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What luggage to use was an extensive conversation while we planned a 7-month trip to Europe in 2022.  Here’s what went into our conversation about the best-size luggage for European travel and what we ended up settling on. This will be useful to you if you’re planning to a trip overseas with your family,

First, we had to decide how much to pack in our travel bags for our overseas trip. Like you, we searched online for “best luggage for families”, “large luggage for family travel”, and “durable luggage for family vacations” and found all too many options.

Managing luggage is one of the challenges of traveling as a family that we get asked about all the time.

Since we mainly did housesitting to save money on hotels in Europe, we were confident that we wouldn’t have to go longer than a week without doing laundry. For our 7-month trip to Europe, we packed about a week’s worth of clothes – just the right amount of things for our kids’ carry-on luggage so they could manage without having checked bags.

Considering that we’d be in multiple climates and seasons in Europe, we needed cool clothing for spring, fall, and summer, and we wouldn’t need bulky winter clothing.

Packing luggage to travel was a new challenge for us. We usually travel in our travel trailer, which contains nearly everything we own, so this would be a significant change from campgrounds and boondocking (dry camping).

Also, what should we pack into our hard-cover rolling luggage that could be checked onto the plane or go in the overhead compartments, and what should be accessible in our kids’ carry-ons?

What we packed for seven months in Europe with kids:

  • Shirts, socks, and underwear for seven days
  • A dress shirt (dress/skirt for Celine)
  • Running shoes, sandals, dress shoes (just in case)
  • Swimsuit
  • Three pairs of shorts, lounging pants, jeans, and cacki pants.
  • Laptops, phones, an iPad, and a Nintendo Switch along with charging chords
  • Apple World adapter travel kit (one for our whole family was a sufficient number of adapters)
  • Celine’s blowdryer
  • My housecoat and slippers (Wrong choice because I didn’t end up using them, so they took up space in my suitcase)
  • Travel-sized toiletries

We decided to each take one small backpack for our “personal item” and one 4-wheeled, hardcover suitcase for carry-on luggage. Whenever we got through security, on or off a plane or train, or before leaving a hotel, we go through our routine checklist: five people, five backpacks, and five rolling suitcases (one time, we almost left someone’s carry-on bag behind on a train we took to Prague.)

Luggage for our family trip to Europe

Our family’s luggage ready for our overseas flight

What does “Best Luggage For Kids” mean?

Start by determining what ‘best luggage for a family’ means for your family. You might consider the following:

  • Ease of mobility – we highly recommend suitcases with double-spinner wheels or multi-directional spinner wheels that rotate as you turn corners. Also, lightweight luggage is a priority because there are plenty of stairs in Europe.
  • Cost-to-quality ratio – spend extra for hard-sided luggage, especially for train and bus rides where luggage might get stacked, or for unpredictable weather when your luggage might get rained on.
  • The length of your trip and the luggage size you need – will you pack carry-on bags or oversized luggage, too?
  • The ‘gadgets’ you’d like to bring – do you need it to have a built-in USB charger, a Bluetooth lock, a flip-down scooter, or do you want your suitcase to open up to be a makeshift wardrobe?
  • Cosmetics – not just how beautiful your luggage is. If you have black, roller luggage, the possibility of getting it confused with someone else traveling on the same plane or train as you is high. Pay a bit more, if necessary, for something other than plain black.
  • Internal pockets, zippers, and adjustable tie-down straps keep everything organized while traveling.

 

For us, ‘the best luggage for our family’ was:

  • Largest allowed luggage for carry-on (up to 22″ long)
  • Manageable handles and wheels for our three boys (12, 10, and 8 when we left)
  • Good quality wheels and zippers since we’d be taking a fair amount of public transportation and walking with our luggage
  • Hard-sided suitcases to keep up with our travel frequency (and if, last-minute, we decided to visit a new country in Europe, it was okay if we had to stack the luggage on the train’s luggage racks or in the storage compartment on a bus.
  • The cost was a consideration because we’d always rather spend our budget on experiences rather than things (this $500 USB charger, multi-lock, Laptop holder, cup carrying, iPad displaying, and rubber-wheel luggage looked cool, but it’s probably not the best kids luggage.) We created the Ultimate Guide To Family Travel on a budget if cost savings is your thing too!
  • Available in 5 different colors (so we could easily identify whose luggage was whose without opening it).

the best luggage for our framily trip to Europe with kids

In addition to the roller luggage, we decided to each take a backpack – nothing fancy – just standard High Sierra school backpacks, although this $40 backpack with a laptop section and a built-in USB charger might be a great investment. The backpack contained things that we would need access to during our travel days:

  • A change of clothes and toiletries if we were staying overnight because of a layover
  • A small blanket and a stuffed animal for our boys
  • Laptops, phones, and portable video game systems that we’d be using during travel
  • Device accessories (headphones and charging cables)
  • Passports
  • Wallets

The rest of our clothing, shoes, and additional toiletries were packed in our roller suitcases.

