How Do You Pack for Airline Travel for Family of 4? - Austin,TX

Updated on June 27, 2013
J.S. asks from Georgetown, TX
22 answers

We have a trip coming up in a couple months. In the past I've used two 21" suitcases (checked) and 3 carry-on items for all our packing. I've been thinking of condensing our bags to one 30" suitcase and two carry-on items. My LOs will be 3 and 5.5 years old and we will be going on a 4 day trip. Thoughts?

How does your family pack for travel? Any tips/tricks/conveniences for a family of 4?

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answers from Orlando on

Usually I pack a big suitcase for me and the kids. My husband packs his own smaller suitcase.

The kids each pack their own carry on, kid sized roller bag and I take a backpack with extra entertainment and snacks. My husband carries on any laptops, cameras, or other electronics we want to take.

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answers from Spokane on

I hate dealing with carry-ons. I pack everything possible in suitcases that can be checked. Then each child gets a back-pack to carry their ds', books, markers, paper, snacks etc. for the plane ride. And, of course, I always have my purse and I end up with my husband's wallet and cell.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

We are a family of four and always travel with carry on luggage only. We've done Colorado in the winter, Disney at Christmas, and various vacations. Everyone gets one carry on suitcase and one small backpack.
It works well for us.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

Whenever I've flown with my family of 4 we each check our own suitcase that do include extras 'just in case.' I also check the car seat. Each of the children(2)take a carry-on and of course I bring my purse. I also make sure everyone is wearing shoes that can easily be slipped on and off as well as clothing that is comfortable. Snacks are packed into the children's carry-ons as is anything they desire for the excursion. If your children are not potty trained(I have one who is special needs and is not)make sure to bring plenty of diapers & wipes as you can never have too many, even for a short plane trip.

If possible have one of you pick up the luggage while the other picks up the rental vehicle, if you're getting one that is. I always try not to stick to a rigorous schedule because as we know children can be unpredictable and sometimes things happen. No matter what I hope you all enjoy your trip! :)

3 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

My preference is to pack light, and to check everything with curbside checkin. The less I have the less there is to keep track of, and the less there is to get through security.

Unless yours is an exceptionally long flight, or you've got lots of layovers, don't do the cary-ons.

good luck to you and yours,
F. B.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

For a 4 day trip I would do a small suitcase for myself (either check or carry on) along with a large tote bag and the kids would also each have a small suitcase they could wheel themselves, and a small backpack with toys, games and snacks. We went to Hawaii when the kids were 3, 6 and 8 and that's how we did it. As a frequent traveler I believe in packing light and having the kids manage their own gear!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

When we were a family of 4 I'd put my stuff and my husband's in the big checked bag, did the kids' stuff together in a 21' rolling suitcase, which we check, a backpack for each kid with their plane toys, and an oversized purse for me.

I always pack minimal clothes, as I usually end up doing laundry at our hotel so I don't have a ton of dirty clothes to bring home with us, and it is less to have to haul.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I have my own suitcase and my husband has his own. My husband does not think folding clothes is required in a suitcase and I do. This way, we can travel together without getting a divorce :)

My kids share a large duffel bag or suitcase.

For the plane, my kids each have their own small backpacks full of entertainment which consists of electronics and snacks, wipes and headphones, hoodie, extra change of clothes, straw cup, coloring ~~ whatever your kids like.

I have my own carry on for my entertainment and hubbie usually only takes his cell phone to entertain himself.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

We had our family of four go to Disney for a week back in December. We packed two large suit cases (unsure of the size) but they were right under 50 lbs. Hubby and son went in one and daughter and I went in another. Each kid took 1 backpack on the plane and I only took my purse as I put everything I needed in there or in their backpacks. That way there was only two bags and 1 purse between the four of us for the plane. We packed so much because we weren't sure of the temperatures every day / night so we had to have warm and cooler clothes as well as different shoes for walking :)

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

If you are going to a single destination, carry small amounts of necessities with you in carry-ons and consider using Fed Ex or UPS to send your luggage to your hotel, then use them again to ship it back to your home.
It's less of a hassle than dealing with the airlines.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

Well we usually do 2- 3 suitcases depending upon how long we'll be gone and what we're doing. Sometimes my husband and I share a big bag and the two kids share a bag. Other times my husband and I get a bag and the kids still share. If you and your husband may need dress clothes (or bulky clothes of any kind) then two separate bags might be best.

