Parents might associate travel with tears and tantrums… but does it have to be that way? And can the right bag help save the day for stress-free travel…
In Summary: I took an in-depth look at 15 different carry-on bags for kids and in my opinion, the Skip Hop Little Kid Luggage is the best carry on luggage for kids.
It’s the top choice because:
In this post, I discuss the value of using carryon luggage with young children and why it’s best both for you and for your little one.
I then take a look at different types of carryon bag for kids and the pro and cons. The bags in the article are roughly ordered starting with the youngest kids and ending with older teens.
If you want something you can wheel your kid around on then check out the Trunki Ride-On Suitcase.
What Kind Of Bags Are You Interested In?
Believe it or not, carry on luggage is a great way to teach your kids about travel, independence, and responsibility.
It’s not just the carrying or wheeling of the bag. It’s the preparation and the packing too.
The bag is a big part of the travel experience, especially when you are new in the world.
That’s true whether it’s a trip around the corner to stay overnight at grandmas or a flight across the other side of the world.
Using the bag as a starting point is an excellent way to make your kids fully part of the adventure and not just tagging along at your heels.
And planning and packing a bag is a great way to build anticipation and get the most enjoyment from the trip.
The way I see it… you can travel as though your child is the luggage… or you can involve them in the whole travel process, and the best way to do that is to get them their own little travel bag.
A child’s carry on bag can be a lesson about how to pack, what lbs are, what scales are, doing laundry, how padlocks work, why we need to lock our bag and keep our eye on it, etc, etc
Even in this simple process of preparing and packing a travel bag, there can be 100’s of little life lessons.
If you’ve bought your child their own airline seat, even if it’s a discounted child seat, it will have luggage allowance that you can use.
So all in all while it might sometimes seem easier just to put all your child’s items in your own suitcase you might find your bag becomes too large to qualify as hand luggage.
You can use your child’s carry on allowance to avoid checking bags. This will save you money and save time.
Childrens carry on luggage can even be full-sized at 22x14x9 inch allowing you to take more things for the family on your trip without checking bags. However, small children will struggle to wheel a large bag and probably won’t have the strength to lift it safely. But you struggle with overpacking and travel with a child over 2 year old this could be something to think about. Essentially it’s a hack to taking 2 bags for yourself and you put the kids stuff inside one of your bags. Your child would probably still be allowed a small backpack as a personal item that they are responsible for.
By putting some items into your kid’s luggage your own bag is going to be lighter. Even your little angel only takes a few lbs it all helps!
Doctors and physical therapists recommend that a child should not carry a bag more than 10 – 15% of their body weight. This is especially important when using travel backpacks for kids since they will have the weight on their back for longer periods.
To help you not overload your kid check this (boys) chart for a rough guide.
|Age||Average Weight lbs||Bag Weight|
|2 Years Old||28||2.8 – 4.2 lbs|
|3 Years Old||33||3.3 – 4.9 lbs|
|4 Years Old||36||3.6 – 5.4 lbs|
|5 Years Old||42||4.2 – 6.3 lbs|
|6 Years Old||46||4.6 – 6.9 lbs|
|7 Years Old||50||5 – 7.5 lbs|
|8 Years Old||57||5.7 – 8.5 lbs|
|9 Years Old||61||6.1 – 9.1 lbs|
|10 Years Old||70||7 – 10.5 lbs|
|11 Years Old||77||7.7 – 11.5 lbs|
|12 – 13 Years Old||85 – 100||8.5 – 12.7 lbs|
|14 – 15 Years Old||105 – 125||10 – 18 lbs|
|16 – 17 Years Old||130 – 150||13 – 22 lbs|
First off… if you pay for a full seat then you get the full carry on luggage allowance that goes with that seat.
And children under 2 that have their own seat must have an FAA approved safety seat.
For details of all the carry on luggage size limits check with this post.
Many airlines allow infants under 2 years old to travel free or for highly discounted rates if they sit on their parents lap.
This is great but the baggage rules for lap seats can very a lot from airline to airline. It’s always best to check with your carrier but here is some information from a few popular airlines.
