Packing Tip: Let the Kids Pack Their Own Bags

My children are five and seven and have been packing their own bags for the past two years. We would help my youngest but now even she packs her own bags, too.

Why should you let your kids pack their own bags?

Letting my children pack their own bags helps with a number of things. Packing goes much more quickly for me. I am not digging around their drawers to find what they will need. Also, there is no arguing on the trip when it is time to get dressed. They packed their own clothing so if someone complains about the clothing choices, I gently remind them that they packed their own bag.

My kids pack their own activity bags as well. Sometimes, we have a bag full of stuffed animals. On one trip, my son packed 25 Hot Wheel cars. One would think that they would bore easily but my kids don’t seem to complain about being too bored when they pack their own bags. They know what they brought and it is full of things that are important to them.  I also pack a bag with some new activities like fresh crayons, coloring books or sketch pads, new games, and more to surprise them during the trip but for the most part they are stuck with what they pack.

Let the kids help you pack but double check the items.

Don’t get me wrong. Although I let my kids help me pack, I still double check the items to make sure we don’t have fifteen skirts and one shirt for an eight day trip. I have both kids get ready to pack by telling them what to get. For example, I will tell them to get 8 shirts and bottoms that match. They go get the clothing and place it on our couch. Once both kids have finished, I send them in to get the next items. It looks a little like this when we are all finished.

Once we have all our items ready, I pack it in the suitcase myself to make sure it all gets packed.

How do your kids help prepare for a trip?


  1. 1

    I make a list of what everyone need and have them meet me in their rooms. Then we go through the list (ie. pick out 3 shirts, 2 shorts, 1 pair of pants…) and they stack it all at the end of their beds. Then once I have a visual of how much we will require for said trip, I pick out suitcases or bags and we load up. That way they can have the shirts they want, but I can be sure we have all we need. They pack their own backpacks with personal items and books, etc, and they are responsible for that 100%.

  2. 2

    I love your couch picture! That’s what my dining room table looks like right now!

  3. 3

    I tell my kids how many of each item they need and then let them pick them out (although I do have veto power). My middle kid is especially picky about how clothes feel, so this ensures that he’ll actually wear what is packed. I’m still a little too OCD to let them fold and put it in the luggage. They pack their own activity backpacks. My 6-year-old emptied 2 bookshelves of picture books onto her bed and tried to fit them all into her backpack. Needless to say, it didn’t quite work out. : ) I think my in-laws are dismayed I don’t pack for the whole family including my husband.

  4. 4

    I am not yet brave enough to let my kids pack their own clothes, but they are responsible for their own toy bags. I check them before we go, but there are rarely any major problems. I might have to give them more packing responsibility next time.

  5. 5

    Only one of my daughters is allowed to pack her own clothes, although the other one is being given more free reign as she gets older. Sadly, neither the boy nor I are allowed to pack our own suitcases without it being double checked by my wife. Something about “You need more than one pair of pants for a two week trip!” or something like that.

  6. 6

    I meant to add I usually have a bag with a complete change of clothing in it for everyone on the side, even if it’s only a day trip, and esp if it’s a one night to destination trip (so you only have to take 1 or 2 bags into the hotel. You never know if someone will spill fruit punch or coffee or barf on themselves or others. Or you could have one horrible experience like us: we were driving from Kansas to Indiana- an 8-10 hour trip- and in St Louis (the exact middle) we ALL got hit with a short but violent stomach bug. It was all we could do to crawl into a hotel, made worse by having to drag several suitcases in- we were totally unready.
    A friend of mine packs for days on long road trips. By that, she has one suitcase for days 1 and 2, another for day 3, etc, based on what they have planned. She also keeps a master list of what is where just in case she needs to find it.

  7. 7

    My kids have packed their own bags for years and it is such a time saver. I was nervous when they first started but for awhile we were home only for a weekend, I’d wash clothes and we’d pack and head out again with my husbands’ job. I can say that after that year was over, we were all pros at packing!

    My boys even began loading the car during the times that my husband had flown out and we were driving to meet my husband. I’ve not packed a car for years!

  8. 8

    We’ve been having our 3 boys pack their bags since they were 3, 5 and 7. It’s great on how much time it saves. What’s even better is we give them each a packing cube to place their clothes into. When we get to our destination (hotel), each boy gets an assigned drawer and in goes the packing cube. No need to sort through clothes to place into the correct drawer. Those cubes don’t pack as tightly in a suitcase but save tons on time!