Traveling with kids can be exciting, but it can also be a bit stressful – especially when it comes to luggage. I remember the first vacation we took when our children were old enough to enjoy it. It was incredible watching their eyes light up at all of the new sights and sounds, but I would have been more than happy to skip the packing.
It can be really difficult to determine how much clothing you need to take, what size luggage they need, and if they need their own bags at all. If you overpack, you’ll pay more in fees than necessary. If you under pack, you just might find yourself in a sticky situation – quite literally when it comes to kids. So, what do you do?
Well, I can’t pack your bags for you – or tell you exactly what to do. What I can do is help you get an idea of the different luggage sizes through the charts in this article and provide some additional tips. Let’s dive in below.
Everything we’re going to go over in this guide is based on common sizes and common guidelines. It’s important to know that the airline through which you choose to travel might not have the same exact guidelines as every other airline. Sometimes, their sizes vary to some degree and they can change at any moment. So you’ll always need to check that airline’s specific guidelines before traveling. Otherwise, you might get a costly surprise.
Luggage Size Charts
Again, these are common guidelines – not necessarily the rules. However, knowing and understanding some of the most common luggage size charts gives you a good foundation to work with.
1. Cabin Luggage
Cabin luggage is sometimes called hand luggage. Basically, it refers to the group of luggage that you are allowed to take with you to your seat on the plane or put in the overhead compartments. In short, they don’t have to be checked. Many people prefer to keep their luggage in this category, as it’s cheaper and they aren’t stuck waiting for their suitcases. And as you can see from the chart, there are two types of luggage that fit into this category: personal and carry-on.
- Personal item: This size luggage has to fit beneath your seat. It’s a good place to keep your kids’ snacks, devices, books, coloring pages, and maybe an extra set of clothes.
- Carry-on: You’ll need to put this in the overhead compartment. You’ll notice that there are two different types: domestic and international. Usually, you’ll have smaller allowances on an international flight than on a domestic one.
This chart shows the maximum size that most airlines allow for these categories.
2. Checked Luggage
Checked luggage refers to anything that has to be – well – checked because it’s too large to be cabin luggage. This chart shows the three basic checked bag sizes: small, medium, and large. If you need to choose checked baggage for your kids, small is a good option for younger children or for weekend trips. Medium is a better choice for teenagers and longer trips.
Like the cabin luggage chart, this checked luggage chart shows the maximum size for checked luggage. Typically, anything over these sizes will require additional fees or may not be accepted at all.
3. Luggage Type
This chart that lists the luggage types gives you a more in-depth look at the size ranges of each one. It not only tells the height as the others do but also the width and depth. Additionally, it gives you a range of how much clothing can fit into them.
4. Suitcase Type
The terms suitcases and luggage are often used interchangeably. Truthfully, they are all technically suitcases – luggage is just a specific type. However, you’ll see from this chart that most of the suitcases have a larger capacity than what you see on the “Luggage Type” chart.
That’s because most soft shell suitcases expand a little bit, whereas hard shell ones do not. Therefore, soft suitcases hold more items. If you’re looking for something that your kids can fit a great deal of clothing in, this chart is a good one to go by.
Q. Does my child really need their own luggage?
That’s really up to you. There’s no reason not to let them have their own personal item luggage or a small carry-on. If they’re very young, you can probably get away with that alone. You could put their clothes in your suitcase or even spread your clothes and theirs between two small or medium suitcases to prevent any additional fees.
Q. Do these sizes include the wheels and handles?
The answer to this can actually vary. Not every airline measures these but some do. It’s better to add them to the measurements than to find out the hard way that the airline measures them and have to pay more.
Q. Should I choose a hard shell or soft shell luggage for my kids?
That really depends on your preferences, as they both come with advantages. Remember that soft shells are expandable. They also weigh less. However, the hard shells are typically more durable and easier to wipe down when they get dirty.
Q. What about wheels? Should I invest in luggage with them?
Again, it’s up to you, but you have to think about the nature of kids for a moment. There’s a good chance that – when they decide their luggage is too heavy – they’ll drag it behind them whether it has wheels or not. For the sake of keeping their luggage around for as long as you need it, it’s never a bad idea to have those wheels available.
Q. Can my child have their own carry-on or will that count as my bag?
As long as there is a ticket in your child’s name, there’s usually no reason they won’t be allowed to have one. It’s always a good idea to check with the airline you’ll be traveling with, though.
Q. How much should I plan to invest in my child’s luggage?
Your little one will not be little forever. And – if yours are anything like mine – their favorite colors and characters are likely to change within the next week or month. Therefore, if you have very young children, focus on finding something within your budget that suits your current needs and their current tastes. Until they’re in their teenage years or so, there’s no reason to invest heavily in their luggage.