Baby Carrier vs Stroller for Travel with a Baby

Author: Celine Brewer

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Let’s be honest, when it comes to packing for baby travel there are so many things to consider. From  traveling with car seats to whether to pack your own baby travel crib. Whether you plan to use a baby carrier or stroller for travel with a baby is just one more decision you need to make. In some instances, it will be an easy choice, while other times it might require a little bit more thought.

Without a doubt, baby carriers and strollers are must-have baby travel items. Which one is better for travel with a baby? Should you bring both your stroller and baby carrier on vacation? Can you get away with traveling with a baby carrier instead of a stroller. What about travel with a newborn or travel with a toddler, does that change your decision?

I cover all these questions (and more) about travel with a stroller vs baby carrier below!

This post contains compensated links.

Baby Carrier for Travel: Pros & Cons

Let’s start with using a baby carrier vs stroller for travel. We always recommend using a baby carrier for travel with an infant or a baby. If your baby isn’t used to spending time in the baby carrier, plan to spend some extra time using it at home before you leave.

It’s also important to find the best baby carrier for travel that will keep both you and your baby comfortable for extended periods of time.  

Benefits of using a Baby Carrier Instead of a Stroller

baby travel essentials - baby carrier
  • Baby carriers are lightweight and easy to pack.

  • You don’t need to worry about damage to your baby carrier on the flight. In fact, baby carriers are a must for flying with a baby!

  • While traveling with a newborn, infants will be most comfortable snuggled up against you.

  • It’s easier to go almost anywhere without needing to give it much thought. You don’t need to worry about stairs or elevators out of order.

  • It’s easier to go through airport security with a baby when you don’t have to remove all the items from your stroller. If you are lucky, airport security will let you through without even taking your baby out of your carrier.

Disadvantages of Baby Wearing Instead of a Stroller

Best hiking carriers for babies
  • If you plan to be baby wearing vs stroller, then you’ll be carrying your baby the entire time without a break. This can be especially difficult in warm climates, where an umbrella travel stroller with a mesh back might be cooler for both you and your baby!

  • Depending on the size and weight of your baby, baby wearing for extended periods of time can be difficult and uncomfortable.

  • It’s more difficult to keep your baby protected from the sun in a baby carrier than in a stroller with a good canopy.

  • Older babies and toddlers may get bored of being carried the entire time.

  • Some babies don’t enjoy being in the carrier for extended periods of time.

  • You need to carry all of your belongings in addition to your baby, instead of using the stroller as storage.

  • Some babies will fall asleep in the stroller in the evening, allowing parents to have a meal out at a restaurant. This is much more difficult to do with a baby in a carrier.

Stroller for Travel: Pros & Cons

There are some definite benefits of using a stroller vs baby carrier for travel, but the downside is having more to lug around and the potential for loss or damage to your stroller.

Here are some of the main advantages and disadvantages of using a stroller vs baby wearing.

baby in stroller in front of fountain in Trafalgar Square London

Benefits of using a Stroller instead of Baby Wearing

See all our recommended stroller accessories for travel!

Disadvantages of a Stroller for Travel vs a Baby Carrier

Travel with a stroller still does have it downsides:

  • At the airport, you’ll need to empty out your stroller to get it through security.

  • While the stroller is great for carrying extra bags, you will need to empty it again and fold it up before getting on the plane.

  • Whether you check your stroller with your luggage or gate check it, there’s the risk of it being damaged or lost.

  • Strollers are not always returned at the gate. Some airports will return your stroller at the luggage carousels. Meaning if you travel with a car seat on the plane, you’ll be carrying it all the way to the luggage carousel.

  • In cities where hotel rooms and apartments are small, you’ll find a lack of places to store your stroller in the hotel or apartment.

  • Not all places are stroller accessible. Stairs, cobblestone, elevators out of service, cramped space in public transit all make it cumbersome to travel with a stroller.

  • If you are renting a car, you need to make sure you rental car is large enough for your stroller and all your luggage.

  • If your regular stroller is a large all-terrain stroller, while this is perfect for at home it will be quite challenging to travel with. You can either purchase a secondary cheap travel stroller or rent a stroller at your destination. If you are considering renting a stroller, check out our guide for renting baby gear for travel.

Baby Carrier vs Stroller

For Airplane Travel

A baby carrier is a must for airplane travel. It allows you to carry your baby and leave your hands free for your bags. Unless you have a compact stroller for the airplane that fits in the overhead bin, you might not have access to the stroller at all times. The wonderful part about a baby carrier, is you can pack it up in your carry-on but it’s always there when you need it.

