One of the biggest question many parents have when going on vacation with their baby is “What is better a baby carrier or stroller for travel?” When you start reading up on the topic you will find out that people have very strong opinions on this topic so in this guide we will look at various travel scenarios and weigh up the pros and cons of each so you can make the right choice for your situation.
In my opinion, both baby carriers and strollers have a place in travel but it really depends on what you are doing as to which you should fall back on. So here we round up how we make our decisions on whether to take a baby carrier or stroller for travel.
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Overview – baby carrier for travel – pros and cons
Before we start comparing and contrasting a stroller versus a baby carrier for travel we will start looking at the pros and cons of each.
Pros of using a baby carrier for travel
- They are light and very portable. You don’t have to worry about baggage allowance when using a carrier as they are very easy to pack.
- You don’t have to worry about whether you will be able to keep it as carry on and be able to use it in the airport versus having to check it and risk damage. Baby carriers will be very easy to use right up to your plane seat and then be stored for the flight until you need it on landing.A stroller on the other hand, even a cabin compatible one is always at risk on a full flight of having to be checked into the hold.
- They are easier than strollers going through airport security as you don’t have to remove you baby from the stroller and remove anything else you may be storing in there.
- You don’t have to worry about access at any of the sites you are visiting for instance you aren’t concerned if you are traveling somewhere like Rome with a baby about whether there will be cobblestones that may damage your baby stroller or what you will do if the elevators are damaged at a certain tourist attraction.
Cons of using a baby carrier for travel
Now we have seen the pros of using a baby carrier for travel we will turn our attention to the cons.
- Having lived in a hot weather location I can tell you that wearing a baby, even in a hot weather baby carrier, can become sweaty and uncomfortable for both you and the baby very quickly if you are in very hot weather.Living in the Middle East I discovered this first hand when I was in Dubai with a baby.
- They can get heavy and you can get sore quickly. If you are anything like me when traveling you will be pushing yourself to see lots of things and it will involve lots of walking. This can be tiring but add carrying a baby into the mix and you can get tired and achy very quickly.
- It is harder to protect them from extreme weather conditions that in a stroller. In a stroller with hot weather you can add a fan easily to help cool them and you have the sun shade to protect them from UV rays which is much harder when you are carrying your baby.It is also hard in Winter as the extra layers can make it feel bulkier and more uncomfortable to carry them.
- Some babies don’t enjoy being carried. My eldest certainly didn’t. It really depends on the baby to whether they prefer being carried or being in a stroller. My daughter was a baby that loved the stroller, my son on the other hand was happy in either. It really does depend on the child to which will make you as a family happier.
- You lose storage space. Do not underestimate how much you will use your stroller basket for storage when travelling.I actually really miss my coffee cup holder when I use a carrier over a stroller. Think about what you need to take out for the day and whether you need to have the storage options that a stroller provide.
- Some babies do not nap in a carrier. Both of my children napped easier in the stroller and carrier therefore if we were on a long day out we preferred the stroller for nap times.
- If you are doing baby led weaning while traveling it can be hard to feed your baby in a carrier as opposed to a stroller.
Advice for using a baby carrier for travel
If your baby is not used to being in a baby carrier for long periods of time we recommend getting them used to it before travel.
Every day wear your baby for a bit longer so they get acclimatised to being in the baby carrier before travel.
It is also important to get the right baby carrier for travel. For instance if you are traveling to a hot weather locale then you will want to have a baby carrier for hot weather i.e. one that is more breathable (you can read our full guide on best baby carriers for hot weather here).
Overview – stroller for travel – pros and cons
Now we have done a deep dive into using a baby carrier for travel we will turn our attention to the stroller for travel.
Pros of using a stroller for travel
- Strollers are great for nap times. Both of my children napped better in the stroller compared to the carrier. Therefore for a long day out we preferred a stroller as it definitely made our nap time easier.
