Hey there! Planning an international trip with kids? Wondering what luggage will work best?
Planning a big solo or couples trip 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 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 flew into Paris, took Eurostar to London for a week, then returned to Paris for a week.
We traveled by car, airplane, subway, train, taxi, and on foot in the just first three days! To make it work, my kids had to carry their own luggage, and we couldn't overpack.
Here's the luggage we chose for that trip. And it worked so well that we have used it for dozens of family vacations since then! These luggage pieces can work for your trip too…
One carry-on suitcase per person is the only suitcase you need for most trips. It is lightweight and will roll and fit everywhere. Most school-age kids can easily roll a carry-on suitcase without much help.
Are you thinking that a small suitcase won't hold enough clothes?? You can travel indefinitely with 2-3 outfits in your suitcase if you wear things twice and do laundry. And choose your shoes carefully. It's really all you need and it will make traveling so much easier!
My 80-year-old in-laws traveled to Italy last summer and they took one carry-on each. They were glad they packed light when their taxi got stuck behind a parade and they had to walk the last half-mile to their hotel – with all their luggage. Rolling one small bag was no problem.
Here is what I look for in a carry-on suitcase:
- Spinner suitcases – with four wheels that roll in every direction. They are easy to roll through an airport or along a city sidewalk.
- Unique color – There are a lot of black and navy suitcases on every baggage carousel and mix-ups happen. A less-common color or pattern is easier to spot.
- Hard vs soft – I prefer a softside (fabric) suitcase because I like the single-compartment design instead of two halves. I have not had a problem with durability. But hardside suitcases have advantages too, so choose the type you prefer.
Check the suitcase size requirements for the airlines you'll be flying. Some international airlines are very strict. We flew Delta and Air France to Europe, which will accommodate most carry-on suitcases.
We have tried a few different suitcases. Most suitcases will be fine for a few years. But if you travel often, it's smart to pay for quality.
My favorite suitcase is the TravelPro Maxlite. I bought my Maxlite before our first trip to Europe five years ago. It worked well for that trip and I have used it for dozens of family vacations since then. I will take it to Japan this summer and it still looks like new.
After taking my Maxlite to Europe, I bought one for my husband after the handle on his fairly-new Amazon Basics suitcase broke. I bought another one for my father-in-law before their trip to Italy. And I bought a Travelpro set for my daughter before her study abroad trip to Austria.
I also recommend the Rockland Melbourne hardside suitcase. I bought this suitcase for my son at the same time I bought my Maxlite and it has held up almost as well. His bright orange suitcase is easy to spot on a luggage carousel.
The Rockland Melbourne is half the price of the Maxlite and it comes in a lot of fun colors. This is a good starter suitcase for kids – or anyone.
Related: 6 Tips for Packing Light
The second piece of luggage I use for every trip is a small (20-liter) backpack.
A backpack holds the essential items we need for the airplane like electronics, chargers, and snacks. It should be small enough to fit under the seat in front of you and easy to use as a day pack on your trip.
There are two backpacks I recommend. The first one we bought was the New Outlander 20L backpack. It's inexpensive, lightweight, holds everything we need, and washes well.
Our New Outlander backpacks wore out after 4-5 years of frequent travel. After that, we upgraded to the Cotopaxi Moda 20L backpack. This pack is more durable and has more pockets for organizing – including padded laptop/tablet storage.
Though both backpacks are 20-liter, the Cotopaxi pack feels bigger. You could take an overnight or weekend trip with this pack without any other luggage.
Related: 10 Travel Toys for Kids that Fit in One Backpack
For Europe, I wanted a smaller, lighter purse with anti-theft features for crowded subways and tourist attractions. I chose a small Travelon Anti-Theft Crossbody Bag, which is built for convenience and security.
My Travelon purse is so convenient that it is now my everyday purse. It fits essential items like credit cards, passports, cash, keys, phone, and sunglasses but isn't big enough to get heavy or cluttery.
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. It's more functional than fashionable, but after five years of daily use, it still looks like new.
The style I bought is no longer available, but there are others to choose from in the Travelon Store at Amazon.com.
I recommend getting a small purse for valuables like passports, credit cards, cash, and your phone. Use a day pack for the other stuff you need – and let someone else carry it sometimes!
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. And they have held up on dozens of trips in the five years since.
And my 11-year-old carried his suitcase and backpack on his own without any problem. This is important for families.
I hope that our experience helps your family to have a great trip!
Nice post thanks for sharing
Thanks for sharing this blog, these tips are really helpful. Keep it up. 🙂