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The BEST Backpack For Travel With Kids & Why We Ditched Our Family Suitcases!

I have been just ITCHING to write this post for a while now- so I could share with you all we’ve learned about the best family suitcases so far, what WE actually use for our family traveling- and what I believe (imho) is the absolute BEST backpack for travel with kids!

Get ready to hear some unconventional advice that truly changed our family world travel for the better! 🤯 If you’ve been wondering and researching to see what is THE best suitcase for families, look no further! (Although I have to warn you- it's NOT a suitcase!)

BEST Backpack For Travel With Kids & Family Suitcases | Lathrops Gone AWOL Family Travel Blog
We're ready to travel the world! 🥳

Before we started traveling overseas, we did a bit of traveling around the US, which was usually by car. Amongst all of our traveling, there were some definite hang ups that we noticed about using traditional luggage (sorry not sorry, rolling suitcases!) that really made traveling with kids more difficult.

When we started entertaining the idea of moving abroad with children, we knew there just HAD to be an easier solution- especially since it was important to maintain our family travel on a budget.

When we made the leap to use suitcases that can be carried backpack style, our travel life was forever altered. We will NEVER (ever, ever) go back to rolling (or any other type) suitcases again! 😜

Okay hear me out with this one....

You might be thinking this is a no-brainer, OR maybe it seems like a total pain compared to your super chic rolling suitcase with the colorful hardtop and the ergonomic handle.

I get it. I remember thinking that, too.

Why we ditched our trendy rolling-style family suitcases:

I was once totally enamored with the matching rolling family suitcases that came in different sizes for each of us- they were so cute!

But sadly, they just weren’t the best suitcase for kids! Our big kids did fine, sure.

Traditional & Rolling suitcases | BEST Backpack For Travel With Kids & Family Suitcases | Lathrops Gone AWOL Family Travel Blog
Stop carrying, pushing & rolling your family's suitcases! There's an easier way!

But the little ones banged them into walls, pushed and pulled them into strangers at the airport, and even used them as tables (which inevitably meant spills and crusty food stains)!

They were often a pain to maneuver- and if a kid got tired, guess who had to stack the little suitcase onto their own bigger one and drag it through the terminal?? (Raise your hand if you’ve been there!)

And here’s the worst part- trying to keep everyone’s luggage together, get onto our plane/train/etc, AND keep track of little people at the same time- it was a stressful mess! 😬😬😬

Once we started traveling Europe with kids, using traditional suitcases became a LOT harder for us parents to manage.

And that leads us to…

How we discovered the best backpack for travel with kids:

After a few frustrating experiences, we started looking into what other families used for their own travels. We read family travel blogs and joined family world travel facebook groups to get ideas. We read list after list of family vacation tips.

We read lots of Amazon reviews on different suitcases in the luggage section. (The one that doubles as a toddler stroller was intriguing!)

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We also watched a few YouTube videos from trendy traveling couples, and noticed something interesting- LOTS of avid travelers were using big backpacks like hikers do! We were just babies in terms of gaining travel experience, so this idea blew our minds! 🤯🤯🤯

So we did what any travel-loving parents would do- we ditched our cute lil roly polys and upgraded to backpacks made specifically for travel. 😉

Travel Backpacks have many perks as family suitcases:

Here’s where this post gets good. (This might be a good time for a coffee refill!)

There have been TONS of great benefits to switching to travel backpacks.

Let’s go over some of the perks and talk a bit about the exact backpacks WE use for our family (and why we think they make the best backpack for travel with kids).

In general, most of our family’s backpacks are the Osprey brand, with a couple of Deuter bags as well (there are 7 of us, after all!).

Both brands have really considered travelers when designing their backpacks- so there are LOTS of pockets and features to make traveling easy!

Perk 1: Travel Backpacks keep your hands free.

The ability to pack everything you need into a bag (strategic packing hack coming in a sec), throw it on your back, and still have your hands free IS EVERYTHING easy family travel should be!

Having a backpack for traveling with toddlers is a lifesaver when we’re trying to hold onto their little hands- especially while braving a crowd of people all boarding the same train or metro.

Imagine grabbing plane tickets and passports without shuffling luggage handles, or stopping because you can't maneuver a rolly case while triple-checking the phone for the correct gate number! And don’t get me started on matching passports to little faces for boarding check while a long line of impatient people are trying to board a plane!

