With these six simple strategies, you can teach your children how to pack their own suitcases—so you don’t have to!
Flights? Booked. Accommodations? Reserved. Packing for the entire family? Not this time! Use these tips to teach your kids how to pack like pros, and you won’t spend the journey worrying that their suitcases are filled with only toys.
1. Make two checklists
You don’t need to do all the packing to make sure your kids’ stuff makes it from point A to point B. Working with your kids, write out one list of items for their luggage – this may include clothing and shoes. Then make one list of items for their personal carry-on luggage (such as backpack or duffel bag)—this may include a handheld video game, snacks, and a change of clothes.
2. Schedule a block of time for family packing
Instead of giving the kids a packing deadline (that is sure to be missed), set two hours aside for the whole family to pack together. Do it the day before you leave (not the day of), so you’re not rushed. Schedule this right after laundry day so everything that you and your family members want to pack is clean and in the correct drawer or closet. Provide enough supervision to ensure that an unnecessary item, like a giant stuffed gorilla, doesn’t somehow make its way into your luggage!
3. Help your kids make smart outfit choices
When your kids pack clothing, they should follow these rules: Every shirt must match every pair of pants or every skirt. Avoid white articles of clothing, since those can get stained more easily. And there’s no need to pack one outfit for every day of the trip—this isn’t the red carpet, so repeats are OK. Packing enough socks and underwear for every day of the trip, however, is smart, because those items get too sweaty and dirty to re-wear without washing.
4. Allow only a small space for non-essential toys
It’s time to play favorites, because not every stuffed animal gets to come hike the Rockies. Allow your children just one Pack-It Cube to fill with toys or trinkets. This limitation will teach them the value of prioritizing when packing, and give them the freedom to bring at least one comforting item from home. Also, Cubes keep everything contained in one space.
5. Pre-pile before loading in
Have the kids stack neat piles of items from the checklists next to their suitcases. Then help them maximize the space in their bags by teaching them how to use the Pack-It™ System and packing tips (such as packing socks inside shoes and rolling items instead of folding them). This is also your time to make sure essential items have not been left behind.
6. Pack a surprise gift for long rides
Add a new, creative (and inexpensive) toy or game to your child’s personal carry-on that he or she can discover in transit. A coloring book and crayons for younger kids works well, or grab a sketchpad and colored pencils (and a sharpener!) for older kids. The novelty will add to its entertainment value, and the interactivity will help occupy your child throughout the journey, so he or she doesn’t moan, “Are we there yet?”
Caila Ball is a freelance writer and full time travel enthusiast. You can see more of her work at CailaBall.com