Teaching Kids to Pack for Vacation: Travel Tips Tuesday

It's Travel Tips Tuesday!  Please join Walking on Travels and myself as we share our favorite travel tips and invite you to share yours, as well!

Like most moms, I have a set of superpowers that make my job a little easier.  Of course, I have the eyes in the back of my head and the sixth sense for when someone is doing something wrong.  But, I also have an extra special superpower that allows me to keep the family calendar and all other needs straight in my head without the aid of a calendar or planner.   This is not a foolproof superpower. There is a level of crazy that is like kryptonite for my superpowers, and I have to resort to making lists to keep my brain from exploding.  It doesn’t happen often, but when I break out the checklists, everyone views that as a harbinger of a potential momma meltdown.   Come to think of it, the presence of a checklist is almost always followed by the Mister offering to make dinner.  Hmmmm……

As I was preparing to head off on a seven day Caribbean cruise, I found it to be surprisingly difficult to figure out what to pack.  Although I generally consider myself an expert packer, packing for a cruise is something that has stymied me more than once.   It’s something about the need to pack for both casual and formal wear, and a variety of activities that just confuses my packing circuits. 

So, I started making a list.  Duh dun dunnn!

First, I started with a general list, but that wasn’t working, so I started breaking my list down by days.  What started as a way to organize my own thoughts transformed into a way to help my kids to learn how to pack their own bags for an extended trip.  The boys have been able to pack for an overnight or weekend trip for a long time, but they have never packed for a lengthy trip, or really worked at thinking about what they would need in their bag for a variety of events.

Class was in session!

step by step packing

Teaching Kids to Pack for Vacation

Step One: I wrote each day of the trip onto a notecard along with a note about the activities for that day.  Knowing that a bunch of tweenaged boys would have no idea what to pack for a day at sea with a formal dress code, I also made a list of what they needed to retrieve from their closets.

Step Two: With a detailed list for each day, I sent the boys off to find clothes that matched the description on the card. 

Step Three: They presented their selections for inspection, and I nixed anything that had holes in the knees or violated any fashion police rules.   They went back for a second round, if needed.

Step Four: Approved clothing options were stacked next to the corresponding day.  I listed each outfit on the back of the card and made any notes of things we might need to purchase.  *Note: This part of the process was probably superfluous, but I got a little geeked out enjoying my new packing scheme.  Feel free to skip this part if you don’t get some kind of OCD enjoyment in making little check marks next to completed tasks.

Step Five:  Clothes were stacked by day (not by person) and placed into the suitcases.  This is my favorite method of packing because it makes it easier to find clothes for everyone in the family each day.

I was very pleased with how easy it was for the kids to see what they needed to pack for each day of our trip.  I think the key to this system was listing the clothing needs so that they could see it in black and white, and in breaking it down by day so they didn’t get overwhelmed.  I’ll be using this system again for the next few trips, so that they can get the hang of packing their own bags. 


  1. says

    Great ideas! I usually just give my kids simple instructions – 7 pairs of underwear, 7 shorts, 7 shirts and then I try to make them work together. I exchange/replace what I can't make work. I like your idea better for older kids.

  2. says

    I love this idea to help kids help themselves.  My kids pack their own clothes also but I tell them what to do.  Go get three shirts and pants that go together.  Now go get 3 pairs of pjs.  I think this would be great for reading practice for my little ones!


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