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Thread: International travel bags with kids

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    International travel bags with kids

    <delurking>

    I've been reading the forums for a while, but am finally ready to jump in. Hello!

    I travel frequently with my 7 and 9 year old kids. We do a fair bit of domestic travel in the US, usually 1-2 weeks at at a time. We also do a couple of longer international trips each year. The kids and I are currently wrapping up an 8 week European trek, which has got me thinking about changing our luggage set up.

    For years, the kids and I have each taken a backpack as a carry on, and checked a single extra large LL Bean Rolling Adventure Duffle. The kids currently use the REI Tarn 18 Pack as their carry on (REI Tarn 18 Pack - Youth at REI.com). It's big enough to carry their non clothing personal items and food, but all their clothing goes into the rolling duffle that gets checked.

    Compared to many travel families, we pack pretty light, but not ultralight. Still, as the kids have grown, their clothing keeps getting bigger, and I find that the duffle is getting too full and heavy. It usually weights 40-45 pounds when loaded up the stuff for all three of us.

    I've decided that the kids are ready to carry their own luggage. And, I'd love to have the option to skip baggage checking. The LL Bean duffle is way too big to carry on, so we just always check it. Thankfully, we've never had any problems with our checked baggage, but with our frequent travel, it's bound to happen eventually.

    This leads me to my question:

    What bag should I get for each of my kids to carry? I'm not sure if a Tom Bihn bag will fill the need, but I'm open to suggestions. I'd like to find something that will last them into adulthood, so I've ruled out all the cheap luggage that is marketed to kids. Also, I know wheeled bags are controversial, but I'm leaning towards wheels, because I don't think the kids have the stamina to carry all their own stuff through train stations, airports, and city streets. Maybe I'm selling them short, but I really don't want to wind up trying to schlep a bunch of bags by myself because I overestimated what they can carry.

    Thoughts?

    Amanda

    By the way, I haven't bothered to make a signature yet, but to share my own Tom Bihn collection, I have:
    Brain Bag, 2 3D organizer cubes, Medium Cafe bag, I-O Bag, Absolute Strap, and a Brain Cell for my 13 inch Macbook.

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    Registered User rlandis's Avatar
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    This sounds exactly like a post that could have been made by my niece, so I'm anxious to hear the responses....might give me X-MAS present ideas.
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    First question....what are the sexes of the kids? I'm not being sexist, but, boys are a bit stronger at that age than girls and may be able to handle the weight of a backpack better.

    Second question: What size are the backpacks they use now?

    Since you have a Brain Bag, why not load it up with what you would have each kid take and see how well they handle the weight. (I have a feeling the nine year old might be okay but the seven year old might have problems. ) This will probably be heavier than what you would actually take on vacation but it will give you an idea of size needed for their belongings.

    If you find they can manage okay, but not great since it is pretty heavy, and you have extra room in the brain bag after packing it, then I would suggest a Synapse. It will last them into adulthood although, by then, it will probably become a day bag.

    If they can't manage with the backpack, come back and we'll talk about wheels.
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    Thanks for your thoughts!

    My son is 9, and my daughter is 7. And, my son certainly does have more strength and stamina than my daughter.

    Their current packs are 1,100 cubic inches, but I know they can handle more than that. Good idea to load up the Brain Bag and do a little trial. I'll give that a try. I am certain that their stuff will fit well into the Brain Bag, but am not sure about the Synapse. Regardless of the length of trip, we always pack 4 outfits each. Their stuff fits into two eBags packing cubes. Two mediums for my daughter, and a large and medium for my son. Sounds like it's time for a fun packing experiment. :-)

    Amanda

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    The Synapse is a little over 1100cu in. of packing space. the Brain Bag is double that. The Western Flyer is between the two.

    The Ebags packing cubes set up you have means you're packing 1113 cu in for your son and 804 cu in for your daughter.
    Editor--One Bag, One World: News, Reviews & Community for Light Travelers. http://www.1bag1world.com

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    I hadn't thought to figure out the size of the packing cubes, but that really helps a lot. Based on those number, I don't think the Synapse will work as their only bag. Factoring in their need to carry some entertainment items and food onto our flights, we won't be able to squeeze in our current clothing setup, and their usual carry on stuff. My son's clothing actually takes up a little less space, as I just realized that *I* am the one using the large and medium eBags cubes, and my son is using a large and a small cube.

    Of course, I can always consider ways to further lighten their load, I don't think I'm ready to pare things down enough for the Synapse. I *do* aspire to lighten things up, though.

