Take your stroller all the way to the plane door with these great compact models
One piece of essential baby kit that revolutionised for use between our first and third child is the travel stroller. Forget bulky 3-piece travel systems, when you’re eyeing up travelling 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 locker of (most) planes.
We’ve picked out our five favourite strollers for airplane travel and give you plenty of alternative value options to choose from too.
This post is part of our product reviews and recommendations series – make sure you check out everything we have from kids action cameras through to those toddler travel essentials you will need.
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 get a better understanding of what you should be looking for in a travel stroller).
Wheels – You will notice the big difference between the ultra-lightweight models and what we’d call your everyday models is the wheel size. In order 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 a bigger stroller, especially with pneumatic wheels. Check that the wheels still have good manoeuvrability and suspension. They’re not designed to off-road but you shoulds till get a smooth ride.
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 do struggle with this type of stroller, mostly on the seat width and depth.
Seated position – Due to their design, compact brands are only designed for 6 months plus when you’re child can independently sit upright. 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 a necessary additional feature.
Travel systems – Although we are reviewing these strollers for toddlers, we have noted for each brand when they come with a travel system so, 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.
Suncover – Likewise, getting them 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 sun cover to get smaller and lighter, but we still think the sun canopy is an essential travel feature.
Handlebars – None we have reviewed come with adjustable handles so 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.
Folding mechanism – the time tested art of one-handed metal origami. I think we’ve all been there, child on hip, bags dropping off our shoulders. Check that the folding mechanism really is as simple as they say it is!!
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 organiser still on ones we’ve personally reviewed without issue, but still having good access to a decent-sized storage basket underneath is essential while travelling.
Lighter models are more susceptible to tipping so do be careful on attempting to hook larger bags of the handlebars. The manufacturers specifically warn you not to, but I know most will try anyway, at your peril!!
Storage Bag – Not all brands we reviewed came with the travel bag and carrying straps included. 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.
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 travellers this is one of the best investments you will make in those early years.
Best Compact Plane Strollers
|Brand||Mountain Buggy||BabyZen||GB||Baby Jogger||Zoe|
|Model||Nano V2||Yoyo 6+||Pockit||City Tour 2||XLC Best|
|Product Weight||13lbs - 5.9kg||13.7lbs - 6.2kg||9.5lbs - 4.3kg||14lbs - 6.35kg||11lbs - 5kg|
|Max child weight||44lbs - 20kg||15kg - 35kg||55lbs - 25kg||45lbs - 20.5kg||40lbs - 18kg|
|Folded dimensions||12"x 22" x 20"|
51cm x 56cm x 30cm
|52cm x 18cm x 44cm - 20.5" x 7" x 17.3"||11.8" x 7" x 14" - 30cm x 18cm x 35cm||22.2"x 17.7" x 7.1" - 56cm x 45cm x 18cm||22"x 17.5" x 6" - 56cm x 44cm x 15cm|
|Handles (height)||Single handle bar|
38.5" - 98cm
|Single handle bar 42"- 106cm||Two handles 39"- 99cm||Single handle bar 38.9" - 98.8cm||Single handle bar - 40.25" - 102cm|
|Seat width||21"- 54cm||17.5"- 44cm||11.5" - 30cm||13" - 33cm||11.75" - 30cm|
|Travel system option||Yes - extra cocoon & car seat attachments||change to 0+ model||No (Yes Pockit Plus)||Yes||No
|Seat & positions||Forward facing|
Reclines to near flat
|Forward & Reverse, can lie flat 145 degrees||forward facing, no recline||Forward facing with recline||Can recline to 165 degrees|
|Colours||Black, Ruby, Nautical (blue!)||Black, Blue, Grey, Pink, Red, Taupe, Peppermint, Grey||vary by stockist - blue, black, pink, capri||Black, Seacrest, Slate||Black, Navy, colour packs extra|
|Canopy coverage||Good ||Good||Poor||Good||Excellent|
|Folding||Two hand button press, folds in to three||One hand, folds into three||Two step, fold down and wheels tuck under||Collapsible handle bar then pull cord on seat||Press button easy one hand fold|
|Storage||Medium size basket, limited weight on handles||Latest model now has larger 5kg capacity basket.||Easy access basket up to 11lbs||Medium basket, up to 7kg capacity||Elastic entry, reasonable size|
|Wheels||4 wheels - 5.5" hard rubber EVA||4 wheels suspension - 5" hard rubber||4 double wheels |
4.5" rubber, swivel and lockable
|4 wheels - EVA 5" front 6" rear - swivel & lock||4 wheels. Front 5 3/8", back 6 1/4"|
|Accessories||Travel bag included, car seat attachment cords. Extra rain cover, cocoon||Extra foot cover, newborn head support, rain cover, travel cover, toddler board, bag||Travel bag and rain cover extra||Backpack style carry bag||Bag, carry strap, rain cover, parent console, interchangeable colours|
|Current Price (US)|
** Whilst we have listed these brands as overhead locker compliant, 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.