- Strollers are great even in airports for the sheer volume of things you can carry on it. Whether it is hooking bags on the handle (carefully so you don’t unbalance the stroller of course), carrying your coffee in the holder or just putting things in the stroller basket – do no underestimate the usefulness of storage in strollers for travel.
- Strollers are great for sun protection. Many strollers, even travel strollers have large canopies that provide great shade for traveling to hot weather destinations. Conversely if you are doing a winter break with babies, having a muff and blankets means you are guaranteed to keep your little one warm without feeling like you have too many layers bunched up.
- Strollers are brilliant for those traveling with babies who are being weaned. There are usually accessories where you can put snacks and they double up as great travel high chairs.
Cons of using a stroller for travel
- Your at home stroller may not be suitable for travel. For instance it may not be able to taken on the plane and may have to be checked. It also may be heavy and cumbersome.Therefore you may end up having to buy a secondary travel stroller which a) can be an expensive endeavour and b) may not be as robust as your at home stroller.You will also need to purchase a stroller bag in case your stroller needs checking to protect it which again will add to your baby travel expenses.
- At the airport although the stroller is great for helping with storage they can also be a pain going through security. For instance you will have to get baby out even if they are sleeping.Also you will have to empty everything out and fold it down. I store so much in the stroller this can be a real pain.
- There can be instances even if you have a stroller suitable for airplane compartments where they may need to be checked.For instance if the plane is full. If this is the case then you can run the risk of damage but you also won’t have it when you disembark on landing.
- If you are traveling to somewhere like a theme park there is a risk your stroller could be stolen when using stroller parking.
- If you are traveling to Europe then hotel rooms are smaller. Or maybe you are looking for the best stroller for cruise ships? In both of these instances you will notice that strollers will take up a lot of room in places where storage is limited.Carriers would undoubtedly save spaces in these instances.
Should you use a stroller or carrier in airport?
Now we have examined the pros and cons of a stroller or carrier for travel we will look at specific travel scenarios and what you should consider in each. First let’s look at the airport.
Are you wondering whether you should use a stroller or carrier in airport?
The advantages of the stroller are:
- it is great for extra storage
- can be used for naps which is very useful if the plane is delayed.
- it is great for feeding while traveling.
However the stroller also has disadvantages:
- it could end up being checked
- you will have to empty everything going through security.
Therefore overall I think carriers are best for airport travel as there is less disruption for baby and you don’t run the risk of losing your method of transport on a busy plane.
You can also use the carrier on the plane for that inevitable walking period when you are trying to get your little one to sleep.
Just be sure if you decide to use the carrier and check the stroller that you use a good stroller bag and have it well protected from damage.
But what about other scenarios and other things to consider?
Stroller vs Baby Carrier for Road Trips
Another of our favourite type of vacations is doing a road trip with babies and toddlers. We love road tripping to the national parks and one of the advantages of this type of holiday is that you can pack more because you have your own vehicle.
If we are doing a road trip with a baby then we will definitely take both a stroller and a carrier.
Baby Carrier Vs Stroller for Theme Parks
Are you thinking about visiting a theme park with a baby? Is Disneyland with toddlers on your vacation bucket list? Well if so you might be wondering whether you should use a carrier or a stroller for travel to a theme park.
My answer is definitely take most but with precautions.
Our step count on theme park vacations is usually crazy high therefore having a stroller is a real saver for those long days in the park whether you are visiting California Adventure with toddlers or Disneyland Paris with toddlers my advice is the same. Always have a stroller with you for babies or toddlers.
But if you do visit a theme park with a stroller be sure to also take a stroller lock as it isn’t unheard of for expensive strollers to be stolen in theme parks and also have a carrier with you for when you are in queues and places in the park you can’t take the stroller.
Is a stroller or baby carrier for travel on a cruise ship
If you are going on a cruise with a baby then you may be wondering if you should take a stroller or carrierThe truth is a carrier is best because it won’t take up valuable space in your cabin (Which will be small) and is very portable.
