Sunday, May 1, 2011

Hand-luggage for traveling kids

When it comes to hand-luggage for kids, I firmly believe that a child should get their own carry-on as soon as they show any interest at all in having one. And as soon as you think they're capable (and willing!) to actually pull or carry that hand-luggage around themselves of course.

Port Authority - Wheeled Backpack. One size, Light Pink/Grey [Apparel]J World Kids Rolling Backpack with Handle - Blue (17")Olympia 18" Rolling Backpack, Black, One Size
Wheeled backpacks
I think that this is the best kind of carry-on for kids. A backpack full of toys, books and stuffed animals is easier to pull than to carry on your back. Also, my own kids just seem to find wheeled backpacks more fun than regular backpacks.

Based on my own experience, here are a few tips when buying your child a wheeled backpack for airplane-travel:
  • Spend a little more to get better quality - You don't have to buy something super-expensive, but avoid the real cheap-o backpacks. Don't bother with the ones that have wheels that are already rickety, and have zippers and seams that don't look reliable. Even just a little bit more money can usually get you something a lot more durable and useful.
  • Make sure the handle stays up and doesn't go down too easily - The handle should slide up easily and only go back down when you want it to. Some wheeled backpacks have handles that slide down as soon as you touch them, and this can get pretty annoying when kids are trying to maneuver their hand-luggage.
  • More than one compartment is good - Multiple pockets make it easier to keep things organized. For example, you can keep snacks in an outside pocket, crayons in another pocket, while stuffed animals and toys go in the main compartment.
  • Make sure your child likes it so they'll use it! - This is very important. If your child doesn't like the backpack for whatever reason (wrong color, wrong super-hero... whatever) they probably won't use it. This might mean that you will be lugging around an extra piece of hand luggage. Better to make sure your child is "on board" with the purchase.

Dinosaur BackpackSkip Hop Zoo Pack Little Kid Backpack, Dog
Regular backpacks
Some kids just aren't into wheeled backpacks, or they might be too small to be able to, or interested in, pulling them. In such cases, going with a small, regular backpack might be a better choice.Just make sure that you do pick a small backpack:

  • The bigger the backpack, the more stuff can be crammed into it. And if your young child is going to be the one carrying the backpack, it's good if it's not too heavy.
  • If your child is very young, they might not be very interested in their carry-on, and you might end up carrying it yourself most of the time. If that happens, you don't want something that's too big to handle easily.
Again, don't pick anything ridiculously expensive (unless you can afford it!), but don't pick something of such poor quality that it will break or rip after one flight either. Air travel can be hard on bags of all kinds, and even though hand-luggage is not treated as harshly as your suitcases, it is better if it's reasonably durable.

Melissa & Doug Trunki Iris (Purple)Melissa & Doug Trunki Sunny (Orange)
The hard case
On our latest trip, I saw a few kids in various airports with the Trunki-style, hard-sided hand luggage. These rolling carry-ons look cute and durable, but as I've stated before on this blog, I'm just not sold on this concept for kids' hand-luggage.

Okkatots Travel Baby Depot Backpack BagDadGear Messenger Diaper Bag Center Stripe Blue
Diaper bags for parents traveling with infants
If you're traveling with an infant, you're obviously not worried about your child wanting their own carry-on. Instead, you're worried about how to keep all the stuff you need to bring on board the airplane organized: bottles, formula, diapers, wipes, creams, change of clothes, change pad... It all adds up.

My advice is to keep the diaper-stuff separate from everything else. That way, you can find what you need easily when you're changing a diaper in a ridiculously small airplane bathroom, and you won't have to worry about soiled diapers, wipes and clothes getting all over other things like toys and books.

I really like the looks of the Okkatots Travel Baby Depot backpack featured above. It is expensive, but if I had the money and I knew I'd be traveling a lot with my little one, I might spring for that. I'm just a sucker for stuff that looks like it would help me keep organized!

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