Does a Baby Carrier Count as Carry-On?

Going on a vacation with a baby needs a fair bit of planning.  The airport alone has a lot of walking – check-in, security, terminals, gates. Your destination is likely to also require quite a bit of movement. A baby carrier is great to have with you, even if you have a stroller.

With this in mind, you are probably wondering:

Whether your baby carrier counts as a separate hand luggage item depends on the type of baby carrier? Carriers without a frame, less bulky, are not considered a separate item for carry-on allowance.  These can arguably be classed as an item of wear for the parent. The backpack style infant carriers, ones with a frame, however, would be considered as hand luggage. In fact, from my research, I couldn’t any that are even allowed on the plane as carry-on, as they are generally too big.

Different style of Baby Carriers

In general, there are 5 major types of baby carriers: wraps, slings, classic and soft structured carriers and baby backpacks. 

Wraps & Slings

These two are very similar and sometimes mixed in how they work. A wrap is a long piece of fabric that literally just wraps around your body and holds the child against you. The sling is very similar, though usually a bit shorter and has rings. These rings allow adjustment.

Mei-tai, Soft Structured and Classic Baby carriers

The classic baby carrier, such as the baby bjorn, takes a lot of the guesswork out for parents with buckles and adjustments.  Whereas soft-structured baby carriers are lightweight, foldable, comfortable, but may require a bit more learning to use. (They can be used for longer though.) There are many great options but the ergobaby is a personal favourite.

Though larger than wraps and slings, both these styles likely to count this as similar to wearing a jacket. (If this is not the case with a specific airline, these can still fit into a bag if need be.) 

Baby Backpack

The largest of all the types, these often have metal or plastic frames are the baby backpacks. These are often used for hiking and long trips. They are very comfortable for both the wearer and the baby. Unfortunately, these are often even too large to be a carry-on. It is best to avoid these for flights unless they are necessary for the trip. (You will be asked to check them in and maybe charged extra if they over your allocated infant allowance) 

For more details on the pros and cons of each type of carrier, pop over to Baby centre – https://www.babycentre.co.uk/a559735/babywearing-types-of-slings-and-carriers

Do You Need a Baby Carrier When Flying with an Infant?

This will be more of personal preference, however, based on many-many trips I would say yes. A baby carrier is not a travel essential for parents, but incredibly helpful:  When travelling with an infant, anytime you want the flexibility to free up an arm or two a baby carrier will be a lifesaver.  

While you travel through the airport and on the plane, you will inevitably have to carry your little one at some point. Even if you are taking a stroller, you may not have the stroller with you at every point.

Depending on the airline and the arrivals airport, your pushchair may not be returned to you on arrival. In which case you will have to carry your little one all the way to the baggage hall (though some airports do have strollers).

Some airports will actually allow you pass through the security screening with your baby in a soft carrier. (They will then swab you for residues and may pat you down.)

Carrying a floppy sleeping baby is so much harder too and a baby carrier will make this much easier

The baby carrier will come in handy for the flight too.

Which baby carrier is best for air travel?

The best baby carrier is the one you already have!

However, if you are looking to invest in a baby carrier, then try out a few before your trip. There are some places that have a “sling library” which allow you to borrow some for testing.

Your considerations for choosing a baby carrier:

  • how it fits you,
  • how it supports your baby’s weight and
  • how your back will cope with carrying the baby.
  • Some carriers are not suitable for newborns, some will see you through, past the toddler age.

I love our pouch sling!  We have travelled far and wide with a very simple pouch sling always tucked in our bag.  This simple piece of fabric has saved me from having to support a sleeping baby for hours on end, eased covering up while breastfeeding and given me a bit of extra support when carrying a tired toddler.  It rubs and cuts in after long use, but for short bursts (such as a baby nap, or while going from the gate to boarding the plane) it’s been perfect.

Ours worked till our toddler was about 3 years old.

If you haven’t heard of pouch slings before, here’s a video that explains how to use one and also how to make your own. 

Can you use the baby carrier on the plane?

Most regulatory bodies (CAA, FAA, etc.) require a lap infant to be taken out of their slings and strapped in on the parent’s lap with the provided lap belt attachment for taxiing, take-off, landing.

The FAA’s official standpoint on infant safety is to book them their own seat and use an airline approved car seat or restraint system. 

“Although the regulations permit children under the age of two to be held on a parent’s lap, the FAA strongly urges parents and guardians to secure children in an appropriate child restraint, approved for use on aircraft, based on the child’s weight and size. 

The FAA’s regulations require that children who have reached their second birthday must be restrained in an approved seat or berth or in an approved child restraint. The specific regulation is 14 CFR Section 121.311(b), which prescribes, in pertinent part, that each person on board an aircraft operated under Part 121 shall occupy an approved seat or berth with a separate safety belt properly secured about him or her during movement on the surface, takeoff, and landing. However, an adult who is occupying a seat or berth may hold a child who has not reached his or her second birthday.
(Statement shared by the FAA communications office)

This seems incredibly counterintuitive to parents, especially if you have to wake the baby up to take them out (as I’ve had to do countless times). The reasoning these safety agencies give is that baby carriers have not been safety tested. 

For now, that’s what we have to roll with, dear parents.

The good news is that, aside from take off, landing and time of turbulence, for the rest of the flight you will be able to save your arms and use your baby carrier to keep your little one snug and comfortable. 

We’ve found that it varied flight by flight how stringent the crew were at enforcing the seatbelt rule against a baby sleeping, securely wrapped in a sling during turbulence. 

Please share your experiences using a baby carrier on your trips!

If you have any hints and tips, we’d love to hear them. Any particular favourites baby carriers, slings?

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Monika Roozen

Monika is a mum of 3, an avid traveller, who grew up travelling the world and has continued travelling ever since. She holds a degree in animal sciences, nutrition and business administration and has consulted for several years for the hospitality industry and customer service departments. Monika loves slow travel- taking time for immersive experiences in culture and nature- sailing and snowboarding. Her personal adventures are chronicled in Inspireroo Family Travel Magazine . (Click to see their family mad ventures)

2 thoughts on “Does a Baby Carrier Count as Carry-On?

  1. Pingback: Your Complete Guide to Breastfeeding on a Plane – Family Flight Advisor
  2. Pingback: Can you sit with a baby carrier? – Family Flight Advisor

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