But the truth is, when you get on land it is likely that some of your ports will need a stroller.
My advice is take a stroller but take the right one alongside a carrier. Be sure to check out our post on the best stroller for cruise ships here.
Stroller or carrier for beach vacations
If you are wondering whether a baby carrier or stroller is best for a beach vacation the things you should be thinking about are:
- How hot is it going to get
- Where your little one is going to nap – if you decide against napping a stroller we recommend a Koodi beach shade which can double up as a nap bed.
- And how far you have to travel to get to the beach.
If you are staying on site, i.e. hotel with a beach then changes are you won’t need your stroller most of the time. And let’s face it once you are on the sand strollers are next to useless.
Therefore if you are only at a beach then I would mainly use a carrier but if you will visit other locations or need to travel to the beach then a stroller may come in handy.
Other considerations in the stroller vs baby carrier for travel debate
How long are you going to be out?
If you are going to be out for a long day you may not want to carry your baby all day. You can always take the carrier with the stroller should you want to mix it up!
If you don’t have the stroller with this this won’t be an option therefore I would err on the side of caution for long days out and take both.
What are the streets like?
Nothing is a travel stroller killer like cobbles as we found out in Oxford! If you are considering a historic European city with a baby such as Oxford, or York, or even Amsterdam with a baby then you may want to consider using your carrier more.
This way you won’t be risking damaging your stroller and a carrier is very easy to use in city locations.
What transport are you using?
When you think about your destination it is worth considering what type of transport you will be using.
For instance if you have your own vehicle it is easy to store the stroller in the boot of the car. However what about if you are using public transport?
If you are using public transport it is worth considering how accessible it is. For instance if you are visiting London with a baby you will find only certain stations are accessible for strollers and in many places will have to be taken down.
Therefore in places like this a carrier might be a better option.
What is the weather going to be like?
When we were in Rome with a baby everyone said that a stroller wasn’t possible. But the weather really gave us no option. And actually if we ever went back we would definitely use the stroller again.
In truth heavy rain forced our hand and if I returned to Rome I would use the stroller again. We covered a lot of ground, kept the baby warm and dry and had a really lovely day out!
We had a similar experience in Stockholm. There we found that the stroller was more comfortable for thick layers and offered more protection from the biting Winter wind.
We used the rain cover for an added layer of protection.
However in hot weather you may want to consider if a stroller is best. You wont be carrying so this will keep you cooler and has a large shade for sun protection which we prefer. However if you do decide to use a carrier in a hot weather locale be sure it is one designed for it.
What will you be doing for nap times?
If you are going out for a long day how will you accommodate the baby’s naps? We find it easier to have Baby E in the stroller for napping during the day.
There is nothing she loves more than napping in her stroller so for long days out we can’t really be doing without it!
What activities are you doing?
Some places don’t allow strollers. For instance some museums will make you check your stroller.
Check any locations ahead of time so you know if you will be allowed to take the baby in the stroller or the carrier and pack accordingly!
Same planning is needed for outdoor activities. If you are going on a hike or even just a city walk – think about what the terrain will be like. If it’s not flat the carrier may be a better option!
What is your preference on a normal day – carrier or stroller?
If you are in doubt about whether a baby carrier or stroller is best for travel I will also revert back to “What is it that you prefer to use in your day to day life?”
Whatever you are most comfortable with everyday is likely what you will prefer to use while travelling. Personally, I am a stroller person so this tends to be our default but I usually have the carrier packed underneath the stroller so I can make use of both.
We have recently reviewed the Familidoo Air Stroller which may be of interest if you are looking for the perfect travel stroller.
If you are interested in carriers our friends at Flip Flop globetrotters recommend the Manduca Carrier
I hope these questions will be of help when you are travelling to think about baby transportation methods but I would love to hear how you make your decisions in the comments below and whether you think a baby carrier or stroller is best for travel?