Do You Let Kids Pack Their Own Bags?

by Matt Villano

Do You Let Kids Pack Their Own Bags?

Packing for trips is an adventure in our house. The reason: We let our girls choose what to pack.

Packing for trips is an adventure in our house. The reason: We let our girls pack their own bags.

On rare occasions, they pack stuff they might actually need or use on a trip. Most of the time, however, the two of them fill their suitcases with a litany of random stuff.

Our older girl’s performances have provided some of the biggest laughs. For our first trip to Disneyland, she stuffed her bed pillow in her suitcase. In 2011, when we went to England, she brought a jar of peanut butter (because she wasn’t sure she’d have that in the Cotswolds. She also has “packed” her clock radio, a basketball and a dresser drawer.

(How she even managed to get the drawer out of the dresser, we still don’t know.)

The baby—who’s now almost 16 months—is still developing a packing style; to this point she has opted mostly for puzzle pieces and blocks. For one trip, she loaded her bag with diapers and wipes. For another trip, she just dumped her bedroom garbage can in the bag and called it a day.

Powerwoman and I monitor this ritual closely. When the girls are “done,” we remove the bags and place them in our bedroom.

Later that night, when the kiddos are asleep, we empty the suitcases of most (but never all) desultory content and pack them with the stuff the kids really need—undies, socks, dresses, and so on.

Why do we go through all of this effort?

Because they love it, since it’s something they can control. Because the process seems to give them a real sense of ownership over what they choose to bring. We also have embraced the packing routine because it’s just plain fun—to paraphrase Forrest Gump, opening their bags is like opening a box of chocolates, since you never know what you’re going to get.

My wife and I have learned over the years that when it comes to traveling with kids, independence is like Moroccan Oil—a little goes a long way. For all of us.