I usually only take one carry on for the kids that includes toys and snacks for both of them.

I think the biggest thing to remember is that the airline will only let you have a 50lb bag which seems like a lot, and it is for one person...but it's not that much when you're sharing a suitcase and you throw in a few pairs of shoes, toiletries, etc. for each person.

We have been known to shove in a few things in the pack-n-play bag like a pair of shoes or some blankets or something, but we don't have to tote that thing around anymore, thank goodness! :)

My only other tip is to fly SW whenever possible! Since they include one bag per passenger it makes things a lot easier!! :) Have fun!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

My kids get their own carry-on. We put stuff for them to do in those bags (backpack size).

Everyone checks their own bag, so we check 5 bags. The kids bags are smaller, and my husband and I have larger ones. It all fits. We do normally have to move some things around at the gate though to keep the big bags under 50 pounds.

My kids are 10, 8, and maybe that makes a difference though.

When they were smaller, it was the same deal, only they didn't have checked bags.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I don't have a specific answer in terms of luggage. For carryon, we had iPads so the kids mostly played with those, although I did also bring some activity type books to help keep them occupied. In addition, I pretty much packed a lunch and snacks for the kids because one of mine has food allergies.

Even though mine were (newly) potty trained at the time, I brought a couple pull-ups just in case we weren't allowed to get up to go to the bathroom when the kids had to go. They don't always think ahead about those things. :-)

Also, I found the fruit chew snacks can help the kids with ear pressure issues when landing. I don't know if it helps pop the pressure completely, but it at least distracted my kids that they stopped talking about it and just ate their food. :-)

My kids are still in 5-pt harnesses so when we travel, we bring the seats with us. We used the GoGo Kidz attachment to make the car seats into strollers so we can haul the seats and the kids around that way.

When we did long term parking from home, my husband dropped me, the kids, luggage, and seats off at the airport and then he went and parked the car in the long term lot. It saved us the trouble of having to bring the kids, luggage, and seats onto a shuttle bus from long term parking. On the arrival side you could try that as well and have someone go get the rental car and come pick the rest of you and luggage up.

We actually had extra car seats so on the home side we could leave the attached seats in the car we were parking in the lot and put the other seats in the trunk. It made it easier when returning home because we didn't have to attach the seats we traveled with.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

We always do two smallish suitcases. Mixing up the clothes, so there are a few sets for each person in each suit case. Many moons ago, on two separate trips, our bags were lost, so we are a bit gun shy. We always have one communal carry on. I don't let the kids bring too much, because I don't want to keep up with all the stuff they pull out for a minute and half and then put away. (Last airplane trip their hand held games - my daughter had a leapster and my son had a DS - and we brought mp3 players filled with kid music, that was it for entertainment). We also carry on our electronics and camera. ANd we stash snacks and gum in the bags. One backpack and my purse is MUCH easier to handle than three or four bags and my purse, especially if there is a connecting flight involved.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

On Saturday, we are flying across country, via Southwest, with 1 stop and change of planes. We are a family of 8. My husband and I, and our 6 kids ranging from 3 - 12 years old. We are going to the OBX for a week. My husband and I will share a suitcase, and the kids will share suitcases, 2 to a suitcase. So 4 suitcases for 8 of us. We may have 1 more with some extras. We'll check the 3 year olds car seat, stroller, and 2 booster seats for our two 6 year olds. Each child will take a backpack with their games, books, coloring books, etc. and some snacks. My husband will probably take his brief case with the laptop, and then the camera case. I will take a back pack and purse. We have never flown with all 6 kids before and I am completely stressed out about this. From parking at the airport, to the shuttle, to checking bags, security, and boarding. I am especially nervous about making our connecting flight on time (as our layover is only 50 minutes) and getting seats together on our connecting flight. I am beginning to think I'm crazy for planning this trip!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Hubby and I share 1 mid sized suitcase and daughter takes 1 suitcase.

