Buying a stroller is an important undertaking for any new parent. But they’ll quickly learn that there are many options and categories available. In this article, we focus on an important type of stroller – the travel stroller. We’ll show you how to decide the best lightweight stroller for the on-the-go, and that you can also fold down for short trips or longer journeys.
First, we’ll give you the top factors to consider in choosing a travel stroller. Then, we’ll look at a few of our favorite models on the market.
What is a Travel Stroller?
First thing’s first, what is a travel stroller? You’ll find that different companies use the word travel quite loosely and that a wide range of strollers labels themselves travel strollers. As a result, it can be difficult for a consumer to differentiate and difficult for them to tell which stroller will meet their needs.
In general, we’ve found that a “travel stroller” refers to one of three categories:
For Airline Travel: Many travel strollers are made for airline travel. Generally, this means that they are lightweight, compact, and can fold down to a size that is suitable for most major airline’s overhead luggage requirements. You can take the stroller onto the plane with you and pack it away once your baby is secure. Generally, these strollers are the most compact because they need to meet strict airline size requirements.
For Car Travel: Some travel strollers are for car travel. These strollers might be too big to pack into an airline’s overhead bin but are a good size to pack into the back of a car for a day trip or an extended vacation. These strollers can be a bit looser with their size requirements, which gives them space for extra storage, accessories, even a car seat. That said, they are still lightweight and have a compact fold to fit into a trunk.
For Daily Travel: Sometimes, companies will refer to a lightweight travel stroller in a very general sense, simply referring to “traveling” outside with the stroller. They might be referring to walks, hikes, or day trips with your baby. In this case, the strollers still need to be lightweight and portable so that they’re comfortable enough to use as an everyday stroller.
The Common Link: Luckily, all of the above categories require a very similar type of stroller. In each instance, the stroller needs to be lightweight, portable, and compact, which is likely why the word “travel” is used loosely in so many product descriptions. Either way, here are the factors you should consider in choosing the best travel stroller for you:
Factors to Consider
How do you select the best travel stroller? First of all, what you want to know is what is the best travel stroller for you? And the answer is the stroller that best meets your travel requirements.
So, before you read through our list of factors, consider how you intend to use the stroller. Will you be taking it on airplanes? Will you be picking it away for car trips? How you use the stroller will determine the type of stroller you need. Then, consider the factors below to make the ultimate choice.
Travel Factors to Consider
Portability vs. Functionality: When any product is more portable, there is usually a trade-off, and this trade-off is functionality. As a product becomes smaller, lighter, and more compact, it has to sacrifice other features, as is the case with most lightweight travel strollers.
Lighter strollers need to cut certain features, such as storage basket compartments, exterior accessories, and the overall size of different accessories. As a consumer, you need to decide how much you value these components. Do you want a stroller with extra storage space? Do you want a stroller decked out with cup holders, snack trays, big wheels, and so on? Or, do you want a lightweight stroller with a minimalistic design?
There is no wrong answer, but you’ll find it difficult to have it both ways! So, before you buy a stroller, decide whether you need a travel stroller or if you’d be happier with a stroller that is fully accessorized. This might be the most important consideration before buying a travel stroller.
Compactness: For lack of a better word, “compactness” refers to a stroller’s ability to compact into a small device suitable for portability. Most strollers fold into themselves for easy storage and transport, but some are better at this than others.
You want to consider the size of a compact travel stroller but also how easy it is to pack up. You can fold some strollers to a compact size to meet an airline’s overhead requirements, and some can be tucked into a closet at the end of a day. Pay attention to these size requirements, because they might be important if you travel frequently.
We also strongly recommend a stroller that has a one-handed folding system. This means that the stroller folds down upon the pull of one lever, allowing you to compact the stroller in seconds. Below, we’ll examine a few strollers with this functionality.
General Factors to Consider
Of course, you don’t just want the best travel stroller. You also want a quality stroller! Here are some general factors to consider in choosing a stroller.
Comfort & Safety: Of course, comfort & safety will always be at the forefront of any stroller purchase. You want to make sure your baby or toddler is safe & comfortable for the entire ride. A comfortable stroller is ergonomically designed to meet a baby’s unique posture requirements. It will be soft (but not too soft) and provide enough space for a child to sit comfortably.
As far as safety, any worthwhile stroller has a 5-point harness system to secure the baby safely and comfortably. A 5-point harness also helps your baby sit up properly, which is great for their posture.
Some strollers also feature a reclining seat for when your child wants to rest. Note that, in many areas of North America, it is illegal for a stroller to fully recline, meaning that the stroller cannot lay completely flat, as it presents a risk of suffocation for the baby.
Posture (Adjustments): Be sure to consider your comfort as well! A stroller should be fully adjustable to match your walking style. The handle should comfortably reach a point where you can stand up straight and walk as normal. Considering how often you’ll be using the stroller, you want to make sure it fits.
Some strollers also sport additional features for parents, such as a cup holder and additional storage compartments within reach (for keys, wallet, etc.).
