Managing expectations for teen packing and how to help them on their way to being master vacation packers!
Oh, how times have changed from travelling with babies and toddlers and having a million things to think about packing for everyone to… wait! Hang on, am I the only one still packing for everyone, every time?!
Enough is enough! It’s time for my teens and tweens to start packing their own cases this summer. With some grateful help from Miss Z, we’ve worked up this handy packing list that your tweens and teens can work through to assist with packing their own cases for your next vacation.
We can’t guarantee it’s a fail-safe plan – and there won’t be some fairly animated discussions about WANT and NEED along the way – but it’s certainly a great starting point for their journey towards independently packing for themselves.
This post is part of our packing list series – we have you covered from camping trips to the ultimate family vacation checklist
Top tips for teen packing
Whilst we want our teens and even our maturing tweens (pre-teens) to have independence in the packing and preparation process, a little guidance doesn’t go astray to ensure they can carry this out to their fullest.
Before anything goes in a bag read these teenager packing tips!
Consider what sort of bag
Is it just an overnight trip with friends or a weekender where everything will fit in a backpack? Or a longer trip where a suitcase and small travel backpack/purse will be needed?
There are lots of options when it comes to luggage, so we have a separate guide over here that deals with appropriate teenager suitcases and luggage sets to find the appropriate practical and stylish travel gear for your teen.
Don’t forget, in addition to their main luggage, they may also need:
Talk about the expected weather
Remind them we can plan for some, but not all, weather conditions. It may be colder or hotter than we think, so have the right number of layers you can adjust and avoid the overpack.
Preventing the overpack
Now I can’t claim I’m your best minimalist packer, but there are ways to keep available space under control. Talk to teens before you get going about saving space, packing items inside one another, rolling, not folding, using packing cubes and other space-saving techniques – you’ll always come back with more than you started with! You’ll find our full guide to pro-packing tips here!
Awareness of cultural sensitivity
In many countries, teenagers are expected to act and behave like adults. This includes how they dress, which is particularly important if your travels may see you in more conservative countries (you can see, for example, our guide to UAE dress code published here).
Explain the importance of dressing for cultural sensitivity; sometimes these rules and expectations take precedents over fashion. It’s good to have these discussions a few weeks out so any appropriate changes in wardrobe can be made before you go.
Sloganned t-shirts fall into this category too. What may be appropriate or funny in your home country may not be viewed the same internationally or in other languages.
Use a packing list!
Of course, that’s what you’re here for! Don’t just print it off and expect everything to appear ready and packed magically. Go through it together with your teen at the start of the process. Specify where they might want several of an item or what won’t be needed on this trip, or there may be items like toiletries or electronics you can pack as a family.
Got younger kids? Pop over here to our little kid’s packing list – ideal for your under 10s who want a little more independence!
Teen Travel Packing Checklist
Here’s a detailed guide of what we pack for our teens, or you can grab the PDF version for easy printing HERE.
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Teenager Packing List – items for the journey
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Water Bottles – hydration is key; just remember you’ll need it empty before heading through any airport security. We love Ecovessel insulated bottles, but if you are heading anywhere with questionable water quality, try the Brita Water Filter Bottle, available in many stylish colors.
Wallet/Purse – your teen will likely be in control of their own cash now so essential to have a small wallet or purse with only the necessary items for your trip (remove all those library cards and gym members you don’t need), keep it to the essentials in the unfortunate event it may get pinched.
Electronics – for most teens, this will likely mean a smartphone. Keep it in a secure, smash-proof case for the journey and check that everyone in the family’s electronic devices are covered by travel insurance (if your teen is travelling without you, do they need any of their gear insured?)
Charger Cord – a small but essential item easily forgotten on the move, check you have enough cords for all devices (think smartphone, headphones, smartwatch, camera, tablet, etc, etc!)
Battery pack – don’t fear the flat battery en route, get your teen a pocket/purse-sized charger pack for the journey.
Books/magazines/e-reader – whether you’re an old-school page-turner or something more modern with an e-ink touchscreen, reading material for a long journey is always handy.
Coloring/Puzzle books – older kids need entertainment too! A mindfulness coloring book, crossword or puzzle book, anything to keep hands and mind occupied that’s not reliant on batteries – we have a good selection of ideas here for older kids.
Card games – ditto, some old school entertainment, playing cards or UNO cards are a great way to pass the time anywhere you go.
Notebook and pen – we’re not suggesting they’ll be writing out old-style letters, but it’s ALWAYS handy to have a pen and something to scribble on nearby.
Tissues – obvious reasons! Don’t just rely on Mom having one!!!
Lip balm – dehydration happens on the move; guys and girls should always have one of these slipped in their daypack.
