Hello! I am Sarah and I write at The Wandering Rumpus (and work at The Family Backpack) about family friendly travel and experiences to expand our kids worldview both right here in our amazing community of Nashville and around the world!
I have 3 girls and I clearly love to travel with with my crew – we have been traveling together since they were babies. But I must admit, I don’t love to pack. One way I relieve some packing stress before a trip is to teach my kids how to pack themselves! They love to take ownership of this task, it gives me time to focus on other trip preparations and they know what is in their bag when traveling because they packed it themselves! Today, I’m sharing my best tips to help you teach your kids to pack for family trips too. Whether taking long flights abroad, quick weekend road trips or summer trips to visit family, these ideas have saved us time and stress over and again:
- Create & print out a packing list
We have a packing list saved on my computer that we alter – if needed – for each trip that we print out for the girls to use. Sometimes, if we’re going on a quick weekend trip I’ll simply handwrite a list on a scrap piece of paper or on our kitchen chalkboard for them to use. I’ve even drawn pictures in the past for my youngest to reference before she could read the list. You can organize the list by outfit for each day/activity (i.e. one outfit for museum), individual items of clothing (i.e. 2 pair of pants, 2 Pjs, 1 dress, etc.) or whatever works for you. You may need to go over the list with them the first time you use it, but eventually, they learn the routine and even ask for the list when we’re getting ready to go.
- Give Each Children Their Own Bag
I recommend each child having their own bag. This can be tempting but try to avoid sharing bags if possible. When you have 3 sets of hands in one bag while traveling, it makes things more disorganized and chaotic. I have found it easier and helpful to give them the ownership of traveling with their own bag. Also, a colleague taught me to not have the kids actually pack their bag-just get it out to motivate them to pack and get excited about the trip. Also, seeing the size of the bag they get to bring allows them to understand that they can’t pack their entire book library or stuffed animal collection, ha. (In fact, our rule is one book and one lovey per child).
Note: We do occasionally pack one extra small bag for a road trip when visiting family in Pittsburgh, for example, and we break up the drive with a hotel stay. We’ll pack the bag with PJs & and a change of clothes for everyone as our “Hotel Bag” so that we don’t need to unpack all of our luggage for a quick hotel night on the way to our destination.
- Have them pick out clothes, lay out items & check off their list
Once you have printed out their lists, have them pick out the clothes and check them off the list. You can swap things as needed, later, but this also means when they’re getting dressed on vacation, they are wearing the clothes they picked out. Have them check off their own list so that both you and they have a visual of what’s ready to go.
- Review what they have laid out & pack their bag
This is where you get the final view of what they’re bringing. Occasionally, I have to use some well-practiced mom bartering techniques to “recommend” some removals and/or additions, but sometimes, I just let it go. Then, you actually pack the bag and make sure everything on the list is checked off.
- Thank your kids for their work & help
Even if you had to “recommend” some (a lot) of removals or additions…or despite having the list, they forgot a few essentials, thank them for their help. Give them ownership and confidence on this task and it will get easier with time!