What to look out for when buying a carry-on for kids

by | For Parents, Our Gear





What to pack in your kids carry-on.


Packing a carry-on for your kids is not as easy as it seems. What to pack is a debated topic among parents and many people end up bringing way more than they need. The relationship with what you pack and the size of the carry-on is important.  If you over-pack, or if you have bulky items, it’s obvious that the luggage is also going to be large. 

While durability is an important feature for a carry-on, most airlines have restrictions on size. You don’t want to be that family that tries to shove a huge suitcase into the overhead compartment while other passengers are waiting. Most time you’ll have to check in any over-sized carry-on bags so make sure you stay within the regulations. With limited space and time, boarding an airplane or train should be quick and easy. 


This is why we recommend that all family members pack their carry-on with minimalism in mind. Don’t pack extra items that you think you’ll need, but what you will actually need and use – like snacks. Lots and lots of snacks. Doing this makes things comfortable for everyone, especially the kids. The weight your child can carry should also be considered when packing their carry-on. For physical development, kids should not be expected to carry or roll something that is too heavy. No parent wants to be left carrying their kid’s bag because it’s too heavy for them. Pack appropriately for age and size and you’ll be fine. 


Types of Travel Bags for kids




More often than not, a backpack is a great carry-on companion. Nothing to pull and nothing to hold. Backpacks come in many sizes with a lot of different features that may come in handy while traveling. The only concern with using a backpack as a carry-on for kids is that they can quickly become too heavy. Once filled with snacks, books, toys, and technology, the weight adds up. Yes, kids use backpacks on a daily basis, but it is stressful to carry a heavy backpack through an airport. A good alternative is using a backpack that has wheels and a telescopic handle. These two features can quickly turn a backpack into a small carry-on that kids can roll around as they travel. 

For our toddler, we found that the best backpack was the Skip Hop Toddler Leash and Harness Backpack. He was able to put a few toys, books and snacks in it. We were also able to hold on to him with the harness if he started to run off. Some people aren’t really into harnesses, but when our son was two he would run away at any moment. We really didn’t want any Home Alone type scenarios at the airport! 

For older kids, we really like the Heys Rolling Backpack. Its ability to be worn as a backpack and used as a rolling suitcase really comes in handy. It also comes in lots of cute designs in many sizes. 


Carry-on luggage with wheels


This type of luggage, also known as children’s trolley suitcases, have become the popular choice for travelling consumers. Long gone are the days when a traveller had to lift and carry luggage or rely on a trolley. So why not buy one for your kids when you travel? Having wheels on your child’s carry-on means that they can bring many of their travel needs on their own. This really comes in handy if you are only bringing carry-ons (which is the BEST option). Luggage with wheels also allows a child to be independent and gives them a sense of responsibility. 

We love the American Tourister Kids Hardside as it is really durable. The zipper is super strong and it has ABS sides. It comes in lots of designs, including all those beloved Disney characters, and it’s a realistic size for a vacation. You would easily be able to pack your kids clothing for a small vacation without having to check any luggage. 

  Our son also loved the Heys Jurassic World Carry-on. While it’s not as big as other carry-ons, it is small enough for him to pull without being uncomfortable. 


Kids Ride-On Suitcase


Seat on Carry-on

 The ride-on suitcase has become very popular in the last few years. Many parents are finding that they’re a good investment for their family. There are two of these types of ride-on baggage. One has a feature that allows small kids to sit on their parent’s luggage. Many manufacturers of these types of luggage have put considerable effort into the design of the seat and safety features. Ride-on suitcases give kids a place to rest while parents focus on checking in, navigating the terminal, and boarding. One safety point to consider is that a child should never be left unattended while in the ride-on seat. Suitcases, particularly in an airport, usually get bumped around. The last thing you want is your child to fall over while strapped in. The luggage has wheels and no matter the design they can tip over. 

 Our favorite is the Mountain Buggy Bag Rider. In a busy airport, this suitcase really helped with our baby. Instead of having to push a stroller and carry-on, we got a 2-for-1. This allowed us to have one hand free to do other things. 


 Low Ride-On

 The other type of ride-on luggage is one that kids can pull, sit on and push, or be towed. This type of carry-on usually comes in a variety of fun, attention-grabbing colors and designs. Kids love riding them which can make airport navigation a bit less stressful when kids are having fun. They can be filled with all your kid’s travel needs and some have additional features that can make travelling easier. 

JetKids by Stokke have these amazing ride-on carry-ons, such as the BedBox. The BedBox can be used to convert an airline seat into a bed for your child. With additional features, like lid storage and a parent carry strap, this ride-on carry-on is sure to be a hit. 


 Features of carry-ons designed for children




Ensure that the size of the carry-on suits your child. Anything that is too large may be difficult for them to carry comfortably. Remember to also check your airline’s guidelines for any limitations to size. 


 This is the most important factor when choosing a carry-on for your kids. Depending on their age, children should not carry anything that will put a strain on their back. The ergonomics behind finding the perfect carry-on or your child is important. Carrying and lifting inappropriate amounts of weight can impact the child’s physical growth. The American Physical Therapy Association suggests that children should only carry 15-20% of their body weight while the American Chiropractic Association advises 5-10%. Keep these numbers in mind regarding what your child carries. Some of the hard-sided suitcases, luggage, and carry-ons are made with either ABS, Polycarbonate, Polypropylene, or PVC. This will add a little more weight when compared to fabric backpack or bag, so also keep that in mind. 



 This category usually says a lot about the luggage that you are buying. You get what you pay for is a good rule of thumb when it comes suitcases in general. We’ve used many travel accessories and the ones that stood up tended to cost a bit more money. Like any other product, branding can sometimes drive up the price so look for customer reviews to aid your decision. 



  Parents, make sure your child loves the carry-on. There are many different styles that your child can choose from. Colors, shapes, animals, and characters are some of the design characteristics that your child has to choose from. Think about it this way. If your child likes the carry-on it is likely they will take responsibility for it and want to carry it. Additional features, such as lots of pockets, or a telescopic handle, should also be considered. 



 Carry-ons for your kids don’t need to last forever but they will take an occasional beating. Kids grow up fast and their belongings tend to grow with them. Soon their luggage will become too small or outdated. Which seventeen year-old do you know that still wants to use their Hello Kitty carry-on? What we found to be the most important factor about buying luggage is the zipper. Large chain zippers have bigger, stronger teeth when compared to coil zippers. Most of the time we rely on our zippers to keep the luggage closed even after we stuffed it tight. The frustration of having a broken zipper when on vacation is worth the added investment for your kids carry-on. 


The Best carry-on for kids: Our Recommendations


The best carry-on for kids is one that have them in mind. If they are designed for children, more often than not, they can be easily used by children. Manufacturers consider the types of belonging they will carry and they provide a comfortable experience when travelling. 

 Our family has used many types of luggage so here are a list of our top 3 choices of carry-ons for kids. 


Skip Hop Toddler Kids Backpack  

  • Easy to carry for both parents and children
  • Easy access to belongings while traveling
  • Adorable designs to choose from
  • Has a harness that can be used if necessary

 American Tourister Kids Hardside 

  • Durable: strong zipper and ABS sides
  • Comes with many different styles that include Disney characters
  • Realistic size for a vacation


Trunki Children’s Ride-On Suitcase 

  • Innovative design
  • Durable construction
  • Engaging and fun for kids




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