Welcome to the Ultimate Guide on How to Gate Check a Car Seat or Stroller, fellow sleep-deprived parents!
Nothing sounds more heavenly than attaching your baby’s car seat to the plane’s seat to enjoy a bit of freedom on your flight, especially if it’s a drastically long one. But, to get this far, you might be worried about gate checking that car seat first.
I couldn’t be happier that it’s normally a straightforward process to gate check a car seat or stroller so that they’re ready for use after the plane lands. If you’re flying within the States, you’ll typically only need to get a tag for the car seat, then simply take it with you on board.
However, things can be different for a stroller. I also learned the hard way that it might not always be possible to gate check a car seat if you’re boarding a plane internationally.
After countless encounters with different travel agents inside and outside the U.S., I’m here to tell you what to expect when gate checking a car seat.
Well, what are you waiting for? Keep going!
How to Gate Check a Car Seat/Stroller in Most U.S. Airports
To my—and Linda’s—relief, the process of gate checking a car seat or stroller within most U.S. airports is usually a breeze. So, here’s a step-by-step breakdown of how it often goes:
Step 1: Ask the Gate Agent for a Tag and Attach It to the Car Seat/Stroller
The first and most simple step you need to remember once you get to your gate is to let the agent know you have a car seat or stroller. Whether you’ll be taking the car seat onboard or leaving it at the jetway along with the stroller, your baby items must have a tag in both scenarios.
This tag will include information on your seat number, flight details, and, most importantly, your destination. You don’t want your precious car seat to somehow find itself in Minnesota when you’re traveling to Hawaii!
In most cases, the agent in charge will hand-write this tag, so don’t expect anything fancy like a boarding pass.
Next, just grab that tag and make sure to tie it securely around the car seat and/or stroller’s handle. It’s always a good idea if the place where you loop this tag is easy to pick up by the eye to minimize the chances of your belongings getting lost.
Step 2: Leave Your Car Seat/Stroller at the Bottom of the Jetway
If you haven’t booked a seat for your baby—which I know firsthand can be a hassle, but sometimes things play out this way!—you may prefer to leave it to be taken by the loading crew. The same will naturally happen to your stroller.
Just gently place your car seat/stroller at the bottom of the jetway. The crew will automatically understand that you want them to pick it up and stash it away with other suitcases that couldn’t fit into overhead compartments.
If you pay attention to details like Linda—a survival instinct developed after three kids!—you might notice a small door on the jetway. This door leads outside, and it’s where the loading crew comes through to collect baby strollers, car seats, and similar items.
You can leave your baby’s stuff there instead, not leaning against the door, of course, but just beside it.
This can reassure you even further that your belongings will be delivered to the right place. As a parent, I know we tend to check and double-check, so, there you have it, you restless soul!
Leaving your things against the door isn’t a bright idea, as they might tumble down the steps, fall into the runway, and break or get lost.
Step 3: Enjoy Your Flight
Whether you’ll be flying for 2 hours or 6, you can now rest assured that your stuff has been safely tucked into the plane. If you’ve taken the car seat onboard, attach it to the plane’s seat, secure your baby in it, and catch a few hours of much-needed sleep.
Otherwise, your baby’s car seat and/or stroller will be waiting for you when you land. Let’s hope your baby remains calm and contained on your lap!
Step 4: Collect Your Baby’s Items Upon Disembarking
Do I have to tell a flight attendant about my car seat after landing? Do I need to talk to someone from the airport?
I know these questions may be on your mind as a parent who’s concerned about reclaiming their stuff. This is crucial since you’ll need to use the stroller to put your baby in it to stand in line for the passport checks with your hands free.
Well, I’m telling you not to worry, because your stroller and/or car seat will be waiting for you in the jetway, just like how you left them before boarding your plane. Such a relief that you don’t have to go looking for your things after a long flight, right?
If you don’t notice your things at the jetway, don’t start to sweat. Chances are the crew is a little late dropping off these items.
All you have to do is hold on to your patience, step to the side to allow other passengers to exit the airplane, and wait for your car seat/stroller to show up.
Step 5: Load Your Baby Into the Stroller
When your stroller finally arrives at the jetway, I know you’ll want to tuck your baby in it as soon as possible to alleviate that numbness in your arms.
Do it, but make sure to stay out of everyone’s way, sticking to the side of the jetway so as not to block anyone’s path. Or, if you want to lower the hassle of trying to load your baby into the stroller in a crowded jetway, you can wait until you’re off the jetway to do that instead.