Infant Lap Seat Rules
If you are travelling with an infant on your lap, you may bring one standard carry-on bag not exceeding 10 kg (22 lb) in weight to carry their belongings, in addition to your personal carry-on allowance.
If you didn’t pay anything for the infant then there is no baggage allowance other than your own allowance
If you paid 10% then you get 1 bag up to 20lbs at 22x14x9 inches
If you paid 50% then you get the full cabin bag allowance of 22x14x9 inches with no weight restriction
A non-paying lap child can have a diaper bag. No mention of any additional allowance other than the parents own allowance.
A non paying lap child has no additional carry on allowance but the adult gets to take an additional diaper bag.
As you can see the rules regarding traveling bags for kids vary dramatically when you are using a “lap seat” or traveling with a “lap child”. It’s essential to check with the airline you are using!
Young children can’t carry as much as older children but their things don’t weigh as much either.
I believe that pretty much as soon as your child is walking full time then you can start to benefit by getting them a kids travel bag.
There are some pros and cons though:
Note: The bags in this section are roughly arranged by ascending age suitability starting with toddlers and moving on towards older kids…
The Skip Hop Zoo Safety Harness would make a great first carry on bag. ))
These are really cute. They are not built to last forever but then your child won’t be small enough to wear it forever too. And they are cheap so I don’t think durability is a big issue.
There are 6 different animals so you can probably find something that your child will become attached to… get it??? )))) Attached to!! ))
Of course, I mean they are just going to love these funky little animal designs.
These are not going to hold a lot but they are great for introducing children to the idea of packing and travel.
And the detachable safety harness means you won’t lose your child at the airport!
However, be aware if your kid is very energetic. If a child struggles hard to get away from you while on the leash they can actually end up swinging in a circle around you and gaining momentum. It can be dangerous.
Depending on your child’s age you could store between 2 – 5 lbs of travel items in here. A lot of people use them to store a few diapers or maybe a toy and some snacks.
If you are on vacation you can also use this if you are in busy places. It’s the perfect day pack for small kids.
You might have seen the Trunki Ride-on on tv’s Dragons Den show.
The Trunki can be towed or the child can make it go with their feet but it’s not a small case so don’t expect your child to carry it.
There are several different animals like bees, horses, tigers, and cows. And there is even a Hello Kitty model too!
But there is 1 big flaw in the scooter luggage idea:
I think it’s a bit too large as a case and a bit too small as a scooter.
Kids clothes are smaller and lighter than adult clothes so you will be able to use this to pack the clothes for your child’s trip if you pack in moderation.
This case has a lot of storage capacity. Fill it up and it’s way too big for your child to be responsible for.
On the other hand, it’s maybe too small as a ride-on scooter. Some kids just get bored of it quickly because of this. They can’t always control it easily with their legs and can’t steer it well.
The wheels don’t turn so it drives best when going in a straight line.
Or alternatively, you could use it to hold toys and game and other items to keep them entertained.
If your kid is happy to sit and be towed then the Trunki is great, but if they are very energetic then it could simply be too much fun to be useful in busy airports. And you’ll be the one responsible for it.
The Skip Hop Rolling Carry On is another miniature carry-on roller for kids and it’s my favorite kids carryon luggage!
It’s important to distinguish from a carry on bag for kids that you will carry for them and a carry on bag for kids that they will carry themselves.
Some people complain that this bag is too small but I think what they really want is an adult-sized carry on with kids styling.
Toddler rolling luggage is built at a scale to be wheeled by the child and I’d say it works well for kids from age 3 to 5.
This is a bag that has many many happy customers and this one the main reason why we couldn’t ignore it.
It’s hard to pick a winner in these tests but this cute little pull along just ticked all the right boxes.
It’s cheap, great fun, just the right size for kids to handle and you can use it to pack a complete kids packing list for short trips.
For the price, they can’t be beaten!
Keep in mind that since this is design for a child to pull if they get tired and stop cooperating you will not be able to pull it yourself. The handle is far too short for an adult to use. This is often the case with kids rolling luggage and you might need to carry it yourself.
