Take your stroller all the way to the plane door with these great compact models
One piece of essential baby kit that revolutionized for us between our first and third child is the travel compact stroller. Forget bulky 3-piece travel systems and clunky umbrella strollers; when you’re eyeing up regular travel with your tots, ultra-compact is the way to go.
You don’t have to give up on too many luxurious stroller features for an ultraconvenient way to travel with your kids – all the way to the plane! Yep, no need to gate-check these models as they count as carry-on and will fit in the overhead bin of (most) planes.
We’ve picked out our five favorite compact strollers for airplane travel and give you plenty of alternative value options to choose from too.
This post is part of our tried and tested travel product reviews and recommendations series
- What To Look for in a Compact Travel Stroller
- Top 5 Best Travel Strollers Small Enough For The Overhead Locker on an Airplane
- And the Rest: Other Ultra-Compact Strollers That Work as Airplane Carry-on
We’ve summarised the leading brands in an easy comparison table here, but read on below for more details to help you find the best travel stroller.
Best Compact Plane Strollers
Price Guidance – $ – under $200USD; $$ – $200-300USD; $$$ – over $300USD.
** Whilst we have listed these brands as overhead compartment compliant and capable of being used as carry-on luggae, please do check with your individual airlines. You will have no issue on wide-bodied, long-haul aircraft, but smaller domestic planes may have tighter restrictions and require you to check your stroller at the gate. Be prepared for this eventuality with either the supplied storage back or get yourself a generic gate check bag to keep your stroller safe.
What To Look for in a Compact Travel Stroller
(If you’re brand new to the stroller game, I suggest you read this post first to understand better what you should be looking for in a travel stroller – there is no one size fits all!).
Compact Travel Stroller Wheels
You will notice the big difference between the ultra-lightweight stroller models and what we’d call your everyday models is the wheel size. To be so compact and convenient, wheels are not removable and tend to be hard rubber, 6″ wide or less.
You do lose some of the ride comfort and ability to glide over rough surfaces that you do get with bigger, traditional strollers, especially with pneumatic wheels. Check that the wheels still have good maneuverability and wheel suspension. Compact fold strollers are not purposefully designed to go off-road, but you still want a smooth enough ride on cobbled streets and uneven surfaces.
Compact Travel Stroller Height and Width
Another concern many parents have with a compact is that your taller toddler can quickly outgrow them. Make sure they still have decent head clearance and bottom wiggling room. Smaller children can easily fit most models through to 4 years+, but larger children will struggle with this type of stroller, mostly on the seat width and depth.
Compact Travel Stroller Seated Position
Due to their design, compact brands are only designed for 6 months plus when you’re child can independently sit upright in a 5-point safety harness. It’s likely you still want your tot to be able to nap on the move though, so watch out as some cheaper models lack the recline function.
It can add a little more bulk, but some sort of recline function is a necessary additional feature.
Compact Travel Stroller Suncover
Likewise, getting babies and toddlers to nap is easier when the sun is not glaring in their eyes. Many of the brands we looked at had somewhat compromised on the adjustable canopy to get smaller and lighter, but we still think a large sun canopy is an essential travel feature not to compromise on.
Compact Travel Stroller Handlebar Height
None we have reviewed come with adjustable handles, so they may not suit extra-tall parents. That said, Mr Globetrotter is 6 foot and has had no issue with the Nano, and taller friends have used the Yoyo – the tallest we look at without complaint.
Compact Travel Stroller Folding Mechanism
The time-tested art of one-handed metal origami! We’ve all been there, child on hip, bags dropping off our shoulders. Read the reviews, try it out in the shop; check that the folding mechanism really is as simple as they say it is!! Simply put, one-hand fold is an essential feature for air travel.
Compact Travel Stroller Basket Space
Compact size can mean compact everything. We all know your diaper bag/day pack needs to go somewhere still, bottles, blankets, nursing cover, sling – you name it! We have used our stroller organizer still on ones we’ve personally reviewed without issue, but still having good access to a decent-sized storage basket underneath is essential while traveling.
Lighter models are more susceptible to tipping, so be careful to hook larger bags of the handlebars. The manufacturers specifically warn you not to, but I know most will try anyway, at your peril!!
Compact Travel Stroller Storage Bag
Not all brands we reviewed included the travel bag and carrying straps. Even though the stroller comes with you on the plane, I still much prefer to keep my stroller neatly packaged in its own bag when not in use on the plane – or in case overhead bins are full, flight attendants may still ask you to stow it.
Do You Need a Travel System?
Although we are reviewing these strollers for toddlers, we have noted for each brand when they come with a travel system, ie, with adaptors, the product can be used with a car seat attachment from newborn.
See also our guide to COMPACT DOUBLE STROLLERS if you’re also planning for future needs with multiple children.
Value for money
Will this new stroller only be for your travel adventures a few times throughout the years, or are you looking to ditch your baby stroller and make this your everyday stroller? Think about how much use you will get and therefore the amount you are willing to invest into yet more baby gear.
We promise you, if you are regular travelers this is one of the best investments you will make in those early years.
Top 5 Best Travel Strollers Small Enough For The Overhead Locker on an Airplane
Let’s look at the best travel stroller brands in more detail:
The Mountain Buggy Nano Stroller was our first foray into compacts, and it quickly became our everyday stroller. Better known for making robust joggers and outdoorsy models, the Nano immediately exceeded our expectations with a comfortable, roomy ride, a good reclining seat, large sun canopy and easy access storage space.
