This family air travel tip simplifies packing while saving $ on checked baggage fees

This family air travel tip simplifies packing while saving $ on checked baggage fees. #parenthacks

This simple trick will dramatically simplify packing for a family trip, save you money in checked baggage fees, and get your family through airport security in record time. I stumbled onto this tip as we headed on our vacation (those are my family's suitcases, plus a bonus peek at @PDXCarpet).

1. Each person's clothing goes into a separate suitcase.

Assuming a) your kids are old enough to pull a small carry-on, and b) the trip is long enough to merit a full case per person. The fewer cases the better.

2. One person packs a larger suitcase that gets checked.

EVERYONE'S toiletries go in this suitcase, along with bulky stuff that doesn't fit into the carry-ons. Since this case will get checked, you can bring full-sized toiletries and other items that would need to be fussed with or discarded if you were to put them through airport TSA screening.

Now, when you head through airport security, you won't have to open your carry-on bags or deal with quart-sized Ziploc bags full of tiny travel bottles.

3. (Optional) When you get to your departure gate, gate-check the carry-on bags.

To conserve overhead bin space, most airlines allow you to check bags through to your desination for free. This is good. You save money plus you don't have to schlep your bags onto the plane.

(Usually, gate-checked bags show up on the carousel with the rest of the luggage at your destination, but sometimes they'll get delivered to the tarmac on a cart. Be sure to clarify these details with the gate attendant.)

When you get to your destination, pick up everyone's bags, and you're on your way.

How do you simplify packing for a flight? Post your tip in the comments or on your Facebook, Twitter or Instagram profile with the tag #parenthacks.


  1. Sara says

    Hopefully this won’t get me on any sort of watch list. But, my kids both still need car seats, and we have car seat bags for checking them. We will stuff bulky last minute items (coats/hats/etc. in winter, extra books, stuffed animals, etc.) into the car seats in the bags. Since car seats are checked for free, you get a little extra room. I guess you could also do this with toiletries. We’ve never had a baggage agent check to make sure it was *only* a car seat in the bag…

  2. says

    If your kids still need car seats, they can and should use them on the plane. Checking them with luggage can cause serious but unnoticeable damage that could put your child at risk (of injury or even death) in a car accident. I know, I know, I’ve checked mine too when the kid didn’t have a ticket; and I’m a CPST, but if you’ve ever seen how the luggage is treated I hope you can take them on the plane with you.

  3. says

    I have to disagree with this hack. I suppose it would work nicely if you were going on a short trip from Point A to Point B and landing in an area where you could easily run out and buy inexpensive toiletries in the unlikely event that luggage is lost.

    Our family of 3 travels internationally every year (4 airports, 3 flights, and 3 countries) and I cannot tell you the number of times planes have been delayed for hours on the tarmac, flight connections have been missed, severe weather has closed airports, and bags are misplaced. The layovers in London/Heathrow alone are sometimes up to 10 hours long. I am always so thankful that I “over packed” and brought on a couple quart-sized bags for our family (the full-sized items get checked in multiple bags). The quart-sized bags are placed in only one of the carry-ons so that I can quickly find them and pull them out and get through security. It is well worth any hassles that may arise with security to be able to wash up in airport lounges or on the plane. Makes you feel human again and gets you through the next leg of your journey! =)

  4. says

    As another traveler who gets multiple airports/flights and long layovers, like Jaime, I have to disgree with this hack, particularly the to-final-destination gate check.

    Traveling with a soon-to-be toddler requires one carryon for her things (diapers, bottles, snacks, 1 change of clothes for every 6 hours) and then a limited supply of things for us – laptops (which should NEVER be gate-checked, ever!), good cameras (also should never be gate checked!), and 1 change of clothes per person in the event of lost or delayed baggage.

    The last home leave trip was 2 flights with a 10 hour layover at one airport. There’s no way I’d let my carryon vanish for 10+ hours.

  5. says

    This is a very smart strategy, I would never though about it to be honest! Thank you so much for sharing! This saves so much energy, space and… luggage charges of course!