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Allison and Terri

How to Teach a Teenager to Pack Light

How to Teach a Teenager to Pack Light

The art of packing light is a learned skill.  I was reminded of this recently when I invited my granddaughter, Elyza, to go to Santa Cruz with me for 3 days/2 nights.  She came with more luggage than I take on a four-week road trip.  I decided that before we do anymore traveling we needed to work on her packing light skills.

How to Each a Teenager to Pack Light

My name is Elyza. I’m a packaholic! (This is what luggage for a teenager looks like for a weekend getaway). Photo by Maria Perez

Packing light starts long before you actually put your clothes into suitcase.  These are some of the simple steps Elyza and I are working on to help set her up for successfully packing light for our next trip.

Step One:  Pick the Right Luggage

Think of every bag you take with you with on vacation as a “dead body.”  A dead body you need to wrestle in and out of the car, maneuver down a narrow airplane aisle, shoehorn into the overhead compartment or stow under the seat in front of you.  Choosing the right bag is the first challenge.

When it comes to luggage for you or your child it’s important to try several kinds on for size.  A bag with wheels, a large duffle bag, a backpack, hard shell luggage, soft-sided bag—all have their uses.  Most of my travels with my granddaughter is conventional.  Those backpacking-through-Europe days are behind me (and have not yet begun for my granddaughter.)  In most situations a carry-on sized roller bag is just the ticket.  My luggage requirements for this bag are:  sturdy frame, lightweight (no wasting poundage), wheels that turn in every direction when the suitcase is standing up, and an uncommon pattern or color (easy to spot at Baggage Claim.)


The Ricardo Beverly Hills Roxberry 2.0. The perfect carry-on size luggage. Photo by Maria Perez

(I received this product for the purpose of a review, however my opinions are my own.)

I recently received the Ricardo Beverly Hills Roxbury 2.0 bag in a lovely mulberry color to test drive.  The Ricardo bags come in four sizes (19″, 21″, 25″, and 29″) and I received the small—perfect for carry-on.  Carry-on should be no bigger than 22 inches high (from wheels to handle) and 14 inches wide by 9 inches deep.  A bag this size will meet even the stingiest airlines’ regulations.  This is the perfect bag for my granddaughter.

The bag has four spinner wheels making it is easy to maneuver into tight air terminal bathroom stalls or down the narrow airplane aisles without banging fellow passengers along the way.  The four casters on the bottom make for easy 360-degree maneuverability.

Pack light for home office or home-school

Electronics and home-school supplies fit comfortably in the front zippered section. Photo be Maria Perez

The zippers look secure and well-made and the handle sturdy. The wheels are built into the corners which protects them from damage and won’t add inches to the bag’s length.  It looks tough enough to stand up to being manhandled by a teenage girl as well as luggage-handler gorillas.  The beautiful mulberry color passed the color test not to mention the color will make it easier to spot the bag among the black blurs spewed out on the baggage carousel.

Elyza is home-schooled and we often need to pack her laptop, school supplies and books as well as other electronic, cords, and chargers when we travel.  The Ricardo bag had a great front office section with a padded section for her computer and iPad, plenty of room for her school supplies, a zippered section for cables, cords, and chargers, and she even had space for a magazine or two.

Step Two:  Do the Laundry and Pack Early


To pack light reduce the size of the toiletries. Photo by Maria Perez

Getting packing out of the way early reduces stress.  You’ll have time to grab a new toothbrush or new travel-sized deodorant if needed.   You’ll also have time to check medicines to be sure you have enough for the trip and get refills if necessary.

Packing early also means doing the laundry early.  If your teen is anything like my granddaughter, she’ll wait until the last minute to pack.  Nothing she wants to take will be clean and we will be rushing at the last minute, hoping that hoodie or pair of jeans gets dry enough to stuff into the suitcase at the last minute.  It’s important to make smart choices early on about what clothes to bring, then make sure everything is clean and ready to go.

Packing at the last minute means throwing a bunch of clothes in a suitcase and ending up with more than you need.

Step Three:  Live by the Law of Threes

Three pairs of socks.  Three pairs of underwear.  Three tops.  Three bottoms.  Wear one, wash one, dry one.  Repeat to yourself as you pack: I don’t need this!  Or this!  Or that!

The fear of the unknown makes us want to surround ourselves with familiar items.   The ‘what if’ game will get you in trouble.  On the off-chance you find you do need it, it’s likely you can buy or borrow it.

Laundry facilities are one of my favorite parts about staying in timeshares or with family/friends.  Most family-friendly hotels have laundry facilities, too.  So you’re golden. You can wash and wear just a handful of outfits for the duration of even very long trips.

Step Four:  Roll with It


Folded method. Not enough room for everything. Photo by Maria Perez

It really is the way you pack that makes the difference.  Utilize your space smartly like stuffing things in your footwear and rolling your clothes.  This frees up space and you’ll be able to get the same amount of things into a standard carry-on as in a checked bag.

Rolled packing technique for packing light

Rolled method. We were able to add a bulky hoodie, another pair of shoes, a swimming suit and flip flops. Photo by Maria Perez

We packed the bag twice.  The first time Elyza folded everything neatly (her words not mine) and we got a fair amount in the bag.  Next we rolled everything.  We got everything and more in the bag.  This time we were able to add her swimming suit, a bulky hoodie, an extra pair of shoes, and flip flops.  Elyza was amazed!

Learning the art of packing light is a process.  It is not learned overnight or in just one trip.  It is all about trust.  Trust that you really will have everything you need.  Trust that everything will be fine and you will have the best time ever.  Trust grows with experience so travel often with your children and grandchildren.

How do you pack?  Do you bring everything but the kitchen sunk?  Or are you a consolidated traveler?  Leave some of your best packing tips in the comments below.

Traveling and sewing are my two passions. I like to combine them when I can. Come visit me at Sew Travel Inspired. I share easy sewing projects for travel related items and quick gifts as well as info on some of my favorite travel destinations. I also sprinkle in my favorite sewing and travel tips, tricks, and hacks.

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