Every year our family takes a vacation. Since my children have been babies in strollers I have been working on packing strategies. People think that when kids get older it gets easier. I disagree, it gets different. My packing plans had to include them and their heart desires, not mine.
I do love vacationing, and now that I have a pretty efficient system packing is easy.
First, we get our personal suitcases ready. Toddlers to teens can drag a suitcase behind them on rollers. Smaller suitcases accommodate younger children much better and I get my suitcase to myself. Older children can of course, have a larger suitcase that they will be responsible for on the trip.
Individual suitcases develop independence in toddlers. Giving them a job helps them to feel important in the family. Older children are given responsibility to take care of their personal belongings. Teens are notorious for forgetting items needed on a vacation. As moms, we feel obligated to help them pack. One time we arrived at our winter vacation only to realize that one of our older children did not follow his list. Pajamas, socks and underwear were forgotten. He literally had one pair of pants and two shirts for the weekend. Natural consequences reassured me that this would never happen again. I did not even say a word. At night, he was very uncomfortable sleeping in jeans.
Next, it’s time to get the backpacks. I allow my kids to pack their individual backpacks. Activities, snacks, toys, game’s, headphones and other stuff occupy the backpacks.
I started this with my toddlers because they wanted to pack every toy they had and then would be upset there were no snacks. Helping my toddlers become more independent is the goal. Working together to pack their activity bag again keeps them engaged in the trip, but allows them choices.
The older children can pack favorite toys, movies and what they want in their activity bags. Setting out on a road trip where everyone from toddler to a teen is semi organized can be a good start.
Finally, I make a list with each child. I started doing this even when most of my children were non-readers. I would print out pictures to make a list for them. Then, they would scamper off and pack. Toddlers need more help packing and following a list. Even though they need help, allowing them to “pack” their bag encouraged them. My teenager found it very helpful making a list. He liked my list, but struggled to make his list. Before each vacation I would help by making part of the list and requesting him to finish the packing list.
Helping him learn to make a list for what he would need established good habits. List making is one of our required skills to take into adulthood.
Our family packing time has almost been cut in half since implementing more independence in our children. Toddlers to teens can take part in packing for the vacation to relieve stress on mom and dad. Holding jobs in a family teaches responsibility, work ethic, and selflessness.
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