how to pack a hand bag when traveling with children

How to Pack a Hand Bag when Traveling with Children

LIGHT PACKING is the quintessence of air traveling. But, how can you conform to this fundamental rule when traveling with children? You can start by packing thoroughly so that you reduce tensions and have the best of times with your kids. Indeed, hand baggage is essential if you aim for a smooth flight with your children and if you plan to be able to cater for your kid’s needs while on the plane.

So, do not consider this task as an albatross around your neck but try taking into account the idea of passing some of the burden on to your children, if age allows, of course.

As you’ll see from the table compiled below, almost all the airlines allow one carry-on bag as well as one personal item per passenger as long as you may easily fit it in the sizer. You may therefore pack one or two small bags for each of your kids; have them use their favorite wheeled backpack and they’ll be more than happy to carry their own toys or snack without winning.

But do not forget to verify the contents of their hand baggage before leaving home as you may end up with unwanted items being discovered during the security screening procedures. In any case, here’s what the major US airlines allows as hand baggage:


Hand baggage size


American Airlines

22″ long x 14″ wide x 9″ high or 115cm (56 x 36 x 23 cm)

One small carry-on bag plus one personal item per passenger as long as the carry-on bag fits comfortably in the sizer without being forced and does not exceed overall dimensions of 45 inches (length + width + height).

– may not exceed 45 linear inches (or 115 cm) in combined length, width and height

– must fit easily in the Carry-on Baggage Check (approximately 22″ x 14″ x 9″ or 56 x 36 x23 cm), which is located near the check-in counters

One carry-on item aboard the aircraft, plus one personal item

US Airways

Up to 45 in/115 cm (14 x 9 x 22 in or 36 x 23 x 56 cm)

Up to 40 lbs/18 kg

One carry-on bag and one personal item such as a purse, briefcase or laptop bag.

-to fit in the overhead bin, your item must not exceed:

  • for Airbus A320: 26″ L

(66 cm) x 18″ W (45.72 cm) x 12″ H (30.48 cm)

  • for EMBRAER 190:

24″ L (60.96 cm) x 16″ W (40.64 cm) x 10″ H (25.4 cm)

One personal item (purse, briefcase, laptop, etc.) plus one carry-on bag.

Southwest Airlines

Southwest Airlines limits carry-on bag dimensions to 10 x 16 x 24 inches.

One bag plus one small, personal such as purses, briefcases, cameras, food containers, or laptops (case included). Pet carriers are considered either a personal item or a carry-on item.

Spirit Airlines

Personal items (e.g. purse, small backpack, briefcase, etc.) must fit underneath the seat, so the dimensions must not exceed 16 x 14 x 12 inches (40 x 35 x 30 cm).

Carry-on bags must fit in the overhead bin, so the dimensions must not exceed 22 x 18 x10 inches (56 x 46 x 25 cm). We may require that a carry-on bag travel as a checked bag if it can’t be safely stowed on a particular flight.

One personal item free of charge; and for a fee we allow one carry-on bag, and at least one checked bag per customer.

A car seat that is an FAA approved child restraint system may be carried onboard the plane if a seat has been purchased for the child.

Strollers are not allowed onboard the plane; however, one car seat and one stroller may be checked at the ticket counter per child, free of charge.

How to pack

Even though you decided to distribute a part of the baggage burden to you kids, you’ll certainly need to consider having some sort of WAIST PACK where you’ll have your documents (your children’s tickets as well), your passports, money, credit cards, etc. Put them in a place where they are easy to reach and safe. You’ll have less chances of leaving them somewhere. Moreover, it would be a smart idea to use a backpack as your hand baggage. Your hand will thus be free and able to care and monitor your children.

Apart from the DOCUMENTS without which you won’t be able to travel and besides the things you’ll need at your destination, it’s wise to pack a CHANGE-OF-CLOTHES for everyone. If you’re traveling with another adult, just customize your hand baggage by putting the clothes and diapers in one of the bags and the snacks, medications or any other toys in the other. You’ll find things you need more easily and won’t waste time searching for acetaminophen amongst the T-shirts. In this manner, you’ll have everything you need within a second’s reach. 

All in all, even the most spacious airplanes have a limited space for the hand baggage. The best place to put your bags is UNDER YOUR SEAT. You need it to be easy to grab and use. And you need to enjoy your time with your kids and not waste it on trifles.