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Cute Backpacks & Suitcases Kids Will Actually Carry Themselves

So this holiday travel season, hopefully your kids can wheel their own (adorable!) suitcases.

Originally Published: 
It's Holiday Family Travel Season (Finally!)
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Over the river and through the woods to… all of our relatives’ houses we (hopefully) go! With promising news on the vaccine front, many are hoping to travel with their families a bit more freely this holiday season. And with Thanksgiving not too far off, it’s time to start thinking about where to go, and what to pack. But first, check out your travel gear: Are your backpacks ripping at the seams? Are your suitcases too small to pack all of your kids’ clothes alongside your own? Are you hoping if they have something they really love, they’ll actually carry their own belongings? It’s time to get the kids their own gear, and shop for the smartest, lightest, most genius (and, OK, cutest) kids backpacks and suitcases.

When looking for kid-friendly backpacks and suitcases, there are characteristics you’ll want to keep in mind. The weight of the carry-on is important (if it’s heavy when it’s empty, your kid’s not going to want to lug it around when it’s full), and the height between the wheels and handle of a suitcase is also key for your kid’s comfort. Here you’ll find soft-strap backpacks with strategic pockets and compartments, plus easy-glide wheeled suitcases with room for multiple outfit changes. There are even special straps for those important nighty-night stuffies and everything else they decide to pack themselves. So wheels up, everyone, it’s time to shop.

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Baby’s First Backpack

It just doesn’t get much cuter than this little backpack from Target, with beautiful art by kids’ illustrator Christian Robinson. The design is simple and straightforward, with one big zippered section, and one outside pocket (perfect for packing snacks for long car rides). It weighs less than a half of a pound, and the loop-ties on each of the two zippers make it easy for little hands to grasp and pull all on their own. Just over 9 inches from top to bottom, with curved, adjustable shoulder straps, it should rest comfortably on the back. Two wide, top handles provide a hand-held option, too.


Personalized Wheeled Suitcase For Little Kids

It’s Disney Princesses. It’s personalized with your kid’s name. It’s got wheels. It’s a winner. Measuring just over 13 inches high on the interior and with two zippered compartments, it’s a roomy long-weekend suitcase your littlest one will love. Made with water-resistant polyester, it has an outer pocket perfect to slip in a coloring book and some markers. The inner pocket can sort out dirty clothes or a couple pairs of shoes. Not bad for baby’s first suitcase. If you love the look, but need a little more room for your kid’s stuff, Pottery Barn makes backpacks and two (best-selling) suitcases with the same Disney Princess print and personalizable options in sizes that measure 15 inches high on the inside, and 21.5 inches high in the interior.


Wheeled Suitcase For Kids

This little wheeler, designed for kiddos from 3 to 5 years old, somehow feels kid-ish and grown-up at the same time. The silver and pink metallic colors are fun, yet sophisticated. Inside (which is 15 inches high), there’s a zipper compartment that encloses one side of the suitcase, so you can keep dirty or wet clothes separate from clean outfits. Elastic straps inside help keep clothes flat for extra room. And the front pocket also has elastic straps to hold items like books and crayons. But it’s the adjustable straps on the outside of this mini carry-on that win special bonus points; as the photo illustrates, they can belt a toy, blanket, or a small stuffy securely along for the ride. There are also other fun exterior prints to consider, featuring airplanes, castles, dragons, and rainbows. And, as per the brand’s site, the State team shares packed backpacks and works to aid schools with every bag you buy.


Backpack For Toddlers

You’ve got lots of little backpacks to choose from, so why is this one a contender for your preschool-age kid? Because of the simplistic, yet functional and chic design: This little polyester pack has a main zippered compartment, an outer zippered pocket (maybe for, say, slippers and a blanket), and a slim outer pocket (a good grab-and-go spot to tuck away your kid’s mask). It also has two side mesh pockets perfect for drinks or a glasses case. The padded straps are adjustable, and there’s also a cross strap for comfortable, arms-free wear. The green and white striped pattern has a cool Palm Springs kind of vibe, but the pack is available in pink and white stripes, and pink Tie Dye. Obsessed with the striped print? It also covers water bottles and lunch bags, also available from Mini Brook. For a little overnight visit, it’s an adorable pick.


