Cheap, Carry On Luggage for Travel with Kids




We began our traveling journey with the strategy of 1 or 2 large bags for everyone. Less to manage, we thought.

This sucked. And I’ll tell you why.

  1. It meant that I had to be an anxious, perfectionist packer and do all of the packing myself.
  2. I was the only one who could take things out or put things in as it had to be meticulously organized. The 8 year old’s muddy jeans couldn’t be shoved on the 4 year old’s clean pajamas.
  3. The bag often exceeded the weight limit at the airport check in counter. Picture me grabbing handfuls of perfectly stored and sorted items and shoving them in other random places. If I didn’t have such a great sense of humor, this alone might trigger a nervous breakdown.
  4. Many airlines have a checked baggage fee. Not fun.
  5. It fostered zero personal independence and accountability, which means a real missed learning opportunity for our children.
  6. You must use baggage claim and all that is involved in that, including possible lost luggage and frequent long waits.

The new strategy: everyone gets their own luggage.

luggage handle


You get a suitcase! And you get suitcase! And you get a suitcase! Suitcases for everyoooooooooone! (Oprah joke)

This is awesome. And I’ll tell you why.

  1. Each person is responsible for packing their own bag. I am available for guidance and of course the younger the child, the more hands on my involvement. But they really enjoy finding their way (packing list or laying out items, checking weather and considering destination specific needs) and rising to the occasion. It’s also self limiting. The suitcase is this size (and we all have the same size). You can bring what fits in it (and if you want room for a souvenir, allow for that).
  2. Everyone manages their own bag throughout the trip. If you put your wet swimsuit on your clean clothes, you’re wearing damp clothes the next day. Through natural consequences they learn important skills around being conscious over impulsive.
  3. It’s a carry on, bitches! We get to skip the whole baggage claim obstacle altogether, we pay no additional fees, and we don’t have to worry about lost luggage.
  4. They are lightweight and easily maneuverable so each person can push their own luggage.

My youngest is 4 and is the most excited of everyone to push his own bag (and is perfectly capable of doing so). 3 or younger and you will need to include their belongings in your luggage.

After exhaustive research and shopping, we found the perfect luggage for our use: the Swiss Gear Hardside Carry On 20″ Suitcase. The best part? We found it at Costco for $39 (and since our best find was at Costco and not through Amazon I get no affiliate kickback for recommending this luggage).

The exterior is a great lightweight yet durable material and the wheels are bomb diggity with ridiculously easy maneuverability.

luggage wheels

The interior space is split down the middle with a strap on one side and a zippered net down the other. This setup keeps things very organized.

luggage interior

It even has the ability to expand, which gives you a good deal more space if needed.

luggage expands

A flashy luggage tag on the upper most handle is imperative as it makes it easily identifiable to you and others.

luggage tag

In addition to the suitcase, each person has a backpack. Our favorite is the Embark Jartop, which is lightweight, has comfortable straps, good pockets, and the design prevents your (ahem, your kids’) belongings from spilling out everywhere each time they access something. The backpack is important because while on the move we require free hands (meaning you can’t be carrying anything in your hands). This helps to ensure that all of our belongs are safe and stowed (nothing is left behind), we are free to interact with fun in the environment, and most importantly, hands are available for safety (holding rails and hands).

Inside each kid’s backpack they have:

  • 1 special comfort item: stuffed teddy bear, Peter Pan, and panda bear, respectively
  • Sweatshirt: depending on season and destination
  • Snacks: each child chooses, carries, and regulates their own snacks while traveling, fostering that brain-body connection, independence, and responsibility – think granola bars
  • iPad: each child has their own iPad with entertainment, educational apps, ebooks, and a camera for taking photos and videos, along with their charger
  • Headphones: each kid has a pair of headphones the same color as their iPad case (which is very, very durable)
  • Wallet: each child brings some money to spend as they choose, fostering economic management


Ready to take flight? Ya, you are. It really is true that it’s all about the journey and not the destination. This is especially true traveling as a family. But if you want me to plan your trip as well, I’ve got you covered right here.


Coming up next, PACKING!

[This post contains links to products I find useful. These are affiliate links, which means if you make a purchase on Amazon using the links, I receive a small fee and you help to keep this blog running. Thank you for the support!]

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