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A travel packing list for kids makes preparing for family vacations easier and more fun. Download this free travel packing list printable to help your kid pack their own suitcase for family trips and save your sanity along the way!
Traveling with children can be a fun and exciting experience, but it can also be stressful and overwhelming, especially when it comes to packing.
As a mom, I want to make sure my kids have everything they need for the trip, but I also want to avoid the hassle of dealing with overpacked suitcases and forgotten items.
Not to mention the amount this adds to my own mental load!
As a mom of three boys, I am
usually always the one responsible for making sure my kids are packed. Let’s not forget that I also have to pack for myself (and now the dog too!)
I am usually a stressed-out hot mess before any travel plans as I’m trying to manage all of the final travel preparations and keep us on track for our departure.
And yes, I am always guilty of running back in for one last item.
Are you feeling the same way?
As my kids have gotten a little older, one solution to managing my workload and stress before a trip is to involve my kids in the packing process and give them a chance to show some independence.
By teaching my kids how to pack their own suitcases, I am able to reduce stress for myself and also give my kids a sense of ownership and responsibility for their belongings.
I’m excited to share a packing activity to involve your child in the packing process. By following these simple steps, you can make packing for family trips a stress-free (or at least a little less stressful) and enjoyable experience for everyone involved.
When it comes to teaching your child how to pack their own suitcase, preparation is key. By planning ahead and involving your child in the packing process, you can help ensure a stress-free and successful experience.
Create a standard packing list and adjust it for your itinerary
The first step to preparing for packing is to plan ahead. This means thinking about what items need to be packed and making a list of everything that needs to be taken on the trip.
I keep a simple Google Doc spreadsheet that has all of the basics for each family member (except my husband. I let him fend for himself). This helps me cut down on the cognitive load of what I need to pack for each trip and it helps me avoid forgetting important items.
Keeping a standard packing list has helped to reduce a lot of my stress before a trip.
Depending on the time of the year, the location of our destination, and the activities we plan to do, I’ll make adjustments to this list.
I will also ask my child what activities they want to do on the plane or in the car, or any special item they might want to take along with them (within reason of course!) Even my toddler can pack his own backpack (with me making any necessary adjustments – we don’t need 50 HotWheel cars!)
Build excitement for the trip
In addition to creating a packing list, I help my kids get excited about the trip by involving them in the planning process and talking about all the fun things they will do and see. This helps them be more invested in the packing process and more excited to embark on our family adventure.
We discuss what activities are planned, and brainstorm ways to pack efficiently. For example, if we’re planning a beach day, we’ll discuss what items will be needed, such as towels, sunscreen, and beach toys, and whether we need to bring, buy, or borrow at our destination.
By involving my kids in the planning process and making a packing list, my kids are more invested in travel preparations and it helps them understand all of the time and though that goes into preparing for a trip!
Now that you have your packing list ready to go, it’s time to actually pack the suitcase.
I try to involve my kids with this part as much as possible. Not only will this help them learn important life skills, but it will also give them a sense of ownership over their belongings and their travel experience.
Involve your kids in the packing process
There are several ways to involve your child in the packing process and choosing the right and age-appropriate approach will help everyone feel successful.
My kids are currently 10, 7, and 4, so I use the same approach in theory, but the level of independence is a bit higher for the older boys.
I used to write out a list, referring to my Google spreadsheet, of everything I expect them to pack, for example:
- 5 shirts
- 5 shorts
- 1 pants
- 6 underwear (we always pack an extra!)
- 6 socks
- 2 pajamas
- 1 sweatshirt
For my youngest, I will refer to my list and we pick out clothing items together. It’s a great activity to practice counting too!
I like to encourage my kids to make their own decisions about what to pack and offer guidance and suggestions but ultimately let them take the lead.
Finally, once all clothing items are laid out, I will go through everything to make sure all items are accounted for and nothing is forgotten. I will make swaps or suggestions at this point. Then I will fold everything and pack the suitcase.
Packing Tips and Tricks
Over the years I have gotten better and better at packing. I love watching TikToks and YouTube videos of avid travelers sharing their secret hacks. Space-saving products and folding techniques can make a huge difference in the amount of items you can fit in a suitcase.
Maximizing suitcase space
Car space is often limited and airline baggage fees can become insanely expensive – we have a family of 5!
