Sharing The Load: The Best Kids’ Travel Backpacks

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Last Updated on April 8, 2021 by Travels with Kids

If you travel as a family, then at some point it will make complete sense to invest in some sort of kids’ travel bag.  Buying your child their very own carry-on not only gives them a feeling of independence – but it also helps to spread the luggage load.  This guide to the best kids’ travel backpacks explains the advantages of travel backpacks for kids.  I also outline the types of kids’ travel bags, helping you to make an informed choice.

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Sharing The Load: The Best Kids’ Travel Backpacks
Adelaide Airport

Is Your Child Ready For Their Own Travel Backpack?

Although Little Miss had a roll-along suitcase when she was smaller, I do prefer to use a kids’ backpack for travel.  Simply because we find it easier to transport.  Especially when the children carry their own bags!  So at what age can you expect them to carry their own kids carry on bag?  I asked about this on social media and the answers varied, with parents saying their children could use their own backpack anywhere between the ages of three and six.  In our experience, our daughter could manage her own bag aged five and was very confident in doing so by the time she was six.

Is Your Child Ready For Their Own Travel Backpack

You do know your own child best, so follow your intuition.  You can also try it out on a much smaller scale.  Instead of waiting until you next take a flight, give your child a small backpack to carry when you go to the park or on a shopping trip.  If they can manage to carry the bag whenever it is practical to do so, then they are probably ready for a kids’ travel backpack of their own.

Many kids love to carry their own bags – it gives them a sense of independence and responsibility.  Often, they love to do what their parents or any older siblings do, too.  If you buy them their own backpack before they are ready, though, bear in mind that this may result in you having an additional bag to carry.  For this reason, the best kids’ travel backpack is definitely one they can carry themselves.

If your child is aged under seven and you think they may easily tire of carrying their own backpack, then another option to consider is the type of foldable bags that open out into a backpack.  This way they can carry the bag themselves, but if it comes to you taking the load then the bag can be folded away into itself.  This backpack and its belongings can then packed into your own carry-on instead.  This means one less bag for you to hold – particularly important if you might end up carrying your child as well as all the luggage.

What To Look For In A Kids' Travel Backpack
Phuket airport, Thailand

The Advantages Of Using Kids’ Travel Backpacks

There are various advantages that come with purchasing a traveling backpack for kids.  Read on to discover the reasons this might be a good idea for your family.

Anticipation

Children will generally be super excited about the prospect of a holiday.  Having their very own travel backpack for kids will add to the sense of anticipation, and make them feel more involved in your family trip planning.

Independence

Childhood is all about – eventually – learning to be an adult.  Kids often have a strong sense of independence, even from as young an age as three.  Giving them their own kids backpack for travel helps to develop this, making them feel responsible and important.

It can also introduce the concept of making choices.  Seeing how much space they have for their toys or books acts as a clear, visual reminder that they cannot possibly pack everything.  Taking just a few toys that they are certain to play with is far more effective – and space-efficient – than packing far too many that won’t even be touched.  Don’t forget that while they are away other things may capture their attention – such as shells, rocks, and stones on the beach, balls in a soft play area, or the equipment of an adventure playground.

Organization

Take the best travel backpack for kids you can find and it’s not just the children who benefit.  It can also really help with organization.  Packing for each family member individually rather than the whole family together saves so much time when you arrive at your destination and start unpacking.  This is especially important if your trip involves moving on every few days rather than staying on one spot for a fortnight.

It also particularly applies to hand luggage.  If each person has their own snacks, drinks, extra layers, books, or toys, then it is much simpler to locate these when they are thirsty, cold, hungry, or bored.  Imagine searching through a jumble of everyone’s belongings just to find that one item you need!

What To Look For In A Kids' Travel Backpack
Changi Airport, Singapore

The Best Kids’ Travel Backpacks By Age

To make your search for the right kids’ bag easier, I have separated our product suggestions as follows.  That is not to say that a specific kids’ backpack is not good for other age groups too.  Once more, this is where your intuition and knowing your one child inside out can come in very handy!  What will appeal to them?  Are they likely to manage – and carry – the bag themselves?  Is it the right size and shape?  Does it have enough space for their things?  A smaller bag will be easier for them to carry but will limit the amount of room they have for their belongings.

Toddler Bags
The smallest bags are listed here, as well as those which should particularly appeal to the youngest, pre-school age group.

Kids’ Bags
The bags listed in this category tend to be a little larger, and may also feature designs that will be attractive to young school-age children.

Older Kids’ Bags
While we focus on the best kids’ travel backpacks in this section, some of the bags detailed here may be equally suitable for adults.
What To Pack In A Kids Travel Bag

What To Look For In A Kids’ Travel Backpack

The first step in purchasing a travel backpack for kids is deciding exactly what to look for.  A good starting point here is to think about your own experience.  What has made the backpacks you have used more practical?  Which ones have been easier to pack, or more comfortable to carry?  Which features are most important to you?  Here are some suggestions.

