Want to know how your family can make travel easier, less expensive, and more enjoyable? Of course you do! You can achieve all these with one bag travel, and I’m going to explain how it’s possible with kids. Read on to learn more.
Clothing for one bag travel with kids
For most trips, your kids can pack four tops and bottoms and one set of pajamas. Have them wear another outfit—a comfortable, but heavier one, on the plane.
They can wear a pair of sturdy walking or hiking shoes for travel. For a cool weather trip, those are the only shoes they’ll need. If you’re traveling to a warm destination, bring pair of sandals as well. It’s important that this sandal be comfortable enough for lots of walking. We really like Keen sandals, as they have a sturdy footbed and good traction. They also have toe protection, and are washable.
For their clothing, aim for comfortable clothes in fabrics that dry quickly—no jeans or heavy twills. In the summer, dresses are a great option for girls. I love NuuMuu dresses, since they dry so quickly, thin cotton dresses work well, too. Pants with zip-off legs that convert to shorts are handy as well. I’ve found really great options by both Columbia and REI Co-op brand.
Regular t-shirts work well for tops. Performance fabrics or thin cotton dry the fastest, but you don’t really need anything special.
We have found that packing about five pairs of socks and underwear is reasonable for most trips.
Travel outerwear for kids
Weather can be unpredictable, especially when you’re in a new place. Cold, wet kids are grumpy kids, so outerwear is important. Fortunately, it’s possible to have your kids warm and dry without packing a suitcase worth of coats.
Through trial and error, we’ve figured out an outerwear system that works well. It consists of three pieces, two of which travel in their own stuff sacks.
The first piece of the system is a hooded fleece. For younger kids, Columbia makes great, very soft fleeces. If I look around online, I can usually find them for around $20. For older kids, just about every outdoor manufacturer has several good options—we look for sales on Backcountry or Sierra.
The second piece is a thin, very packable rain jacket. My younger daughter has a Columbia one, and my older daughter has the same Outdoor Research Ferrosi jacket that I have. We purchased small stuff sacks to keep these in.
The third piece of the outerwear system is a puffy down jacket. Compared to other jacket options, down jackets pack much smaller and weigh next to nothing. All of ours came with their own stuff sacks.
Take the fleeces everywhere, the rain jackets almost everywhere, and the down jackets when there’s a chance it’s going to be cold. Have your kids wear their fleeces onto the plane, since planes are often cold. Pack the other two jackets into their tiny (1-2 liter) stuff sacks in their carry on bags.
What else should your kids pack?
Don’t forget a toothbrush and toiletries. Kids don’t need much else. Our kids bring their Kindles so they have something to read. It’s much easier to bring an e-reader that to bring several books. We also bought them iPods before our first international trip. We thought about getting them cameras, but decided the iPod combined the camera with other functionality. They bring earbuds to listen to audiobooks and music, and they usually bring a sketchbook as well. Think about your kids’ interests and what’s really necessary for them.
Which carry on bag is right for your kids?
Although having the right bag is important, it’s most important that the bag be light. If you don’t want to buy a travel backpack, your kids can use a school backpack.
There aren’t a lot of options for younger kids. I’ve been a fan of the Osprey Jet 18, but they have revamped it. I don’t like the new version as much. REI makes the Tarn 18. It’s also reasonably good option—but it looks like it’s being discontinued. My daughter tried a Cotopaxi Batac 16 on one trip. It’s a nice bag, but the straps were much too big for her. In general, younger kids can get away with a bag smaller than 20 liters.
Once kids are the size of petite adults, you have a lot more options. One bag travel has grown in popularity, and there are many options. My older daughter has gone through a couple of Osprey bags. She is now using the Cotopaxi Allpa 28, which she loves. It’s not an inexpensive bag, but she will be able to use it for many years.
The kids’ bags weigh very little. My younger daughter’s bag weighs less than 8 pounds, completely packed. My older daughter’s bag weighs a little more, but it’s still well under 15 pounds. They can carry them for miles, if necessary.
Final thoughts on one bag travel for kids
Traveling light will make your family’s trips so much easier and more enjoyable. One bag travel is easy with kids. Try it on your next family trip and see what a difference it makes.