Here is what most airlines allow: one carry-on per ticketed passenger plus one personal item (purse, laptop, diaper bag). My #1 tip for travel with Littles is: Pay the extra and get all your kids a seat, no matter what the age. And it's my number one tip not for safety (which I suppose is a consideration) but for the carry-ons. With this age, one more bag to shove diapers and spare clothes into is huge!
I pack one bag just for food. One for amusement per kid, and a diaper bag (where I shove my small purse). Hubby usually packs a backpack for a laptop, camera, etc, keeping both hands open for car seats and wrangling. We can usually manage to pack our clothes into one large suitcase, though with Little 1 growing larger, we've moved his clothes into his carry-on. It depends on the destination, too. Heavy winter clothes take up more room than shorts and tees, obviously.
Here are a few more packing tips:
- A thin blanket and a neck pillow are great additions for the kid's carry-ons to make naps a little more comfortable. When they were babies, I used to cover them in those swaddling blankets from the hospital, but they've outgrown them now... sigh...
- When packing, keep in mind spare hands for carrying car seats on board and wrangling monkeys. Backpacks are great for this. Mine started rolling/wearing their backpacks reliably around 2 1/2. But don't count on little ones to pull their own weight. Tired, overstimulated kids can be less than consistent with luggage duty.
- Don't forget about luggage carts. If you've got two car seats, two kids, four carry-ons and no more sanity, it might be worth the quarter to get from one end of the concourse to the other. (We're usually running so late we don't have time to stop and load one up, but that's on us...)
- Remember all the don'ts when you're packing your carry-ons. (Leave those throwing stars and hatchets in the checked bags, ladies.) Now that they're letting water on board again, it's gotten a lot easier to pack lunch.
- And speaking of security, dress your kids in shoes that are easy to take on and off, no belts, no matchbox cars in the pockets, nothing you have to remember when you're busy trying to get everybody through the line.
- Remember your 3-1-1.