Size

Firstly, will the backpack be the right size for your child?  The clue is in the name – a backpack should fit snugly against their spine, thus distributing the weight across the body evenly.  To get a better idea of what will fit, you may like to measure the length of their torso and compare this with product specifications.

What The Backpack Is For

Why are you looking for a travel backpack? Kids’ bags can be used as a carry-on when flying, a weekend bag to hold everything they need for a few days away, or even as a school bag.  If you would like them to use the bag for school too, then they will need a sturdy, high-quality bag that’s is robust enough for daily use.  They may also use it for a certain activity, such as a weekly dance, sports, or swimming class.

children’s backpack

Capacity

The capacity of the chosen children’s backpack will determine how much they can carry in it.  How large a capacity they can realistically cope with carrying will depend upon their age and size.  A toddler will be able to carry less than a child who is over five but under ten.  For the latter age group, a capacity of around 12 to 20 liters is about right.  A child of around ten or older should be able to manage over 20 liters, while teens or adults should manage a bigger bag with a larger luggage capacity.

children’s carry on
My 9-year-old daughter using her school bag as a travel backpack and with a rolling suitcase (she handled this fine, though it was heavy!)

Different Types Of Kids Luggage: Definitions

Before moving to the best kids’ travel backpacks, let us briefly consider the various types of kids’ luggage you can buy.

Kids’ Travel Backpacks

A backpack sits behind the back so that the weight of the back and its contents is evenly spread across the spine, shoulders, and hips of the wearer.  A good travel backpack should be comfortable to wear and carry, even for slightly longer periods of time.

Kids’ Roll-On/Ride Toys (For Toddlers)

Rolling bags for kids tend to have hard shells, like a suitcase.  The wheeled design means that children can ride along on them, which can be great fun for a while.  These bags are less flexible, however, and the packing space is thus very rigid.  They can also be a pain to carry when that task falls back to the grown-ups!

Kids’ Carry On Luggage

A children’s carry on can be defined as any bag that fits within an airline’s cabin luggage restrictions.  This does vary, so do check before you travel.  Manufacturers will also often mention this within their product specifications.  A carry-on can thus be any smaller backpack, suitcase, or other kinds of bags – as long as it fits the airline criteria.

toddler backpack

Kids’ Hiking Backpack

Children’s hiking backpacks are often among the best travel backpacks for kids.  A hiking backpack for kids can be a great choice, as such bags are designed for continued use.  They are thus among the most practical, lightweight, and comfortable bags around.

Kids Suitcases

You can buy suitcases for kids, too.  Like the roll-on type, these have a hard shell and are more rigid.  As they require more control than backpacks, they are not as suitable for younger children.  Not least because the parents will probably end up bearing the load once again!

Kids’ Toddler Carriers

Finally, just a brief mention of this one to clarify just what it is.  A toddler carrier is not the same as a toddler backpack.  The former is meant for transporting the child – a little like a more rigid version of a baby sling – while the latter is designed for kids to use for packing and carrying their own luggage.

The Best Kids' Travel Backpacks
Using her school bag as a carry-on.

The Best Kids’ Travel Backpack For School

Don’t forget that your kids could use their travel backpacks for school.  If you invest in a good quality, strong travel backpack for your child, there’s no reason why the bag would not work as both a travel pack and a school or sports bag.

Sharing The Load: The Best Kids’ Travel Backpacks

The 10 Best Kids Travel Backpacks

Toddler Bags

Deuter Kikki


An adorable design makes this a must for those with younger children – who could resist carrying that cute little creature around?  Available in various shades of green, pink, blue, and red, the Kikki is an 8-liter daypack suitable from age 3. Padded shoulder straps and a chest strap make it comfortable for little ones to carry, while the bright, eye-catching design makes it easy to spot across the park or playground.

See the Deuter Kikki backpack for kids here.

Wildkin Toddler Backpack

The award-winning backpack for toddlers from Wildkin is ideal for travel as well as kindergarten, daycare, or nursery use.  There is a range of appealing designs and colors, so you’re bound to find one that your preschooler loves.  It has a food-safe, insulated front compartment and water bottle pocket for carrying snacks and drinks.  Being smaller and lighter than other options here also means your little one is more likely to carry the load themselves.

See the Wildkin toddler backpack for boys here.

American Tourister Disney Backpack

There’s no denying that kids love characters as well as color.  So what better than a Disney backpack featuring princesses, Star Wars, Vampirina, or Frozen?  Everything on this small backpack for children has been designed with little fingers in mind, including easy-to-grip zip pulls.  A water bottle pocket and separate front panel pocket are useful, while padded adjustable shoulder straps ensure a great fit.

