This is one of the most common questions asked by parents setting out on world travel with small children. There is no definitive answer on this one and, for many, it comes down to personal preference. Only you know your child and every child is different. What works for one family, won’t work for another.
Here are some questions to help you decide if you should travel with a stroller:
Where are you going?
This will play a big part in your decision making process. Western countries, particularly the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the UK, are well set up to accommodate families with strollers. Accessibility to public transport & buildings and the quality of the sidewalks mean that you can wheel a stroller pretty much anywhere. In other parts of the world your stroller won’t make it very far. Where sidewalks are used as markets, motorbike parking, restaurants or just generally aren’t in good shape, or where accessibility isn’t a focus in society and you will have trouble getting your stroller around. Equally, if you’re heading to a beach or jungle destination just about anywhere a stroller will be useless.
What kind of travel are you planning?
Are you a backpacker? Are you planning a road trip? Are you travelling to visit relatives across country? Or on a RTW trip? The type of trip you’re planning will impact your need for a stroller. There are many types of strollers and you can find one that best suits your travel by looking at reviews online. Pay attention to details like weight, ease of folding and manoeuvrability.
If you’re backpacking off-the-beaten path around Asia or South America, a stroller will be of little use but if you’re sticking to the tourist trail you can probably make use of it a good portion of the time.
Road tripping with your own car or a rental means you can just throw the stroller in the back of the car. If you’re visiting relatives, they might be able to arrange for you to borrow a stroller from a friend, saving you dragging yours across country.
If you’re on a RTW trip, think about the portions of your journey where you might need a stroller and those were you won’t – you can take a stroller for some of the journey and the ditch it along the way or leave home without it and buy one when you need it.
Do your kids need a stroller at home?
If you can’t make it around the mall at home without a stroller, you will need one on your travels.
How long are your children able to walk for?
If your kids have stamina and can walk for several hours at a time, you can probably skip the stroller. All kids are different and it depends what they’re used to at home. You may be pleasantly surprised at how long they can walk for without assistance. Practice building up walking stamina at home before you leave if you want to travel without a stroller.
Are they comfortable in a carrier?
Being able to transport your child in a carrier like an Ergo will solve the accessibility restrictions you’ll come across in less developed countries. However, if it’s hot, hot, hot can you bear to have a baby strapped to your front or back all day? Using a carrier does free up your hands to wheel a suitcase around so they can be handy in airports.
Are they runners? Can you manage you child in busy situations?
One of the biggest benefits for travelling with a stroller is it creates a safe place for your child in high traffic areas, busy airports and sprawling theme parks. If your child is a runner and regularly bolts away before you can catch him, strapping them into a stroller can be the safest place for them.
Do they still nap during the day?
If you’re planning on lots of long days sightseeing, having a stroller on hand as a place for your toddler to nap can be a real bonus. It allows you to keep moving while they get some rest.
Can you carry them for long periods of time if need be?
Got a heavy child? Or a bad back? If you can’t carry your child for long periods when they are sleepy, exhausted or throwing a tantrum then having a stroller becomes necessity rather than a luxury.
Want my opinion?
Unless your child is a diehard carrier baby, take the stroller. We always travel with a small, folding umbrella stroller. Leave your big jogging stroller or buggy at home unless you’re on a short trip and travelling around by car or only in countries like the US or Australia. Even in developed countries like Japan you’ll still find accessibility is limited in many situations such as temples and train stations.
Even though our son (aged almost four) doesn’t need a stroller at home for any outings, we still find it useful for travel. We can whip through an airport much faster if he’s in a stroller. He always seems to fall asleep right when we need to collect our luggage so not having to carry 16kg of sleeping boy on top of everything else is a essential. We also feel a lot more comfortable in busy areas with him strapped in safely without the possibility of him wandering off and getting lost.
The stroller we use currently cost $25 from KMart and has made it through two trips around South East Asia and Australia over the last two years. Buying a cheap stroller means if you don’t end up using it on your travels you can donate it along the way without feeling like you’ve wasted a lot of money.
Do you travel with a stroller?
Why or why not?
We have sometimes taken the stroller and sometimes not, so I agree the answer varies.
However, I’m on the side of “probably not”.
Our son doesn’t nap well in the stroller, so asking if he naps is a bit of a moot point on that front. 🙂
And it’s not necessarily that our kids can walk a long way or we can carry them far or we can make it around the mall without a stroller (no), but on holiday you do live differently. You don’t have to rush from A to B at adult pace, for example – you can relax a bit – and there are other key differences as well (I won’t write a whole post in your comments 🙂 ).
I needed this post about four months ago when I was trying to figure out whether to take the stroller to Penang!
We definitely needed it for Europe when R was just 3, because he couldn’t walk for that long and we did a LOT of walking especially in Ireland and Vienna and (well nearly everywhere).
I was in two minds for Penang and went without, partly because I didn’t really want to juggle it when I was travelling alone with him for the whole trip, and it worked out OK! I was amazed how far he could walk when there was no alternative and when it was somewhere new.
Sometimes we take it, sometimes we don’t. Our situation is a bit different with two close in age though.
