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My younger son is preparing for his first trip to Europe, or maybe I should I say that I am preparing for his first trip. My older son went three years ago, and now it’s Nico’s turn to get to know my workplace and my world. I’ve traveled with him before, his first trip was at two months old. He’s no stranger to airplanes and I’m no stranger to packing for kids. This time, though, will be different. This time, it’s Italy.

My son is 8 years old, 9 in September. I’ve waited to take him to Europe even if I could have brought him years ago. I just wasn’t up for the packing for kids ordeal. In the past, the primary space in his bag was reserved for diapers, wipes and unwieldy baby equipment. Strollers, carseats, boosters, bottles and a million other things. Those days are gone, sorry if I don’t feel any nostalgia for them. We are now in the sweet spot, when kids can travel like adults.

I’ve put my kids in charge of packing their own bags before, with hilarious results, so I’ve learned that I need to work with them as a team. Once, my older son was asked to pack for a couple days away from home and he assured me he had everything he needed, which I guess was true. His big bag was packed with stuffed animals and books, with a pair of PJs tossed in for good measure. Toothbrush? Who needs that on vacation?? Change of underpants? You can turn them inside out! Nico is going for more than three weeks, so even if I find their packing priorities to be entertaining, quality control is a priority.

I’m aiming for him to meet my standard guidelines for packing, more or less. One suitcase under 16 pounds in weight, one daybag with his necessities. He’s a big kid, about 5 feet tall and over 100 pounds, but even so, I’m still going to insist that he be able to lift and maneuver his bag on his own.In general, I think kids are totally capable of packing like a grown-up, with a few variations. Here is a bit about my process for packing for kids, and I think even adults could use this basic packing list too on a summer trip.

The Bags

I have a small graveyard of suitcases in my basement, so I’ve picked one from there. His old suitcase was magical, a Trunkee ride-on suitcase. It’s didn’t hold too much, but it was adorable. It had a leash and looked like a tiger that he was leading through the airport. When he was tired, he could sit on it and I’d pull him along. We got plenty of laughs and smiles from everyone with him riding around on his suitcase. I think he would crush that suitcase now, so instead we will be using the classic Rick Steves Roll-Aboard, the one I normally use in my packing demonstrations. I think Rick should sell one that you can ride on. Whee!

According to my advice, Nico should use a messenger style bag, which is much easier for museums. My older son used the Rick Steves Veloce for IPad bag and loved it. With Nico, I’m taking a different approach. Nico is a little….spicy. I’m not sure how he will deal with a new environment. I am taking every opportunity to make our travel as comforting and enjoyable as possible, so I’ve bought him a special backpack as a gift. He’s a big Dr. Who fan, and his new backpack looks like a Tardis. It’s bigger than the other daybag, but that is good because he needs to have his stuffies with him, just in case. You never know when he will need a little snuggle time to smooth out the wrinkles of a tough day. I’ll cover the contents of his daybag in a later post.


As you know, I weigh all of my clothes and am really careful to take only what I need. Packing for my son is different. He is pretty tough on clothing and can easily go through a couple of outfits each day. My older son’s clothes all look like they have never been worn, but Nico’s dresser is where clothes go to die. Every kid is different, I am being generous with the amount of clothing I’m bringing because I know he needs that. I’ll have access to a washer occasionally, but not every day. I’m not too preoccupied about the amount of clothes since it’s summer and he’s small. Here’s what I’ve got so far…

4 pairs of shorts, one pair of swim trunks. One of the pairs of shorts is made of a silky fabric and can double as an additional pair of swim trunks. One of the pairs is made of beige linen and will work for dressier nights out with a nice shirt.

2 pairs of pants. One pair of soft, warm sweats for the airplane and cooler days in London. The other are long linen pants for hot days. I’m a little concerned about too much sun exposure.

7 short sleeved shirts, including two polo shirts and a button-up for nicer occasions.

2 long sleeved shirts, one warm thermal shirt for the plane and one lightweight one.1 fleece pull over, which I hope will be enough. We are going to Italy where it is about 90, so this is more for the plane and his few days in London. I should probably bring a light rain jacket but he doesn’t have one and it’s not looking necessary. I’ll take a gamble and buy one over in Europe if I need to.

2 PJ bottoms, one long and one short.

5 pairs of socks, 4 are lightweight ankle socks and one is a heavy wool pair.

Lots of undies. Because.

Kids Toiletries

Kids don’t really need the arsenal of beauty products that adults do, and frankly they would probably prefer to not take any at all. I have a little toiletries kit that I got on a Delta flight once, he’s going to use that. His list is a short one…

Kids shampoo and conditioner, we use Tea Tree shampoo at home because it apparently repels lice. Not a bad thing to bring while traveling, you never know what bugs you may encounter.

Travel toothbrush and kids toothpaste, bubblegum flavor (yuck!).

Flossing picks, the kids have actually converted me on this one as they are easier to use. The picks can be washed and reused. OK, I know that sounds gross, but its true.

Comb, as if he will actually use it.

Kids sunscreen, SPF 60+ and waterproof. I particularly love solid stick sunscreen. I carry it in my bag every day while on tour.


For kids I suggest exactly what I do for adults, sandals, walkers and flip-flops. Three pairs will go in Nico’s bag.

Athletic shoes, I like the Sketchers brand for their lightweight and comfy shoes and he loves his pair.

Sandals, I struck gold at the Rack last week and found him a great pair of sturdy Clark’s sandals with a closed toe. They were from the men’s aisle, so they look more sophisticated than his other shoes. He loves them and tells me they are the most comfy shoes he’s had.

Flip-flops, always a necessity for beach or pool time in Italy, since the beaches are more gravel than sand.


This is a category that could fill several bags. I am allowing three stuffed animals and no more. I’m sure he’d love to bring his menagerie with him, but I don’t think he needs all of that. We will make some decisions about books and comfort items.

We are sorting and thinking of what else may need to go in, but this is the basic list. I may make some compromises as we pack all of this up. I don’t think stuffy costumes are a travel necessity, but I’m not 8, so what do I know of the needs of stuffed animals?

Next up, breaking out the packing cubes, doing a little lesson and packing it all up! 

AWS Staff

This post was published by the Adventures with Sarah team. Click here to find out more about the people that make everything at AWS happen.


  • Great guidance, Sarah. We no longer travel with little ones (except our cats who went to the Dolomites with us!), but such good guidance for anyone. I am curious, will Nico have any electronics? Maybe a Kindle instead of books?

  • joshua says:

    For my daughter (six now) who has been to Europe four times already, we limit stuffies to just one. Invariably, we end up buying more on the trip. It is good to have that extra space for new souvenirs and toys.

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