Stroller or baby carrier in airport

The best way to reduce your risk of potential loss or damage to your stroller is to gate check your stroller or travel with a lightweight travel stroller that fits in the overhead bin. Even in this case, getting on the airplane will require you to have your stroller collapsed and in your stroller carry bag.

Baby Carrier or Stroller in Airport

Should you use a stroller or baby carrier for the airport? The stroller is great for carrying extras like your diaper bag (if you aren’t using one of these best backpack diaper bags for travel) or your travel car seat. But it is a lot more to manage getting through security.

Flying with an infant

If you don’t have a lot of extras, you can skip bringing a stroller altogether and rent a stroller at your destination. Using a baby carrier to get around the airport is easy enough, especially if you are packing light.

If renting stroller when traveling is not an option, you can still go with the baby carrier in the airport and check your stroller with your luggage, but we recommend making sure it’s well protected.

If you have purchased a seat for your baby and will have a car seat, we recommend having a stroller with you to get around the airport. Alternatively, you can purchase a car seat travel cart to get your car seat to the gate. This will free you up to leave your stroller at home and rent a stroller upon arrival.

Using Baby Carrier on Flight

For the flight, we have always brought our baby in the baby carrier. More often than not, we got through security without having to take our baby out of the carrier, which was much easier than emptying and folding up a stroller to put it through the x-ray machine.

We had the added benefit of having the carrier on the airplane with us, for when we needed to spend time walking up and down the aisle. This is especially nice to have if you haven’t reserved a bassinet on the airplane and will need some moments to be hands free.

A baby carrier isn’t something we’d leave behind when flying with an infant, baby or toddler.

For Road Trips

For road trips with a baby or toddler, there are a few considerations for determining if you pack both a baby carrier and a stroller.

image of baby road trip

If you are on a road trip with an infant or baby that is still in bucket seat, having a stroller travel system makes transitions super easy. If your baby is sleeping, you can lift the car seat and put it on your stroller (while hopefully keeping your baby sleeping).

Will you have room in the car for your stroller and luggage? Depending on where you are traveling and if you are renting a car, you’ll want a lightweight travel stroller to ensure you will have room in your car for your stroller.

For instances where the stroller isn’t practical, we recommend packing your baby carrier as well since it doesn’t take up a significant amount of room.

For Sightseeing City Travel

Depending on where you’ll be traveling, a stroller might be necessary. If you plan to be out walking and sightseeing all day, you’ll want a break from baby wearing!

We recommend bringing a baby stroller and carrier for visiting cities like Paris with a baby or Rome with a baby. Even with cobblestone, using strollers in Europe is well worth it since you’ll be spending so much time walking.

While not all attractions are stroller friendly, you can plan your days to use the baby carrier for those days where you visit the places that are not stroller friendly.

If the website for the attraction you are visiting doesn’t specify if it is stroller friendly, then look for information on wheelchair accessibility, which is a good proxy for how easily you can get around with a stroller. 

Depending on the accessibility of the attraction, we would use either the stroller or baby carrier. If we were planning on being out all day and seeing multiple attractions, we would bring the stroller and tuck the baby carrier in the bottom.

For Travel in Warm Climates

One important consideration when choosing a stroller vs baby carrier is the weather, and this includes traveling to warm climates with a baby. If the temperature soars, a baby carrier will result in both you and your baby being uncomfortable and sweaty.

For this reason, we opted to use a stroller for our trip to Barcelona with a baby in early fall and to New York with a baby in spring.

Barceloneta Beach with toddler or baby

It is easier to keep your baby out of the sun using a stroller with a good canopy than it is with a carrier. If you are visiting a warm destination, you will want access to a stroller and we’d add on a CoziGo stroller cover as well!

For the times when you will want to use a baby carrier, get a baby carrier with mesh for more breathability.

For the Beach

Similar to using a stroller for travel in warm climates, beach destinations and all-inclusive vacations with a baby are the types of trip that we recommend bringing your stroller on. Aside from the extra sun protection a stroller will offer, the stroller is also the perfect way to carry all your baby and toddler beach essentials.

use stroller to carry baby beach essentials

For Travel in Cold Climates

We love using a baby carrier for travel to cold climates. With the proper baby wearing jacket, you can have your baby snuggled up to you keeping you both warm.

If a baby carrier isn’t an option, a warm bunting bag for your stroller is just one of the items we include in our essential winter travel gear for babies and toddlers. Just be sure to check on your baby frequently to make sure your baby is still warm, since your baby won’t be moving to create extra body heat.

down stroller bag for winter travel with baby

We also recommend using a rain cover for your stroller to help with the cold and wind. You can also purchase a rain cover for your baby carrier for extra protection in rainy destinations where it might not be practical to use a baby wearing jacket.