Last year we spent 7 weeks in Asia with a turning 1 year old and a 2 year old. We took it primarily so the younger one could nap and we could stay out longer. However, it just didn’t work as the 2 year old would demand it whenever she saw it, so we would often leave it in the hotel as it just made life difficult when they both wanted it.
When we went to the US and Dominican Republic recently, we didnt take it. We bought a cheapo one for the US road trip part of our trip which worked well. Better than taking it there with us. In the DR, there were no proper footpaths and we ended up throwing it out.
My big advice would be to just use a carrier if you at all can. We find they work better. No accessibility issues. We also find that one extra bit of luggage (on top of two suitcases and two little ones) is more than we can get around with on public transport so it makes for a pricier trip. If you want one, but it at your destination if that’s practical
Reuben wasn’t into the carrier as a baby but I’m determined to get Hazel used to it before we start travelling. I imagine, travelling with two kids, it’s even more essential to be hands-free with the little one so you can chase the bigger one!
My kids are sleepers, which is awesome for beer breaks. I have a million (okay, not a million), but I have a lot of strollers to accommodate the many occasions. For travel with planes I always take my umbrellas, because they are easy for transport. Although they aren’t great for naps, sometimes I just need to trap my toddlers (mine are runners).
We’re debating what to take on our next trip now that we have a small baby and a four-year old. I think we need a stroller that can do double duty for both kids. Something that the four-year old can use while the baby is in the carrier but also great for napping in for a baby. Any ideas?
I love our Mclaren Vogue and that’s what we took to Asia with us. It’s an umbrella stroller, but big and sturdy enough to fit our massive nearly 4 year old but lays back and is suitable from birth, so worked with out baby for naps as well 🙂
We always bring the stroller – for the airport and immigration line if nothing else. You can choose which outings you want to use it for once you get where you’re going and get a feel for things. We’ve got the Halford Fliplite + a gate check bag and love it. 🙂
That looks like a great wee stroller Laura!
We love traveling with a stroller and I do not think we could cope without it. There are definitely times when it is annoying and a pain to carry around with us, but overall we would not travel without it. I did also like a sling when my babies were very young.
i rarely took our stroller and much preferred our Ergobaby carrier. I didn’t need to worry about fitting it in transport, was able to take the beaten path and could encourage my kids to explore. I continued to use it right up until she was probably 4 or so and never regretted not taking the stroller.
I’m also a bit of a “fly by the seat of her pants” type of traveller. I decide to do things on a whim and I found a carrier suited me better. Finding the right carrier for you and your kid is the secret 😉
I’m the opposite! We started out with just an Ergo but ended up buying a stroller because we needed it, not just for the baby but for the four-year old too! I’ve never had a problem fitting it on transport, getting off the beaten path or doing things on a whim just because I’ve got a stroller. In fact, I find it easier to stay out longer during the day because of it. To each their own!
My rule for a travel stroller was that I had to be able to fold it with one hand and foot and lift it up while holding other stuff (like a toddler) in my other arm. I also traveled with an inexpensive stroller so I wouldn’t be too upset if it was lost or damaged (we had both happen). For us the best thing about the stroller was that our child could nap while we were out and about if she wanted, which sometimes gave us an opportunity to have lunch or afternoon drinks “for two.” That’s harder to manage with a carrier.
We just came back from a trip to Fiji with our 6 month and 3 1/2 year old boys. We took a Mountain Buggy Nano travel stroller, a ring sling, and a mei tai baby carrier. We almost didn’t take the stroller, but I’m so glad we did. It was great for naps during the day for the little one, and we absolutely would have struggled big time without it when we arrived home, and had to get 2 sleeping boys through the airport! It was great because it reclined, so good for younger one and sleeps, and folded small enough to take as carry on. I was however very glad to have ring sling with us. Great in airport (when older child was in stroller), great for trips to town when the stroller would have struggled with lack of foot paths, and great in taxi’s etc with no carseat. I could have done without the meitai, but would maybe have got more use from it if travelling with a slightly older babe that I couldn’t carry for so long in ring sling.
I love traveling with a stroller. Thanks for your article
I personally love having my stroller with me, even if it takes me a little longer to leave the plane. The baby is more comfortable, I can store more things in the stroller’s compartments and you never know how long you will be at the airport these days. The carrier is a good alternative depending on the age and temperament of your baby.
Good luck those of you travelling with little ones.
We are heading to Italy and Croatia in a month with our then 8 month old. Still can’t decide if we should use a stroller or not… Has anyone travelled to those countries with a little one?
Hi Alex. Yes we took ours to Italy. It was definitely handy but I would only take a lightweight one that you are capable of quickly folding and carrying up & down lots of stairs. Across most of Europe, train stations, metro stations, tourist attractions etc don’t have elevators or even escalators so you will be walking up and down lots of stairs. Ideally, you want to be able to carry it in one hand so you can get in and out of the metro gates they have which can be really awkward! Let me know if you need any more advice. 🙂
I am sure a trip to Europe will be impossible without a stroller. The amount of walking required is just too much to not have the convenience of a stroller!
Actually a stroller is really not convenient for Europe at all. A baby carrier is much better. See this post – https://flashpackerfamily.com/tough-things-travelling-europe-kids/