More often than not, moms are responsible for packing for vacation. It would be one thing if we only had to worry about packing our own suitcase; but, we typically pack for everyone else in the family as well.
This year, let the kids help. Children as young as four and five can assist while older children should be able to handle most or all of the job themselves. Not only will this make packing for vacation easier on you, you'll be teaching your children some valuable organizational skills at the same time.
Use these tips and suggestions for getting your children involved with packing for vacation.
It's difficult to teach your children how and what to pack if you're not organized about it yourself. Use these packing lists as a good starting point:
You might also want to review this travel checklist for all of the other tasks you need to consider as you prepare for vacation.
The Family Vacation Meeting
Once you've thought through the packing process and have things under control, schedule a family meeting.
Consider making the meeting part of a vacation theme night. Going to the beach? Serve fish for dinner and hold your meeting while everyone eats their coconut ice cream for dessert. Or perhaps you're going to Disney? Serve breakfast for dinner and make pancakes shaped like Mickey Mouse.
As part of your family meeting:
- Bring a calendar - block off the days you'll be on vacation. Count the total number of days you'll be gone. Also count the number of days until you leave.
- Discuss where you're going and what you'll be doing. Ask your children to think of all of the things they will need to take with them. Make a list. They'll probably need to be reminded that a toothbrush and toothpaste belong on the list.
- Talk about how you'll get there. Are you flying or driving? What toys or games do your children want to take for the plane or the car?
After the meeting, make a packing list for each child. For younger children who cannot yet read, include a picture of each item.
The Packing Process
For younger children, it's a team effort:
- Number individual sheets of paper to correspond with the number of days you'll be on vacation.
- Spread the sheets of paper across the floor of your child's bedroom.
- Help your child select outfits for each day. Put each one on top of one of the numbered papers. You'll also reinforce counting skills without your child even realizing it.
- Use your checklist to prompt for all of the other things that will be needed (underwear, socks, shoes, pajamas, etc.).
- Let your child cross each item off the list as it's added to the collection of items to pack.
- Finish the process by putting everything into a suitcase, zipping it up and removing the suitcase from the room. Younger children seem to enjoy unpacking even more than packing.
For older children, it's a supervised effort:
- Give them individual packing lists with instructions to put everything out on their beds.
- Consider including a pen in a bright color or one associated with a favorite sports team to make crossing items off the packing list more fun.
- Once everything on the list has been pulled together, conduct an inspection. Try not to micro-manage this process even if your son has decided to pack all gray t-shirts. You can always throw a few in of a different color later.
- When your child has passed inspection and you're confident he has everything he needs, let him pack his suitcase.
The Day Before
Establish a vacation command center in your home. This can be the dining room table, the guest bedroom, the living room or your bedroom.
Instruct your children to bring to the command center everything they plan to take but that's not already packed including:
- Portable DVD Player
- Chargers for all electronic devices
- Destination items - sand buckets, balls, crafts, etc.
Help your children pack travel-day activities in a backpack or small bag.
With the exception of a few items, everything should be packed the day before. Make this a non-negotiable rule. Sleepy children tend to forget important items when they wait to pack until the morning you are leaving.
You're Almost There...
Vacation day is finally here, and all of the hard work you've put into packing for vacation is about to pay off:
- Gather any last-minute toiletries.
- Spend a few minutes with each child walking through his bedroom and bathroom looking for anything that has been accidentally left behind. You can lock windows and close blinds as you go.
- Have your child double check his travel-day backpack one last time.
This packing process gets easier with each passing year as your children become more self-sufficient. Just like the trips themselves, an organized approach to packing for vacation will become a family tradition.