Our top 5 favourite compact strollers small enough for the overhead locker on a plane
Let’s look at the above brands in a lot more detail:
Mountain Buggy Nano
This 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, good recline 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.
Are you seeing Double?
The Nano has recently branched out to also offer a double in the compact range too. We cover this more in our review of Double Travel Strollers, but if you are curious, come and check it out the Mountain Buggy Nano Duo here:
Babyzen were one of the first movers in this market – and still remain one of the best and most trusted brands. The manoeuvrability of the Yoyo+ is brilliant and the reclinability and storage space great, it’s preferred by taller parents due to the handle height. Many parents now lean towards this product as their everyday stroller.
Yoyo can also be used from newborn giving it extra versatility. Using the Yoyo newborn attachment set you can add any compatible car seat.
And as your family grow, 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 Pockit Lightweight Baby Stroller
It is undoubtedly the smallest folding of them all but you do give up a little (too much?) in your seat space and storage. The price makes it outstanding value though and with a few design tweaks over the year, worthy of sitting alongside these brands.
A range of bright and colourful choices (that seem to vary between UK and US stockists) but there are some compromises on ride comfort and sun coverage. What it lacks in width it makes up for in height but it is incredibly narrow.
For those looking for a little bit more than just the basic features for just a tiny bit more weight, consider the Pockit Plus. Weighing in at 12.3lbs it's still a market leader but you get a bit more seat recline and canopy. With adaptors, it can also be used from newborn with a 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.
Baby Jogger City Tour 2
A brand we have used for years, perhaps better known for some of their hugely versatile double combinations, they have also an ultra-compact model suitable for the plane. The City Tour 2 is almost on par with the Nano as it's closest comparison in size and weight, though it is a little narrower.
The City Tour 2 has replaced the original City Tour and its definitely sleeker, slimmer folding and a slightly wider seat. But 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 comes with the corresponding price tag! And the Lux is small enough to count as a plane stroller.
The Zoe XLC Best v2
We've been super impressed with the arrival of new brand Zoe. The Zoe XL1 was sleek and interesting and now the XLC Best v2 (might need a catchier name?!) sees even further improvements making it compliant for most airlines and one of the lightest we've seen.
It's priced at a great point and includes all the features we're looking for with great recline, reasonable storage, excellent sun cover and good manoeuvrability with suspension.
Its limitation at this point is not being a convertible travel system, but I believe they are working on this, plus toddler extensions. They are definitely a brand to keep an eye on as technology keeps innovating and they will certainly test these larger name brands for their share of the market.
And the rest? Other ultra-compact strollers that work as airplane carry-on
Yes there are more! We have reviewed the Top 5 best selling brands as at February 2019, but there are others entering the market all the time. You may find a great value option that's just right for you here:
- The Clutch Stroller by Delta Children
- Besrey Airplane Stroller
- Maxi Cosi Lara Ultra Compact Stroller
- Graco Jetsetter Stroller
- Evolur Voyager Stroller
- Contours Bitsy Compact Folding
Which compact strollers didn't make it?
Despite its compact size and one-piece design, the popular Bugaboo Bee still does not fold small enough for the overhead locker. It's price point also leaves it out of reach for most.
We also sadly decided to leave off the UPPAbaby MINU for similar reasons. Whilst it is wonderfully compact and comes with the easy fold in a huge range of bright colours, we are not convinced it's folded dimensions make it airline compliant. Despite it's gorgeous colours and breathable leather, it's difficult to justify that price tag when you still need to add a bag and accessories and it cannot go EVERYWHERE!
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.
- 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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