Planning a trip to Europe? With kids?
Planning a solo or couples trip overseas is one thing. Doing it with kids is a whole different challenge. You not only have to plan, pack and haul for yourself, you have to do it for your children too. And it feels more important to get it right the first time – because your kids are relying on you.
We took our first trip from the U.S. to Europe when my kids were ages 11 and 14. We were flying into Paris, taking Eurostar to London for a week, then returning to Paris for a week. I was nervous about making all those connections with all our luggage. To make it work, my kids had to carry their own luggage, and we couldn't overpack.
Everyone got one carry-on suitcase and a small backpack that we carried from Salt Lake City to Denver, to Paris, to London and back again for two weeks. I also carried a small purse.
It worked! Here's what we did and why I'd do it the same way again.
Check the suitcase size requirements for the airlines you'll be flying. Some airlines can be very strict. We flew Delta and Air France, which will accommodate most carry-on suitcases.
I prefer spinner suitcases with four wheels that roll in every direction. They are easy for a child or adult to roll through an airport or along a city sidewalk.
I also prefer suitcases that are a unique color. Our bright orange bag is easy to spot from a distance, and is usually the only one of that color on a baggage carousel. My son loves that bag because it's his favorite color.
If you are using an older suitcase, make sure that the wheels, handle and zipper are in good shape. These are little things that could be a big hassle if they stop working. I bought two new suitcases before this trip.
I bought different suitcases so I could compare them. The first was a Travelpro Maxlite. It's lightweight, built for international travel and has strong reviews on Amazon.com. It's a soft expandable suitcase. I prefer suitcases with the zipper on the top/front and one big compartment, and this one has that.
The other suitcase was a Rockland. It's half the price of the Travelpro Maxlite and also has pretty good reviews on Amazon.com. It's a hard suitcase that comes in lots of colors. The zipper is in the center, so the suitcase opens like a clamshell. It also fared well in Europe and several other trips since we bought it. Time will tell if this suitcase is as durable as the more expensive Travelpro.
Related: 6 Tips for Packing Light
My sister turned me on to the lightweight Outlander backpacks after her family used them on a couple of international trips. They carried our electronics, neck pillows, snacks and airplane entertainment for our Europe trip. We used at least one of the packs on most days of the trip because they were handy for carrying picnic lunches and souvenirs.
We have used these packs often since our Paris and London trip. They work well for day trips, light hiking and my kids' after school activities.
I bought the smallest size (20L), which is small enough for most kids to carry on their own. We bought a different color for each family member. I toss them in the washing machine when they get dirty and they come out looking new.
These packs fold small, which was helpful for my sister's family when they stopped in Amsterdam on their way to Morocco. Their second airline had stricter luggage requirements and the backpacks all had to be emptied and stored in suitcases.
I've traveled too often with purses that were big, heavy and full of stuff I didn't really need. For this trip, I wanted a smaller, lighter purse with anti-theft features for crowded subways and tourist attractions. I chose the Travelon Classic Crossbody Bag, which is built for convenience and security.
It took me a few days to warm up to this purse because it's more functional than fashionable. However, my Travelon purse is so convenient that it is now my everyday purse. It fits essential items like credit cards, passports, cash, keys, phone, sunglasses and lipstick, but isn't big enough to get heavy or cluttery.
The Travelon purse is discreet enough that I can wear it with a seatbelt, at a dinner table or under a jacket. Security features like locking zippers, RFID blocking, and slash resistant straps discourage thieves. My shoulders aren't sore after carrying it around on a full day of sightseeing.
I carried this purse non-stop for two weeks, then tossed it in the washing machine when we came home. After nine months of daily use, it still looks like new.
I spent hours shopping for bags that were lightweight, durable, washable and affordable, and these were the bags we chose. We put them to the test on airplanes, subways, trains, taxis and Ubers for two weeks in three countries and they held up well. Every member of my family was able to take what they needed and easily carry their own luggage.
This packing system and these bags worked so well that we are using them on nearly every other trip we take too. I hope these ideas will help your family plan for your next trip.