Friday, March 16, 2012

Flying with kids: using a child carrier on your trip

At ages 5 and 9, my kids are old enough these days that I no longer need to think about bringing a carrier or stroller on flights. Not too long ago though, that was an important travel item. Back then, my husband and I usually used child carriers rather than strollers on flights.

I know many people prefer to bring strollers, either simple umbrella strollers or larger strollers for infants and toddlers, on flights rather than bringing a carrier. It's a personal choice, with pros and cons whichever option you choose. (You can read more of my thoughts on and tips for strollers on flights in this blog post: Flying with kids: all about strollers.)

Some of my reasons for preferring a carrier to a stroller on board are:
  • A carrier is more portable, and can be brought inside the plane. Usually a stroller has to be checked, either with the luggage, or at the gate.
  • Because the carrier is with you, on the plane, you don't have to wait around for it to be brought out, either at the gate (if you checked it at the gate), or on the luggage carousel.
  • A carrier frees up your hands when you're going through the airport so you can use them to find travel documents, hold another child's hand, or carry luggage or carry-ons, etc. An infant carrier can also be used on board to hold your baby comfortably, while still leaving your hands free.
Another kind of child carrier... basic mom-style.
There are two main types of carriers: baby or infant carriers that sit on your chest, with the baby either facing away from you, or turned towards your chest; and backpack-like back carriers for toddlers. When my kids were younger, we used both kinds. We had a Baby Björn baby carrier that we used until the kids were about 1 year old, and a Deuter back-carrier that we used until they were about 2 or 3 years old.

I loved our carriers and we got a lot of use out of them, using them on flights, hikes in the woods, and when heading out for sightseeing or shopping trips. How much you'll end up using one will depend not only on your preference of course, but on how much your baby or child likes being in the carrier. For example, my son liked sitting in the back carrier and just enjoying the scenery for a lot longer than our daughter did: she was much more into wanting to walk and run around on her own at an earlier age.

There are lots of different brands of child carriers. Here are some examples of quality carriers that would all be good choices when you're traveling by plane, train, or automobile, if you're going for a walk around town or hiking the great outdoors:

Baby Björn - This was the infant carrier I used for both my kids. I found it really comfortable to wear for them and me.

Boba - Boba offers both carriers and wraps. I've never tried the Boba products myself, but the wrap looks very easy to wear, lightweight, soft and comfortable for a baby. It also looks like a good choice for an infant when you're traveling by plane since it's light and easy to pack. Their carriers also look both comfortable and durable. Boba offers soft carriers that can be used to carry a baby either on your back, or on your chest.

Snugli - Another brand offering a variety of soft baby carriers that can be carried on your chest or on your back. I have lots of friends and family who used this brand and loved the carriers.

Baby slings/wraps - Two other brands of sling-type baby carriers are the Moby Wrap, and the Maya Wrap. Just like the Boba wrap, these are soft, and basically all fabric (no hardware, like straps and buckles), making them light-weight and easy to pack.

Deuter back-carriers - This is the brand of back-carrier we used when our kids got too big for the baby carrier. We liked ours a lot, and it made it easy to go for hikes, or get through airports. I found ours to be very durable and comfortable to carry.

Kelty carriers - This is another brand of back-carrier, and they look like a good, versatile, and easy to bring-along type of carrier.

Piggyback Rider - The Piggyback Rider is a different type of back-carrier from the ones I've seen and used before. Instead of sitting, the child is securely harnessed and stands on a bar rather than sitting in a seat. It does look very easy to use, functional and safe, and also looks like it would be really easy to pack and bring along if you're traveling by plane.


  1. We love our Beco Butterfly, it is way more comfortable for me than any other carrier I tried and It comes in really pretty designs :)
    It can also be used for older toddlers, which is nice.

    1. We loved our obi-baby-carrier - we got our toddler to carry it himself - it is super compact.

      I see now they are branching out as well is where we got ours.