    We currently own two of the eBags Motherlode Weekender backpacks that aren't getting much love, and I've considered whether it'd be worth buying a little luggage cart and having them each wheel those in addition to their current small backpacks. I'm greedy, and plan to buy an Aeronaut for myself, but could always save up and have them wheel Aeronauts of their own.

    Or, dare I even consider something like this: eBags TLS 22" Expandable Carry-On - eBags.com. It's heavy, and I don't know if we'd love it or curse it.

    Sorry, it's hard to let go of the idea of wheels for the kids. Glad to have this space to ask for help and think out loud a bit.

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    Registered User dorayme's Avatar
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    My 9 year old DS has an eBags etech convertible (from my pre-TB can handle all of the bag needs days). He used it at summer camp the last two summers. My 8 year old DS has a Brain Bag. They can manage the bags for short periods when maxed out with two large ebags packing cubes packed for a week, plus toiletries and a few handheld electronics. DS2 handles my Western Flyer better though at his current size. I think either is a good fit and will grow into adulthood use for them. I think if packed correctly the WF or Smart Alec is a better choice for your DD to carry solo.

    My DD is 4 going on 24. Though I am stockpiling a nice assortment of TB for her collection, it will be some time before my little peanut is capable of wielding her own bag. The last time I tried it she was carrying a Ruck's sac with one medium eBags cube with clothes for a weekend, and a few toys (predecessor to the Synapse, less capacity). She started to fall over from the weight in our living room. I ended up lightening her load.

    I'm saving for an Aeronaut with the intention to use it for "our" bag, seeing as how my WF is sufficient for most of my solo travel needs. So that may be an alternate solution. DS carry his own, you carry yours and DD's.

    If you dont find a solution in TB, another option is ZÜCA. The bag doubles as a seat which is nice for travel weary children. They are thin to negotiate airline isles. The wheels are designed to climb stairs and hop curbs like inline skates.
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    Registered User bunchgrass's Avatar
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    One of the temptations with TB bags is to overfill them. With children, I think it's important to look at bag weight as a percentage of body weight. I think the current recommended percentage ranges from 10-15%, meaning the weight of the filled backpack should not exceed 10-15% of the child's bodyweight.
    Last edited by bunchgrass; 11-02-2012 at 10:30 AM. Reason: ETA: recommended

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    Welcome to the forum Toblerhaus. I think it is great that you are looking to have your children responsible for their luggage. It is a very smart idea to do a load out at home. If they can stand, have them walk around the block at speed to see how they would do racing between gates.

    This is also an opportunity for them to learn how to pack. I believe they would be served well with the western flyer. If they are able to haul the brain bag then you could move up to the tristar. Either bag should meet their needs, the TS should also manage their wants as well.

    Either bag would be considered a carry on anywhere in the world.

    Happy travels!
    LS6

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    I tried to post a reply a couple of days ago, but I think it got sucked into a black hole.

    Quote Originally Posted by Frank II View Post
    The Synapse is a little over 1100cu in. of packing space. the Brain Bag is double that. The Western Flyer is between the two.

    The Ebags packing cubes set up you have means you're packing 1113 cu in for your son and 804 cu in for your daughter.
    Oh! I hadn't thought to figure out the size of the packing cubes! Thanks for that. That really helps put things in perspective. I don't think the Synapse will work based on that. I tried the Brain Bag loaded up with DS's packing cubes, and he was really off balance just walking around the house. I couldn't help but laugh to see that huge backpack on his small frame.

    I'm mulling over the very valid point about keeping weight in mind. My kids are small framed and pretty lightweight. DS is 9 and around 50 pounds. DD is 7 and around 42 pounds. It's just so tempting to throw out the idea of having them carry the bags and resort to wheels.

    If I were to go with a Tom Bihn Bag, the Western Flyer or Tristar sound like really good options. Perhaps I could buy a little set of wheels that will attach to the bags when necessary? I'm saving up for an Aeronaut for myself. :-)

    In that vein of thought, I do have a pair of eBags Motherlode Weekenders that are getting no love at home. If I'm going to try the wheel idea, maybe I should try it with those first.

    As for other non Bihn bags, I must confess that I've got a wheelie version of the eBags Motherlode TLS bookmarked. But those are stinking heavy, 7-8 pounds empty! I'm not ready to throw the idea out yet, but this one is at the bottom of the list of options right now.

    Anyway, thanks for the welcome and for offering feedback. I've been a bag geek for years, and am so excited to find such an enthusiastic community, not to mention the *great* bags.

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    The Ebags Motherlode is heavy--nearly 4 lbs empty.

    I have an idea and I hope the great people at Tom Bihn excuse me for suggesting a bag not made by them.