We considered Facebook marketplace and Amazon for our suitace shopping, so some of our luggage was new and some used. We chose gently-used luggage so that it would last while at the same time saving some money and bought the rest brand new.

 

Here’s the Roller Luggage we chose for our family trip to Europe:

 

Our take on the best roller luggage for kids:

The Atlantic Luggage (for Ian – our 8-year-old) was the first one to suffer a casualty. The plastic around one wheel got ripped up on the rough sidewalk in Hyde Park, London (on the first day of our trip). We pulled the plastic off the wheel, and it rolled a little oddly for the rest of the trip, but there were no other casualties.

The Mia Toro Luggage (Celine’s) seemed to hold up the best, both for resisting scratches and dents on the outside and for the good quality fabric on the inside.

The Solite Luggage had an issue with the internal zippered mesh pocket, but it faired well for its usage.

The other roller cases had obviously been well-used through Europe for seven months, but were not damaged and could be resold and still serve the next owner well.

Best plane luggage for kids

So, what’s the best-wheeled luggage for Europe?

What’s the best kids’ luggage for the value?

We would go with the Amazon brand luggage for kids. $120 each held up well and came in enough colors to be distinguishable from other plain black roller bags. They’re 21″ long, and the maximum for carry-on luggage is 22″ inches, which created a good balance between being small enough for our kids to manage and nearly the largest we could carry on.

If we could find something gently used for the same price, the Kenneth Cole or the Mia Toro would be a great option for young kids to adults.

 

Best Ride-On Luggage for Kids?

If you’re traveling with kids younger than 8, then a ride-on suitcase is a fun option. We didn’t know that these existed until we recently saw a kid riding through the airport on one.

While we don’t have any experience to share, it might be worth exploring if you have younger kids who would be more mobile riding their suitcase than pulling it behind them. Some have a spot to hold an iPad while not in motion as well as a padded seat cushion, and they’re often designed like cartoons that young kids will recognize.

They’re not as fast as the rollercoasters at Thorpe Park, in England, or Europa Park in Germany, but they can keep up with a decent walking pace.

 

Scooter Luggage For Older Kids and Adults

If budget was less of a concern, these scooter suitcases (suitable for riders up to 331 lbs) seem like a lot of fun, not just for getting through the airport but also for getting to your destination from the airport or train station.

Check the dimensions before you make a purchase. Carry-on luggage has to be less than 22″, and most of what we can find on Amazon are larger than that – fine for a checked bag on the plane or taking on a train, but oversized for a plane trip carry-on bag.

 

The Ultimate Luxury Luggage

If you’re not afraid of the almost $1,500 price tag, this FMXYMC smart-riding luggage has a built-in motor that will drive you through the airport as you ride along.

Because of weight and space limitations, this luggage has a fairly small capacity and may not be practical for spending seven months overseas, but if you’re willing to spend $1,500 on luggage, then you’re also willing to buy clothes when you arrive.

 

How would we pack differently next time for a family trip overseas?

I packed more than I needed. I came home with clothes still in my roller luggage that hadn’t seen the light of day for seven months. Joel (our oldest) said the same thing. Since we pay for carry-on luggage on nearly every flight, we would probably downsize our five roller bags (since we each had our bags) to 3 pieces of rolling luggage. Celine could have her own, our youngest boys would share, and Joel and I could share.

I would leave behind my housecoat and slippers – I rarely wear them at home, so I was filling space in my suitcase.

I may not take collared shirts, dress socks, or dress shoes and just buy some if needed while I’m on my trip.

My logic in packing was that I had space and was paying for a carry-on, whether it was full or not, so it might as well have been full.

We would each still take our backpacks next time. It was great not to open our suitcases for an overnight layover (overnight layovers were a way we snuck into 3 ‘bonus’ countries while visiting Europe) and have what we needed in our backpacks. They were helpful if we walked across town to grab groceries, or they gave us space to put snacks and water bottles for a hike or while exploring a city.

Luggage for traveling in Europe with kids

Save Money On Plane Carry-On Fees with Kids

If you’d like to save money on carry-on fees, consider taking trains in Europe. Here’s how trains and planes compare for traveling as a family through Europe.

Planes vs Trains in Europe With Kids

If you take your kids on a plane for the first time, you might enjoy these tips for traveling with kids on planes.

Tips For Traveling With Kids On Planes

If you travel often with your kids, you might like our family road trip checklist.

Family Road Trip Checklist: What to Bring and What to Leave Behind

 

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