Depsite the fees, we have typically opted to check versus carry on our luggage because it’s hard enough trying to wrangle children through the airport without baggage loading us down too! In this case, we will often try to pack at least 2 people per bag to save on the amount of bags we need to check when we are traveling by air.
As my kids get older and can manage more we may change our approach. Do whatever works for you; maximizing suitcase space is relevant no matter how your bags will get to their destination.
Below are some of my favorite packing tips to save suitcase space:
- Use packing cubes or compression bags. These tools can help you fit more items into your suitcase by compressing them down and making them more compact. They also help keep clothes organized in the suitcase. Some families will organize their clothes by putting one day’s worth of clothes in a ziplock bag, and then packing these individual bags in the packing cubes.
- Pack heavy items at the bottom. Put your shoes or toiletries at the bottom of your suitcase, and clothing on top.
- Roll your clothes. Rolling your clothes instead of folding them can save space and help prevent wrinkles.
- Use every inch of space. Don’t forget to use the space inside your shoes and other items to fit small items like socks and underwear.
- Consider using the “bundle packing” method. This involves wrapping clothes around a central core item (like a pair of shoes) to save space and keep clothes wrinkle-free.
Label your items
While we take traditional roller bags on airplane travel, we got our kids matching duffel bags for road trips and overnight visits. This has been such a game changer for everyone to have their own bag with plenty of space, especially when they may be staying in different rooms when visiting family or staying in a cabin.
Adding a fun luggage tag helps them know whose bag it is. It’s really fun to involve your child in labeling the suitcase with their name, contact information, and other helpful details. Let them pick out their own suitcase tag to express their individuality.
Travel activities and snacks for the trip
Keeping kids busy during travel can be a challenge. Littles want to run and play and staying stuck in a seat is no fun.
One of my toddler’s favorite activities on airplanes is to use this washi road tape and play with his Hotwheels cars. This activity has been a sanity saver and I have often shared the tape with other Moms who need a fresh activity for their kiddo.
This busy book has also been a recent purchase that has become a fan favorite around here.
Other fun Travel ACtivities
- Color or draw – Bring along a small coloring book or pad and some crayons or markers.
- Play with stickers – Stickers can provide hours of entertainment and they’re easy to pack.
- Listen to music – Play some of your toddler’s favorite songs or nursery rhymes on your phone. Don’t forget the kid’s headphones.
- Play with small toys – Pack some small, lightweight toys such as plastic animals or dinosaurs, cars, or small dolls that can easily fit in a carry-on bag.
- Read books – Bring along some of your toddler’s favorite books to read aloud or let them look at the pictures.
- Watch kid-friendly movies or shows – Download some kid-friendly movies or shows on your tablet or phone. Add this tech prep to your spreadsheet as a task that needs attention as many Netflix downloads only save to your device for 48 hours!
- Play simple games – Games like “I Spy” or “Simon Says” can be fun and engaging for toddlers, especially if you make them airplane-themed.
- Take naps – Bring along a comfortable blanket and pillow to help your toddler get some much-needed rest during the flight or car ride.
Snacks are my secret weapon on long travel days. I always make sure to pack a few different options that are easy to pull out when someone starts to get hangry (ok, it’s usually me!).
I like to either buy prepackaged snacks or portion them out in snack bags and keep them in an easy-to-reach spot in my carry-on or car, or each kid will pack a few snacks in their backpack. I try to pack some healthy options, such as cut-up fruit, veggies, or crackers, but I also like to get some special treats too.
Free Packing List For Kids Printable
Recently, I decided to make a printable for my kids with more visual cues on what to pack, which makes packing a lot more fun! I’m sharing it in the free printable library to help other families manage the chaos of packing before a trip.
I have three versions of this printable: boy, girl, and a more gender-neutral kids version. Use whichever one works best for your family.
Each version has sections for common clothing items (shirts, pants, PJs, etc.), a space to fill in how many of each item to pack, and a circle to check off once the items have been procured! There is also space for miscellaneous items that you can fill in the blank.
- Short Sleeve Shirts
- Long Sleeve Shirts
- Sweatshirt / Hoodie
- Miscellaneous items
To download the free printable packing list for kids, simply fill out the form to be sent the password to the free printable library where you will find this under Miscellaneous printables.
I hope you find this printable and the packing suggestions helpfuI to get you and your family off to your destination with a little less stress.
By engaging my children in the packing process, I give them a sense of responsibility and independence. It’s important for them to understand that it’s not always Mom who has to do all the work. Together is much more manageable – and fun!
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