This is the second in a series of posts on traveling with kids. Please click here for Part One!
If we are flying, I usually pack each child a separate duffle bag with their clothes. Each child usually gets three to five everyday outfits, one “church outfit,” a swimsuit, five pairs of underwear and socks, two pajamas, sneakers, flip flops/sandals, dress shoes, hair brush, hair accessories, and toothbrush. Then I put all of the duffle bags into one or two large suitcases, which I can check for free thanks to the credit card we use. If we are driving, I skip putting the duffles in a suitcase.
Remember in my last post, when I encouraged you to involve your kids in packing? I only sort-of meant that. When it comes to the essentials, I pack for the children who are twelve and under, while our teenager packs for herself (though I’m always happy to help). But here’s the thing: I pack for them when they are asleep or otherwise not around. I know what we’re doing, I know what needs to be with us, etc. Without any “help,” I make sure we have the essentials.
That said, kids love packing for themselves. You know how I’m always ringing the “empower your child and give her a sense of agency” bell? Well, freeing her up to pack her own bag is a great way to empower her. To that end, I invite/encourage each child to pack their carry-on bags, and I let them bring whatever they want (assuming it’s not going to get us kicked off the plane!)
For example, in preparation for our most recent cross country flight last week, my son packed his microscope and specimen slides, a Harry Potter book, and a large peanut butter jar full of coins. I did remind him that the large jar with coins would make his bag feel mighty heavy as we hiked through the airport, but he was undeterred. I let it go. My daughter brought several dolls, a pillow, and more clothes. My four-year-old packed his Bible. I did not overrule anything—I just reiterated that they would need to be responsible for their backpacks for the duration of the trip, because I have my own bag to carry.
Ever since they were around three years old, even a bit younger, my kids have carried their own carry-on bags. It’s so empowering for them, and while they might get tired of carrying them once the novelty wears off, it is so good for them to have this responsibility! And not for nothing, but there are few things on earth cuter than a three-year-old carrying his own backpack on board a plane. Strangers get the biggest kick out of my kids carrying their own load.
Are there times when we get toward the end of a trip and someone is whimpering or full-on wailing? Of course. These are kids. This is when I and the older kids pitch in and help the younger ones along. In the end, though, it’s a great chance for little ones to feel “big.” And that is always a good thing.