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 kids carry on luggage and why it's best both for you and for your little one.
I then take a look at different types of carry on bag for kids and the pro and cons. And I look at what bags are most suitable for different age groups.
If you want something you can wheel your kid around on then check out the Trunki Ride On Suitcase.
And for something truly unique take a look at the Micro Luggage Scooter.
Read on for a full and detailed discussion of kids carry on luggage as well as all the airline rules and regulations on the topic.
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.
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.
The 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 an 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 suitcase you can use your child's carry on allowance to avoid checking bags, save money and save time.
Your 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.
To help you not overload your kid check this (boys) chart for a rough guide.
Average Weight lbs
2 Years Old
2.8 - 4.2 lbs
3 Years Old
3.3 - 4.9 lbs
4 Years Old
3.6 - 5.4 lbs
5 Years Old
4.2 - 6.3 lbs
6 Years Old
4.6 - 6.9 lbs
7 Years Old
5 - 7.5 lbs
8 Years Old
5.7 - 8.5 lbs
9 Years Old
6.1 - 9.1 lbs
10 Years Old
7 - 10.5 lbs
11 Years Old
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.
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 babies 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 the durability is an 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 in the airport!
Depending on your childs 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.
The Penguin Packs are 3 different colored penguin backpacks that suit children from age 3 to 6.
If your child has their own seat and baggage allowance then you might want a slightly bigger backpack so you can actually pack some of their clothes for the trip.
Backpacks are great for kids that are too young to use a rolling carry on. A wheeled bag can just be too much fun and airports are not great places for playing in.
This bag can hold a lot so be careful not to overload your kid. Be sure to test things out at home before the big day when you set off!
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!
This case has a lot of storage capacity and I think when you compare it to the size of the kids using it it's massive. If a trunki was scaled up to adult size it would be way too big to use as a carry on.
Kids clothes are smaller and lighter than adult clothes so you should be able to use this to pack the clothes for your child's trip if you pack in moderation.
Or alternatively you could use it to hold toys and game and other items to keep them entertained.
On the negative side the wheels don't turn so it drives best when going in a straight line.
If you 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.
Bonus points for being super cute!
GoVinci Trolley is designed to help keep your kids entertained while hanging around airports and is perfect for all the budding artists out there!
That's because this wheeled rolling carry on has a built in frame for displaying sketches and drawings.
It's a great way to personalize kids luggage and if you pack some crayons then drawing is a great way to pass some time in the airport.
It's proportioned correctly for kids 3+ and is a correctly formed mini rolling carry on but since this case hasn't sold much you will be taking a chance on reliability. There are not enough reviews yet to accurately gauge how will this will perform and due to low availability we couldn't get our hands on one.
The Skip Hop Rolling Carry On is another miniature carry-on roller for kids and it's my favorite kids carry on 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 about this bag being too small but I think what they really want is an adult sized carry on with kids styling.
This bag is meant to be used by the child and I'd say it works well for kids from age 3 to 8.
The Skip Hop 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 the Skip Hop 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!
Carry on's don't always need to be complicated. Sometimes it's best to just stuff some clothes in a bag and kids don't need a place to store their passport. It's best you keep hold of that!
The Kelty Grommet is a backpack designed for kids from age 5 to 10.
It has just under 14 liters of storage capacity, to put that in perspective for you a typical 22x14x9 inch rolling carry on is about 45 liters. So this backpack can hold about a third of what a full size adult carry on can take.
Yet kids clothes are smaller and lighter so you can pack quite a lot of things in this backpack for short trips.
This type of bag has a multitude of uses, it can be used for school or for play so it's not just something you can use for travel.
It's not got padding for packing breakable to keep the iPad's etc in your own case.
On the negative side I think their upper age limit of 10 seems a bit high. I'd say this is a good little backpack for ages from 5 to 8. Kids age 10 can easily take something a little bigger.
The Cabin Max Bear Luggage is a 3/4 size child's carry on bag.
Cabin Max have come up with a great idea for the bear holder but the be aware that the bear is not included.
This bag is a great size for kids to use as carry on luggage. At 34 liters it can be used in most cases to take all the kids stuff for the trip.
Children from age 3+ can use this bag or a fast developing 2 year old. The upper age limit is probably around the age that having a bear strapped to your bag is no longer cool.
While the soft sides don't offer much structure they help keep the weight down which is particularly important for little people. When empty this bag only weights 2.2 lbs that's impressive because it has the wheels and handle to add extra weight but it's still light.
It seems that older versions of this bag had a duffel strap and newer versions have backpack straps. So be careful when you are ordering. Not all colors variations of this bag are the same.
I really liked this bag but because it's significally more expensive than the Skip Hop I felt it wasn't as good value. Still a great bag though!
The Stephen Joseph is a pretty girls rolling carry on 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.
There are also boys versions in "boys colors" that feature dinosaurs, sports, planes and monkeys.
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.
Nothing helps sell products more than a merchandising tie-in with a big hit movie. And that’s why American Tourister have 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 they 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.
If your child's favorite Star Wars character is Darth Vader then American Tourister has got you covered...
We can only hope that they come back to the light side of the force before too long... 😉
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 ))
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.
Once kids reach 13 they can be using full size carry on luggage or near full size.
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.
The BB-8 luggage has a lot not right about it...
For luggage the shape is all wrong, it doesn't make good use of the dimensions and it's not particularly well constructed.
But 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...
It's 10 inches deep and the most common limit is 9 inches...
But mommMMMMmmm... 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 the same size of
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.
At first this looks like a great bag for young teen girls but there is a big issue with the dimensions.
Once you include the wheels the bag goes above the carry on size limits for a lot of airlines.
For this reason I would recommend steering clear of the Hello Kitty bag it's better to be safe than sorry!
For something truely unique take a look at the Micro Luggage Scooter.
At first this seems like a great idea...
But the problem soon becomes aparent. it's way too heavy for carry on 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.
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.
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 child 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
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.
The Samsonite Underseater is a carry on bag for grown ups… but it’s a small one.
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.
A great way to personalize kids luggage is to use luggage tags with their name on them.
This is a fun thing to do in the lead up to a vacation and any fun related to the trip planning can reduce anxiety and lead to more relaxed travel.
And the four images below are all examples of funky kids luggage tags that you can buy from Etsy.
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 by engaging kids in the travel process is perhaps the best way to avoid tears and tantrums. Just make sure you don't overload them!
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We appreciate your support and wish you happy stress free travel with your children!