Having our luggage on our backs is seriously irreplaceable in terms of saving time and having one less thing to worry about!

Of all the things that make traveling easier, having our hands free to better help our kids has taken so much of the stress out of maneuvering airports and train stations.

It's been such a life-changing switch that we always include it in our family travel hacks as must-have family travel gear. In fact, you can read about it in our 5 Must Have Travel Items & Kids Travel Essentials For Making Travel Easier post!)

Perk 2: Travel Backpacks are easy for everyone in the family to carry.

Another HUGE perk of backpack style suitcases is that everyone can have their own, which means you can often get carry on sizes! They make the best travel bag for families because there are so many sizes!

I personally prefer this women’s fit Osprey backpack- it makes the best mom travel backpack because of the many pockets and removable day pack (more on that below)!

But I’m also a total shorty- I’m only 5 feet tall- so I would also recommend my Osprey as the best travel backpack for petite female as well!

And as my (dear, sweet) husband likes to say, Osprey also has the best travel backpack for fat guys- as he’s a taller and larger guy who needs bigger backpack straps and an adjustable fit!

He uses this larger duffel bag, and loves the shoulder strap more than the backpack straps. (Osprey also has smaller duffel bags, but again, we’re a BIG family so we go big if we’re traveling for weeks at a time!)

Our teen girls actually prefer to use one of these men’s style Osprey backpacks because of the detachable day pack and the way it fits on their back without getting uncomfortable, (Super helpful for long walks from the train station to the hotel/flat!) and one of these women's hiking backpack, which is smaller and lighter, which doubles as a day pack when heading out and about as well.

For our younger ones, we actually consider this Deuter backpack (it's the purple one pictured below) to be the best backpack for travel with kids.

Not only is it made specifically for kids to carry, but it has LOTS of handy pockets for all their snacks, water bottle, toys, etc. Our kids usually wear them as day packs while exploring as well, making them more versatile than typically family suitcases.

And since they come in bright colors, if a kid starts to wander too far from us, we can quickly spot them, even in a crowd! (A huge mom worry, am I right?!)

We typically let the smaller kids carry their own small backpacks, and keep our various travel accessories for kids inside them so they are easy to reach while traveling.

Perk 3: Travel Backpacks are much more versatile than suitcases.

As I mentioned above, our littles take their backpacks everywhere when we travel.

Since they mostly have their snacks, water, etc, inside, they are easy to bring with us when out for daily exploring.

But the bigger bags also come with the detachable day packs I mentioned above.

The day packs are a perk on their own!

We usually use the daypacks to keep our laptops and electronics readily accessible (especially for airport security), and when out exploring places we can fill them with jackets, snacks, or whatever we might need for the day.

The daypacks actually just zip right onto the front of the larger bag, so we can keep our important stuff inside one of the smaller bags, and then just drop our big bags at the hotel before heading out to dinner or sightseeing!

It's nice to have the smaller daypacks because they are so versatile, which really takes these bags over the top in terms of invaluable family travel gear.

Perk 4: Our travel Backpacks are CARRY ON size!

I know I already talked about the size of the bags- but what I didn’t mention is that all of our bags- except for the big duffel bag- are carry on size!!

This truly separates our travel backpacks as the #1 best suitcase for family travel! In fact, we consider them to be the best European travel backpack also, since we take ours on all of our European family vacations without ever having to check in luggage!

There’s multiple perks of having all of our family suitcases be carry on size.

Probably the biggest perk is that it usually costs money to check luggage in at the airport, and we don’t have to worry about that.

(Aka- we save money and are able to plan MORE family travel on a budget that fits!)

We also never have to worry about baggage claim nightmares, because our luggage stays with us the whole time! And that makes them the best Europe travel backpack, too, since we can go to different countries without worrying about losing our stuff!

The last carry-on related perk I’m going to mention is that we NEVER have to weigh our luggage!

Carry-ons are automatically allowed on as long as they fit inside the carry on dimensions- no matter what it weighs! (Another reason these make the best travel backpack for kids, because books can be heavy!)

Our Osprey Travel bags _ BEST Backpack For Travel With Kids & Family Suitcases _ Lathrops Gone AWOL Family Travel Blog

Perk 5: The Lifetime Warranty makes these the BEST travel bags for families!