Sanitizer & face mask – likewise, never leave home without one these days; everyone needs to play their part no matter where in the world and vaccine status.
Snacks – again, no more relying on mom to have everything in her handbag, on long journey your tween and teens should take their own high energy & health snacks, something to suck on for take-off and landing on an airplane helps too.
Emergency details card – we always recommend our teens and tweens carry somewhere on them emergency details, who to call at home, insurance, police, details of where you’re staying – you can grab a cutout version in our family travel checklists collection
Optional – if these functions aren’t all included with a smartphone or other device:
- Calculator (think currency calculations)
- Small torch
Teenager Packing List – Clothing
Quantity and type of clothing are highly dependent on location – and fashion needs, of course! As a list of basics to think about then, you can expand or accessories as need be:
- Short-sleeve tops
- Long sleeve tops
- Short bottoms (skirts, shorts)
- Long bottoms (jeans, cargos, leggings)
- Dressy outfit (if required)
- A nice jacket
TOP TIP: It’s a good idea before things disappear into the suitcase to get your teens to lay their clothes out on the bed first. Check that there are coordinating outfits, enough layers to keep them warm and footwear for each outfit.
Teenager Packing List – Shoes
Here is what your teen should be bringing in the shoe compartment of his or her suitcase (yes, they can get it down to max 4 sets of shoes – try!):
- Comfortable athletic-type shoes for walking (especially for city trips of Disney parks, for example)
- Casual everyday shoes or sandals
- Flipflops or waterproof shoes
- Dressy shoes (if needed for a nice restaurant, night out or family event)
TOP TIP: If you use packing cubes, shoes can be kept separate from the rest of your clean clothing. Don’t forget to fill any empty spaces with socks!
Teenager Packing List – Beach Essentials
If beaches, pools and outside summer adventures are on the agenda, there are quite a few beachy extras they’ll want to pack in their own beach bag:
Swimmers – something suitable for where you’ll be – remembering itsy bitsy bikinis are cute but will they work in a water park or with crashing waves?
Sunscreen – crucial even for your independent teen to constantly remind about skincare. A face stick, lip balm and after-sun gel too – we love the reef-safe Sun Bum range.
Hat – whatever suits your teens look, they may not be as keen on the wide-brim kids’ hats anymore, but there are plenty of designs that still give good protection over the neck and ears.
Sunglasses – style it up but do be careful not to bring your most expensive precious pair if they’ll be pool of sand, worn in the pool etc.
Swim cover-up – the girls especially might like a cover-up after they swim for modesty and skin protection.
Flip flops – or whatever style of beach shoe you’d prefer.
Pool toys – never too old to keep having fun in the water! Novelty floatie anyone?
Microfibre towel – the newest tech in towels is lightweight microfibre, which squishes up nicely to fit in your beach bag and dries fast.
Waterproof phone case – if you don’t have a waterproof camera but still want to capture the fun at the pool or the beach, a waterproof case your teen can sling around their neck is essential.
We have a complete family checklist for the beach here if you’ll be sharing resources for the beach.
Teenager Packing List For Winter Travel
If your travel plans are to somewhere cold, don’t forget these additional clothing items for winter travel:
Boots – again, styles it to the suitable needs, waterproof, sturdy and stylish leather for city streets, or all-terrain gear for outdoor adventures.
Scarf – all the warmth you can get!
Beanie – extra head warmth, you can really have fun and style it up.
Gloves – thinner gloves + thicker outer gloves for snow sports.
Thermal layer – layers are your friend going into cold climates, a nice microfleece thermal underlayer is your foundation.
Extra thick socks – depending on how soggy they may get, lots and lots of socks!
Teenager Packing List – For Toiletries and Accessories
Down to the nitty-gritty, this list will vary for guys and girls and just how complex your tween or teens beauty routine is. Take all of these as suggestions and cross out anything not needed:
- Toothbrush & toothpaste
- Shampoo & conditioner
- Hairstyling products
- Scrunchies/hair ties
- Travel soap bar
- Shaving gear
- Basic first aid needs
- Girls sanitary products
- Small clippers/scissors and tweezers
- Contact lens case & solution
- Glasses case
- Prescription medicines
TOP TIP: If you’ll be travelling carry-on only, make sure all your toiletries are kept in a see-through bag for customs in bottles under 3oz/100ml
More family packing lists!
We have a whole section on our website dedicated to packing lists you may want to dip into for further inspiration, why not try:
- Our complete family packing list
- Baby travel packing list
- Desert & beach camping packing list
- Hiking packing list
- Toiletries and first aid essentials for travel
You may also be interested in our travel gift guide for teenagers – ideas to surprise your teen with before their next big adventure
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