Self-help skills – Packing for a Trip

Traveling has been a big part of our family life for the past decade or so. We have always loved taking short overnight trips to get to know the different places where we have been around. As the girls grew we gave them each their own list of things to pack.

For me the easiest way to get my girl to help is to break the tasks down into smaller ones.

 Where am I putting my stuff?

Each girl had a backpack and a smaller suitcase just for them.  I also made a simple picture packing list to help us work on packing together.  You want to make this a fun task and a teachable moment. They will learn to pack how YOU want them to pack. This may be putting the whole outfit in a zip top bag, or rolled, or folded.

One of my friends packs her kid’s complete outfit in gallon size zip top bags. When the kid is done with the outfit, it goes back in the bag and it does not stink up the rest of the clean clothes.  I prefer using a small travel compression bag for the small items like socks, underwear, PJs, bathing suits, and a larger one for the rest of the clothes. At the end, one becomes our dirty clothes bag.

What am I packing?

Depending on your child’s age and ability this task will also need to be modified.  When my girls were little and non readers, I made a little print out on my computer to help them know what I wanted them to lay out. As they grew both in skills and ability, you can modify the lists.


Some things don’t change, like having to pack your toiletries, favorite toy or blanket.  So those were easy to pre-pack. A visit to your supermarket and there you can find travel size toothpaste, soaps, shampoo, etc. Or you can get travel size bottles and use your own soaps, creams, etc.


Where are we going?

We all know that depending on where we are going we will either take our bathing suits or our coats and gloves.  Are we going to Grandma’s house for the holidays? Do I need to take nice clothes and shoes?   Some of us will have to pack all the red shoes and purple socks our kids own, because that are comfort items that prevent melt downs. (If only the rest of our friends and family understood)

How are we getting there?

Road trips are fun and give us any number of opportunities for teachable moments. At the same time, we might hear the never ending “Are we there yet?” Also, depending on the size of our car we will have to be cautious on how much we can carry. If it was up to my daughter, she would pack all her movies and music. Thank goodness for MP3 players and tablets those allow us to carry any number of movies and music without a lot of space.

When flying, we also have different restrictions, not only on the weight and size of our bags but also on what can be put in the carry-on. Check with the airline to get the best and most up to date information.

For those of us traveling with medicine and medical items, I have always asked our doctors to write a simple letter stating my daughter’s condition and the need for those items to be with her at all times.  Once again, I recommend checking with the airlines or with Transportation Security Administration (TSA) before your trip.

What my kid can’t live without?

Depending on our child’s age, disability or preference, there are certain items that will be their comfort items when going to a new place. Our kids might need a special blanket, pillow, a bedtime book, or something to help them feel safe in a new environment.

I was traveling with my girl for work one time and she decided that day she needed a light. Well, there was no way I was going out at that time to find one, enter my smart phone to the rescue. Not only did I find several apps, some even had music and would go off after a while.

You can find some of the different types of travel lists I have created for my kid on the pages part of the blog. Here is the link: Sample Packing lists

Summer is coming to an end, and most of us will not travel for a while, however, this doesn’t mean we can’t use some of these lists and ideas to help our kids pack their school bags. The whole idea is to teach them to plan, to organize and to execute.  These are self help skills that will become the basis or other things they can use as they grow up. It will take practice, repetition and patience on our part but they will get it.



Luz Adriana

My name is Luz Adriana Martinez and for the past 27 years I have been working in the field of advocacy for children with disabilities. I hold an MBA from the University of Phoenix and a BA from the Inter-American University of Puerto Rico.

I’m married to a great guy, Tito, an Army Veteran of 22 years, who supports all the crazy things I do. Being an Army wife also prepared us to be always on the move and without daddy for long periods of time. This also gave me the opportunity work and volunteer with organizations whose mission was to assist other military families. This blog results from my desire to give back to the many families that have given me and mine so much. I have had the fortune to be able to travel the world assisting military families and now that that stage of my life is over, I want to continue to share what I have learned in the hopes that I can still provide some information and resources to families who need it.

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