Backpack For Tweens

Is there any toy more iconic than the LEGO brick? It’s inspired two animated movies, an infectious song, amusement parks and some of the chicest backpacks around. While the design brings out the child in any teen, it’s also incredibly minimal (and comes in a variety of colors, like blue, gray and pink), so it strikes a more cool than childish impression. The 16-inch pack can fit multiple pant-shirt combos, plus a few books and screens — and the padded back makes it softer to tote around. Two zippered outer pockets (in the signature LEGO-brick circular shapes) are each big enough to hold earphones, for example, and an assortment of pocket-size treasures.


Backpack For Kids’ Overnight Visits

This genius travel backpack actually doubles as — wait for it — a sleeping bag. Recommended for ages 7 to 12, the washer-and-dryer-friendly pack has a flap-top closure that fastens with adjustable straps. (Adjustable straps do most of the fastening around this innovative, award-winning design from Mimish). Padded shoulder straps and a top handle make it easy to tote around. And it comes in a lot of fun colors, like pink, navy with contrasting light green buckles, and a smaller size intended for younger kids, approximately 3-6 in age. even an outer space pattern (made for 3 to 6-year-olds). Just imagine how much fun your kids will have unrolling their backpacks and showing them off for grandma and grandpa.


Backpack For Long Weekend Visits

It’s roomy in this casual, 17-inch-long pack, which closes with a cord and is perfect for stuffing a weekend’s worth of jeans, joggers, and tops (there’s also an inside pocket that can hold a laptop computer). There’s an optional chest strap for easy lugging, and a side beverage pouch. But what ups the cool factor is the belted-on front pouch that can act like a purse or catch-all for wallets, phones, small screens, masks, and keys. The design also comes in a variety of color combos, like red and black. Though created for 8 to 12-year-olds, your teen and even the grownups in your family may want to borrow this one.


Wheeled Suitcase For Little Kids

You know how some kids just live for picking out their own outfits, and then other kids couldn’t care less? Well, to help entice your kiddos to focus on packing their own clothes for a long weekend, sometimes a super fun (or in this case, funny) suitcase can help. This suitcase, with in-line wheels, is covered in silly recognizable emojis and text-friendly expressions (makes you want to LOL at the sight of it). With interior compartments and straps to hold down the clothes, and a top handle for easy grabbing, it’s bound to be a winner. It also comes in less-loud black and sleek navy blue.


Wheeled Suitcase That Doubles As Decor

You’ve likely spotted this retro-design kids suitcase in a slew of sherbet colors, and it’s become a baby favorite for a reason: It’s not heavy before you fill it (that’s key — remember, you want your kid to be able to manage it and wheel it on their own), yet is still sturdy and substantial. The 16.5-inch high square shape, while not exactly expandable, actually helps create a frame in which to pack. The inside elastic belts are great for securing clothes, or about nine medium-size stuffies, so they don’t jostle or wrinkle en route. The outer elastic straps can also hold a doll or blanket in place while on the move. And when your travels are over, this piece from the The Tot (which tests and researches its products for babies and children) can be used decoratively: Displayed horizontally in your little one’s nursery or bedroom, it makes a striking furniture piece that adds whimsy and character to your décor.


Backpack That Doubles As A Wheely Suitcase

Just over 5 pounds, this backpack has a roomy central compartment, plus two outside zippered pockets, a side pocket perfect for cylindrical drink bottles, and a top handle. But when you unfasten the adjustable shoulder straps and tuck them into a back pocket, you’ve then got a two-wheeled suitcase (which also comes in a soft green hue) primed to cruise through any airport. The polyester carryall garners stellar reviews featured on the Macy’s website, with a few comments sharing how the wheel-along features came in handy for middle and high-schoolers making trips to and from school with heavy supplies. So when your holiday travels are done, your kiddo can consider using it as a new school staple.


