Monday, November 28, 2011

Flying with kids: how to handle hand luggage

Different airlines can have somewhat varying rules for hand luggage: how much it can weigh, the allowed dimensions of each carry-on, and how many pieces each traveler is allowed. Commonly travellers are allowed two pieces of carry-on luggage, including one bag, such as a backpack or shoulder bag, and one small purse, camera bag, or similar.

If you're traveling with children, you are also sometimes allowed to bring certain other items, such as an approved child-seat, or stroller.

The Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) has some hand luggage information on its web page.There is also more information about specific airline policies on the airline resources page.

Here are some of my best hand luggage tips when traveling with kids:

1. Choose your carry-on wisely
I'm a backpacker: I just love backpacks. And for a long time, my hand luggage of choice has been a backpack. I find it really convenient, and wouldn't trade it for a wheeled backpack or a shoulder bag. When I'm traveling with my kids, the backpack leaves my hands free to help them, carry them, or assist them with their hand luggage if they're getting tired or we're in a hurry. I guess the whole pack mule thing appeals to me! The main thing is to choose a carry-on you like, that is reasonably comfortable to carry, and that has enough compartments that you can organize things a bit, so it's easy to find what you're looking for.

2. Divide it up
If you're traveling as a family, divide items between the carry-ons so that it's easy to find what you need when you need it. For example, keep all the items you will need a lot during a flight in one bag, like snacks, formula, and toys together, while all the diaper-change items, and changes of clothes are kept in another bag. This also makes it easier to stow the bag with items you won't need as much in the overhead compartment where it's out of the way.

3. Keep the most important items on your person
If you're traveling as a solo parent with young kids, put your most important items like money, credit cards, boarding passes, and passports in a small purse, waist pack or neck pouch that you wear on your person all the time. This way these items are easy to get to, and you will be less likely to lose them by putting them down in a bathroom, at the check-in counter, or on board. 

4. Pack your liquids properly
I have seen some news stories talking about how the strict regulations on bringing liquids on board might be relaxed in the near future. However, for now, make things easy for yourself and avoid hassles at security by packing any liquids and gels you're bringing the "approved" way: no bottles that hold more than 100 ml (3 oz), and fit them all into one clear, 1 litre (1 quart) zip-loc bag per traveller. Keep this bag o' liquids easily accessible in your hand luggage since you will most likely be asked to take it out every time you go through a security checkpoint.

5. Pack any medications separate
I usually pack all liquid medications I'm bringing in my 1 litre zip-loc bag for liquids, and keep any other medications in another zip-loc bag. (And yes, I am crazy about zip-loc bags.) This makes it easy to see what's in the bags, both for security screeners and for me when I need to find something.

6. Let your child have their own hand luggage
As soon as they're old enough, children should be allowed to bring their own backpack or bag as a carry on. This makes life easier for you, since they can now carry at least some of their own toys, stuffed animals, and other comfort items themselves. My kids have a wheeled backpack each, which I find works really well for them and me.

Antibacterial wipes: the family pack.
7. Keep frequently used items easily accessible
The two items I use most frequently during a flight with my kids are: antibacterial wipes (to clean everyone's hands with as often as I can), and litterless juice boxes (to pour any drinks the kids get in for safer consumption). These items are always in an outside pocket of my carry-on backpack, or in the seat pocket in front of me during a flight.


  1. It’s not easy to find such perfectly written information on this topic. Great Work .Thanks for the post. I really like your blog.


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