Welcome to our ultimate guide for kids to pack your own suitcase!
When I was a kid, my parents were Scout leaders and one of their rules was that kids should pack their own suitcases. My mum always said that if the kids packed themselves, they knew what they had in their bag or rucksack and how to find things. And they were able to pack to go home.
Now I have my own kids, I can see exactly what she meant. My kids have been packing their own suitcases since they were little. In the beginning, I’d check to ensure that they didn’t have 12 t-shirts and one pair of trousers for a week-long holiday but now I just remind them to take their toothbrush and any vital pieces of kit.
First think about where you are going, how long you are going to be away, and if there are any cultural norms in the country you are visiting. In some countries, for example, girls wearing strappy tops or shorts is frowned upon, particularly when visiting religious buildings.
What kind of holiday is your family planning? Do you go to the beach for two weeks or camping and hiking in the mountains? You’ll might still want to take swimwear to the mountains but can leave your walking boots at home for the beach holiday!
How are you getting there? If you are flying, what limits do you have for luggage? A lot of airlines limit weight of suitcases to 20kg but check with your parents to be sure.
Will you be in a hotel or a holiday home, which may have a washing machine? Your parents may not want to do washing while you are away so check with them. Put the clothes you want to take in the washing at least a week before you start packing. This avoids arguments with your parents the day before you leave on holiday because your favourite t-shirt is in the washing basket!
Make a List
Some people pack complete outfits, others prefer to take a selection of trousers/skirts and tops/tshirts that they can mix and match. Whichever way you choose, it’s a good idea to take a couple of extra items in case you spill something and have to change clothes more than expected.
Start with these items and adjust to suit your preferences and the time you’ll be away. If you are going away for more than a week, you’ll probably have to wash some clothes after the first week is over.
Example Packing List for One Week
- 10 pairs of underwear
- 10 pairs of socks
- 3 – 4 bras or cropped tops if you wear them
- 7 t-shirts or tops
- 3 – 4 pairs of trousers or skirts
- 1 – 2 dresses if you wear them
- 2 PJs
- Shoes and sandals
- Jacket and/or cardigan/pullover (depending on weather)
- Toys and games
- Favourite cuddly toy
- Book or magazine
Lay Everything Out
Now take everything out of your wardrobe and cupboards and put on your bed.
If you aren’t packing complete outfits, make sure you have items that you can combine in different ways. You don’t want to come home with unwashed tops that you couldn’t wear because they didn’t go with any of your trousers!
Get rid of bulky and heavy items unless you really need them. If you are going somewhere cold, it’s best to wear these items to travel rather than take up space in your suitcase.
Shoes take up a lot of space and weight so think about which ones you really need. Flipflops or slipper socks are handy for wearing around the hotel or holiday home.
Now is the time to discard a whole lot of unneccessary items. Take a good look at the stuff on your bed and ask yourself ‘Do I REALLY need this?’.
Pack Your Own Suitcase!
Rolling clothes saves space but can make your clothes more wrinkly and harder to find in your suitcase. This video is pretty amazing – I’m not sure it’s necessary unless you are REALLY short of space but you can try out both methods and see which you prefer!
Rolling up socks and putting them in your shoes saves a lot of space. Fill gaps as much as possible with small items.
Leave space in your bag for souvenirs from your trip.
Gadgets and Chargers
Check with your parents to find out which gadgets are allowed on the trip. Get them out the day before and ensure that they are fully charged and have new batteries. If you have a camera, does it have a specific charger for the battery?
Can you double up any of the chargers? If you are taking a phone and a tablet, check to see if you can use the same charger for both.
Is the journey a long one? Will you need some of your chargers while you are on the go? Find out if you’ll need hand luggage for the trip, and decide which of your gadgets you can do without, and which you’ll want for the journey.
One way of saving space and hassle is to take a multi USB charger plug like this one which can be used in many different countries – don’t forget to check if you’ll need an adaptor before you go! If you and your family have a lot of devices, it might be worth taking a extension lead with you so you just need one adaptor.
If you are going on holiday with your parents, check with them to see if they are taking shampoo and shower gel for the whole family. Otherwise, travel sizes are a good way to limit weight.
Make sure your toiletries are closed properly so they don’t leak and pop them into a washbag so they nothing gets onto your clothes.
Depending on where you are going and how you are getting there, you might need hand luggage for the trip. Here are some things to put in your hand luggage:
- Gadgets and chargers (see above)
- Essential medicines and toiletries
- Spare set of underwear – again, if you are flying, this doesn’t take up much room and could be really helpful if your case gets lost or delayed!
- Book or magazine
- Neck pillow or a cotton scarf that you can use to rest your head on
- Snacks and water – no chocolate or messy food, and water is better than fizzy drinks that might spill and make a mess
Ensure that you comply with safety regulations if you are flying.
The main one you need to know about is no liquids over 100ml, and all toiletries must be kept in a clear plastic bag that you take out and put on the security conveyer belt. You can buy these bags at supermarkets and chemist or online. You can also use a ziplock bag, which is a bit less expensive than these bags. It does have to be resealable though, so a normal sandwich bag won’t do!
You can’t take aerosols, knives, scissors or other dangerous items in your hand luggage. These items have to be packed in your main suitcase which goes in the hold of the plane.
Find out more about the hand luggage restrictions in UK airports here and in the carry on bag restrictions in the United States here. If you live elsewhere, google the name of your country and ‘hand luggage restrictions’ but they are generally very similar worldwide.
Important Information about Medicines
“There are some weird rules about medicines, so it is sensible to get your parents to check the FCO website, take labelled meds (which might mean having the outer box) and have a copy of your prescription so you can prove what it is for. I always recommend taking meds in hand luggage so there is no panic if checked-in luggage goes astray and it is more temperature controlled so less likely to cause drugs to deteriorate.”
Thanks to our contributor Asha for this information!
Take a bag with you for dirty laundy to keep clean clothes separate from the ones you’ve worn. It’s best to dry swimwear before packing to come home, but if you don’t have time, put it in a plastic bag to make sure you don’t get everything all wet!
When you get home, unpack right away – the longer you leave it, the more annoyed you’ll get when you keep tripping over your suitcase!