See the American Tourister Disney backpack here.

Kids’ Bags

Camelback Scout

Specially designed for kids, the Camelback Scout is suitable for various age groups – from pre-schoolers up to older children.  A 1.5-liter water reservoir comes with it, keeping kids hydrated whether they’re flying, exploring the city, or hiking the trails.  Safety features include reflective accents and a safety whistle.  This Camelback backpack comes in a cheery red and blue design that should please everyone.

See the Camelback Scout children’s backpack here.

Deuter Junior

This one is also designed especially for young ones – namely school-age kids.  In fact, this one is described as both a school and hiking backpack, making this a great all-rounder.  The color options are attractive, yet subtle enough for older kids too.  Deuter says this is suitable for ages five plus, and it has an impressive 18-liter capacity.  Ergonomic shoulder straps, Deuter’s Airstripes back system, and plenty of mesh and zipped pockets make this a very practical pack.

See the Deuter Junior backpack for children here.

North Face Youth Recon Squash

Another one made just for kids, this North Face daypack is also suitable for school or other activities.  This highly rated backpack is from one of the world’s biggest outdoor brands, and their expertise is put to good use here.  Added cushioning makes it more comfortable to carry, while the 17-liter capacity and dimensions are designed to accommodate books or school folders.  There are several color options and it has an array of interior and exterior pockets.

See the North Face Youth Recon Squash for kids here.

Puma Lunchbox Combo

If your child’s holidays and school days are all about the snacks, then how about this combo pack from Puma?  It comes complete with a lunch box and is available in a range of colors.  Even if you don’t plan to use it for storing food, the lunch box could be used instead to store smaller toys or to keep a specific set of items separate from other bag contents.  This cool Puma backpack is as perfect for travel as it is for sports or school.

See the Puma Kids’ Lunch box and backpack combo here.

Older Kids’ Bags

Osprey Daylite

With a 13 liter capacity, the robust Osprey Daylite is a great all-rounder.  It comes in a comprehensive choice of color options, including two-tone and print designs.  There are some super useful sections here, including two stretch mesh side pockets that can be used for a water bottle and an interior sleeve that can protect a tablet or store a hydration reservoir.  The key clip can be useful, too.

See the Osprey Daylite kids’ backpack here.

Eco Chic

Eco Chic shopping bags are big news.  They also make one of the best packable backpack options around.  Like the shopping bags, the daypack is super strong and folds up into its own pouch for portability.  There is a side water bottle pocket as well as internal and external pockets to help you stay organized.  The attractive designs appeal to all, and the size makes this ultra-lightweight foldable bag suitable for children and adults alike.

See the Eco Chic best packable daypack here.

Fjallraven Kanken Mini Classic Backpack

Although we list this in the section for bigger kids or even adults, this mini backpack suits all ages.  Its 7-liter capacity has enough space for all the essentials, yet it is compact enough for even small kids to carry.  A huge array of colors is available in this mini version of Fjallraven’s classic Kanken.  The company uses their own design of fabric to make this, which can be wiped clean and is water and dirt-resistant.  If 7 liters isn’t enough space for you, the 16-liter classic version is pretty much the same – but provides just over double the capacity.

See the Fjallraven 7 liter mini classic backpack here.

See the Fjallraven 16-liter classic backpack here.

 

The Best Kids’ Travel Backpacks Comparison Table

Name Capacity Best for Color/s Price range Our score
Deuter Kikki 8 L Toddlers 6 options $$ 9.6
Wildkin Toddler Not stated Toddlers Range of options $ 9.5
American Tourister Disney Not stated Toddlers 4 options $ 9.1
Camelbak Scout 12.5 L Kids Red & Blue $$$ 9.8
Deuter Junior 18 L Kids 7 options $$ 9.4
North Face Youth Recon Squash 17 L Kids 4 options $$ 9.3
Puma Lunch Box Combo Not stated Kids 6 options $$ 9.0
Osprey Daylite 13 L Kids or adults 13 options $$ 9.2
Eco Chic Foldable 15 kg Kids or adults Range of options $$ 9.7
Fjallraven Mini 7 L Toddler to adult Huge range $$$ 10
Fjallraven Classic 16 L Kids or adults Huge range $$$ 9.9

Click the name of each one to see the current prices on Amazon.

 

 

The Best Kids' Travel Backpacks
With our packable day back in the Daintree Rainforest, Far North Queensland, Australia

My Top Tip – The Best Kids’ Travel Backpacks

As I briefly touched on earlier, packable backpacks are awesome when traveling with kids.  The main bonus of this type of packable daypack is that it can be packed and used as required.  If your child tires, you can fold down the bag and place it and the contents into your own hand luggage.  This means one less bag for you to carry.  If you are out and about with your kids and need to carry one, this kind of foldable daypack also leaves your hands free to get on with daily activities.