Another HUGE reason we absolutely LOVE our Osprey and Deuter backpacks is that they are really a long-term investment.

You won’t need to replace them every few years like typical suitcases that occasionally get banged up and broken wheels!

In fact… there is a lifetime warranty if you purchase quality brands like Osprey and Deuter! Of all the reasons why we say that these make the best suitcase for family travel, the fact that they will LAST forever is a HUGE perk!

In fact, we plan on sending our oldest with one when she goes exploring (or off to college!) and can feel assured that the bag will be getting put to good use for many more years (or even decades) to come!

We highly recommend Osprey brand bags, and not only do they have a lifetime warranty, but we've learned first hand that Osprey's customer service is AMAZING.

Funny story- We had taken a lovely vacation to Brussels, Belgium for New Year's 2020. It was lovely, but also cold, wet, and a bit snowy. After shoving our (possibly still damp) bags in storage for many months (yay covid shutdowns), we found a zipper on one of the bags had rusted closeda little bit!

We contacted Osprey and they walked us through how to fix it, and if it couldn't be easily fixed ourselves, we could just send it in to get it repaired or even to replace the entire bag! 🤯 It ended up being a quick fix, but it was nice to see they were willing to replace the whole thing if we needed them to.

Deuter brand bags have a very comparable lifetime warranty as well. We haven’t had to put this to the test yet, as our Deuter bags are a bit newer, but we’ve heard wonderful things from other avid travelers!

You can read Deuter’s lifelong repair/replacement policy here.

I genuinely recommend getting an Osprey or Deuter brand bag over any other brand just because of the lifetime warranty.

There might be similar brands with good repair/replacement options, and you can research to find other brands, but honestly, these two brands are worth every single cent and then some!

They truly are the best Europe travel backpack, and the best travel bag for families, as you're about to see in my next point...

Perk 6: A carrier backpack for traveling with toddlers and babies can eliminate strollers!

There’s one last travel backpack I want to talk about while I’m covering the topic of the best travel bag for families…

We actually bought this backpack in 2017, and we’ve used it to go to theme parks, hiking, and traveling all over Europe with our kids! (We even brought it with us on our move abroad with family.)

Another funny story- when we were looking into going to Lisbon with our 5 kids, the amount of people who told us not to bring a stroller was overwhelming. 🤯

We were warned that people would get angry with us for blocking the narrow sidewalks with a bulky stroller.

And we were told that Lisbon was the hilliest city in Europe, so good luck anyways! We had a baby and a toddler- how would we get through so many hills and stairways?!

Enter the best travel backpack for moms… the Deuter baby carrier backpack! (cue cool theme song)

To be honest, my husband carried this more than I did, but our baby and our toddler both LOVED it!

There’s a pocket underneath to hold diapers, wipes, food, etc… There are pockets on the sides. There’s a cool shade cover so the baby doesn’t get too much sun or in case it rains.

In general, this bag has so many things that make traveling easier when you have babies or toddlers that it really is just great to have!

And so, with this cool backpack, strollers became a thing of the past!

At the airport _ BEST Backpack For Travel With Kids & Family Suitcases _ Lathrops Gone AWOL Family Travel Blog
Layovers, and tablets, and laptops- oh my! 🦁🐯🐻 (And our backpacks, of course!)

I feel like this carrier backpack could have it’s own post, honestly, but I couldn’t NOT mention it here because it truly is one of the best travel bags for families with toddlers and babies!

And, of course, it’s a Deuter bag, so it has the lifetime warranty as well. (Score!)

Now that’s I’ve spent a good few minutes gushing about the many life-changing qualities of travel backpacks, I’m going to leave you with these parting words-

If you take anything away from this post, please consider at least trying a travel backpack- just start with one.

You will LOVE it- and you will thank me for pushing you to make the switch. I promise. They really are that amazing!

And if you have a family travel backpack that YOU love using, share it below along with your other go-to travel with kids tips! 😉

I hope you enjoy your family world travels, and that this post helps you make them just a little bit easier (or a lot)! Happy traveling!

Liked this post? Check out more of our similar tips, tricks & info! 👇👇👇

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Sharyn McCullum
Sharyn McCullum
Jul 21, 2022

I love my backpack - I learnt years ago the style of travel I do is more suited to a backpack. Thanks for confirming it.


Jul 21, 2022