    2. More great tips! I love the carriers! :) Thank you for commenting!

  2. Just googled it! It looks like a great product. I think there are a lot of good brands, and much of it comes down to what you like and what your child likes. Thanks so much for posting!

  3. I recently purchased a Boba G3 and love it! I've used three other brands and this one is hands down the most comfortable. I recently used it for my 35lb toddler while exploring Chichen Itza and Tulum and it was a life saver. I find it difficult carrying him up front at this weight, regardless of the carrier, but I had no problem carrying him on my back for long stretches of time. Really comfy both for me and him.

  4. Thanks for posting! And yes, carriers are definitely a great travel accessory! :)

  5. I have a snugli carrier. I was wondering if I am going to have to completely remove it and my child when going through security or if it is ok to wear him? Also, does anyone know if you are allowed to pack the gerber baby food plastic containers in your purse or carry on? Or if they will toss it? I am trying to plan ahead so i know what to pack. I have never flown before so i'm not sure what to expect. I will be traveling with a 3yr old in an umbrella stroller, and my 10mo old in the baby carrier. With 2 carry on bags and my purse. I was planning on bringing both of them a sippy cup and packing some of the gerber baby food containers or the Plum organic's pouches. Both of which are about 3.5 oz each packet which I know is .5 oz over the limit but since it's for a baby, I figured it would be ok. Anyone have any suggestions? I'm worried about taking my toddler out of the stroller while trying to hold the other one to go through the security stuff and then get the one back in the stroller and putting the carrier back on. Seems like a lot of work and i don't want my toddler running off while trying to grab all our stuff and getting them situated into their carriers lol
    Thanks for any advice ahead of time!

    1. Trixxy - I found it really helpful when I was first traveling with my little one on my own to actually practice going through security in my living room, including pulling out and re-stowing my ziploc of liquids. Sounds silly, I know, but it really helped me figure out how to get my baby in/out of his carrier and get all our stuff through security with only two hands. Please check out for more tips. Have a great trip!

    2. Excellent tip to practice it. Helps prepare you and your kids for what is going to happen.

  6. They will likely ask you to remove the carrier when going through security, and will probably want to scan the carrier separately.

    Baby food should be OK on board: the regulations usually say that anything you need to feed your baby is allowed in your carry-on. It might take a bit longer through security since they'll want to look at the containers, but you should be alright.

    Traveling with a toddler and a baby is a bit more challenging than any other combo of kids you will try. Like you say: the toddler is likely to want to run around a lot... Try to make one of your carryons a backpack so you can carry that on your back and the baby on the front. You'll feel like a pack-mule, but at least it makes one less thing to carry! If you can, try to bring just one carryon: maybe one big one plus a small purse? It's a challenge! Or maybe a bag that can be put on the stroller when you're walking through the airport.

    One good thing: at security you might run into friendly staff (it does happen!) who might take you into the "fast lane". When I went through Seattle a couple of years ago, they had a lineup for families with and it was quicker than the regular line.

    Your toddler might be so intimidated by the airport that he/she won't run away. My oldest was like that, though my second was not!

    Hope you have a great trip! One way or another, you'll get there. It can be done. :)

  7. Hi.. İm planning to go abroad with my 10 mo baby in the next 4 months.. Can u give me some advices for the trip and which carrier suitable for me, since it ll be my first experience to fly with my baby and without my husband.. Thanks a lot

  8. I bought a Chicco travel system to start with so that we could have the infant seat and it would snap into the stroller. I only used it for about 4 months before he was big enough to sit up in the stroller and we bought a used jogging stroller (schwinn) off a yard sale page and I used that more often than not. I bought a lightweight umbrella type stroller for when the jogger is too bulky (quick trips to places that don’t have shopping carts, like doctors appts). The original stroller kind of just collects dust. I would do an infant seat with the snap n go frame if I were to do it again and get a jogger for when baby has good body control.

  9. Great post! New parents absolutely need a great stroller. But each parent is different and each family has different needs and priorities. I did a ton of research and chose ten of the best strollers available for several different parental wants and needs. Thanks :)


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