Ride-On Suitcase For Mini Jetsetters

Hey, kids get tired. And when grownups are in a rush (say, running through an airport), it’s easier to pop a kid on top of this wheeled suitcase (with adjustable straps) and pull them along rather than let them try and keep up on foot. But there are plenty of modern ride-on wheeled suitcase options now — this one takes the model to the next level. If you’re planning on putting your family on a plane this holiday season, consider this pack, which stores stuff and also offers up an elevated top to give kids a leg rest on a plane. It also has borders and pillow-like features to create a little bed. Can’t quite picture it? There are videos to help illustrate the genius of this suitcase.


Backpack Carry-on For Older Kids

Don’t let its simple look fool you: Designed by actress Shay Mitchell, this square bag is absolutely brilliant. It has a side-zippered compartment so you can easily pack and access your laptop, and inside the backpack you’ll find separate compartments for clothes, shoes, toiletries and more — it can even hang open once you arrive at your destination. In addition to padded shoulder straps, top handle, and multiple outer zippered pockets, there’s a back band that allows you to slip the pack down the handle of your wheeled suitcase, for easy transport (a video on brings all these features to life).


Backpack That Doubles As A Purse

A smaller option that could be great for short trips (like an overnighter to visit friends or family), this hand-held, vegan-leather tote from female entrepreneurial brand MinkeeBlue has a height of 15 inches, padded shoulder straps, and one brilliant front compartment to hold your shoes. The tote is also designed with separate inside compartments that could accommodate, say, one or two slim rolled shirts, a smart tablet, and maybe a pair of flip-flops for a casual weekend away. There’s a slim pocket on the inside of the top flap, and an outside pocket ideal for keeping small screens or identification within hand’s reach.


Backpack For Longer Trips

Visiting family for longer than a weekend? Consider tossing your teen this soft L. L. Bean backpack, made of polyester and nylon. It’s big enough to stash away a 15-inch laptop, and has the expected side pockets and top handle, plus another larger zippered front compartment. It’s easy to care for —  you can just throw it in the washer and even let it air dry. The pack is designed for comfort, with padded straps, backing, and mesh detailing. There are sections inside, but overall it’s an easy option for kids that just want to toss in their clothes and get on the road.


Carry-On Suitcase For Older Kids

This female-founded brand has quickly become a travel standard, with sleek suitcases, totes and backpacks thoughtfully built for smart, modern movement. This little wheeler is not only a great option for teens and college kids to travel with, but a genius airplane carry-on for any age group. The outer nylon zippered compartment on the polycarbonate case is screaming to hold a smart tablet or laptop. And once opened, the suitcase extends outward, accordion style, to make room for days of clothing options (yes, there’s also a laundry bag inside). It’s a suitcase your family will surely use year after year.


Backpack & Wheeled-Suitcase Combo For Kids

Here’s a dream kit: a two-piece wheeled suitcase and matching backpack for under $100. The backpack measures in at 12 inches, with wide straps, and the suitcase is 18 inches tall, meaning your little ones can likely manage the packs on their own, with fully rotating wheels to facilitate their ride. The larger case has interior compartments, zippered sections, and elastic straps to hold belongings flat. The hard, anti-scratch exteriors are made of ABS (sited as non-toxic, as per Costway’s website), polycarbonate and nylon, and made more adorable with outer spaceship or mermaid patterns. And the website’s near perfect reviews share children’s enthusiasm for the light, super-fun travel packs.


Suitcase For Teenagers On The Go

Brilliantly designed with the celebrity hairstylist Jen Atkin, it has all of the thoughtful details and features that a frequent traveler would want and need. First off, the wheeled case is hard polycarbonate, yet lightweight (and comes in gorgeous metallic pink and red, plus black). And it’s made with built-in locks. The wheels spin all around, so your teens can have an easy (and probably fun) time wheeling the case in parallel, vertical, and horizontal directions. Inside, there are zippered compartments to keep clothes folded, flat and separate from shoes. It’s basically a dream carry-on (with stellar website reviews) that’ll probably inspire shopping for the brand’s larger size suitcases.

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