For Hiking

For active holidays that include hiking with a baby or toddler, we recommend a baby carrier, toddler carrier or one of these best hiking carriers.

Using backpack carrier for toddlers in Cinque Terre

With a little extra preparation, you can still visit places like Cinque Terre with a baby or toddler and experience some of the incredible hiking.

Hiking with a baby is the perfect way to get out of the city and experience the incredible natural beauty your destination has to offer.

We always found that travel with a toddler was even more conducive to finding outdoor activities and even hiking with a toddler. Toddlers love to be on the move and not having to worry about busy city streets makes for much more enjoyable holidays.

hiking with a toddler

We took our first hiking vacation to Sedona with a baby and toddler and even incorporated some hiking in our time in San Diego with a baby and toddler.

Looking for inspiration? Check out these best hikes around the world with a baby or toddler and these best hikes in the USA with a baby or toddler.

For Getting Baby to Sleep on Vacation

Here’s one where it will really depend on your baby’s age and personality. When traveling with an infant, your baby will likely fall asleep quickly in either a baby carrier or a stroller.

As mentioned previously, a stroller is a great way to have your baby sleep while you enjoy a nice meal out (assuming the restaurant has room for strollers – outside dining is perfect for this).

naps in stroller when baby won't sleep when traveling

For older babies, being in a stroller where they can see their surroundings may keep them stimulated enough to not fall asleep. Your baby may fall asleep faster while snuggled up to you in a baby carrier.

baby sleeping in baby carrier - one of the must-have baby travel gear items

We recommend trying both at home before your trip to see what works best for getting your baby to sleep on vacation.

Our daughter wasn’t great at sleeping on-the-go in a stroller. We tried on several occasions and just ended up frustrated with a very tired little girl. If we needed her to sleep, we always used the carrier instead of the stroller. We may have had more success with a stroller cover like the CoziGo, as we found she was just too interested in what was going on around her.

See our other recommended baby travel must-haves to help your baby sleep on vacation.

For Feeding Baby

A carrier is clearly easy to feed a breastfeeding baby on-the-go. As your baby transitions to solid food, feeding your baby will take up large portions of your day. One way to make good use of that time is by letting your baby eat while you walk.

A toddler travel stroller with a tray is a great way to feed your baby or toddler snacks on the go.

Always keep a close eye on your baby, especially once your baby is on finger foods.

stroller for feeding baby on the go

We would often feed our daughter snacks in the stroller while we were walking.

For Getting Around

Using a stroller for getting around is the perfect way when it will be mostly walking. You can even plan nap times for when you’ll be walking to your next attraction. We would always bring our baby carrier as well (tucked in the bottom of the stroller) in case we wanted to park our stroller and visit an attraction without it.

On the flip side, a stroller can be difficult to use if you plan on taking public transportation. You need to watch that you will not be traveling during peak times and you can almost always expect an elevator to be out of service. You’ll need a plan to carry your stroller in these instances.

Getting around nyc with a baby on the subway

If you are getting around using your own rental car, just ensure you’ll have the space for your luggage and stroller.

For Travel with a Newborn

Travel with an infant is when it’s definitely worth it to pack along an infant carrier and stroller! Here are some reasons why you’ll want to consider bringing both when traveling with a newborn:

Visiting Sagrada Familia with a Baby in a baby carrier
  1. Sun protection – Strollers can offer much more sun protection than a baby carrier, especially in warm climates or if you are following doctors advice and avoiding sunscreen on babies younger than 6 months old.

  2. Napping – Newborns spend the majority of their day sleeping on and off. If you have a stroller with a full recline, your holiday will feel as close as it ever will to pre-baby travel. You can see what you want to see and even have a nice dinner out while your baby naps in the stroller.

  3. Comfort – Having the baby carrier for travel with an infant is also key. Newborns are most comfortable snuggled up against you and will happily nap while you sightsee. Having a baby carrier can be especially helpful if your baby is having trouble settling.

  4. Ease of getting around – Travel with a baby carrier makes it easy to go places where the stroller requires a lot of lifting or carrying. You’ll have the option to switch off between the stroller and carrier depending on your daily plans.

For Travel with a Baby AND Toddler

For travel with a baby and a toddler, we found it easier to travel with a stroller and a baby carrier. We didn’t bother with a double travel stroller, since we found it was easiest to just switch the kids around.

Enjoying Dreyer's ice cream while on a family walk along the Mission Beach Boardwalk

There would be times when our toddler wanted to walk and we could use the stroller for our baby. Other times, our toddler would be snacking in the stroller and we would carry our baby.