The Stephen Joseph is a pretty suitcase for kids that would suit ages 3 – 9.
It’s got side pockets and a front pocket and a pocket inside too. It’s got pockets galore!
It comes in 3 bright and vibrant “girls color” designs featuring an owl, a horse, and a fox.
This was a bugbear of mine since girls can like dinosaurs and boys can like horses. Perhaps some more gender-neutral designs would be nice. I don’t agree in this day and age with labeling bags as “girls rolling luggage” or “boys rolling luggage”.
The Unicorn is a kids luggage set that includes a mini kids rolling suitcase as well as a matching backpack that can sit on top of the case.
The rolling suitcase is 18×11.5×8 inches. To give you an idea of capacity it’s roughly half the volume of a standard 22x14x9 inch cabin bag.
That means it’s will be great for packing your kid’s travel clothes, toys, and games. If you are going on a longer trip and don’t plan on doing laundry it might be a squeeze.
Speaking of squeezing, remember that you can’t squash in clothes like you can with a soft-sided suitcase or backpack.
I’m not sure that storing breakables in your kid’s suitcase is a good idea at any time, so I’m not convinced in the need for an ABS plastic case anyway. Plastic cases are sometimes prone to cracking, especially if they are sat upon or mishandled.
The backpack is a nice addition and could be used for going to school. You’d need to check with your airline about taking both the backpack and rolling suitcase into the cabin together on 1 flight. The backpack might count as a personal item for some more expensive airlines but it probably won’t be permitted with budget airlines to take 2 bags.
Kids seem to like this bag. The only negatives are sometimes found with the people who need to spend the money to buy it! While the Unicorn is an attractive luggage set it might not be built with the quality level you’d expect for its price (at time of review).
Nothing helps sell products more than a merchandising tie-in with a big hit movie. And that’s why American Tourister teamed up with Disney to create themed rolling carry-on luggage for children.
They’ve got Frozen, Cars, Sophia The First, Star Wars, Princess and Mickey Mouse versions of these 18 x 12 x 7-inch rollers.
I always feel that you are paying a little extra for the branding and that a similar unbranded suitcase would be significantly cheaper.
But then maybe I’m a miserable old sod. I suppose if a case featuring a favorite character makes your child happy then it’s worth a few extra dollars )
The luggage is well built and hold around 24 liters. That’s just over half the capacity of a typical adult carry on.
What this means is that they work best for smaller kids that require less luggage. The older the child then the more space their clothes and shoes take up and they need a bigger bag.
So I’d say this bag works well for kids age 3 to 8.
There are also R2D2, Cars, Mickey Mouse versions of this bag as well as other ones with princesses on that I don’t know much about ))
I also saw a Darth Vader version of this bag too but who wants their kid to join the dark side!
A hard case is especially good if you think you might check your bags. This way your belongings are better protected from overzealous baggage handlers.
The hard cases are also great for using as seats or makeshift tables. They are generally more sturdy than the soft version.
The Star Wars themes are not well matched for the size of the bag.
Star Wars was a PG-13 movie so it was aimed at older kids… yet these bags are not big enough for older kids unless it’s very short trips.
If you really want Star Wars themed luggage then you must check out the Disney BB8 roller.
For any BB-8 fan then there is really only going to be one winning carry on suitcase.
As a kids roller bag, the BB-8 has a lot of problems…
For starters the shape is all wrong, it doesn’t make good use of the dimensions and it’s not particularly well constructed.
It’s got one great thing going for it…
It’s BB-8 !!!
If you want a reason to tell your kid why you’re not getting this luggage then here it is…
This case is 21 x 13 x 10 inches. At 10 inches deep it’s an inch too wide as the most common limit is 9 inches…
But mommmm… it’s BB-8!! )))
As kids grow older they need more and more things when they travel so it starts to make more and more sense that they really need their own bag.
Teenagers can pretty much take a same-sized bag as adults especially if they have a rolling carry on. You might need to help young teens lift bags into the overhead locker.