Gate Checking Car Seat/Stroller on Different Airlines
You’ll mostly face no issues gate checking a stroller or car seat across different airlines. But here’s a section on what to expect when flying with American Airlines, Southwest, Delta, and United Airlines so that you’re fully prepared.
There might be some slight differences between each airline and the next. It hurts no one to be 100% ready, right?
Gate Check Car Seat American Airlines
Here’s everything you need to know:
- You’re allowed 1 car seat and 1 stroller per ticketed passenger.
- If your stroller is over 20 lbs, you must check it at the ticket counter, otherwise, you can gate check it.
- If you have both a car seat and a stroller, you can only check one at the gate.
Gate Check Car Seat Southwest Airlines
Things aren’t very different here:
- You’re allowed a car seat and stroller per child.
- If you’ll be taking the car seat onboard, make sure its width doesn’t go over 17.8 inches.
- You’re free to check a stroller/car seat at the gate, counter, or curbside.
Gate Check Car Seat Delta Airlines
Keep this in mind if you’re traveling Delta:
- You can check a stroller/car seat at the gate, ticket counter, or curbside.
- If you haven’t booked a seat for your child and there are no empty seats to attach the car seat to, you must check it at the gate via a Delta representative.
Gate Check Car Seat United Airlines
Finally, here’s what United Airlines says about car seats and strollers:
- You can check standard strollers, folding wagons, and car seats at the gate or ticket counter.
- If you’ll be securing your child in a car seat, you must attach it first to a window seat and ensure your kid stays in it during takeoff, landing, and turbulence.
Gate Checking a Car Seat/Stroller Outside the U.S.
Thankfully, many airports across the globe behave the same way as those inside the U.S. when you need to check a car seat. However, you’re still bound to find yourself in a situation where the rules are different.
For example, some airports have a policy that requires them to leave the stuff you checked at the gate with the checked bags in baggage claim. In other instances, you may need to ask a gate agent to check your car seat instead of simply leaving it at the jetway.
Unfortunately, sometimes you won’t be allowed to check your baby’s items at the gate or take it onboard the plane. Instead, the agent at the airport will ask you to check it into cargo. I know that sounds like a nightmare, but you’ll have to play by each country’s rules.
When not sure which scenario will apply to you, simply ask a travel agent for guidance once you get to the airport.
Conclusions on How to Gate Check a Car Seat
The process of gate checking a car seat can sound intimidating if it’s your first time flying with your baby. But you’ll find out that there’s nothing easier, as it usually goes smoothly in most U.S. airports.
To gate check a car seat or stroller, you just need to get a tag from the gate agent with your plane seat details and flight destination. Attach the tag to your baby’s item, then you can choose to either leave it at the jetway or take it onboard. Piece of cake, ha?
Now that you have your in-depth answer to such a nagging question, why not share it with other parents that may have the same concern? I’d greatly appreciate it if you shared this article on social media and commented on how it solved your problem. Thanks!
Roger and Out.
Frequently Asked Questions
What does it mean to check a car seat at the gate?
To gate check a car seat is when you check it at the gate before boarding your flight instead of at the ticket counter.
Then, you can choose to either leave it at the jetway so that the loading crew could put it away on the plane or take it onboard to secure your baby in it.
Is checking a car seat better than gate check?
No. Gate check is the better option because it minimizes the handling of your car seat by someone else.
This ensures your baby item doesn’t face much wear and tear. It’s the last thing you want to think about when traveling!
Do you need a car seat bag to gate check?
No, you don’t need a bag to check a car seat or even a stroller at the gate. Your items will go from one point to another directly.
Still, many parents choose to put the car seat in a bag regardless because not all members of a loading crew may handle it with care. If you’re conscious about the safety of your baby’s items, a car seat bag can put your mind at rest.
How to pack a car seat for checked baggage?
If you think it’s a better idea to check your car seat at the ticket counter, you need to pack it with care to ensure it doesn’t become damaged when it’s loaded with the cargo. Keep in mind that it’ll be transported with large suitcases, so it’ll be prone to a lot of rough handling and jostling.
Now, to pack a car seat properly, you can put it in a car seat bag or even a duffel bag. Or, if you’ve forgotten to do that and are stuck in front of the ticket counter, you can always ask the airline agent for help.
In some cases, they might be able to provide you with a heavy-duty plastic bag to secure your car seat in it. Otherwise, you’ll have no option but to check it at the gate and have it hauled to the plane after leaving it at the jetway.
Last Updated on April 26, 2023 by Danny Reid