We also found that traveling with two hiking carriers worked well for travel with a baby and toddler, especially for active trips like hiking in Kyoto with a toddler and baby.

best carriers for hiking with toddlers and babies

For Travel with Toddlers

Once both our children were past the baby stage and walking, we found toddler carriers the way to go and are a toddler travel essential. This allowed us to have our toddler and preschooler walking, but we could carry them once they got tired.

using a toddler carrier instead of stroller for travel

With a good carrier made especially for toddlers, you’ll find that you can still carry your toddler comfortably. We preferred this to pushing an empty stroller when our toddler was walking. We could easily tuck away our toddler carrier until we needed it again. It also left our hands free to chase our toddler as required.

stroller or carrier for travel with a baby and toddler

While everyone child is different, we also really liked this option since it helped build up our toddlers stamina for walking. We enjoyed traveling with less and less baby equipment.

Packing a Baby Carrier INSTEAD of Stroller

Is a stroller necessary? A stroller isn’t always necessary and there are times where you can definitely get by with using just a baby carrier instead of a stroller.

backpack carriers for travel with baby and toddler

We’ve done this when we were renting a stroller at our destination or when we used our hiking backpack carriers instead.

Packing a Baby Carrier AND Stroller

As you can see from our many examples above, it often turns out that using a stroller and baby carrier for travel is the best solution. Unless you can manage with the baby carrier only, traveling with a stroller has some definite advantages but you might as well bring your baby carrier along as well.

carrier vs stroller for travel with a baby

Your baby carrier is lightweight and doesn’t take up a significant amount of room. And there will be instances where you’ll be glad you had it!

Other Alternatives to Travel with Strollers and Carriers

There aren’t a lot of other options to traveling with a stroller or baby carrier. Your stroller needs may change as your baby grows. For example, you may not be as concerned about having a full recline on your stroller as your baby grows, but instead want a tray for toys and snacks.

As you transition to traveling with a toddler, you may find your toddler wants to walk a lot more. Having a comfortable toddler carrier for travel is a good alternative, since you can pack it away while your toddler is walking, rather than pushing an empty stroller.

toddler carriers vs stroller for travel with a toddler

Another alternative, which will depend on your type of trip, is travel with a baby backpack carrier. These are great options for holidays with a baby or toddler that involve more outdoor activities, however we have used them for city travel as well.

walking with toddler in Rome

A hiking backpack carrier offers sun protection and a comfortable place for your baby or toddler, while also having some storage. The one downside is you’ll be carrying your baby or toddler the entire time. You may also end up carrying it empty if your toddler decides to walk, but you’ll still have both hands free to chase your toddler.

Other Baby Travel Tips for Choosing Between a Stroller or Baby Carrier

  • Each trip might be different. You will need to evaluate each trip to decide whether a stroller or baby carrier is the best option. It’s dependent on so many factors like the age of your baby and where you will be traveling.

  • If you baby gets bored in the carrier, try using a forward facing carrier to keep baby engaged.

  • If you prefer to travel with a stroller, but your toddler wants to walk a lot, either transition to a toddler carrier or have a stroller carrier bag so you can pack the stroller away.

  • The type of stroller you have will also make a difference. Fully reclining strollers with good sun canopy are best for infants. You’ll also find it a lot easier to travel with a lightweight travel stroller. If purchasing a separate stroller just for travel doesn’t make sense, you can rent a stroller at your destination.

  • Before you leave on your trip, ensure you have used your carrier multiple times and that your baby enjoys being in it. If you plan to have your baby sleep in the carrier or stroller, do some practice runs at home. This will help you decide which will work best on your trip.

  • If you are like us and want to travel as light as possible, do research on renting baby equipment at your destination. We have enjoyed the convenience of renting a stroller several times. You can often have it delivered to your hotel before you arrive and have it picked up after you leave. This also eliminates the risk of your stroller being damaged during a flight.
Baby Carrier vs Stroller for Travel with Baby

This post was written & edited by: | Website | + posts

Celine Brewer is the owner of Baby Can Travel. Not only does she have years of experience traveling with babies & toddlers, but she's helped millions of new parents travel with their babies and toddlers for over a decade. In addition to writing on her baby travel blog, she has shared her expertise on traveling with a baby or toddler by contributing to articles about traveling with a baby with the Washington Post, USA Today, the Lonely Planet magazine and Pregnancy & Newborn magazine.

Celine also writes about family travel on the site, which she co-owns with her husband. Being from the Canadian Rockies, she shares her passion about her home and travel to Banff National Park and area on their site

Read more about Celine Brewer.

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