First your dose of reality: There are some things you will not get in a travel stroller that you would get in a big, full-size stroller. A compact travel stroller won’t have a huge basket because it must fold down small. It won’t have large, heavy wheels either, which means it will not roll as smoothly as a stroller with air tires. Expect small, nimble wheels on a compact frame — that’s a travel stroller.
Here are the features you’ll want to consider:
✔️ Just how tiny do you need it to fold? If you want to roll your stroller right onto the plane and throw it in the overhead bin, look for a travel stroller that promises to fit up there. The International Air Transport Association suggests that carry-on luggage not be larger than 22” x 18” x 10″.
✔️ A carry bag makes a nice backup plan if you’re flying. If your stroller is supposed to fit in the overhead but the plane is too crowded, having a carry bag lets you easily gate-check it. Plenty of families, including many of our Lab experts, just plan on using gate-check to begin with. You roll your child to the gate, wait until boarding, then fold and bag the stroller and have airline personnel put a tag on it so you can pick it up on the jet bridge when the plane lands, allowing you to stroll your child to baggage claim.
✔️ Check the Disney Park requirements, if you’re going there. Unfolded, your stroller should be no larger than 31 inches wide and 52 inches long for a day at one of the parks (which means no stroller wagons).
✔️ Pay attention to age grading. If your infant is still only a few months old, they will be potentially unsafe and uncomfortably upright in a stroller for ages 6 months+. If you’ll be traveling with a newborn, look for a travel stroller that works from birth. Sometimes that means using one that can hold your infant car seat. Also, always check with your pediatrician so you know your baby’s current weight and height, and read the requirements specific to your stroller to ensure it’s appropriate. If you have to wait a few months to use the stroller, you can consider traveling with your infant in a baby carrier.
✔️ What happens when it folds? We like a stroller that can stand while folded, because you can set it and forget it while you deal with other travel and packing hassles. However, sometimes an umbrella fold, which is long and skinny, is nice for road trips when you have a tightly packed car. You can almost always wedge an umbrella stroller in there! Watch videos online to see how travel strollers fold down and how you are expected to carry them in their folded position.
✔️ We like a canopy. We’re nuts about sun protection (see our best sunscreens for kids) and that’s why all of our picks have at least some sunshade. We do not recommend one of the ultra-cheap sling-type strollers lacking any sun visor. But not all canopies are equal: Some extend far out, some have mesh panels for ventilation and many large canopies have peekaboo windows that let you easily peer down and see how your baby is doing. Some sunshades make noise as you move them in and out and some are silent. Finally, some are made of UPF 50+ sun-blocking fabric, which is preferable.