Canopy: Don’t underestimate the value of a canopy! If you plan on going out in the sun, an overhead canopy is a practical necessity. Babies and toddlers have very sensitive skin, and it’s not safe for them to have repeated exposure to harsh UV rays. Not to mention, they’ll probably get quite grumpy if they’re hot and the sun is in their eyes!
Some strollers will sneakily have their canopy sold separately. Not only that, but the product pictures include the canopy, further adding to the confusion. Be sure to read the fine print so that you won’t be paying extra for what is an essential part of any stroller.
Storage Compartments: There’s a lot that goes into a day trip with a baby or toddler, so you’ll appreciate a stroller that has space for all your knick-knacks and essentials.
Most strollers feature a large under-seat storage compartment meant for bringing along all your parenting supplies. Some strollers have additional storage compartments in the arm’s reach of the parent. For example, many strollers have pockets affixed to the backside of the seat so your diaper bag, wallet, phone, and keys can be within arms reach.
Unfortunately, these storage compartments are often counterintuitive to the goals of a travel stroller. The more compartments and pockets, the less “portable” a stroller gets. Some strollers feature an impressive balance of the two, and we’ll examine a few of these below.
The Wheels & Suspension: Any quality stroller should offer a smooth ride! Much of this depends on the quality of the wheels and the suspension. Look for wheels made with quality design – such as hard-rubber, inflated rubber, or foam-filled. Some strollers also feature suspension systems, which give them an extra ability to absorb impact.
Three-wheeled vs. 4-wheeled strollers also offer a noticeable difference. Typically, 3-wheeled strollers offer more maneuverability and a quicker turn radius. 4-wheeled strollers tend to offer more stability. It mostly comes down to personal preference. For example, most jogging strollers feature a 3-wheeled design.
What’s unfortunate is that the smoothest strollers often feature the biggest wheels. These wheels allow the stroller to spread its impact more evenly and let you generate more speed with less effort. Of course, these big wheels aren’t handy on a travel stroller because they make the stroller decidedly less portable. Another trade-off you’ll have to consider!
Extra Features: We can’t forget about the extra bells and whistles! Unfortunately, as is the case with most extras, the more bells and whistles you add, the less portable the overall package becomes. That said, it’s all about what you prefer. Some strollers feature convenience applications such as cup holders, snack trays for the child, a carry strap or shoulder strap, and more.
Some stroller companies offer these features as add-ons, meaning they are fully removable, which is a bonus if you’re looking to build a travel stroller.
Price: Price is a relevant factor in just about anything you buy. But don’t just fixate on price. Instead, you want to consider price vs. quality. First, determine the type of stroller that meets your requirements as a parent. From there, decide on a price range you are comfortable with. Then, you can effectively narrow down your choices by evaluating different strollers within a certain price range.
Price is always relevant, but you won’t be happy if you spend the bare minimum for a stroller that you don’t even like.
Putting it All Together
So, in consideration of all the above factors, what makes the best travel stroller? Well – and you probably saw this answer coming – it depends on what you’re looking for! A travel stroller ranges from a compact, lightweight device for airplane overheads to a lightweight stroller decked out with plenty of accessories and storage space.
Go through the factors above, and make a list of those that appeal to you. Once you know what you want, look at our top choices below, and pick the ultimate travel stroller that suits your needs.
Best Travel Strollers
Now that we went through the factors to consider in choosing a travel stroller, let’s lay out some options. In this section, we’ll show you our favorite travel strollers on the market. We tried to include strollers on this list that satisfy many different factors above. In other words, we’ve tried to include something for everyone!
Let’s start with our top pick:
The Dream On Me Travel Stroller might appear a little odd at first glance. It certainly doesn’t look like the strollers you’re used to, but this unique look gives the stroller some impressive functionality. It’s collapsible, foldable, and transformable. It can easily transform between a stroller, a rider, and a scooter.
This stroller is a lightweight, compact option that is perfect as a travel stroller. It weighs in at only 13 lbs and is easily disassembled and compacted to pack into a bag for travel. If you’re heading out for a day trip, this one is a lightweight, smooth option that won’t get in your way. There’s a sold-separately connector to hook the stroller to a shopping cart, wheelchair, bigger stroller, and more.
Aside from all the portability and travel advantages, this is a comfortable, maneuverable stroller. It glides along smoothly, and your baby stays comfortable in the plush seat. The five-point safety harness keeps them safe throughout. For bigger kids, you can transform the stroller into a rider or scooter.
Do note that this is a no-frills option and lacks the additional features found on most strollers. There is next-to-no extra storage. There is a canopy, but it is sold separately. That said, it has the price to match and is a very affordable option as a travel stroller.
- Small, compact, lightweight
- Can be disassembled and folded down for easy travel
- Great price
- Can be transformed into a scooter or rider
- Almost no storage space
- Canopy sold separately
The bottom line is that this is a stroller designed almost exclusively for lightweight portability. It sports an extremely minimal design and was built to be compacted, stripped down, and transformed. If you want a minimalistic travel stroller, then this one probably has all you need.
