has a full canopy, anti-shock front wheels and a four-position recline that almost lies flat. It can hold kids who weigh up to 50 pounds, and the below storage basket can hold up to 10 pounds for all the extras. Speaking of extras, this affordable stroller comes with a cup holder and a velcro pocket, too.
Cons: The 3Dlite is made for babies 6 months and older, so parents of newborns will have to wait to use this stroller. The handles also seem a bit flimsy.
- Weight: 13.4 pounds.
- Size when folded: 21 inches by 17.7 inches by 8.5 inches.
- Cost: $449 and up.
What we love: The Joolz Aer folds up in one second with just one hand, ideal for anyone holding additional luggage (or a child) in their arms or hands. Although the stroller is for kids 6 months and up and doesn't fully recline, parents can buy a newborn hub ($112) to use for babies.
The seat is lightweight but made to be especially comfortable for kids. It's currently patent-pending in the Netherlands for its design: The foldable seat provides support and cushion for the child's neck and back in all positions of recline, and the sides conform to the body in order to lock the chair firmly in place.
Cons: It's on the pricier side when compared to other travel strollers, and you'll have to fork over additional money for extras like a footrest and a cupholder. The zip-up recline of the stroller can be rather tedious, too.
Bugaboo Bee 6
- Weight: 20.8 pounds.
- Size when folded: 29.9 inches by 18.5 inches by 13.4 inches.
- Cost: $749 and up.
What we love: The Bugaboo Bee 6 stroller shines because it can be used from birth (with the newborn bassinet) to toddler, and it can face both in and out, giving parents the option to view their smaller children and turn the seat around when they feel ready.
The stroller can hold children weighing up to 33 pounds when facing in and up to 50 pounds when facing out, allowing it to really grow along with your child. Although the Bee 6 is quite expensive, it does come with car seat adapters, which most strollers offer at an additional price. The seat can almost fully recline (when the child faces the parent) without needing to use the additional newborn bassinet. The sturdy wheels and canopy make this an ideal option for city dwellers or frequent travelers that want just one stroller.
Cons: One of the most expensive strollers on this list, the Bugaboo Bee 6 will set you back $979 when you purchase the stroller and the bassinet. It's also heavier and larger than many other travel strollers when folded, though it's generally sturdier and more versatile given its in-and-out-facing options.
Chicco Liteway Stroller
- Weight: 17.2 pounds.
- Size when folded: 46 inches by 10 inches by 11.75 inches.
- Cost: $109.99 and up.
What we love: The Chicco Liteway umbrella stroller is one of the more affordable options on this list for a family on the go. Although it may not be as apt for flying (46 inches is pretty tall and likely won't be allowed on board as cabin baggage), its super thin width and depth allow it to be easily tucked around luggage in the trunk of a car. With four recline positions that take your child to almost lying fully flat, as well as mesh side panels (which help keep your child cool in hot weather), an adjustable canopy and a storage basket, this umbrella stroller is the one you'll want to take on those family road trips every summer.
Cons: It's only usable for children 6 months up to 40 pounds, and it's not as sturdy as some of the other options available.
UPPAbaby Minu Stroller
- Weight: 14.8 pounds.
- Size when folded: 11.5 inches by 20.5 inches by 23 inches.
- Cost: $399.99 and up.
What we love: Fashionable parents can integrate the UPPAbaby Minu Stroller with their own look: The company will ship you up to four favorite color swatches so you can decide exactly which hue fits your stroller — and your lifestyle.
Additionally, with a premium leather handlebar, an SPF 50-plus canopy, a seat that gradually reclines and shock absorbing wheels, both you and your little one can stroll in safety and style. The stroller, which is easily foldable, has a birth kit ($129.99) for newborns as an add-on accessory, but the regular seat insert can be used from 3 months to 50 pounds.
Cons: It may not meet cabin requirements for all airlines, and it doesn't fully recline without the additional birth kit.
Doona Car Seat & Stroller
- Weight: 16.5 pounds.
- Size when folded: 23.6 inches by 17.3 inches by 26 inches.
- Cost: $550 and up.
What we love: This integrated Doona Car Seat & Stroller is ideal for those going from car to plane to car, as the stroller wheels simply snap up to transform it into a car seat.
Apt for babies and kids weighing between 4 and 35 pounds, this one-of-a-kind product ensures you won't need to figure out a car seat plan when arriving at your destination or lug extra gear around the airport. Trendy parents take note: The brand has just launched its Doona Gold Limited Edition version for $650, which features a fancy gold-splash canopy, black faux-leather handlebars and gold accents.
Cons: It's fairly heavy when carrying it as a car seat, especially with an infant inside. And, although it's usable from birth, it only fits kids who weigh up to 35 pounds.
Silver Cross Jet Super Compact Stroller
- Weight: 13.6 pounds.
- Size when folded: 21.65 inches by 11.81 inches by 7.08 inches.
- Cost: $399.99 and up.
What we love: Designed in the United Kingdom, the Silver Cross Jet Super Compact Stroller is ideal for newborns and toddlers weighing up to 55 pounds. It actually looks and feels like hand luggage when folded up, right down to the chic pull-along toddler bar that doubles as the luggage handle. The stroller fully reclines, too, making it great for both smaller babies and tired toddlers. With wide front wheels and increased suspension, the stroller is compact but still creates a smooth and comfortable ride for kids.
Cons: Folding this stroller requires both hands, and the canopy isn't as encompassing as other comparable strollers, though it is SPF 50-plus.
- Weight: 21 pounds.
- Size when folded: 12.6 inches by 7.7 inches by 30 inches.
- Cost: $399.94.
What we love: The Thule Spring stroller is the perfect combination: a compact travel stroller with only three wheels that's also sturdy enough for everyday use. Although it doesn't fold up quite as small as some other options, if you plan on doing some serious walking in a city, the Thule may be just the right option, as it's made for urban terrain.
With a fast, one-hand fold and no-puncture, foam-filled tires, this stroller can be used for kids from 6 months to 64 pounds, the highest weight capacity on this list. The basket at the bottom is also larger than it looks, so it's ideal for storage on the go.
Cons: This stroller is heavier and larger than others on the market. As a result, it may not be the best option for travelers who want to take the stroller on as cabin baggage. It also doesn't fully recline and can't be used for newborns.
Related: Our best family travel award trips -- ever
Picking the right travel stroller greatly depends on your situation. Some strollers are made for stowing on board planes, while others are better suited for trunks of cars. Some are designed for newborns and toddlers, while others should only be used with older children. Your budget is also important to consider, as travel strollers can cost anywhere from $100 to $1,000.
Ease of use matters, too, as having a stroller that folds up in seconds with one hand is extremely valuable, especially while balancing a baby on your hip. Once you've figured out what you need, you can more easily decide which stroller on this list best fits your budget, travel preferences and family.
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.