    What about the Goodhope Convertible? It's about the Size of the Western Flyer, weighs about 2 lbs, and is pretty cheap. This might work and then in a few years they could grow into a Tom Bihn bag.
    Goodhope Bags Convertible 18" 3-Way Carry-On Duffel | Wayfair

    I did a review of the bag last year:

    Review: Goodhope 7260 3 Way Convertible*Brief/Backpack - OBOW Blog - One-bag, carry-on, light travel tips, techniques, and gear

    The price has gone up since I did the review.

    If you want to go with wheels, I also have the wheeled version of the Motherlode and you are right, it is heavy and way too big for the kids. I'd suggest going with a 16" wheeled bag instead. More than enough room, lighter in weight. Something like this International Traveler bag that actually weighs less than the non-wheeled Ebags Motherlode

    IT Luggage IT-0-1 Second Generation World's Lightest 2-Wheeled 16" Carry On - eBags.com
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    What about a Smart Alec backpack? According to the specs, it holds about the same amount as a Western Flyer and it might be easier for kids to carry? I don't own either so I can't comment on real world use.

    The nice thing about the Smart Alec and Brain Bag is that your kids could also use them for school. My oldest just got a Brain Bag this year for school (he's 13 tho) and LOVES it. So maybe as Frank II said get something cheap for the interim? Or like dorayme suggested, get an Aeronaut for you and your daughter. I do have an Aeronaut and it holds a lot. I used it recently to go to Mexico with my infant daughter for a wedding and it was wonderful for breezing through crowded airports with my hands and chest full of baby
    dorayme likes this.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tlacltme View Post
    What about a Smart Alec backpack? According to the specs, it holds about the same amount as a Western Flyer and it might be easier for kids to carry? I don't own either so I can't comment on real world use.
    The children are 7 and 9, yes? I just got back from a quick weekend at Walt Disney World and all I carried was a Smart Alec, and I am almost 100% sure that the Smart Alec is WAY too big and heavy for even a 9-year-old. I am 5' 2.5" and the Smart Alec is pretty substantial on me.

    How much do their current packs weigh?

    I have a couple of thoughts. You mentioned that you know they can carry more than 1100 cubic inches worth, but that those packs are currently filled with "non clothing personal items and food"--I'm very curious what sorts of things that includes. Before you switch over to a bigger bag, is it possible to re-evaluate what "non clothing personal items and food" items are going into those packs?

    I went to the LL Bean site to look at the bags. They're a smidge lighter and smaller than the Synapse but I don't know how they pack on the inside. I did a 10-day trip to Japan with a Synapse and a purse, and actually managed to fit all my clothes in the Synapse, and that backpack is very similar to the ones your kids already use. The only thing I'd suggest is to go with the Dyneema nylon version because they're substantially lighter. Based on the photo of the LL Bean backpack, they look quite narrow. The Synapse, although not substantially larger, has quite a bit of girth around the bottom that expands out; it might be easier to pack a bundle of clothes in it, as compared to the LL Bean pack.

    One good way to get your children's clothes into their backpacks is to use organizer cubes and packs. They help keep everything cinched down and manageable--you just pack everything into a cube, then slide it right into the backpack.

    The trick might be to graduate your children in to being able to carry a smaller bag in addition to the main backpack. A small cross-body can easily carry a few books, some smaller games, maybe a couple of toys. For example, could you consider using a Packing Cube Shoulder Bag as their second bag? They should be able to carry those with them onto the plane.

    Even if they don't wind up packing ALL of their clothes, you can still get them to carry maybe half of their clothes in their main packs. That should lighten your load.

    Finally, how many articles of clothing do your pack for your kids? I know some parents like to pack one outfit per day; is it possible to take fewer items and do laundry a little more often? Can you layer their clothes so they don't have to wear a new item everyday? Can you take things like Shout Wipes with you so if they have minor food or juice spills, you can just wipe them clean and not have to wash the shirt right away?
    Last edited by Lani; 11-05-2012 at 09:36 AM. Reason: Fixed my own grammar
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    I agree with Lani that the Smart Alec is rather long in the body for a child -- unless you relax the requirement of being able to sit down without having to remove the backpack.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Frank II View Post

    If you want to go with wheels, I also have the wheeled version of the Motherlode and you are right, it is heavy and way too big for the kids. I'd suggest going with a 16" wheeled bag instead. More than enough room, lighter in weight. Something like this International Traveler bag that actually weighs less than the non-wheeled Ebags Motherlode

    IT Luggage IT-0-1 Second Generation World's Lightest 2-Wheeled 16" Carry On - eBags.com
    This suggestion has particularly caught my eye. I think you're right that Motherlode is too big and heavy for them. I'm drawn to the Motherlode because it will have a durability that I fear the IT bag probably doesn't have. Still, I'm intrigued by how lightweight and "right sized" the IT bag might be. I'm going to keep digging and read more about this, and other wheeled bags of similar size.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lani View Post
    The children are 7 and 9, yes? I just got back from a quick weekend at Walt Disney World and all I carried was a Smart Alec, and I am almost 100% sure that the Smart Alec is WAY too big and heavy for even a 9-year-old. I am 5' 2.5" and the Smart Alec is pretty substantial on me.