We like the Thule Spring Compact stroller. It provides an impressive range of functionality while maintaining its minimal design.
The Thule Spring is 30% smaller than traditional 3-wheeled strollers (at least according to Thule’s math). Either way, it’s small and compact and features a collapsible design for easy transport and travel. It has a one-handed folding lever – just pull, and the stroller folds up in seconds.
The stroller keeps the baby safe and comfortable. The handle is fully adjustable so you can keep good posture, and the 5-point safety harness keeps your baby secure. The overhead canopy also adjusts, and it offers full sun protection.
We like the three-wheeled design. A three-wheeled stroller allows for a more free-flowing, maneuverable ride. The front wheel features a full-swivel and has suspension to absorb small bumps and impacts. The foam-filled wheels are big and soft, making it a smooth ride overall, keeping both you and your baby comfortable.
- 30% smaller than most 3-wheeled strollers
- Large under-seat storage compartment
- Easy, one-handed collapsible design
- Smooth and maneuverable
- Quite pricey
- Certain accessories are sold separately (snack tray, cup holder, etc.)
This product is one of the best travel strollers on the market. It has all the benefits of a lightweight, compact stroller without sacrificing functionality. You and your baby will be comfortable, and you’ll both appreciate the smooth, easy ride. Also, this has to be one of the sleekest strollers on the market!
BEST BUDGET: Kolcraft Cloud Lightweight Stroller
The Kolcraft Cloud stroller gets our pick as the best budget choice. For the price, you get an impressive level of functionality that rivals many premium strollers. However, note that it is far from the most compact and portable stroller on our list. It’s a lightweight stroller designed for day trips and car vacations, rather than a stroller you could comfortably bring on an airplane.
That said, it’s still impressively lightweight, coming in at under 12 lbs. It folds down into a travel-friendly package, with folded dimensions of 17.6 x 29.9 x 41.7”. It features a one-hand fold – simply pull the handle, and it folds up in seconds. It’s self-standing, so you can pack it into the trunk of a car with plenty of room left over for everything else.
This stroller has everything you’d expect from a premium design: a roomy, comfortable seat for babies with a 5-point harness system. There’s also a full snack tray with indents for toys and food. The handle is fully adjustable to meet your posture, with a cupholder and a storage pocket within arms reach. Additionally, there’s a roomy under-seat storage compartment to hold all your necessities.
The one downside of this stroller is that it’s noticeably less smooth than a premium stroller. The wheels are little on the cheap side, and you won’t be gliding along as you would with some higher-end designs. But it’s far from a dealbreaker, and the 4-wheel design still feels stable and sturdy throughout.
- Very affordable
- Compact and lightweight
- Plenty of storage space
- Comfortable and safe for babies
- Not as “smooth” as premium strollers
If you’re looking for an affordable, lightweight stroller, this is for you. If you’re looking for the most compact stroller, it’s probably not. For a discount stroller, it packs in an impressive number of features into its design. And while it doesn’t rival premium strollers by offering a buttery smooth ride, it more than gets the job done. For a discount, lightweight stroller, it’s tough to beat.
BEST FOR AIRLINES: Bugaboo Ant Baby
The Bugaboo Ant Baby is our top pick if you plan to travel by airline, and it’s obvious why. The Ant Baby folds down to meet the specifications of most major airlines! You can bring it on the plane and fold it down to fit in the overhead luggage. The Ant Baby folds down into a compact package of just 21.65 x 14.96 x 9.03”. It’s suitable for babies to infants up to 50 lbs.
The Ant Baby packs an impressive amount of functionality into its portable design. It sports a spacious, comfortable seat that is fully adjustable to face outward or inward and features a 5-point safety harness for your child. The overhead canopy is also adjustable and protects your child from the harsh sun. The push handle is also fully adjustable to suit your posture, allowing you to stand up straight for the entire journey.
The storage options are limited compared to larger strollers, but there’s still a decently large under-seat storage compartment.
The stroller is sturdy and stable, and the wheels are well-crafted for a smooth ride. This stroller is definitely on the expensive side, but if you’re looking for a quality stroller that fits in overhead storage, your options are limited. The Ant Baby is proof that you can have a fun, comfortable vacation even with a newborn!
- Compact and lightweight – fits into most airlines’ overhead storage
- Fully adjustable seat and handle
- Stable, smooth ride
- Limited storage space
The Ant Baby is an ideal choice if you want to carry your stroller onto an airplane. It meets most major airline’s overhead luggage qualifications, making it one of your only choices in this regard. Luckily, it’s a very functional stroller and is suitable for everyday use. It’s a pricey option, but we think it justifies the price tag.
Thanks for checking out our guide to selecting the best travel stroller for your child! We tried to make this guide as comprehensive as possible, giving you everything you need to make your decision. First, check out our top factors to consider, and attempt to match these factors with one of our top picks. So long as you know what you’re looking for, we know you can use our guide to make the best choice for you!
Traveling with a stroller can be a major headache. But with preparation, it can be a pleasant experience! Good luck choosing the travel stroller that is perfect for your family’s adventures!