I’d advise putting valuables like iPads in your own bag.
Be aware that in-flight theft is real and you need to be very careful that nobody tampers with your bag during the flight!!!
The more bags that your family is traveling with the more bags you will need to secure and keep track of.
The Hello Kitty brand has been around for a long time and is much loved.
I would say this trolley suitcase suits kids from age 3 to 8. It’s roughly speaking around 2 thirds the size of a regular cabin-sized trolley suitcase.
When retracted the pull handle goes on the inside of the case reducing the capacity. This does reduce the space available inside the suitcase, but to locate the handle on the outside would mean the bag would have a depth greater than 9 inches. This would actually mean that it might not qualify as hand luggage despite the height only being 18 inches and the width 12.5 inches.
Kids feel special when they have their own suitcase. This bags main strength is in its popularity with its target audience. Kids love it! If your daughter or granddaughter is happy with their rolling suitcase then who are you or I to argue with them! And reports are that this Hello Kitty Spinner is putting a lot of smiles on a lot of faces. Spinner luggage is pretty cool and I think it helps to make kids feel grown-up.
For something truly unique take a look at the Kaning Luggage Scooter.
At first, this seems like a great idea…
But the problem soon becomes apparent. it’s way too heavy for carryon luggage.
This thing weighs 11 lbs
And another thing… maybe I’m just a square but I don’t think airports are sensible places to be scooting about it.
The makers say this for adults. If you are an adult and you’re using this as your main carry on then I say… grow up ))
It’s also really expensive and I don’t think it’s worth the money. If you want to travel with a scooter it’s a better idea to buy a folding mini scooter and put it in a backpack.
That’s my 2 cents anyway )
A sports/travel duffel is a great choice for teenagers that are strong fit and able.
The Adidas bag here is just a well-made duffel that is about carry on size. You can use many many different duffel bags for air travel.
I just picked this bag as an example because the last time I checked Adidas was still a well-liked brand among the youngsters,
A duffel bag is multi-purpose. It can be used for school, for sports, going to the gym etc…
A well-made duffel bag can last for years and they can hold a lot of things.
Once you have arrived at your destination a duffel can be used for trips to the beach or excursions.
Older kids and teens should be fit enough that they can carry a bag and with a duffel there is less to go wrong with it.
With younger teens whose muscle strength is still developing you need to be careful not to over-pack. Just because you can pick it up doesn’t mean it’s going to be comfortable carrying it for long periods.
You can usually strap a duffel on top of a rolling carry on to take the weight off sometimes if Dad ends up taking the bag for a while.
Unless your older kid or teenager is a frequent flier you might find that using a simple duffle bag is a good solution to carry on.
Older kids and teenagers can start to move on to full size carry on luggage but they might still want something that is more adult but with a bit of character like the Rockland 2 Piece Luggage Set.
The Rockland luggage is hugely popular and they have loads of different funky designs.
A word of warning. This bag is 10 inches deep including the front pocket. Really strict airline check in staff might say this is over-sized.
However Amazon sell so many of these things and most people are happy to I think the size is probably ok.
As the name suggests it’s designed to fit under the airline seat rather than fit in the overhead locker.
This can take some of the stress out of travelling as you will always find a space under the seat in front of you for your bag.
It’s also the most secure place to keep your bag to stop people tampering with it and stealing things during the flight!
I’d recommend the Samsonite Underseater for older children that are traveling alone. Keeping the bag right next to them will be more relaxing. It’s one less thing to worry about.
I hope you have enjoyed this look at kids travel bags and most of all I hope you’ve found it useful.
I think that engaging your little one in the travel process is perhaps the best way to avoid tears, tantrums, or even sulks. Just make sure you don’t overload them!
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Let us know in the comments if you have any travel tips for traveling with kids and which luggage you prefer to use with your ‘little ones’… or indeed your ‘oh-they’re-getting-so-big ones’.
We appreciate your support, hope you find the best luggage for your travels, and wish you happy stress-free travel with your children!