Packing your bags and suitcases when you're traveling with kids can be a real challenge. There just seems to be so much stuff to bring, and never really enough space. With most airlines charging fees if you bring too many pieces of luggage, and if they're over the weight-limit, there's even more pressure to bring less. Also, you might run into problems handling all that luggage at the airport, especially if you're traveling as the only adult with one or more children.
1. Check the airline's policies
Different airlines can have different policies for how many pieces of luggage each traveler is allowed, and how much that luggage can weigh before a fee is charged. Check with your airline to make sure you know what the deal is. Special rules often apply to parents traveling with infants. If your children are paying for tickets (anytime they're over 2 years of age usually), they are allowed to bring luggage along, so that gives families a bit more luggage-space!
2. Wheeled luggage is easier to handle at airport
I love wheeled suitcases and wheeled bags of all kinds. Usually, it's not that hard to find a luggage cart at the airport, but it's just a lot easier if you at least have the option to easily move all your pieces of luggage without a cart. My son also really likes pulling a suitcase at the airport, so that's an added plus.
3. Only bring clothes you KNOW will be used
When packing for a trip, especially a longer one, it's easy to bring a lot of items "just in case". A couple of extra "fancy" outfits maybe, or that second jacket, or a couple of extra shirts. If you're packing for the whole family, all the extras add up quickly. Over the years, I've learned to be very firm: nothing gets into the suitcase unless I know the kids like to wear it. (Same rule applies to my own stuff!) Also, as long as you have access to a washing machine where you're going, you can really limit how much clothing you bring along.
4. Rent, buy, borrow
Things like a stroller, a car seat, a portable crib, and so on, can take up a lot of space and be a real bother to check at the airport. Consider the option of renting, borrowing, or even buying certain items at your destination instead. Some hotels provide stroller rentals. Car seats can often be had from car rental companies. Friends and relatives might be able to find you other items you need.
5. Tag your bags before you go to the airport
You definitely want your name and contact information on every piece of luggage you check in. I've printed out tag-inserts that include name, address, cell-phone number and email address for our luggage. Tag your bags properly before you're at the airport. Once you're there, you might not get a chance to do it, especially if you're traveling with young children that have to be closely supervised.
6. Buy a portable luggage-scale
This can save you money, and give you peace of mind. There are lots of different models and brands, and once you have one, you can pack your bags and know that you won't get stuck with additional fees. (Or at least you'll be ready for those additional fees!)