Help your kids independently pack for your next family vacation
Once all the fun and excitement of planning a big family vacation has worn off, next comes those last-minute moments of fear and dread to deal with – the packing!!!
After years of having to think of everything from the right electronics plug down to the baby’s favorite pacifier, enough is enough! This mama is ready to start delegating responsibility. It’s time for our kids to at least begin with packing their own clothing and toys ready for a family vacation.
While we don’t expect them to get it right every time, we do now expect they’ll be responsible for gathering the items from around the house and having a say in what outfits will come with us.
The hardest part can be the toys and learning how not to overpack – and you may not win every battle – but our kid’s packing list will help you on your way to teaching your kids these vital independence skills.
This post is part of our packing list series – we have you covered from camping trips to the ultimate family vacation checklist
If you have older kids 10 years+ – head on over to our tweens & teens packing checklist.
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Top tips for kids self-packing
There’s no magic wand that you can wave to get your kids perfectly packing their own suitcases every time – or for that matter – helping at all.
No matter how much of this process they can assist with though, this is a fabulous learning experience for your kids. With small steps and a helpful checklist, you can bring them in as part of the process of what taking a vacation and visiting new places means.
Talk about the weather
It’s likely where you’re going to visit on vacation will have a different climate to what you’re used to experiencing at home.
Will it be hot, cold, a mixture of both where you are going? Explain the importance of having clothing appropriate to deal with the heat (like shorts, hats, sunglasses) or why we might need an extra thick coat and gloves if you’re headed somewhere cold.
It would be a great help if you can show them pictures of kids dressed in the right sort of clothing for where you are going; visual clues are far more helpful than just verbally describing!
Choose the appropriate luggage together
There’s a huge fear if you let your child loose with just the list and no framework or guidance they’ll chronically overpack! Pick out what will work best for the type of travel you’ll be doing:
- Cute little wheelie suitcases look adorable, but are they practical? Will they count towards your luggage allowances or just become another hard object you need to drag along with you? Consider whether your child gets their own wheeled case, or will you share a family suitcase.
- An alternative to a wheelie case is a ride-on suitcase. This can be used as a carry on item with enough storage space for clothing and essentials. We look at the pros and cons of ride-on luggage over here.
- Backpacks in our experience have been the most practical of carry-on items for our kids, so they will separately pack clothing in a family suitcase then have their own independent backpacks for when we’re in transit and for day trips.
- Younger tots only need a very small pack of their own then assume you will be carrying everything else. The most appropriate luggage for a toddler is a small backpack with reins.
Still travelling with car seats and strollers? You may get some bonus packing room around these items as they count separate from your overall baggage allowance on most airlines!
Use packing cubes
Especially handy if the whole family will be sharing suitcase space. Once you’ve decided on the appropriate luggage, your child can be allocated one or two packing cubes which are just for them. You can do it one outfit at a time or a different clothing type in each cube.
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What to Pack for a Family Vacation – Kids Packing list
Kids Packing List – Clothing for Kids
Help your child by marking out how many of each item they should pack then they should be able to independtly select the items. We suggest including:
- Short-sleeve tops
- Long sleeve tops
- Short bottoms
- Long bottoms
- Dressy outfit (if required)
- Flip Flops
Kids Packing List – Personal Care Items
You will likely pack these items together in one large family toiletry bag but it’s important for kids to understand the hygiene basics. We suggest they should be able to assist with gathering up:
- Their own teeth brushing kit
- A comb or brush for their hair
- Something to wash with – soap, shampoo from the bathroom
Remember if you’re taking a carry on only plane trip as part of your vacation, all of these items need to be in tubes under 100ml/3cl.
If you’ll be packing family sized versions of any of these simply cross them off your child’s own packing list.
Kids Travel Bag
There’s a huge propensity to overload on little goodies when we pack. I know we’ve vastly overdone it in the past when it comes to kiddy entertainment. There are loads of brilliant busy bag type ideas out there on Pinterest, but seriously, you don’t need to try them all at once!
Assuming they will only need to be carrying their own toys, we recommend a good mix for a carry on bag includes:
- A favourite cuddly
- Electronics & headphones
- A book (or depending on ages ebook reader/audiobook)
- Puzzle or game
- Coloring and pencil set or Water Wow books for younger ones
- Stickers/creative activity set
We have a load more tips when it comes to the best types of travel toys for every mode of transport! Start here with our Ultimate Guide to Travel Toys, but we also have age category lists and toys especially for road trips and flying – find the full travel toy directory here!
More packing help for families
In addition to this little kid packing list, we have a load more handy resources to get you packed and on your way.
- Our complete family vacation checklist – everything from pre-departure things to do, important documents, electronics, the big and small kiddy gear you may forget and even clothing and entertainment for you too! This is essential to download before any vacation.
- Packing list for tweens and teens – greater independence we’ve added even more items for them to pack on their own
- Baby travel packing list – the most important items not to forget when travelling with an infant
- Desert & beach camping packing list – everything you can think of needing for a sand camping trip with kids
- Hiking packing list – never miss a beat with all these handy items you’ll want on you and in your day packs when hitting the trails
- Road trip essentials – preparing the car, people and positioning everything right so it’s easy to grab! Here’s what we always take on a family road trip
- Toiletries and first aid essentials for travel – a super-detailed list of exactly what goes into our first aid kit, plus a cut out emergency details card.
Not ready to pack just yet? Bookmark this page or save it to Pinterest for later
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