7 Top Tips for Flying with Kids with Hand Luggage only!

Sambro Disney Princess Bag

Can you fly as a family, with hand luggage only? Yes you can and here are 7 Top Tips for flying with kids with hand luggage only!

Since our children passed the baby/toddler stage we have always flown with hang luggage only. Here’s our useful tips for making a hand luggage only holiday a possibility.

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When they are babies they need STUFF….so much STUFF!! Check out our Ultimate Packing List for flying with a baby). 

My husband hates flying; he always gets poorly.  He therefore wants to be off the plane and out of the terminal as fast as is humanly possible and avoid queues of people checking in/collecting luggage.  He is also a tight Yorkshireman who is horrified every time we book a flight and he sees how much more expensive it is getting to take bags on a short haul flight.  Therefore, as a consequence of necessity and my desire not to debate every item going into the suitcase, I reluctantly agreed to go ‘hand luggage only’ once the children were passed the baby and toddler stage and didn’t need all the associated stuff.  I’ve never looked back!

Last month we travelled to Provence for 10 days on Ryan Air, who reduced their cabin bag size to be the smallest on the market (55cm x 40cm x 20cm), then started charging for cabin baggage as well!  We therefore had to pay extra for our cabin baggage, but it did mean that those travelling with hold luggage had saved money by not bringing cabin luggage too, so the overhead lockers were easily able to accommodate all the bags.  A relief when you know they’ll put anything that doesn’t fit into the hold anyway, thus removing the benefit of a speedy retreat from the terminal once you land. 

If you do have to put your hand luggage under the seat here are some of the best underseat luggage with wheels.

Ryanair have changed their cabin bag policy! | January 2018

Top 7 Tips for flying with kids with hand luggage only:

Take advantage of the ‘personal bag’ allowance

This is designed to cover handbags and lap tops.  In reality, in Ryan Air’s case, it’s an additional 40cm x 20cm x 25cm of capacity.  The children are responsible for packing their own “fun bag” as we call it.  They pack a drinks bottle, sunglasses, ipads (download books onto it before you go, audio books are especially good for the plane), head phones, activity books, drawing materials, travel sized board games, card games etc.  In my bag I always take a couple of fabric totes for use when we’re away, and my husband always has a multi-charging cube so that we only need to take wires and the cube, rather than multi chargers.  It’s surprising how much you can fit in actually! 

Invest in the correct size case 

Work out how much you can take and use luggage that meets that limit! We persuaded the youngest away from his beloved Trunki (he is 8 now and clothes are a bit bigger so the Trunki isn’t so great anymore!) to his big cousins borrowed case which helped! Same applies with rucksacks- use a bigger one that your child can comfortably carry. Ask around and borrow rather than buy if you can.

Budget airlines especially are becoming stricter on case size, so those additional 2cm’s really do matter!  If it won’t squish into the airlines little metal cages, you risk an expensive relocation of you bag to the hold.  We love Sammies by Samsonite for the children.  They are so robust and hard wearing, as well as coming in really fun designs and will last them until they’re about 10, (when the handle will become a bit short). 

Pack travel towels

If you need to take towels with you, invest in specific travel towels.  Folding down to the size of a book, they are super absorbent for their size and dry super quick!  We like Dock and Bay, but go for the ‘classic’ range to avoid white material, white discolours easily.  They’re great for the beach too, the sand quite literally slides off. 

Limit your toiletries

We all know the 100ml rule.  It’s still surprising how much room 4 of those little plastic bags can take up though!  I take minis of my facial creams, sun-tan lotion and medicines (oh and a mascara!).  We then purchase a bottle of unisex shampoo, shower gel, toothpaste and deodorant when we arrive.  A week or two off your usual products is easier than you think!  If you’re fixed on certain brands, buy airside, after you’ve been through security.

We had a bag each (I buy the more heavy duty bags from Amazon as I travel quite a bit and have learnt from the mistakes of thin bags that leak!) and I lay all the toiletries out and split them. 

We also use the Childs Farm solid shampoo and bodywash bar- it’s really lovely and I know the kids are ok with these products.

For adults, we have the Aussie shampoo and conditioner bars…they are great and lather up well unlike other bars I’ve tried. Using bars means you save space in the liquids bags! 

Share rather than take separate, for example, we have a deodorant and toothpaste between the adults and teen.  

Remember you get an additional bag for medication so the inhalers etc went in there…

Choose Shoes cleverly

Now, this is the hardest one for me.  However, I have size 9 feet, whilst my husband is a 12, so a couple of pairs of shoes each takes up half a case!  Whilst it is lovely to have an array of sandals to match each outfit, we’re forced to narrow it down, and it really is ok!  The children wear pumps/trainers to the airport and pack a pair of sandals and some beach shoes.  I do the same, although I admit to 2 pairs of sandals.  Birkenstocks for the day, and a tan ‘go with everything’ pair for the evening.

Review Keen Terradora Walking Shoes

Vacuum Bags

Total life saver!  Mini versions of the ones you may use to store your duvet under the bed or suchlike.  We’ve tried a few; the best we’ve found are these Packmate ones.  They fit perfectly inside hand luggage and do not require a hoover to suck out the air.  There is a clever valve system which means you just hand roll the bags, the air squeezes out and stays out.  I’d say it doubles the space in my case, but things do get creased. 

Packing Pods

These are brilliant! I use them all the time for work and I can get a full weeks work clothes and some casual in a carryon by rolling dresses in these things!

Packing Pods also help to work out whether you have packed for everyone, for example, I pack the little ones in one set of pods and know he’s sorted. The teenager has her own…we also take a compression sack and on the way home one case has all the dirty stuff in it to shove straight in the wash on the way home!


So, it doesn’t take a genius to work out that even with the best capsule wardrobe in the world, you’re not going to be able to fit enough clothes for a fortnight’s holiday into hand luggage! We tend to wear an outfit (including a hoody/jumper which take up the most room clothing wise) and take 4/5 outfits.  If we have access to a washing machine, I take a few washing liquid capsules (double wrap them, they’re messy things if they split!) and a small bottle of fabric conditioner with me.  If not, Dr Beckmann’s travel wash is super (Boots and Superdrug stock it I believe) for hand washing. Of course, if you’re in a hotel and have to pay for a laundry service, it’s more likely that it will be cheaper to simply pay for additional baggage allowance!

Much of the above is common sense of course.  The most difficult thing is adjusting your own ideas that you need to have a new outfit every day and evening, with shoes to match, and a bathroom cabinet full of products.  How many times have you been away and come home with clothes and shoes you’ve not worn?  Not having to check in luggage or wait for it to come around on the carrousel when you’ve landed, really is liberating.  Go on, try it!

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