How to Help Your Child Pack for a Trip
Whether you’ve planned the vacation of a lifetime or are just heading to Grandma’s for the weekend, packing the right clothes and gear can make the whole family’s trip more comfortable. Kids with learning and attention issues can have a hand in preparing for their visit. Giving them the responsibility to choose what to bring, with your guidance, can fuel their excitement and help lessen anxiety about the trip. Use these tips for helping kids pack.
Discuss Your ItineraryHelp your child envision what the trip is going to look like:
- Where are you headed? Describe each destination in detail.
- How are you getting there? What kind of transportation will you take?
- What time of day will you leave and arrive?
- What might you experience along the way? Discuss weather changes and particular sensory activities, such as sandy beaches, noisy amusement parks and cold ski slopes.
- Who’ll be there? Are there relatives or friends your child will know? If you’re traveling to a theme park, will she see familiar characters?
Consider showing your child brochures, websites or photos to help her visualize the experience. If she’s comfortable reading, take guide books out of the library.
Use a calendar to explain what you’ll be doing each day. If your child uses a picture schedule at home, try creating one for the trip.
Brainstorm Needs and Nice-to-Haves…Together It can be hard for kids to anticipate what they’ll need in an unfamiliar place. Work with your child to make a list of must- and maybe-bring items, keeping in mind each phase of the trip. You can try separating the list into the following buckets:
- Clothing: Encourage dressing in layers for comfort. Remember bathing suits and other extreme weather accessories.
- Activities: Consider quiet, contained toys and games that entertain for long periods. These might include coloring materials, puzzles, books, non-messy crafts and electronic games. If you’ll be meeting friends or family, include a group activity.
- Electronics: Think about packing laptops, tablets, iPods, headphones or cameras for the trip. (Don’t forget chargers and batteries!)
- Comfort items: Bring favorite stuffed animals, a nightlight or flashlight, or a white-noise machine to dull loud spaces. (For kids who have trouble with transitions and new experiences, these comfort items are key.)
- Toiletries: Try mini-bottles of the products you use every day. If you’re flying, remember that carry-on liquids must conform to Transportation Security Administration standards.
- Medication: Include prescriptions, first-aid basics, sun block and bug spray. Keep them within easy reach throughout your trip. If you’re traveling abroad, be sure to check the Travelers’ Health page of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website.
- Snacks and drinks: If your child has sensory processing issues that limit her diet, it’s important to pack what you know she’ll eat.
Pack by the ListEncourage your child to take the lead packing the items you brainstormed together and crossing them off as you go. Though small, this bit of autonomy can feel powerful to her.
Check that she included everything from the list, then pack the list itself to make re-packing at the end of the trip easier.
Keep the Dialogue OpenIn the days leading up to your trip departure, listen for signs of anxiety your child may have. Is there anything else you can pack or information you can find that might make her feel better? For instance, if your child has a physical disability and you’ll be traveling by plane, consider calling the federal TSA Cares line toll free at 1-855-787-2227 prior to traveling with questions about screening policies, procedures and what to expect at security checkpoints.
Lexi Walters Wright is a writer, editor and sometime librarian whose work has appeared on health, family and home design websites. She chases her toddler through the woods of Florence, Massachusetts.