Rudey's Room

8 Steps to Teach Your Kids How to Pack a Suitcase

“I am not the same, having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world.”

– Mary Anne Radmacher


To see the moon on the other side of the world, ahhh, it’s something …

I have the travel bug and am forever dreaming of my next, and next, and next trip … so of course I wanted the girls to get bit at a young age.

It’s way I asked my parents to buy them suitcases a few years ago as Christmas presents.

A suitcase inspires wonderlust.

I like to see my suitcase in front of my bed. waiting. anticipating the trip to come.

It’s odd, but this visual fills me with joy. Did you remember the all-systems-go backpack days before the start of the school year? It’s like that. I feel giddy.

And I like my lists. I like my prep work.

Sure, I could throw together a weekend bag and pop out the door in under an hour, but that’s not my m.o.

I take after my dad who isn’t shy about packing for trip to Marco Island a week before departure. In fact, he’s anxious if he’s not ready to roll days out.

This year, our flight leaves at 6 a.m. Saturday. The night before I want to have the suitcases at the door, a taxi dialed up, and my hand in the popcorn bowl. Friday night, I’ll be horizontal on the couch, watching a movie with the girls, and sipping an IPA.

You know I like to share with my girls how-tos, and packing is one of them.

8 Steps to Teach Your Kids How to Pack a Suitcase

1. Preliminary Mental Walk Through. This year, we’re flocking to South Florida for Spring Break. At this time of year, it’s difficult to say where are sundresses are living and whether or not the girls have appropriately-sized swimsuits. The first step is to take inventory of what you already have in your wardrobe. This is where you talk about the length of the trip, the weather at your destination, and the activities you have in mind. This is when you discuss needs and wants. 

Clearly, Stella needed these.


Fear not, I’ll link arms with her on the walk to dinner so she doesn’t turn her ankle. I’m such a sucker for fun shoes.

2. Prepare a Packing List. I had every intention to type two packing lists – a straight forward, adult-like list for my third grader and a large font, picture list with check boxes for my Kinder. Alors, my oldest asked for hers on a Post-it note (you know I’m a fan) and she wanted to handwrite and draw Stella’s.


The medium doesn’t really matter and you can tailor it to your child’s needs. I pulled this free printable kids packing lists to inspire you in your own list making. With older children and teens, you can simply hand off the list and send them packing. With younger ones, I suggest a read aloud and a little guidance before you …

3. Let Them Have at It in their Closet. My girls have their own style and this way they can select their favorite looks. Let your child gather the items she wants for the trip. It gives her ownership of both the task and in choosing her clothes, she’s likely to love what she packed. You’ve walked her through the list and now let let her decide. Maybe it’s ten sundresses, one swimsuit, and three pajama tops. Who cares … at first. It makes her feel important and shows you trust her with the responsibility. We’ve all packed to much before, n’est-ce pas?

Bonus: As she’s rummaging through her closet, you can start piecing together your outfits for the trip.

If you’re child is in second grade or above, you can skip steps four through and six. If not, go on to the …

4. First Round Viewing. Once she’s pulled the looks she loves from her closet and dresser, have her set them in organized piles on the bed.


This gives you a snapshot of what she had in mind and ensures you don’t wind up with her entire Shopkins’ collection, an assortment of odd socks, and no t-shirts. (Trust me, this happened. Fortunately it was on a overnight trip to my in-laws).

5. Walk through the Picks Together. With my six year old, it’s key to reread the packing list and check off one category at a time, together. This is your chance to review her selections and discuss what’s needed. Does she really need the glittery Disney Belle dress for dinner on the beach? Did she pull out enough underwear? (I calculate the length of the trip + 1).

This step teaches her how to be selective and how to think about what’s essential. It also gives you control to check on the mission-critical stuff.

6. Demonstrate How to Pack. Show her how to roll and stuff, how to fold to keep dresses wrinkle proof, and where to tuck shoes, books, and zip-locked sunscreen. You can use your suitcase as a model, but let her do it herself.

7. I Double Check the List and the Suitcase. Unless you’re head to Machu Picchu or need two months lead time for packing the necessities, it’s a.o.k. if something is left behind. I know in Florida there are Publix and Aqua Surf shops within a few blocks for any missing items. That being said, I like to take a peek once the suitcase is zip ready.

8. Congratulate your child. She was part of the pre-trip preparation and this is a step toward independence.

Bon Voyage!



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