Best Kids Hand Luggage Bags for Family Trips

We’ve been taking our son on flights since he was a toddler – he is now a teenager.   Whichever age he has been, as a parent, I have always needed to pack items including: activities to prevent the “I’m bored”, food to stop the “I’m hungry”, extra clothes to combat the “I’m cold/hot”, not to mention the spilt food. This all has to be put into my son’s own kid’s hand luggage.  But matching the size of the bag, the amount of luggage to be placed into it, along with how well he can manage the hand-carry bag takes trial and error to find the best hand luggage for kids.

So I’m going to take the guesswork out of it for you, by sharing the best kids’ hand luggage options to take on a trip.  I’ll explain all the options available including the pros and cons for each type of children’s carry-on luggage for each stage of your child’s development.

In this article learn which is the best options for kid’s hand luggage

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Child walking through airport pushing hand luggage trolley
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Best Hand Luggage for Toddlers

Travelling with toddlers can be a challenge.  Making your way through large airports that involves lots of walking can be a nightmare.  Little kids’ legs tire quickly and so too does their attention span, let alone the fact they are constantly hungry.  You need to choose a carry-on bag that gives you the flexibility of holding everything you need and for you to help your child cover the distance (rarely are prams or strollers available).  So, what to choose?

Children’s ride-on suitcase

With that thought, I really like the idea of the children’s ride-on luggage.  A large hard plastic suitcase shaped like an animal that is strong enough for a toddler to sit on whilst you pull the suitcase along behind you.

These ride-on bags are about the same size as a standard carry-on bag with ample space to pack all your little one’s toys, change of clothes and snacks.

  • Pro’s
    • Tired kids get pulled along for a ride
    • Keeps your hand free
    • Good size to fit all belongings
  • Con’s
    • If your child has a tantrum and wants to be picked up, it will be difficult to carry the bag as well
    • Only suitable for toddlers
    • It may be difficult to manoeuvre through crowds

Top Trip Tip: Consider your child’s likes and dislikes as to whether they will enjoy riding in a suitcase for a distance

Family Travel Backpack

If you are wanting the ability to keep your hands free a backpack could be the answer.  You’ll probably be wanting one for yourself and a token one for your toddler.  Toddler backpacks are small; the perfect size for little ones to carry their own few special items like their snuggle friend and favourite hard book*.  But because the toddler backpack is so small (not to mention the likelihood of your toddler not wanting to carry the bag for the distance) you will need an additional good-sized one for yourself to act as the travel bag for the family to carry the remainder of the items like food, drinks, spare clothes, etc plus your travel documents.

  • Pro’s
    • Keeps your hands free to pick up your child and attend to any other matters
    • A family travel backpack provides lots of pockets to keep things organised
  • Con’s
    • Toddler backpack small and can’t fit much in it – you will need an additional bag
    • The weight of all the family travel items may be heavy to carry a distance on your back

Top Trip Tip: Consider what and how much needs to be packed in the family carry-on travel bag

To help you plan what and how much to take on board check out the

Young Kids Hand Luggage

Once kids get a little bit older (we’re talking 3-8 years old), they really want to start doing things for themselves and become a little bit more independent.  This is the perfect time to start introducing them to their own personal luggage.  There are several different options to choose from, so let’s explore each of them.

Children’s trolley suitcase

A trolley suitcase was my son’s first carry-on bag.  His was a Spiderman character luggage with wheels and a pull-up handle.  He used this bag for years – basically until he became too tall to reach down for the handle of the children’s rolling luggage.  It was the perfect size for toys, books, snacks and a change of clothes.  Kids’ trolley bags are just a small version of an adult’s suitcase on wheels except that theirs are usually designed with vibrant colours and images. 

  • Pro’s
    • Kids feel as though they are just like the adults
    • Lots of variety with fun suitcases on wheels
    • Good size to fit all their belongings
    • Fits in the overhead luggage compartment or under the seat in front
  • Con’s
    • As your child is responsible for their own bag you will need to keep an eye out to ensure that they always have collected it when you move along
    • Your child may tire walking the distance in airports, resulting in you having to carry the child and another bag

Scooter suitcase kids

These sound like loads of fun for kids.  Basically, the scooter luggage for kids is a scooter with a small bag attached to the front T handlebar.  They come with lots of fun images to choose from; are light, durable and aeroplane-approved carry-on.  Not to mention the bag is big enough to pop all their toys, activities, snacks and spare clothes.