    How much do their current packs weigh?

    I have a couple of thoughts. You mentioned that you know they can carry more than 1100 cubic inches worth, but that those packs are currently filled with "non clothing personal items and food"--I'm very curious what sorts of things that includes. Before you switch over to a bigger bag, is it possible to re-evaluate what "non clothing personal items and food" items are going into those packs?

    I went to the LL Bean site to look at the bags. They're a smidge lighter and smaller than the Synapse but I don't know how they pack on the inside. I did a 10-day trip to Japan with a Synapse and a purse, and actually managed to fit all my clothes in the Synapse, and that backpack is very similar to the ones your kids already use. The only thing I'd suggest is to go with the Dyneema nylon version because they're substantially lighter. Based on the photo of the LL Bean backpack, they look quite narrow. The Synapse, although not substantially larger, has quite a bit of girth around the bottom that expands out; it might be easier to pack a bundle of clothes in it, as compared to the LL Bean pack.

    One good way to get your children's clothes into their backpacks is to use organizer cubes and packs. They help keep everything cinched down and manageable--you just pack everything into a cube, then slide it right into the backpack.

    The trick might be to graduate your children in to being able to carry a smaller bag in addition to the main backpack. A small cross-body can easily carry a few books, some smaller games, maybe a couple of toys. For example, could you consider using a Packing Cube Shoulder Bag as their second bag? They should be able to carry those with them onto the plane.

    Even if they don't wind up packing ALL of their clothes, you can still get them to carry maybe half of their clothes in their main packs. That should lighten your load.

    Finally, how many articles of clothing do your pack for your kids? I know some parents like to pack one outfit per day; is it possible to take fewer items and do laundry a little more often? Can you layer their clothes so they don't have to wear a new item everyday? Can you take things like Shout Wipes with you so if they have minor food or juice spills, you can just wipe them clean and not have to wash the shirt right away?
    Hi, thanks for your thoughts! Yes, the kids are 7 and 9. I don't know what their current backpacks weigh. The backpacks they carry are the REI Tarn 18 Pack, seen here.

    I absolutely do need to evaluate what is going into their backpacks. In the past, I've just let them pretty much put whatever they want to carry, since I haven't expected them to carry any of their own clothing. I'll show you an example of what they carried on our current 8 week Europe trip. Well, the travel pillows and jackets don't actually go into the packs, but the rest does. We have severe food allergies, so we always have to carry our meals onto flights, which explains the lunch box. Plus, a lightweight of emergency pajama pants, socks, and underwear. Otherwise, it's just stuff for entertainment.

    7 year old daughter

    IMG_4129.jpg by agtobler, on Flickr

    9 year old son

    IMG_4128.jpg by agtobler, on Flickr

    For further geeky reference, here are the packs next to each kid so you get idea of the size.

    IMG_5437 by agtobler, on Flickr

    All loaded up, from the front

    IMG_4126.jpg by agtobler, on Flickr

    I like your suggestion of maybe using an additional small bag or packing cube backpack with their personal items, though I fear adding things for them to keep track of. It's so clean and simple to have them only responsible for looking after a single bag.

    And you're right, it will help even if they can just pack half of their own clothing. I hadn't considered that. If I wind up with the Aeronaut as planned, I should be able to offload some of their things into my own bag.

    We always bring a total of 5 layered outfits for a trip, no matter what the length. So, 4 outfits are packed and one is on our body. Plus the extras of a pair of pajamas, jackets when needed, swim suits and such. I've become well acquainted with doing sink/tub laundry, as well as navigating public laundromats. Still, I could probably do a better job of weeding out a few of the clothing items we pack.

    All great thoughts, and I really appreciate the time and thought all of you have put into your responses. We have one week left in this current 8 week trip and I look forward to getting home to unpack and re-evaulate our packing system. It needs tweaking, and I'm excited to make some bag changes and figure this out.
    Lani and dorayme like this.
    --Amanda

    Packing and gadget geek, collecting bags to disperse to my family.

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