If you like traveling and have children, you are faced with a lot of logistics before and during your travel. Depending on the age of your offspring, the gear you will need to take with you, the entertainment and the overall travel plan need to be adapted. This turns any trip into a big project even before you start the journey. If you like traveling and want it to be easy for the whole family, then teaching your children to pack for holidays is the best favor you can do to the whole family. Here’s how I taught mine.
Start teaching the child the key concepts of packing early
My daughter was 5 when we started a game called “combinations”. Before our summer vacation that year, that was going to last 4 weeks, I involved her when I started to pack for holidays: I asked her to make 10 full outfits (top, bottom, socks, underwear) for herself out of her summer clothes. We called each of the outfit a “combination”. She picked her favorite stuff first and of course I helped her match some of the combinations. Then I asked her to pick 2 warmer combinations, in case the weather got a bit chilly, 3 beach outfits and 2 light pajamas. She had to pick a pair of sandals, sneakers and flip flops, and her bikinis.
Then we had a look at her 10 combinations to see if the items would fit between themselves as well, to make some pieces last more than a day. She loved mixing and matching.
At this point, I participated in the selection and I showed her how to fold the clothes and pack it tight in her own suitcase. She was also allowed to take a book, 2 toys, a handbag and some accessories.
This type of packing, of course requires doing a round or two of laundry during your vacation. In many place there is laundry service, where you get your clothes washed and ironed for a small fee. This way you can travel light and wear everything you’ve taken.
The Weather Plays an Important Role
Next time when we traveled we went to a colder place. This meant that the clothes would be bulkier and also that we would use the clothes differently. Unlike t-shirts and shorts, a sweater can be worn several times before you need to wash it. For this type of weather, and for a week long trip, I asked my daughter to make 4 combinations of top and bottom, that should go with tights, 2 sweaters and one hoodie. We added 1 long sleeved top extra, and warm pajamas. This type of layered outfits work well for cold weather. The top layer, used outdoors is not packed, because the children wear it during the trip.
Winter shoes are much bulkier than summer ones, so I usually ask my children to wear their bulkiest pair during the travel. This may not be the most comfortable footwear on a plane, but, as we are living in Scandinavia where you take your shoes off in school, my children are comfortable taking them off on planes, so it is not a big deal.
Fight Your Urge to Control Everything
In the beginning, your child will probably want to bring along a lot of clothing items/combinations that you wouldn’t – here’s where you need to make the trade off: decide what is the key concept that you want to teach the child and only control that part, respecting the child’s decisions in the less important aspect. For example, the first time that we did the “combinations” exercise, several of the items that my daughter put together didn’t really match, but, she did a good job picking the number of clothes that I wanted to. Instead of suggesting different items that would match each of the combination better, I focused on ensuring that there are enough clothing items that were “universal” and that could be used in several combinations. This paid of next time when she already used that concept on her own to pack for holidays.
Praise the Independence
One of the best parts of parenting is that you feel needed and useful, because your children really need you. However, as they grow, your job is to make yourself less needed in their daily life, so that they can become fully functional adults. When you teach your children to pack for holidays, you are teaching them to be independent. Even if it starts early, and you know that they still need your help, do your best to praise the work they do independently.
What is your experience on this matter? Please share it in the comments section below.