  • Pro’s
    • The footplate folds and locks up so the case can be used like a trolley bag
    • A fun way for kids to get about the airport and for entertainment once you arrive at your destination
    • Fits into the overhead luggage compartment
    • Good size to carry all belongings
  • Con’s
    • Not all brands come with detachable bags
    • Kids riding scooters through airport lounges could cause havoc with other passengers

Kids backpack

Of course, there is always the option of the children’s backpack, I briefly mentioned these in the toddler section.  It is a small backpack that will only fit a few items, but it is a great option that can also be used for daycare or preschool as well as travel.  I love things that are multi-purpose 😊

  • Pro’s
    • Versatile and can be used for more than just flights
    • More difficult for children to lose as it is on their back
    • Lots of fun colours and patterns
  • Con’s
    • Only fits a small number of items
    • Your child may complain about the weight of the bag

Top Trip Tip: When choosing the best carry-on for young kids consider the cost of the bag, the longevity of the use of the luggage and your young child’s own preferences

Older Kid’s Carry-On Luggage

Once kids a get bit older and start to enter their tweens (the eight plus age group) they can really start to become responsible for their own hand luggage, including packing their own hand luggage. 

So once you’ve made your choice of the best bag option for your tween or teen help them to start creating their own packing list.

For inspiration on what to include check out the

Travel backpack for kids

Older kids can physically fit and carry the size of an adult day pack.  But there are lots of backpacks to choose from.  So, choosing the best backpack for travel with kids involves researching packs that include lots of pockets and compartments to keep everything organised.

No doubt the kids will still love a fun and vibrant pack rather than an adult’s standard black backpack.

  • Pro’s
    • The backpack is big enough to include a water bottle, snacks, games, a book and an iPad
    • Allows your child to have hands free
    • Fits in the overhead luggage compartment or under the seat in front
    • The backpack can be used on day trips when out exploring
    • The backpack can also be used at home or school
  • Con’s
    • Your child could complain about the weight of the bag

Children’s trolley bag

If weight is going to be an issue, then a kid’s suitcase on wheels is probably a better option.  You can either choose a soft shell or a child’s hard-shell suitcase.

There are not many soft-shell colourful options available.  But what I do like about the soft shells is that the lid zips open from one side and all your belongings stay in the case.  Whereas the hard-shell cases zip open in half with down straps or divider panels trying to hold everything in place.  Both options include wheels and a pull-up handle.

  • Pro’s
    • Good size to fit everything
    • Easy to pull along a heavier bag
    • Fits in the overhead compartment
  • Con’s
    • Must pick up and carry up and down stairs
    • Rarely fits under the seat in front
    • Your child may need an additional bag for day trips

Children’s backpack with wheels

Were you thinking that you liked the idea of the flexibility of the backpack and the convenience of the trolley bag?  What about combining the best of both with a backpack on wheels?

  • Pro’s
    • Ease and flexibility for carrying up and down stairs or if it’s too heavy for long distances
    • Fits in the overhead compartment
  • Con’s
    • Wheels may not be as comfortable resting on your back compared to a true backpack

Rolling duffle bag

Another option with wheels is a pull-along duffle bag.  This is a soft travel bag with wheels, two carry handles, plus a pull-out handle, some even come with a shoulder strap and sometimes pockets on the side.

  • Pros’
    • Fits in the overhead compartment
    • It will fit under the seat in front – making it easy to access items during the flight
    • Great to use for sleepovers as well
    • Lots of coloured patterns available
  • Con’s
    • Not good to use for day trips
    • Must pick up and carry up and down stairs

Top Trip Tip: Choose wisely, consider what will be the best luggage for tweens that will take them through their teenage years

Final Tips for Choosing the Best Hand Luggage for Kids

You know your child best.  You will know what your child will enjoy and tolerate.  You will also know exactly what and how much you will need to take with you on board the plane for your family trip. 

To help get you started packing for the kids check out our children’s packing lists:

We also have a couple of general family checklists for the rest of the family

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