Oct 14, 201109:46 AMVacation
Have Family, Will Travel. But How Many Bags?
Like many of my customers, I have a family. At ages 13, 12, and 12 (yes, twins), our children participate in most of our vacations, and we feel fortunate that we can help them see more of the country and globe than just their native Ohio.
Deciding whether to travel is easy. Deciding how many bags to carry is not! Some of my customers, like myself, grapple with the dilemma of how many bags to carry when traveling with a family. I've been asked: is it better to have each child be responsible for his or her own luggage, or pack all the children's things in one large bag that's managed by a parent?
Well, there's no fool-proof answer. Variables such as the ages and number of children, the length of the trip, the distance to and location of the destination, the mode of transportation, and more can affect the decision. However, there are some rules of thumb that I tend to follow with my own family:
- All children, from preschoolers on up, are more than capable of carrying their own personal items in a backpack. So let them! Giving children responsibility for their own entertainment and special items makes them feel in control and helps you in the process. Let's face it, the more they carry, the less you have to carry. Things that children can easily pack in a backpack are paper & something to write/draw with, books, portable electronic devices, snacks, a water bottle, and a neck pillow. Little ones appreciate having their special blankie or lovey with them, too.
- For those who prefer to carry on their luggage, avoiding the baggage claim fees and lines, find the largest carry-on size that your child can comfortably roll behind him or her, and have each child be responsible for his own. For older kids, you can go with the maximum size (generally 21"). For little ones, look for smaller sized rolling luggage that is proportional to your child's height. Remember, their clothes will be smaller, too, so you'll be able to fit what the child needs in the smaller bag. Using multiple, but smaller, bags works great for car trips, too. It's easier to fit smaller bags in the space available than to fit a few unwieldy bags.
- For shorter trips, pack for two in one piece of luggage. Since you won't be transporting as many clothes for a short trip, why take more luggage than is necessary? When my three kids were preschoolers, we could often pack all for all three of them in one piece of luggage. Now that they're older and their clothes are bigger, this is no longer feasible. However, for shorter trips, the twins still often share one bag. They can share clothes and take turns rolling the luggage, making packing more efficient for them.
- For those who prefer to check their luggage, pack all the kids' clothes in the largest bag that will be accepted without going over the weight or size limit. Because checked bag fees are per-bag, try to use the fewest number of bags possible.
- The airlines do lose luggage from time to time, but not always ALL the luggage from one family. So I always pack one complete change of clothes - per person - in another person's luggage. That way, if one person's luggage is lost, that person can get by for at least a day, and is not completely at a loss.
- For younger children, pack a spare pair of underpants and T-shirt in their backpacks or your personal carry-on bag. Despite your best planning, you never know when a bathroom emergency will occur! I often pack a spare set for myself, as well. While I'm not concerned about a bathroom emergency for myself, I can't say the same about spills at mealtime!
These are my general guidelines for traveling with my family. You can adapt them for your own family circumstances. In general, however, I err on the side of giving children responsibility for their own belongings.
It's the least we can do to raise a new generation of confident, independent, and efficient traveler.