Imagine you’re away and exploring a busy city with two children, for example.  Using a packable backpack means your hands are free to guide little ones across the road.  You could also pack a picnic to eat in the park, then simply fold the bag away when you’re done.  If you’re going shopping, the bag can be carried to the store easily then used to carry goods home again.  If you’re packing for a trip away, tucking one into your luggage means you’ll always have a spare bag for bringing souvenirs home, visiting the beach, going swimming – or whatever your holiday brings

What To Pack In A Kids’ Travel Bag Or Carry On

What To Pack In A Kids’ Travel Bag Or Carry On

So what are those must-have hand luggage essentials for kids?  Here is a guide to what we’ve found useful over years of travel as a family.

Water Bottle
It’s important for every member of the family to stay hydrated when flying.  Using a refillable water bottle means you can contribute to reducing plastic waste.  As any water bottle must be empty when taking an international flight, taking this type is far more practical too.  Make sure you look for a non-spill type, so no-one gets wet!

Favorite Toy Or Comforter
This is surely the top of the list when wondering what to bring when flying with a toddler.  After all, you know best that they won’t go anywhere without their favorite comforter or cuddly toy. Especially when it comes to bedtime!

Activities
Boredom is one of the biggest potential problems when it comes to traveling with children. So your list of what to bring on a plane for a toddler should include something to keep them occupied.  See the section below for advice more on this.

Change Of Clothes
A change of clothes is one of the essentials regarding what to pack in a carry on bag for kids. Accidents do happen, after all!  Simple clothing like a t-shirt and leggings plus underwear and socks is best.  These can be rolled into a small bundle and stashed into the bag for emergencies.

Spare Socks
A spare pair of socks is a must when we fly.  That way the kids can wander around the plane while their feet are warm and protected.  Having a spare set means you can always change to a fresh pair just before you arrive if the socks get dirty or sticky.

Inflatable Pillow
A blow-up pillow can make flying much more comfortable and takes up so little space.  If nothing else, it should increase the chances of them taking a nap – and you get some peace.

Tissues And Wet Wipes
One of my top packing tips for flying with kids – don’t forget the wipes.  A pack of dry tissues, too.  That way they can be responsible for cleaning their own faces and hands, as well as wiping up any spills.

Healthy Snacks
The easiest items for flying are those snacks that kids can open and eat independently.  As well as those which are least likely to cause too much mess – such as dried fruit, mini cheeses, and plain biscuits or crackers.

Lollipops
They’re not the healthiest snack, but we take lollipops on board for a different reason.  Sucking a lollipop while the aircraft makes its final approach takes the pressure off little ears at the crucial moment – and it distracts them at the same time, too.  Any resulting sugar high should soon wear off once they delight in running around, finally free from the confined space of the cabin.

A Stainless Steel Straw
Reusable straws are a great idea – not least because plastic straws are now banned in some places.  Even where they are permitted, companies have often made the switch to paper straws anyway, in the interests of the environment.  Stainless steel straws are much more pleasant and practical to use than paper as they don’t soften and bend, and they can be repurposed time and time again.

children’s daypacks
Starting a travel day at sunrise, you don’t want to have too much luggage!

Airplane Activities For Kids

One of the keys to having a successful, harmonious flight with kids is keeping them occupied.  While there is often in-flight entertainment delivered via screens, these may not be present when flying on budget airlines.  There is only so much screen time anyone can take, anyway – and even modern technology has been known to fail.  So make sure you have plenty of things to keep the children occupied.  Some great posts about airplane activities for kids can be accessed via the following links.

Short on ideas?  Then check out this comprehensive list of 21 Awesome Airplane Activities For Kids.  These are amazing things for kids to do during the flight without a screen in sight!

If you’re traveling with a toddler or two, you’ll know only too well how they need to be occupied 24/7.  For creative ideas, make sure to read this dedicated post  – All About Brilliant Toddler Plane Activities.

Are your children younger?  A baby or one year old can actually be a little easier to occupy than a toddler or older child.  Check out this post for some simple ideas for the Best Travel Toys For A 1-Year-Old.

Sharing The Load: The Best Kids’ Travel Backpacks

The Verdict – Sharing The Load: The Best Kids’ Travel Backpacks

As you can see, the best kids travel backpacks do vary in what they offer in terms of style, color, capacity, and features.  We have only listed children’s daypacks here that score an average of over 4.5 stars on Amazon at the time of writing, so you can be confident of buying a high-quality product.  Whether it’s a tiny toddler pack, an all-purpose bag for school as well as travel, or a larger backpack that will see them into adulthood, we hope this guide helps you all to have happy, hassle-free travels.

 

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Hi! We are a multicultural family from Peru, Nicaragua & Australia. We believe adventures can be global – and local – and are one part of our sustainable lifestyle, and raising children who are global eco-citizens.