Raise Backpackers

Packing for kids and teens


By kids, I mean toilet trained and eating the same food as everyone else. 2-3 years and over.

I found I was tending to treat my 2 year old and my 5 year old the same when packing but once I was away, I realised there are big differences between a 2 year old and a 5 year old. The main difference being a 2 year old is filthy by the end of the day (food, dirt, other unidentifiable stuff) and a 5 year old (at least, my 5 year old) can often wear the same clothes two days in a row, or even 3 days for a pair of shorts. So I do not need to take as much for the big one as I do for the little one.

If I need to take one item, I always take 2 of them. For example bathers. If I know we are going somewhere they will be swimming a lot I always take 2 sets of bathers, rashy and hats. Things get filthy, sometimes you swim in the morning and then again in the afternoon, sometimes people poo in their bathers. If I’m going on a wintery sort of trip where we may or may not need bathers, I only take one set. I always take 2 jumpers even for a summer trip. I do not want to be caught in a cold place without a jumper for each of my kids. They will wear one on the plane so it doesn’t take up luggage space. If it’s not going to be very cold a long sleeve top is a good option for a second jumper because it’s smaller and lighter but will be a good defence against mosquitoes or a light wind. I take 2 pairs of track pants each and if it happens to be unexpectedly cold overnight they can wear them as pyjama pants instead of bringing long pyjamas (I do this for myself too, it saves the room in the luggage). A pair of leggings can be good for little girls, they are small and light but can turn a skirt into a 3rd warm outfit if the weather is not as you expected or you are out at night.

So figure out how many days you will be away, research what the clothes washing situation is and then pack accordingly. I don’t take white clothes (they always come out of an all-colours wash looking greyish), and I make sure everything matches with everything. For example I try to choose neutral bottoms like denims, blacks and browns and then coloured tops. Underwear, again figure out how regularly you will wash them, and then a couple of extra, they don’t take up much room.

I try to get away with 2 pairs of shoes, one pair of walking shoes that they wear on the plane so they don’t take up luggage space, and a pair of thongs or sandals to put in the luggage.
Also consider if you are going to be doing any shopping, like in Asia where you can get cheap kids dresses, maybe take a little less to allow for shopping.

For a 2 week trip to a tropical hot climate for a 6 year old:

2x bathers and rash vest
2x dresses (remove and replace for boys!)
2-3x shorts/skirts
4-5x t-shirts (with sleeves for sun protection)
1x heavy jumper
1x long sleeved t-shirt
2x long pants/track pants/jeans
1x light pyjamas
1x trainers
1x sandals
2x hats
7x underpants
5x socks
1x slim raincoat if it’s likely you will be caught in the rain a lot

In 2 weeks you have enough to comfortably wash twice on your trip, or you could get away with washing only once if you really had to. Remember not all this is going into the luggage, one pair of long pants, a t-shirt, a jumper and the trainers will be worn on the plane which will significantly reduce what is in the luggage. You could also pack a set of clothes into your hand luggage for emergencies, depending on the length of the flight, the likelihood of an emergency (wet pants, anyone?) and how much space you have in your hand luggage.

When we went to the US last time we went to several places including Las Vegas which was very hot, and Alaska which was rainy and cold. This meant we needed to take gear for both climates. We had way too much luggage and to be honest, if I had to do that again, I probably wouldn’t. I would choose destinations with similar climates. At least while I had very little kids.


What to take is essentially the same as older kids but the difference is I let them choose it. I prepare a list of what they need to take e.g. 5 t-shirts, 2 pairs of jeans, 5 pairs of socks…but then I let them choose which ones they want to take. Then they are getting a choice but still packing the amount you want them to. If they mess something up, it’s not the end of the world, and a great learning experience for them. I would still check it before it goes in though, they aren’t to be trusted entirely!

A final note about packing:

Watch this video and let me tell you this is a great party trick. But not the way to pack. Did you see that guy after he had worn half the clothes, stuffed them into a dirty clothes bag and then had to get on a plane? Did he iron them all in each of the 6 hostels he stayed in to repack them again? Did he do any shopping? Because if he bought just one more t-shirt, it isn’t going in that bag. Did you notice the little kids running around in the background? No? Me either. Don’t be fooled. You don’t want your luggage full before you leave. If it’s full, take stuff out or get a bigger bag. If you have several destinations you would have to do this every time you were going to leave a place. Nothing is ever folded and packed as neatly on the way home as it is on the way out.