The Nano also offers two newborn solutions, it has car seat adaptors so a capsule can be added in the full recline position, or alternatively, you can attach the Mountain Buggy Cocoon making it suitable from birth.
NB – technology hasn’t quite advanced enough for any brand of double stroller to be compact enough to fit on the airplane with you.
Babyzen was one of the first movers in this market – and still remains one of the best and most trusted brands. The maneuverability of the latest model, the Yoyo2 is brilliant, and the recline and storage space is great; taller parents prefer it due to the handle height. Many parents now lean towards this product as their everyday stroller.
Yoyo2 can also be used for newborns giving it extra versatility. Using the Yoyo newborn attachment set you can add any compatible car seat.
And as your family grows, they also offer a branded Babyzen stroller board for a toddler to travel seated at the back.
My only real issue with the Yoyo is the price tag’; is it THAT much better than the rest? Maybe.
gb have long maintained their title as the creator of THE most compact and lightest strollers for travel. The smallest and lightest of them all, the base model Pockit is a simple and cost effect solution (under $150 USD), but it has undoubtedly got its critics – ourselves included – with its severe limitations and lack of comfort features.
The Pockit Plus undoubtedly addressed some of these concerns, but the latest model, the gb Pockit All City is our current favorite. Design tweaks now give this ultra-compact stroller a generous SPF50+ sun canopy and a recline feature, without compromising too much on weight.
For those looking for a little bit more than just the basic features, consider the gb QBit+ All City Stroller. Weighing in at 17.6 lbs it’s a little heavier than other leading compact stollers, but does give the option of a bit more seat recline and canopy and has a a higher weight capacity up to 55 lbs, good for older children.
With adaptors, it can also be used from newborn, with a compatible infant car seat.
Note the Pockit brand doesn’t come with a travel bag like the others, you will need to purchase this separately if you want to store and carry the stroller. There are several generic brands that specifically market to the QB Pockit users seeing this gap from the manufacturer:
A brand we have used for years, perhaps better known for some of their hugely versatile double combinations, they also have an ultra-compact model suitable for the plane. The City Tour 2 is almost on par with the Nano as its closest comparison in size and weight, though it is a little narrower.
The City Tour 2 has replaced the original City Tour, and it’s definitely sleeker, slimmer folding, and a slightly wider seat. We also like that it comes with its own stroller bag for protection. But with these improvements, the price has also crept up. A nice addition is that with a pram bassinet attachment it can now be used from 3 months as a travel system.
Other compact options from Baby Jogger
Those looking for a little more flexibility in their Baby Jogger product (confession, we’ve owned 4 different types!) may prefer the City Tour LUX model. The LUX has a reversible seat and slightly larger dimensions meaning it can hold a slightly larger child. It’s definitely the superior model to the City Tour – but it comes with the corresponding price tag! The Lux is around 30% smaller than their best-selling City Select model.
This new kid on the compact stroller block is seriously impressive. As you’d expect from the leading luxury stroller, it comes with an eye-watering price tag, but it’s almost impeccable in terms of looks and function.
A step further than their original ‘light’ models, the Bugaboo Bee and Bugaboo Ant, this latest iteration is even lighter and has a great storage capacity as well as a generous child weight limit. Where it differs from the Bee is that you can’t adjust the handlebar height, your fixed at 40.3″ – a faction shorter than the Yoyo2.
A rain cover and seat liner are included, but you don’t get a carry bag, just a carry strap.
And the Rest: Other Ultra-Compact Strollers That Work as Airplane Carry-on
Yes, there are more! We first started our compact stroller reviews back in 2016 when the Yoyo was fresh on the market. We have seen more than a dozen stroller brands now follow suit trying to achieve that perfect balance between ultra compact size and functionality.
This review highlylights for you what we think are the top 5 best-selling brands that have stood the test of time, but many fabulous compact products are entering the market all the time that might be just right for you. You could also consider:
A newcomer we have not yet tested is the Silver Cross Jet Travel Stroller – check out this review though, for more on this snazzy new compact with quite a unique folding design.
We’re also curious about the Joolz Aer – a great review here – which comes in at the higher end of the price spectrum but looks ultra-sleek and can be adapted to use as a travel system from birth.
Over to you, do you have a favourite compact brand that has worked well for your family? We’d love to hear the pros and cons of different brands you’ve tried.
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Looking for more handy travel products? Check out all our handy buying guides before your next vacation:
- Coolest new travel gear for a family trip – for travel with younger children, all our best recommendations on sleep products, strollers and car seats.
- Best lightweight & compact double strollers – growing with your family’s needs, best travel strollers for more than one child.
- Best double jogging strollers – for families who love outdoor adventures.
- What do you move to once your child starts outgrowing their stroller? Our guide to stroller alternatives for a 5-year-old+
- Complete guide to travel car seats – how to use a car seat on a plane and the best brands compared
- Getting cosy on the move – best kids travel pillows and seatbelt comforters.
- Are travel high chairs worth the investment? – leading portable highchair brands compared.
- Kids plane sleep devices – a comparison of the top brands and which airlines actually accept them.
- How to choose a gate check stroller bag – still want to take your pride and joy or got a double stroller? How to keep your stroller safe when its gate checked.
- Items that travel-loving parents-to-be will actually use – Get clued-in on what to buy new parents that they will get a lot of practical use from for their baby.
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