Make sure if you take the larger suitcase to not go over the weight limit. The airlines will charge you for anything overweight as well as the bag check fee. Most airlines will charge fees with exception of Southwest who will charge for overweight. That said, if you are a high up frequent flyer, there are no bag fees. We travel a lot for business and pleasure and that is one of the perks we get.

Daughter and I usually take our purse and then a large totebag with other essentials that we need for the trip and for any items to bring home.

Your 3 and 5.5 yr old could take a backpack or small kiddie suitcase that might help you out as well.

Good luck and have fun on your trip!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

Get each of your kiddos a rolling suitcase sized for kids (e.g., Stephen Joseph). They can roll their own luggage and it's sized for a carry on.They can pack some toys, books, entertainment for the airplane and maybe some clothes.

How we pack depends on where we are going and how long. This is a general idea:
1) Each kiddo (3 and 6yo) packs their carry-on luggage as per above
2) I pack a carry-on with more entertainment, snacks, etc.
3) I pack a large suitcase for my clothes and toiletries and the kids clothes, toiletries, and extras
4) My husband packs for himself (probably a carry-on)

It works for us.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Hubby and I share one suitcase, and then each kids checks a bag. The one bag usually has toys and a booster seat in it, and then the other bag has their clothes. We all bring small carry-ons. This is when we go away for 12 days.

For a small weekend away? We'd probably just check one extra-large bag.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

We packed light, the priority being the carseat. We had light, harnessed seats for our 3 and 5-year-olds (Maestro). A breeze to install, too. Bring them on the plane for safety, and it keeps the kids in one place (and comfy!). 4 days would not require a lot of clothes. Have fun!!


answers from Washington DC on

I would pack a bag for each. Even 4 days - put as much as you can in the carry on and have sling-backs or mini-packs like this:

that has a portable DVD, a couple of movies, books and snacks.

When I pack for travel - family of 4 - each of us has our own bag. Then we have a backpack for "immediate need" include a pack of gum and mini packs of tissues....when traveling on a plane? We make sure there is at least one portable DVD player so the boys can watch movies (We typically fly SouthWest airlines and they don't have movies on their flights). They have a book to read as well.




answers from Austin on

One pair of shoes each, plus the shoes you wear on your feet. No full size products, only use small bottles for everything. For myself and my husband, we might wear clothes more than once, for example, I'll pack 2 shirts with one pair of shorts, wear the same pants with a different shirt for the travel days, and take one nicer outfit in case I need it, but usually never do. For the kids, I'll pack extra clothes, because they are messier, but honestly, depends on where you are traveling. I packed socks "just in case" when we went to the beach last month, and nobody wore socks. For a 4 day trip, you should easily be able to pack one suitcase with clothes/shoes/toiletries. In my carry on I pack snacks, books, activities, wipes, tissues, laptop, earphones. My daughter has had her own backpack with her books, stuffed animal and blanket in it since she was 4 yrs. old. Don't count on the 3 y.o. being able to carry anything the whole time, I always ended up with the bag at that age! Have fun!



answers from Columbus on

With three on our last trip that was a week, we packed two smaller suitcases, one duffle bag and then each had a backpack. Since our son had a seat we were able to carry everything on. Once we got to the gate we checked to see if the flight was full enough they were going to need to check bags and sure enough they were, so we checked the three big bags through to pick up at baggage claim. That way no charge for checked bags. If we fly southwest we would have checked at the beginning. We did also check the carseat, free with all airlines I think.

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