06 January 2007

Stow the stroller in a duffle when you fly

This, from old friend and friend-of-a-friend Julie, whose outings with her daughters are often punctuated by celebrity sightings (she's Splendora's LA Celeb Spotter):

Most parents have a favorite anecdote about the challenges of traveling with small kids.  Recently I noticed that several of the stories involved an airport and a trusty stroller being inflicted with irreperable damage.  Often the airlines will offer to repair or replace a stroller, but that is little consolation when you are beginning your trip or even just getting home.  This is when I remembered a conversation that I had with my father a few years ago.

Dad: Honey we would like to buy you a Maclaren Stroller.  We hear they are the best. 
Me: That's great dad.  Thank you. 
Dad: Would you like me to order the duffle bag that comes with it? 
Me:  Duffle bag? 
Dad: To protect it when you travel. 

Only then did I realize what a a great help it would be.  We stroll our child through the airport with the duffle stowed safely below.  At the gate we collaspe the stroller, store it in the bag, and hand it to the flight crew.  At the end of our flight we have a stroller that is all in one piece and clean.  So duffle away and save yourself the hassle of dealing with a broken handle or ripped sunshade.

Cheapo alternative: ask the folks at flight check-in for a big plastic bag -- they've almost always got 'em for checked luggage that requires a little containment (such as car seats). Those should do the trick for small-ish strollers checked at the gate as well.

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Do those really work? I always picture at 400 lb. gorilla jumping up and down on my luggage (thanks, Samsonite) and didn't know if a canvas or nylon bag could do much to protect my beloved Maclaren.

Friends with twins used cheapo umbrella strollers (leaving their essential double stroller at home), and found them effective but frustrating to use.

Just remember to take your baby out of the stroller before you fold it up, and other hilarious product warnings at the Wacky Warning Label contest at Michigan Law: http://www.mlaw.org/wwl/index.html

I've heard of people using the cheapo strollers and, for twins, using zip ties to turn two singles into a doublewide.

Anybody try this approach?

"Cheapo alternative: ask the folks at flight check-in for a big plastic bag -- they've almost always got 'em..."

Maybe you fly something other than American - who does NOT ever have them (at least not at DFW, ORD, DEN, JFK...). We've asked at the ticket counter, gate, no one has them.

The last time I saw a big plastic bag available at an airport was a skycap at STL a few years ago.

It wouldn't be a bad idea to take the roll of bags out of a small box of clear lawn bags and stow it in a carry-on pocket just in case.

I used a military-issue canvas duffel when gate-checking my daughter's stroller or car seat. We currently use an inexpensive nylon duffle bag to contain her booster when we travel. It's only gotten lost once, which was really due to the large volume of baggage in DEN after the first December 2006 blizzard.

Bummer. We usually fly Alaska and Southwest and they almost always have them.

I have a Peg Perego Pliko and bought a special stroller duffel for it. But, it's only actually worked out ok a couple of the times that we have used it. When we did do as the hack suggests and use it to gate check our stroller, the stroller was fine. One time, however, (on Southwest) when I was travelling alone with my daughter who was 9 months old, it got sent with the regular checked baggage to baggage claim at my layover aiport. I basically pitched a fit because we were both so tired and I was in desperate need of the restroom (which I couldn't really do without my daughter in the stroller at that age). Luckily some management type person happened to be there and was able to retrieve it for me, but she was a HUGE pain about it. She basically told me it was my fault, because it was in a bag and "didn't look like a stroller." I explained the purpose of the bag, and argued, of course, that since it was labeled with a gate check tag by their airline, I should have received it at the gate regardless of what it looked like. Unfortunately, by the time I got it, I didn't have time to go the restroom, but at least my stroller wasn't stuck in Vegas while I flew home.

The second problem I encountered was probably the result of bad judgment on my part. When my daughter got older and we liked to use the layover and pre-boarding times as "let her run around and wear herself out as much as possible" times, we decided to check the stroller all the way through. We thought the bag would be sufficient protection. Wrong! One of the rear wheels almost broke off and needed to be replaced, after our warranty coverage expired, of course. Luckily, it worked well enough on the trip and didn't break completely until we got home.

The third problem I encountered was that when simply zipping up the bag the last time we used it, the zipper just broke. Piece of junk! I'll try to find it and look at the brand name and leave another comment later, but it was a black one that we got at USA baby that was supposed to fit a variety of stroller types, including the Pliko.

Now we have a cheapo umbrella that we only use for travelling and just gate check without a bag.

Sorry for the long comment, but my points are:
1. only use the bag for gate checking, don't rely on it to protect your stroller for general baggage.

2. Make sure the gate check label is bright, easily visible, and maybe consider somehow labeling it STROLLER, to help ensure you actually get it at the gate.

3. Check the bag you buy carefully for quality as well for a return policy and/or warranty.

I do however, have a bag for checking our car seat all the way through, and that has worked fine.

Carseats, too - carrying a duffel that will just fit both our carsets saves a lot of hassle with tagging them, putting them in plastic bags, or whatever the particular airport you're at reqires.

I think it's a great thing, we stuff all of our last minute "I don't want to carry it onto the plane, it's too bulky" items in the stroller bag w/ the stroller on all of our flights. We have the Peg Perego stroller/bag and the only bummer thing about the bag is, it fits ONLY that stroller (or similar small ones). We have a Maclaren Global stroller that we keep at home (the Peg Perego Pliko P3 in the car b/c it's lighter and more comfortable for our daughter) and I tried using the bag to store our Maclaren and it wasn't working, it just would not fit. But I still love the stroller bag and I highly recommend it for traveling, plus I feel the flight crew would less likely bang it around since there's a handle on the bag...at least, I'd hope so.

We fly cross-country several times a year, and if there is one thing I think is a must for all that baby gear, it is proper duffeling! We tossed the PACK & PLAY bag and instead, pack that bad-boy in a big duffle that is much easier to carrier and much more protective (cheapo alternative: let your kiddo co-sleep with you in the in-law's/hotel/guest room...that is, if you are one of those families for which co-sleeping is a good idea...ours is not). The duffle works incredibly well and usually has enough room to store some diapers, blankets and other bulky items. One more lovely perk: our bag has enough room for the Pack & Play and the umbrella stroller. Sure, it is no Maclaren, but for a trip, I can deal with that just fine.

I also can't rave enough about the bags that fit car seats. At first, I balked at the $30 price tag, but it has been worth every single penny while we've trekked through airports and long-term parking lots. There is plenty of room to stow winter coats, stuffed animals and other things you just do not want to be bothered with when you have a toddler and the maximum number of carry-ons in an airport. Love love love love love.

We fly cross-country several times a year, and if there is one thing I think is a must for all that baby gear, it is proper duffle-ing! We tossed the PACK & PLAY bag and instead, pack that bad-boy in a big duffle that is much easier to carrier and much more protective (cheapo alternative: let your kiddo co-sleep with you in the in-law's/hotel/guest room...that is, if you are one of those families for which co-sleeping is a good idea...ours is not). The duffle works incredibly well and usually has enough room to store some diapers, blankets and other bulky items. One more lovely perk: our bag has enough room for the Pack & Play and the umbrella stroller. Sure, it is no Maclaren, but for a trip, I can deal with that just fine.

I also can't rave enough about the bags that fit car seats. At first, I balked at the $30 price tag, but it has been worth every single penny while we've trekked through airports and long-term parking lots. There is plenty of room to stow winter coats, stuffed animals and other things you just do not want to be bothered with when you have a toddler and the maximum number of carry-ons in an airport. Love love love love love.

Defining the best double stroller may not be easy. Every parent has his or her own preference and budget.

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